2 Peas in a Product Pod


“We are not here just to give you some fancy sketches and wireframes based on your ideas. I need to understand the users more in detail to even start thinking about anything. Who are the users? What are their pain points? How often does someone perform this kind of work? What do they feel about the existing product (s)? What is it that they really want? How does blah blah blah happen? And more blah blah blah. ”, Peter in the User experience department came cringing to Susan and continued to speak without a pause.

Susan, the Product Manager, got a little worried. This is coming from Peter after a month from the initial discussion days. The process seems painfully slow. What did they even do in those 30 days or so?! She asked the same to Peter. He replied that they have lined up user interviews and they are still not quite done with the research. Each user has had some insights to help shape the product better. So, they needed more time.

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While what Peter said made sense, it was also equally concerning to Susan that at least the preliminary timelines are nowhere in sight. In the fast-paced world with cut-throat competition, they really needed to be ahead in the game. If the User research becomes a blocker, she might not be able to deliver quickly. So, she sat down with Peter and started to explain.

Have you heard of Corning? They are experts in Glass science and make glass used in various phones. When Steve Jobs was their prospective customer, he was telling Wendell Weeks how their glass should be in order to suit iPhone’s needs. Mr Weeks replied about a certain Gorilla glass they had abandoned earlier as it did not have a market but that would meet their needs. Steve was not convinced and started explaining how the glass, that wouldn’t shatter, is made. Weeks interjected after a point and asked Steve to shut up. He then said “Let me teach you some science”. He then explained Chemistry and ion-exchange process to a dumbfound Jobs. This made Jobs realize the synergy they already had with an existing product of Corning. The rest is history.

So, what I meant to tell you, Peter, is that even the wisest users are not always reliable and knowledgeable, and yet they offer suggestions. Sometimes they might know what they want but they might not realize that they already have it in front of their eyes. All we have to do is open their eyes up. The balance between design purism and pragmatic rationality is needed to be successful because When is an important factor as well 🙂 Can we stop with what we have for now and move on further?

Peter listened to all that Susan had to say. After she finished up, he said “Susan, is it also true that, for Steve, User experience was paramount? Didn’t he say “We do these things because we want to make great products, because we care about the user, and because we like to take responsibility for the entire experience rather than turn out the crap that other people make.”? In fact, his methods went against business expectations several times in the short term. But they also lead to delightful experiences and loyal customers.”

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It takes a village to raise a child — how many times have we heard someone say this? Isn’t this applicable for the products that we co-create in an organization? Each person involved in the process becomes a part of the product’s upbringing. And, the upbringing for a product is validated by the delighted users leading to revenue realization. The merrier the users, the more the product growth.

“And by saying that, I rest my case”, said Peter.

Now, who is more right? — You might wonder. Each of them is right in their own way. Instead of looking at it as a conflict between Product and UX management, why not combine the best of both worlds? After all, there are several aspects that are common for both.

Goals

  • The base components for Product Management and User Experience folks are more or less the same.
  • They work around the Why (Intent) of the product, Market Segments (Who), and the solution (What).

Collaboration

  • The complementary nature of the work calls for close collaboration.
  • Both need validation at some point to be able to improve upon. Product management does it for problem fit and User experience management does for desirability fit. A bad User experience impacts the Product irrespective of its assumed capabilities.

Users

  • They are near the epicenter of why organizations do what they do. Without actual users, there is no product that can sustain.
  • The compelling User needs form the basis for the viability of a product.

Research

  • Product management does the Market research while User experience management deals with User research.
  • While Market research helps define the direction, user research provides the directions.

Insights

  • Both tracks would like to rely on qualitative data to decide further course of action.
  • Given the nature of risk associated with assumptions, they rather have customer insights that add value to the user as well as the organization.
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Both the Product management folks and the UX management folks would need to be S(pecific) M(easurable) A(greed) R(ealistic) T(imeboxed) and leverage the Agile principles better. The idea is to build, measure and learn in iterative cycles. Timebox the process and work collectively as a team so that more helping hands would reduce the delays in the process. Let everyone get their hands dirty but be Allies in the undertaking 🙂

About the author

Kiran Kallakuri

Product Owner – HID Global

I’m a biased person: I’m biased towards delightful experiences that I intend to provide to all my stakeholders.

I’m an adjective lover: Wish to be an Adjective in the Product Management Space. I try to make that evident through that extra spark in the products that I help build.

I live for tomorrow: I like to be remembered for the future and my steps are always in that direction. That doesn’t mean I don’t live in the present.

I crave for more: I’m easily bored. I tried my hands in Sales, Business Analysis, PreSales, Project Management, Program Management, Product Management, Design Thinking, Teaching, and many more over 14+ years. Found my calling in Product Management but exploring other experiences as well.

Categories:Guest Post