What do Product Managers need to know about User Experience?


Let me start with “What do Product Managers need to know about Product Management.” In 1931 at Proctor & Gamble, Neil McElroy wrote a memo that proposed the idea of a “brand man” — an employee to manage a specific product rather than serving a traditional business role. Other organizations adopted brand management and the practice came to be known as consumer product management.

Its principles were adopted in the software market as it grew during the 1980s and the gaps between engineering and marketing widened in the 1990s because Engineers did not have processes to keep up with customer demand or speak directly with customers about their concerns. Nor did they have time to collaborate with sales and marketing teams responsible for revenue growth. A gap between them needed to be bridged — and product managers became the ones to do it.

The origin of product management is important to understand user experience. Where the research and development side of user experience originates in Human Factors and Ergonomics, the strategic side is aligned with brand just like product management. With all of this in consideration, here are some basics that a product manager needs to be thinking about user experience:

  1. User Experience Maturity Model. Where is our organization in its UX maturity, what do we need to do to mature (do we need to mature) and how do we compare to our competition?
  2. User Experience Strategy. What is our organization’s UX strategy and how do those objectives align with the rest of our organization?
  3. User Experience Operations. Based on our strategy, where does UX belong in our organization? Does it belong in Marketing, Technology, is there a Chief Experience Officer or something else.
  4. User Experience Process. What processes do we need to integrate our user experience? How does it align with our product management framework or development process?
  5. User Experience Organization. Based on all of the above, who do we need on our UX team – visual designers, interaction designers, usability specialist, etc., how many, ratio, etc.

I will be discussing these in detail at my next UX Boot Camp for Product Managers in May. More to come on that…