If you’ve been reading Product Talk for long, you’ve probably noticed that I sometimes blur the lines between product management and user experience design.
I started out as an interaction designer back in 1999. Back then we were arguing about the differences between interaction design, user interface design, and information architecture.
Today we argue about the differences between user experience design and interaction design.
As designers build their technical chops, we get arguments about the boundaries between design and front-end development.
As conversion rate optimization becomes more popular, we blur the lines between growth teams and product teams.
This last one is just a new version of an old fight. The line between product management and marketing has always been hazy.
Even engineers have their own divisions between front-end engineering and back-end engineering.
Labels Do Matter
It’s important to discuss these boundaries.
Definitions and categories help our knowledge and expertise grow. – Tweet This
The more that we crystalize the requisite skills needed in each discipline the faster each discipline advances.
The debate between information architecture and user interface design was a debate over who owned labeling, user flows, and the organization of information.
As we argued over who owned what, our arguments highlighted the nuances of each of these skills, accelerating our expertise.
Once a thing has a name we can talk about it, invest in it, and share our experiences with it.
Similarly, many companies were investing in growth hacking long before the term was coined.
But now that there is a name for it, you can Google it, you can go to conferences about it, you can read how-to articles about it.
Our collective investment in evolving the skills associated with the discipline accelerates.
Don’t Confuse Labels with Roles
Labels that define boundaries between fields are good for advancing those fields.
But they can be catastrophic if they are used to define boundaries between people on teams.
Each team is different.
Every interaction designer has a unique set of skills.
Product management is so broad, I’ve never met two product managers with the exact same skill set.
Some front-end developers like to be involved in the design work. Others want a pixel-perfect mockup to build toward.
Good teams should be leveraging the strengths of their individual members regardless of their titles. – Tweet This
Too often companies pigeonhole people based on their job title losing out on the benefits of the complementary skills they offer.
If the interaction designer on my team also excels at survey design, I want to take advantage of that even if he or she doesn’t have a user research title.
If the product manager on my team is great at analyzing data, then I want to let him or her do that, especially if we don’t have a dedicated data analyst.
Very few product teams have enough people to cover all the relevant titles, but every product team needs to cover all the roles.
Focus on the Work that Needs to Be Done
The best product teams decide for themselves who will do what based on the skills that they each bring, not based on their given titles.
Good product teams look at what each of their members bring to the team and they get the work done. – Tweet This
Last week we talked about creating a shared sense of responsibility for delivery. The first step in doing that is to not draw boundaries based on titles and to instead leverage the unique skills of each person on your team.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking at common delivery challenges product teams face. As we dive in, we’ll continue to blur the lines between titles and focus instead on getting the work done.
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