Product Managers (PdMs) are the advocates for the business and for the end-user of a Product, and in this sense, they not only own the vision and requirements for the product, but also the user experience. In a small startup with limited resources, the Product Manager role can potentially be executed by a single individual. However, perfecting the Product Management framework demands strong comprehension of divergent skillsets, the ability to execute, and the time to do so, which one person typically does not have. To be successful, PdMs must align and engage closely with User Experience professionals, rather than tackle everything on their own.
As owners of the user experience, Product Managers must have complete understanding of the users. The insight required goes far beyond answering simple questions such as “who the users are”, “what they need,” “what their pain-points are,” and the eventual creation of moss-covered personas. PdMs must work with User Experience Researchers, experts in investigating (identifying potential causes of the issues) and triangulating (validating user experience findings with quantitative analysis), to gain 360 degree insight into the users. Without complete awareness, the vision (and eventual roadmap, objectives/key results, and backlog) cannot be genuinely validated, and the chance of building the product that your users need greatly diminishes.
On all but the easiest and most straightforward products, it’s impossible to jump directly to creating wireframes and diving into the sprints. To ensure that the user experience aligns to the user needs, PdMs must team and align closely with User Experience Designers to create the information architecture, taxonomy, interaction design, libraries of design patterns, and content strategy. Skipping this step is a surefire path to creating a framework that does not align to the user needs, and also ensures eventual rework, increasing the overall chance of product failure. This effort must be done in advance of the sprints, as Designers will not have time during sprints to think through the end-to-end solution while at the same time creating wireframes for stories, which will reflect poorly on the Product Manager, not User Experience.
Following the release of features, the PdM must then measure the success of what has been developed using both traditional analytics and the User Experience Research framework, to answer the following questions:
- Do the features meet the needs of the customers?
- Do our customers use the features as expected?
Regardless of the answers, the PdM must figure out how to translate them into action, deciding to either continue with the current plan/backlog, or to pivot. Maximizing return on investment is key; pivoting takes a great deal of time and effort (sometimes completely returning to the drawing board). The only way to combat this risk is to engage with User Experience early, and at every step of the process. Without this bond, it’s very difficult to validate that you’re building the right product, in the right way, and to truly be an advocate for your users.