Teammates, not opponents. That’s how product managers and product designers are expected to work in product teams. Not necessarily the relationship needs to be a close-knitted one, but should definitely be healthy.
Building a stellar SaaS business is not a one-person responsibility. The involvement of the best product-driven minds, i.e- the design team and product team, is what gets the job done.
From our partners:
Even though the bigger picture for large SaaS companies remains the same, i.e- delivering a user-friendly and intuitive product. But behind the scenes, job responsibilities, and scope of work might look very different for both of these product-heavy roles.
To make sure that every team member is working towards a shared goal and a long-term vision, product managers and product designers need to work as a team.
It’s true product managers and product designers have different responsibilities. But despite these differences, they work closely together to design, develop and test a product that’s loved by their target audience.
But before we move on to the similarities and differences between these two roles, let’s look at what it is that both these roles entail.
What does a product manager do?
A product manager is obsessed with timely planning, shipping, and the closure of a product’s entire lifecycle. It involves a lot of heavy lifting from several departments you can think of.
Product managers are always at the forefront when it comes to balancing conflicting goals such as priorities and budgets given to them by their clients in addition to meeting deadlines given by the designers and developers alike.
Starting with customer research, identifying gaps and pain points of the ideal customers, product design, product marketing and finally getting the product on the road with aggressive beta testing and pilot programs. All of this, keeping the business goals and objectives always in account.
The core responsibilities of a PM are as follows:-
i) Carrying out a competitive analysis by monitoring the market trends
ii) Aligning internal and external stakeholders around the goal of the product
iii) Collaborate with internal product, engineering, and design teams for timely deliverables
iv) Mapping out the entire product lifecycle while also prioritizing product features and updates
v) Working on existing product features, product releases, and capabilities for continued success
vi) Stepping in for troubleshooting, testing, and collaborating with respective teams for every minor and major issue in the product.
vii) Working on creating and presenting extensive product reports on bugs, specs, defects, and improvements in cross-functional teams transparently.
What does a product designer do?
The groundwork for bringing an app idea to life or improving the existing user interface and user experience of a product begins here.
A product designer could be on either side of the development process — from coming up with ideas for new products or improving the user interface to designing how an existing product works.
They are the real product architects who do full hands-on work before you can even call your idea a legit product! In addition to this, they’re also responsible for aligning customer experience, business goals, and development timelines throughout their work.
The core responsibilities of a Product Designer are as follows:-
i) Strong attention to detail that comprises visual design skills (UI) and equally good functional design skills (UX).
ii) Identifying and suggesting new product opportunities and improvements that enhance the existing user experience of the product.
iii) Revamping or remodeling the current designs if required by the ever-changing user preferences backed by solid research.
iv) Positive collaboration between product managers, engineers, and stakeholders on a day-to-day basis to deliver a well-rounded product for customers.
v) Being vocal about the design changes implemented or removed to cross-functional teams, management, and stakeholders every once in a while.
vi) Ability to synthesize both qualitative and quantitative data
vii) Creative problem-spotting and problem-solving skills backed by user research, usability testing, and decoding complex heat maps of apps and websites.
Now that we’ve seen the individual work responsibilities, this drives us to our next big question…
Where does the intersection between product managers and product designers happen?
Contrary to the popular belief that one role supersedes the other, it’s more of a team activity. The overlap between the product management team and product designers is no less than a strong chemical bond. Together, these two teams can bring the most pressing concerns of the users to the surface and start eliminating the pain points using effective design thinking.
Here is how a positive collaboration between the two designations unifies for the greater good of the organization:-
1. Centralized Mission, Vision, and Goals
Product and design teams are focused on making sure the end-user has an engaging product experience. This hits all the checkboxes of assuring everybody in the organizational hierarchy agrees.
Because a centralized mission is already known by the teams, it helps individual employees sync their day-to-day work responsibilities accordingly. This also reduces the repetitiveness of a similar kind of work carried out by distinctive teams.
2. Customer First Approach For The Win
Product managers and product designers are always supposed to agree with customer needs. Even though a successful product is an intersection of business, user, and technological aspects, adopting a customer-first approach makes the cut eventually.
Product managers and product designers understand this, and so they map out and prioritize customer-oriented feature releases and product updates first, stakeholders and the management come second. This approach enables companies to create more satisfied and loyal users.
3. Elimination of Infinite Back and Forth
Not just collaboration, effective collaboration. That’s exactly what the purpose of these two distinct roles is, to stick together from inception to launch.
Starting from user research, making personas, brainstorming, creating workflows, and determining processes is a result of equal contributions from both teams.
The lack of collaboration at the beginning can lead to poor decision-making and chaotic workflows, ultimately resulting in unsatisfactory results for users and the organization.
4. Prepared For Last Minute Surprises
As you know, stakeholders are the hardest to bend and convince when conflict arises during the execution phase of a product timeline. But conflicts and escalations are a part of the progress. So how does one get a free pass? By doing damage control.
Now is when product and design teams pitch in their unique solutions and come to a common ground to solve a particular challenge. Both teams align together and come up with a resolution effective to the case in front of management when things go upside down. This makes any and every challenge get resolved quickly, without wasting too much time on the issue.
5. Always Striving To Hit The Bull’s Eye
Product success is often the result of a collaborative effort, with both product and design teams working in tandem, which leads to quick planning and faster execution.
Every department in every company strives to achieve business goals. As we discussed previously, regardless of what the department or individual processes are like, the only metric that fits in the bigger picture is your product’s north-star metric.
Answers to the tough questions are what both product managers and designers should seek from each other.
In design, every first step starts with a big why.
Why this idea? Why this problem? Why this product? Why this feature? Why does this flow? Why this shape? Why this theme? Why this color? Why this typography?
And the hundreds of why you can possibly think of… the list goes on.
Best way to beat this: why loop? Communicate first, collaborate second. Don’t slide it under the rug!
Communication is the first step in the process, which allows both parties the time to unwind, explore and brainstorm every design decision.
Product designers should be proactive in showing the research they carried out, the insights they got from user interviews, the results of usability testing that rolled in, and any secondary data that supports their decision.
This way, the product managers will be in a better position to validate your findings instead of shooting your ideas down with a whole other bunch of other questions.
Up next, many designers try to come up with a solution that’s never been implemented or heard of before. The chances of it being shipped? Negligible.
The idea is not to reinvent the wheel but to follow what others are already doing. Here, your competition. This isn’t to box you up from being creative. It’s simply praising the existing mental models of the users and going in that direction to save yourself time and give you the confidence that it’s bound to work!
Being a product designer is not about turning into a scientist for every new challenge you come across. Rather, step in as an artist and embrace what’s already been done and give that a unique spin.
So ultimately who wins the battle?
A product designer needs a product manager to stand by their side just as much as a manager needs a designer. It’s a partnership.
The truth is, a successful product isn’t built in silos. It never will.
Creating a product from the ground up has been a collaborative process. No role can stand alone until the very end.
So, the prerequisite of even before getting started in any product team, you have got to be a team player.
Maintaining a good relationship with your stakeholders is important for your success as a product manager — be it design, marketing or engineering. With Zeda.io, collaborating with your stakeholders is easier, faster and seamless.
Zeda’s collaboration tools help you communicate faster with the team, and cut down on awkward and unnecessary daily stand ups.
Become more efficient and build better products with Zeda.io.