Is There An Ideal Relationship Between Product Management and User Experience? Part of the ProdBOK® Series

By Greg Geracie

As a follow-on to my “Focusing on the End User: Product Management and User Experience” featured article, the conversation continues with Rich Gunther, president of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA) and Sean Van Tyne co-author of the Customer Experience Revolution. You can read part one here.

 Why did you choose to contribute to the ProdBOK effort?

(Rich Gunther) As president of the User Experience Professionals Association (UXPA), I feel it’s important that my organization collaborates with professional organizations that represent other disciplines within the product and service development space. Since we do work so frequently with product management, contributing to their body of knowledge effort seemed to be a natural fit. We hope to get input into our own User Experience body of knowledge from those behind the ProdBOK effort.

(Sean Van Tyne) I see experience design as an important part of the product management and marketing lifecycle process. I hope that my contribution has brought some clarity to what experience design means in the context of ProdBOK.

What do you think the ideal working relationship between user experience professionals and product managers should be?

(Sean Van Tyne) That can vary based on many factors. For example, a small organization in a new market may partner with an experience design firm to help them with their experience research and design needs while a large organization in a mature market may have a large, dedicated experience design department. If experience is important to an organization’s market success – like Apple or Disney – then they may have a Chief Experience Officer. If experience isn’t as important – like embedded technology – then they may not have experience design at all or a small department that reports into Product Management or other department. Some product managers may do some or all of their product’s experience design or work with a consultant or professional in another department. What is “ideal” is what makes the most sense based on the organization’s experience design strategy and goals.

(Rich Gunther) If you can envision an activity where a cross-functional team is defining a feature to be added to a product, I see there being an iterative workflow whereby the product manager says “we need to support such-and-such”. The user experience professional picks that strawman up and defines a task-flow and proposed design for it.  After a checkpoint with the product manager to make sure it will fit the bill, they’ll also likely have a checkpoint with development to make sure their proposal is technically feasible. Finally, before implementation, the product manager and user experience professional will collaborate in some user research, taking the design for the proposed feature and putting it in front of some representative users. Those users will offer commentary on both the market fit of the feature as well as its usability. After a prototype is developed, the product will be tested again to ensure that the final user interaction fits user expectations. Finally, product managers and technical writers can collaborate to develop documentation and marketing materials for the feature.

Any final thoughts?

(Sean Van Tyne) I look forward to seeing the ProdBOK getting out there and helping to bring clarity to the product management and marketing profession.

(Rich Gunther) Thank you for the opportunity to contribute and we at UXPA look forward to future collaborations!

Greg Geracie is the president of Actuation Consulting, author of Take Charge Product Management©, the Editor-in-Chief of The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK), and the leader of this initiative. ProdBOK is an industry-wide effort to standardize the practice of product management sponsored by the Association of International Product Management and Marketing (AIPMM).