It takes two to tango: how to court your product manager

A 45 minute Case Study by:

Rachel Daniel


About this Case Study

As UX professionals, we have to collaborate with a variety of partners, from engineers to analysts to business stakeholders. One of the strongest and most challenging relationships for UX is with product management. As is the case in any two fields where there is significant overlap, sometimes it can be a challenge to work in concert. Product managers and UXers are no exception: where does one role end and the next start? Who covers what? How do we combine our collective strengths to drive product advancements?

UXers' focus is centered around a release that will work for users, a Minimal Lovable Product (MLP). We face pressure to delight the customer and ensure they have a limo experience. A product manager's role is to help strategise, plan for and execute the vision of what the team is building. They focus on the minimal feature that can be released, a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Product managers face pressure to get this new feature developed and deployed quickly to meet company goals. So how do the two roles work together?

Do product managers herd cats? You bet - sometimes they faciliate communication between teams and get consensus from stakeholders. They must also understand the markets and potential customers, identify business opportunities from gaps in market offerings, oversee the launch and maintenance of products, and co-ordinate all the various streams of feedback.

Wait a minute. Understand customers? Co-ordinate feedback? That sounds a lot like a UXer's role. With these overlapping elements, and competing goals, how can PM and UX teams work together to move projects forward while minimising friction, mitigating risks and creating applause-worthy products?

How do we, as UX professionals, approach hard conversations with our PM dance partners to educate and advocate for the user when our PM has hard deadlines for deployment? The user is often the first consideration to be forgotten when functional requirements and deadlines are looming. But collaboration can happen! It's like a dance and the steps are easier than you think. Join me for this session, and I'll teach you how to tango.

We'll discuss:

  • how to build strong relationships while working alongside PMs with varying backgrounds: Tom, the technical PM who understands coding; Larry, the leading PM with a decade of experience; Katherine, the newbie trying to break into the product management role; and Casey, the creative PM who has dabbled in the design world
  • how to approach hard conversations with our PM dance partners by incorporating user needs into the conversation when tough deadlines loom over the product's success
  • how to negotiate implementing key interactions when a product's features need to be cut
  • tools and techniques that are useful for sharing information, reviewing designs and writing requirements so communication is not lost in translation amongst different teams
  • how to combine user research, analytics, user interviews and market knowledge to inform directional decisions made by leadership

About the Speaker

Rachel has been involved in the UX realm for more than a decade and is a self-proclaimed Ex-Unicorn. She's covered everything from visual design to user research, interaction design to coding, and usability testing to prototyping. Rachel now manages a multidisciplinary team as Director of UX at MaxPoint, a leading business intelligence and digital marketing company that enables national brands to drive local, in-store sales.

Over her long career, Rachel has worked at companies large and small, producing award-winning designs, growing collaborative teams, providing ongoing training and crafting user experiences for a variety of products and applications. She has been influential in the UX community through sharing her knowledge at both international and local conferences, including UX Scotland, Interaction South America, Big Design, Grace Hopper, CanUX, The UX Lab NYC and Ladies That UX. When not producing high-calibre designs or mentoring team members, Rachel looks for every opportunity to travel the world.

Follow her ideas, topics and travels on Twitter.


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