Why should product and design teams work closely together? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The main reason is simple: their work should serve the same outcome. At the end of the day, their role is to make the the customer happy and create lasting value for the company. When product and design teams are aligned with clarity of purpose here, they’re capable of creating really meaningful outcomes for the company.
In terms of what it means to ‘work closely together,’ I find that how teams learn is a great way to predict a team’s future success. Teams that learn together can operate at a faster cadence than those that don’t. As an example, design and product teams should run feedback sessions together and look at data together. Quantitative data isn’t just for product managers and design feedback isn’t just for designers. These inputs overlap to create a fabric of understanding, and that shared context is critical for making good decisions.
The alternative is when teams and people in different functions are learning at different cadences or only paying attention to certain sets of data related to their role. Naturally, the result is that teams looking at completely different information will reach different conclusions about where to head next and what decisions to make.
It should be the goal of both teams to have a complete and holistic picture of how customers are using the product, what’s important to them, how these ladder into company goals, and any other key context. This means that product managers should consider design leads a key stakeholder at every step of the planning process. In turn, designers should share their design work early, even if they’re unpolished. And leaders in both groups must create a space that is safe where anyone feels good asking any question, giving and receiving feedback, and being transparent about their approach to decision making.
I also find the most healthy product and design teams working closely together have a low ego about who does what work as long as it’s in service of the customer and the overall experience. At Coda, it’s common for a designer to accompany their mocks with a clearly documented set of customer problems, and even product requirements. Traditionally the spec may be something the product manager writes, but perhaps the product manager is focused on helping the team in another way. The point is, the work is aligned with the end customer outcome in mind, and not an overly strict definition of roles and responsibilities.
When there aren’t any silos and product and designers are focused on the same thing without egos, it frees everyone to focus on great output for customers.