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UX & PM: A Strategic Duo

This is the first post in a series that Péter Balázs Polgár and I are publishing on the strategic role of UX in product development and how PMs and UX professionals can deliver greater impact via strategic alignment. Stay tuned for more installments.

UX as a discipline goes back decades but is, in many cases, still treated as an afterthought in product development processes (“Let's build it and then get UX to make it pretty.”). This tendency is ironic given the fact that providing an experience that makes users happy and productive is critical for virtually all products. To be fair, product management, like UX, is often misapplied and underoptimized (brought in to execute based on faits accomplis.

Our hypothesis, based on our decades of experience and input from peers, is that, in most cases, PM and UX engagement is suboptimal at both the operational and strategic levels. Furthermore, this lack of effective engagement has a negative effect on business outcomes. More on this later.

Peter and I decided we'd start by addressing the PM/UX relationship at the strategic level. That means we should first define what a strategy is. To us, a strategy is a “course of action” that leads to success. Strategies are about executing. They assume that a clear definition of success exists (how can we create a path toward something that doesn't exist?). In fact, without a clear definition of success, a strategy is almost meaningless. The definition of success can be captured with goals (general things) and objectives, which are time-bound and measurable. Strategy can be decomposed into tactics. This image depicts this hierarchy of concepts.

Together, we refer to the definition of success and strategy as “business motivation”. Once a strategy has been defined, we're able to express how we intend to deliver strategic value to the market via a roadmap. We believe that the definitions of success, strategies, and roadmaps for products and UX are tightly bound. If we consider the product level, we can think of these elements are part of the product motivation.

We believe that success for products and UX should be addressed at both the organization and offering levels.

Product strategies should clearly support business motivation at the organizational level. A central UX strategy should also reflect motivation at this level. Goals might include providing consistent experiences across products and channels, e.g., mobile.

At the product level, we believe there doesn't need to be a separate UX strategy, rather UX strategy at this level is part of the product strategy. For most product professionals, it should be intuitive to imagine UX goals at the product level, e.g., decrease onboarding time, reduce time to perform task X, and create a mobile UI supporting key tasks.

So, the proper way to proceed is to define business motivation at the organizational level and then rationalize organizational UX strategy. We can then define a supporting product strategy including elements of the UX strategy that are relevant at the product level.

In the next installment in this series, Peter will provide examples of UX strategies at the organizational and product levels, including examples.

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