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Post Webinar Wrap-Up: Striking a balance between product and UX

When promoting our webinar on how to create an effective relationship between product and UX, we made a pretty audacious claim…

We said that nailing your product/UX team dynamic is even more important to your business than revenue.

We thought some of you might give us a hard time with this one…

But what we weren’t expecting, was how many of you would let us know you are currently dealing with this very issue!

During and after the webinar, we received an influx of questions from people seeking out ways to more effectively structure their teams for success. We weren’t able to get to all of the questions live on the webinar, so I’ll be answering your questions here, along with my co-host, Jack Cole of Motivate Design.

Still have questions? Write them in the comment section and we’ll weigh in. And if you missed the live webinar, fear not! We’ve got the recording for you right here. 

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Webinar follow up: Answers to your lingering questions!

Regular people hanging out in a coffee shop, having drinks, doing work, meeting friends, etc.

Q: How would you change an organization’s focus from building features to understanding customer needs and building around those?

Peter: Once again, data is king here. If you are focused only on features there’s likely resulting data that your customers are unhappy, your competitors are beginning to outpace you, or that your pace of innovation is tectonic. Bring the data behind these business-crippling issues and get everyone bought into the fact that it’s a huge problem facing the business.

From there, move to explaining the idea that you can innovate quickly, make customers happy, and win against the competition by having a thorough understanding of your customers problems. Why? At the end of the day if you know your customers pains like the back of your hand then you can iterate very quickly to deliver many many many features and solutions that solve those problems. If you are solution focused instead of problem focused then if your first solution doesn’t work you don’t even know where to begin to iterate to the next one. Understanding problems allows you to try lots of different solutions quickly.

Q: I am an experienced developer, but I have been studying UX recently. Have you seen any roles that combine tech and UX oversight?

Jack: My immediate thought is that with your development experience combined with an interest in building your UX acumen, you should remain within development and serve as a resource/mentor for infusing deeper UX thinking into your respective development team. As we discussed in the webinar, you can help bring a more holistic solution to fruition by simply engaging earlier and more often in the planning conversations, which will also help you be an influencer on both the tech and UX fronts.

That said, if you are truly interested in transitioning into more of a hybrid role, a former UX colleague of mine recently went down the path of switching to product management and is now able to have a foot in both arenas without actually being fully-dedicated to one core skill set.

Q: Are there any particular methods or practices that help foster collaboration between product and UX? Example: paired discovery, design sprints, etc.

Peter: Yes, yes, and yes. Teaming up on customer discovery is at the very top of the list for fostering collaboration. Product and UX should work on that together from the very beginning of defining what the most important things to learn are, constructing a discovery process that will get them those answers, conducting the discovery itself, and then of course turning those learnings into valuable solutions for your customers. Going through a cycle like that will create an incredibly strong bond between the UX and product team.

Q: I’m curious about the trend toward the PRODUCT DESIGNER role? Do you see this as an amalgamation of UX and PM skills?

Jack: I know that this title has grown in popularity as of late. Personally, it feels a little bit vague for me and is similar to a generalist type of role which may not necessarily be a bad thing. As my friend Peter stipulated in the webinar, whether or not this is a role that is right for you or your organization should be answered with “it depends.”

For some companies – particularly startups, bringing on someone who has a broad spectrum of skills is particularly valuable when resources are scarce. However, as that person and the organization matures, I would say that building specialties with a slant towards the collaborative culture that Peter and I spoke about helps to establish a firm infrastructure for an organization and their product or service offering.

Q: When UX is the last group to be added (in a very large organization), how do you convince a fairly silo-ed product team that UX should be a part of the strategy/definition stage of a project?

Peter: First of all, you are correct that this is a key problem to solve, so you absolutely have to keep at it even if your first and second attempt at solving it don’t stick. The most effective way I’ve dealt with this in my career is to bring data to those you have to convince. What’s the cost to the business, your customers, and the success of the product team of including UX too late? Sprinkle a little bit of “we can help you be successful” on top of the data you’ve brought to the discussion and then just stick with it until they believe you. Given that you are dealing with this in a very large organization, the last thing you want to wait on is top-down approval for a new process across all business units / teams. Find a specific project within a specific business unit to prove that you are right and then expand from there.

Q: My Product/UX team works in 2 different countries, and it seems that we work not just geographically, but technically separately because of that, what practices do you suggest?

Jack: I’ve dealt with this situation in a couple different positions both in the past as well as in my current role here at Motivate Design. I believe that the key premise to the conversation that Peter and I had within the webinar was that while both Product and UX teams have specific responsibilities that they should continue to drive, it is paramount that there is a shared commitment to connecting and collaborating in order to ensure alignment.

Some strategies around driving to alignment and collaboration involve a mix of daily 15 minute check-in calls and weekly status reviews using video conferencing whenever possible. Additionally, I would strongly recommend utilizing a shared communication tool allowing for ad hoc connections to happen organically as well. I’ve used Asana, Basecamp, Jive, and Podio in the past which all work fine but our team now uses Slack and highly recommend it for its simplicity.

Knowing that time zones and finding windows to be able to connect is probably your biggest enemy, I’d say that the only answer to that is that you need to get a shared sense of commitment from both teams in order to bridge the gap. This will involve some compromises on both sides involving staying late or coming in early in order to make it work. It’s definitely not easy but the only way to make it happen is to start with you as the catalyst and build momentum towards better alignment.

Look for opportunities to proactively share insights and news on potential issues that could be averted. Find opportunities wherever possible to showcase recent wins on both sides. Be the evangelist and win the hearts and minds of your respective teams one member at a time. AND get allies on your side as soon as possible to avoid burnout as it takes a lot of energy to make this happen!

Q: How do you evenly split the responsibilities between product and UX?

Peter: A simplified breakdown of the roles would be Product is responsible for answering the question “Would you use it?” and UX is responsible for answering the question “Could you use it?”

Expanding on that, the most critical things product is responsible are:

1. Understanding customer problems

2. Creating a roadmap with prioritized solutions that address those problems

3. Partnering with UX and Engineering to deliver those solutions to customers

And the most critical things UX is responsible for are:

1. Defining how the product will function

2. Creating design specs that allow engineering to build the solutions product has defined

3. Ensuring users have a smooth, frictionless experience

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