I’ve been on a quest to better understand how “the industry” defines roles and responsibilities between ownership of deliverables between Digital Product Managers and User Experience professionals.
Before we can determine who does what, we need clear roles and responsibilities.
Seems simple, right?
The conclusion I’ve come to is that there’s no right or wrong way because these disciplines are still in somewhat of an infancy stage as it pertains to the digital space — and this is what makes this process difficult. The reasons are because these roles vary by company almost primarily due to the skill set of the employees, and therefore organizations have a somewhat organic way of dividing up responsibilities.
The challenge in the above scenario however, especially in larger organizations, is the lack of clear, formal definition. This is the worst of all scenarios because when roles are not definitive, there can’t be any accountability.
Lack of clear roles and responsibilities makes it difficult to recruit
Lack of clear roles and responsibilities further exacerbates itself as employees advance and you try to backfill the individual skill sets they brought to the table, or employees leave and you try to hire an exact replacement — you find yourself recruiting for specialists (which is extremely difficult) and if you can’t find them, you then find your organization structure in a constant state of flux as you alter it to account for the gaps the departures have created. This is not sustainable because your team is impacted by the constant state of change and instead of focusing on building great products, they get bogged down with the constant ebb and flow team structures.
Digital Product Management Roles & Responsibilities
In our business we already have traditional Product Managers, so we are delineating responsibilities here by specifically calling out that these are Digital-specific, so we call it “Digital Product Management.”
With that said, the primary focus of this role is to be focused externally on the market and specifically identifying problems in the market that can be solved by our organization.
Digital Product Management defines the “what” we need to go and do based on an external market focus.
We outline two primary responsibilities as follows:
- Partner with key stakeholders across the business to understand clearly the business needs, consumer insights, competitive landscape, and customer dynamics to develop a Digital User Experience Strategy for our Digital Products
- Work in partnership with Interactive Design and Development & Technology teams to continually test, seek out, and research new digital technologies and standards to evolve our current digital capabilities and build new ones
As you can see, in our business, Digital Product Management is responsible for identifying the User Experience Strategy. Digital Product Management, at the end of the day, is the sole role held accountable for a Digital Product meeting the needs of the market.
User Experience Roles & Responsibilities
We define three core responsibilities for User Experience:
- Information architecture
- Interaction Design (IxD)
- Visual Design
User Experience defines “how” to go about solving the market problems as identified by Digital Product Management.
The User Experience team is still externally focused, but specifically focused on the how’s of usability and delighting end-users; not specifically on what market problems to solve. They receive their direction on what to do from Digital Product Management, but are still accountable for determining how to solve the market problems with the best possible user experience. Digital Product Management is then responsible for validating the “how” in the marketplace and identifying any new problems that need solving.
What if there is no Product Management function in my organization?
First, given the above responsibilities and skill sets of the employees in your organization, you may have individuals operating as Product Managers. You’ll need to first determine if the formal definition is needed. Some organizations it doesn’t make sense, and that’s fine. If you have no Product Management, then User Experience takes on more Product Management responsibilities.
This is where the roles and responsibilities get blended so much across organizations — in organizations that don’t have a Product Management function, the User Experience team often is responsible for handling Product Management duties. Organizational type and culture really is the reason for this. If your organization traditionally manufactures/produces products, then you probably have a formal Product Management Department, so a Digital Product Management function seems like a logical parallel for Digital compared to the traditional Product Management function.
Recognize though that if no Product Management function exists, this puts greater pressure on the UX team to be both externally focused on identifying what the market problems are as well as defining how to solve those problems. Just make sure that the roles and responsibilities between the “what” and “how” are divided amongst the team. It’s tough for a single person to be responsible for both, as they become less objective with the final product.Tags: digital product management, organizational structure, user experience