UX land grab. August 7th, 2015

Many disciplines collectively deliver exceptional customer experience. Collaborations create healthy environments where high quality products and services evolve.

Here I discuss one relationship that can unchecked be contentious - Experience Designs relationship with Product Management.

The majority of my career has been working with large organisation where many individuals collaborate to deliver solutions. In this environment teams share the agenda but view delivery through the lens of their own responsibility. All apply their own quality controls to ensure their stakeholders are represented and satisfied with the outcome.

At agencies and in early stage start-ups teams are by necessity small and required to flex against project demands. Such teams, agency particularly, rarely have the opportunity to form and develop a rich continuous general understanding of the evolving problem space. I believe this is the cause of the sometimes rocky experience / product management relationship.

Currently I have an experience planning role in a large organisation. I’m assigned to projects early in their definition to bring together and focus the team on customer needs through early stage scoping and design. My collaboration at this time is with a small highly engaged virtual team. Team members include program sponsors, cross functional customer experience (CX) designers and product managers. We also have the supported of core business functions such as project management, business analysis and finance. We all have different agendas, some conflict but this is a good thing and encourages every decision to be thoughtfully considered and assessed.

I can understand how and why the ownership of a service can be a contentious subject.

How I see it is the Experience Designer owns the customer needs and expectations, responsible for ensuring a customer centric approach defines the eventual solution.

This design definition is informed by the Product Managers responsibility for the business KPI, customer behaviours and reported metric the experience is monitored against.

There are aspects of a Product Managers role that I certainly have little interest in and I’d argue that few with an interest in designing customer experiences would too. Namely these are financials, procurement and road map management.

Throughout together we keep each other honest whilst walking the fine line between business and customer need. We cross over on a number of truly shared interests such as user research, analytics and technology selection to deliver what can be described as ‘comfortably innovative’ solutions for the business.

How comfortable a business is with proposals and business plans largely depends on how tightly the experience and product have been defined through the relationship these two disciplines work under. The stronger and more single minded the relationship is becomes especially apparent when entering into conversations with those responsible for technology and governance decisions. This interaction is better managed and concluded far sooner with a strong single voice.

Please don’t misunderstand, I can see how these roles can be an individuals responsibility. Everyone can learn new focus and develop interests outside what they previously have experience of. There does however come a time when services reach a tipping point and responsibility needs to be divided. At this point talented individuals become a necessity, it’s where unicorns start to struggle.

The demand for the delivery of highly considered customer experiences that deliver identifiable return has never been greater and we should applaud this. For the User Experience professional we need to capitalise on this demand and deliver what we excel at rather than spread ourselves thinly - lets deliver what we are passionate about and get that right.

Success is far better celebrated as a team, together we are strong. Individually we stand on the shoulders of giants, take credit when it’s truly yours to be had - you’ll know when.


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I'm Adam Fellowes, I spend my time building trust, inspiring loyalty and improving digital services that customers want to use time and again, find out how...

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