INSIGHT: Fostering collaboration between product and design

4 minutes

Product and design teams share one goal – creating successful products that solve cust...

Product and design teams share one goal – creating successful products that solve customers’ problems. Collaboration has never been more important for product and design success. 

A straightforward graphic featuring the quote: "The lines between product and design are blurring more and more." Text is styled in red and black and cited from 'The collaboration between product and design' by 3Search.

In our first Product and Design Collab event, we brought together professionals from each arena to learn, empathise, and collaborate. 

Our panel was represented by: 

And expertly moderated by Rico Surridge. Rico is Chief Product & Technology Officer at Which? Ltd, the UK’s consumer champion. Over a twenty-year career, Rico has driven outcomes from Product roles in industries ranging from Media (BBC, ITV, Sky, NewsCorp) to ecommerce (Sainsbury's, Vodafone, Photobox) to Consultancy (Accenture). Collaborating on product and feature launches with Apple, Google and Amazon. 

Keep reading for the key takeaways from their conversation, including: 

  • The evolution of product and design teams 
  • The importance of product and design collaboration 
  • Difficulties of collaborative working 

Looking for more? Watch the on-demand video. 


The evolution of product and design teams 

The perception of product management and design has changed over the years, usually in-line with the economyOur speakers agreed that a few years ago, teams were over-equipped with both Product Managers and Product Designers. As a new skill set, however, businesses were often unsure of the benefits of Product. Unfortunately, while businesses are becoming more product-led, there is less budget to hire enough heads to create an effective team.  

“Now, we have to hire for efficiency against really specific goals,” says Louise, “so it’s about being really pragmatic about the skill sets.” 


Becoming data-focussed 

Michelle shared that in a previous role, despite working to create optimised Products that their customers loved, they still lacked Product Market Fit (PMF).  

Customer data and user feedback helped the team to pivot and become “laser focussed”. This insight allowed them to re-focus their product roadmap on where they would see the highest return on investment and create PMF. 


The future of design roles 

The design career path has certainly transformed. ThProduct Design roles have only recently been introduced and really encompass both skill sets. In fact, Louise shared that the two are only continuing to become more and more intertwined. 

A simple text graphic displaying the quote: "The Product Design role is edging closer to a Product role." The text is in red and black and cited from a source titled 'The collaboration between product and design' by 3Search.

In Louise’s opinion, this is a necessary change to continue building products together. To adapt, Designers need to be able to understand business landscape, product thinking and commerciality. These aspects are increasingly attractive to hiring managers 

Unfortunately, the current employment market is competitive and saturated. To stand out from the crowd, Louise recommends Designers approach their job search with a business lens. Product-thinking can be the differentiator.  As she said, "Our strength is in design, but our superpower is all of it.” 


The importance of product and design collaboration 


In this economic environment, strong collaboration is key for business success and individual team success. 


Business success 

When productdesign and engineering teams work closely together, they create products that artruly successful with their audience. A well-coordinated team with clear goals ensures higher team satisfaction and stronger product quality. 

Richard shared that, historically, tensions were high between each team but that has now changed. 

“The attribution of product and design is much harder,” says Richard, "and they must work together to justify a product-centric approach."


Team success 

As stated above, in this economic environment, proving your team’s worth is key as a Product/Design Leader. To achieve this, Michelle advises sharing one target to hit. This simple, clear approach makes it easier to communicate your teams’ collective successes with business leaders. 


Ensuring collaborative working 


As mentioned, collaborative working can be tricky to achieve. Complications arise from working models and structures. Our speakers shared some of the ways you can ensure collaboration between design and product teams. 


Maintaining a strong connection between Design and Product 

A common trap that teams fall into, is isolating Designers from the product development processThis should be avoided at all costs so that Designers can continue to drive Product success and alwaydemonstrate their value to the business.  

Design Leaders should: 

  1. Understand their team’s role in the product roadmap, so they’re always able to tie work back to business objectives 
  2. Approach tasks in a lean way, maintaining pragmatism throughout design processes 

Keeping your focus on how your work drives success is key in the current climate. 


The impact of hybrid working 

Collaboration has been impacted by the current working environment. Remote working has impacted the visibility of teams and made it harder to share ideas in a collaborative environment. 

A minimalist graphic with a quote in red and black text that reads: "That collaboration, that connection, that sense of 'finishing each other's sentences' isn't there in the same way." Cited from a source titled 'The collaboration between product and design' by 3Search.

To combat this disconnect, Rich shared the importance of maintaining consistent documentation in your role. 

For instance, asking questions when you’re not clear on the outcomes of conversations. He suggested breaking down the message that you’ve received and what you understand from it to share your perspective with the individual.  

The issue is often wider than at team-level, with many businesses finding it harder than ever to clearly communicate expectations to their teams. As a result, alignment is difficult to achieve, and Product Managers can find it tricky to know which metrics to track. 

Rich recommends keeping clear records of all of the metrics you’re impacting to ensure alignment is in place. 


Sharing team success 

Another point touched upon is maintaining team morale for high productivity. Our speakers shared how important internal communications channels are for sharing teams’ successes. For example, creating a Slack channel dedicated to sharing wins, allows you to celebrate achievements on a daily basis. 


A big thank you to our Design and Product Leaders 


We appreciate the time and insights shared and look forward to hosting more Product Design collab events over the next few years. If you’re interested in joining us at our next one, be sure to register your interest below. 

For Product and Design recruitment, reach out to 3Search

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