My three critical values of collaborative design

edvinicombe's avatar edvinicombe on Jan 24th, 2017

Plenty of companies preach it’s value and plenty more companies pretend that they practice it.

The Collaborative Design technique is a crucial part to the success of any product team and it’s vital that you get it right. When I say “Collaborative design”, I am strictly referring to the symbiotic relationship between the Product Manager and the UX Designer.

In this post I’d like to share with you the three critical values that I have found to be truly useful in forming a solid collaborative relationship.

1. Not wasting everyone’s time

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The first and arguably the most significant is not wasting everyone’s time. This could mean your time, your team’s time or your company’s time.

Your time is precious and it’s expensive.

A recent experience of my own highlighted this point enormously. For discretion sake I won’t name the company in question, I’ll refer to them simply as Company X.

Company X had recently developed a new and improved platform and wanted to migrate all of it’s users onto this new platform as hastily as possible.

Depending on the customer that migration might take longer as they may of been using more sophisticated features that we had not ported across to the new platform. Nevertheless, the overarching theme from Senior Management was to get these customers migrated as quickly as possible so we could start making more money out of them. (yey!)

One feature in particular (Feature Y) was holding up a few hundred customers. We had major problems with this feature in the past. It was slow, not very user friendly and we regularly had support tickets being raised because of this.

The logical thing to do here would be to analyse that user research and test something we think would be better - learning from our mistakes and working collaboratively as a team to get better results.

No.

Not in this case. We were all told to to simply copy what we had and get this through the door as quickly as possible.

Once the feature had been released onto the new platform we saw a 15% drop in customer usage and a vast increase in support tickets raised.

MASSIVE FAIL

At no point in that project did we work collaboratively or listen to one another. There was no testing, no dialogue, no benchmarking, no data analysis, nothing.

The feature is now being re-developed (again). A massive waste in time and resource.

2. Product validation

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Product validation can mean a multitude of different things. It can mean validation to the company, an individual or a certain part of the team.

Working together collaboratively shares the vision of the product with multiple stakeholders and get’s everyone singing from the same hymn sheet.

If a product fails or doesn’t perform as well as hoped then it’s easy to start pointing fingers at people and holding them accountable.

Sharing what you’re trying to achieve with each other is a great way to get people invested into the collaborative process and validate your product decisions.

3. A happier team built on trust not predication

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Working collaboratively may be hard if you haven’t got the right personalities on your team in the first place.

To get the most out of this technique requires trust on both sides.

“Do I trust the designer to design something that meets the requirements?”

“Do I trust the Product Manager that we are building the right thing?”

Both UX Designers and Product Managers share scarily similar goals in a company. And whilst it's healthy for Product Managers to want to learn ux design, it's so important that they strike up the right relationship fast.

A good tip to help establish who does what is a checklist. It’s something I’ve recently trialled in my team and it has gone done very well. The checklist doesn’t have to be anything fancy - just a simple list of tasks that need to be completed before and during any project and who is responsible which. Once that task is completed it is signed off - together.

Sounds dead simple but it helps set the ground rules before any work begins. Everyone knows where their responsibilities lie and it will help solve friction further down the line.

A modern PM/UX Designer

You’ll come across plenty of characters in the workplace. Some of which would much rather do everything on their own if given the opportunity.

These are the types of Product Managers/Designers I like to call, traditional workers. There mentality stretches as far as “What do we need to do?” and not “Are we building the right thing for our users”.

To breach this space into a modern Product Manager or UX Designer you will need the help of the other. It’s a synergy that is perfectly crafted to help the business succeed and is one that you must get right.

Good luck!