Why Product Teams and Design Teams Should Work Together


Why should product and design teams work closely together? originally appeared on Quora: the place to acquire and share knowledge, allowing people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Lane Shackleton, CPO at Coda, the Quora:

The main reason is simple: their work must serve the same result. Ultimately, their role is to make the customer happy and create lasting value for the company. When product and design teams are aligned with a clear purpose here, they are able to create truly meaningful results for the business.

When it comes to “working closely together,” I find how teams learn is a great predictor of a team’s future success. Teams that learn together can operate at a faster pace than those that don’t. For example, design and product teams should hold feedback sessions together and review data together. Quantitative data isn’t just for product managers, and design feedback isn’t just for designers. These inputs overlap to create a web of understanding, and this shared context is essential for making good decisions.

The alternative is when teams and people in different functions learn at different rates or only pay attention to certain sets of data related to their role. Naturally, the result is that teams looking at completely different information will come to different conclusions about where to go and what decisions to make.

The goal of both teams should be to get a complete and holistic picture of how customers are using the product, what’s important to them, how it fits into business goals, and any other key context. This means that product managers should consider design leads as a key stakeholder at every stage of the planning process. In turn, designers should share their design work early, even if they are not polite. And leaders of both groups need to create a safe space where everyone feels comfortable asking any questions, giving and receiving feedback, and being transparent about their approach to decision-making.

I also find that the healthiest product and design teams working closely together have low ego on who does what, as long as it’s in service of the customer and the overall experience. At Coda, it’s common for a designer to accompany their mockups with a clearly documented set of customer issues, and even product requirements. Traditionally, the spec might be something the product manager writes, but maybe the product manager is focused on helping the team in another way. The point is that the work is aligned with the end customer outcome in mind, not an overly rigid definition of roles and responsibilities.

When there are no silos and the product and designers focus on the same thing without ego, it allows everyone to focus on a great outcome for customers.

That question originally appeared on Quora – the place to acquire and share knowledge, allowing people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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