How an Interdisciplinary Product Team Can Save a Product

16.03.2017 | 3 min read

Software is no longer created by separate departments and in a sequential fashion. It’s an ongoing process led by people with various skills and areas of expertise. If you just gather a group of people and give them narrow sets of responsibilities you won’t end up with a good product. They have to be able to discuss problems and learn from each other. This is what makes the product team interdisciplinary.

Why is that important? Because UX Design is not limited to designers anymore. In interdisciplinary teams, people are expected to contribute ideas to the entire project, not just the part they specialise in. It’s crucial because when it comes to design, a lot of depends on a particular perspective.

Common goal

For companies which run according to the Agile development process, it’s natural to set up dedicated product teams. Such teams are combinations of developers, UX and UI designers, QA testers, and a project manager. You need all of them, because only when you have all of them, you will have gathered all the possible unique perspectives on the project. If any skill is missing, it will slow down the development process.

In this type of team, everyone has a different field of expertise, but their goal is the same – to deliver the best possible solution. As a result, the product team don’t only design or develop, but actually solve problems. This is possible in a user-oriented software house, as opposed to a typical agency workflow, where design is just a deliverable prepared for a different team. People have to work closely together.

For a project to succeed, you need people that can walk the extra mile.

Designers who work alone might be coming up with new ideas, but they’re often unaware of technological limitations. Their ideas might favour the overall experience at the cost of much longer development time, while developers will try to cut down the number of features to make the code cleaner and more manageable. But when you put them together and encourage discussion, those issues will be recognised instantly. And better ideas will emerge.

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Benefits of a product team

Improved team collaboration looks like a solid benefit of interdisciplinary teams. The way such teams improve the development process goes far beyond that, though. When people with different specialisations work together they grow. They learn by experiencing different perspectives, ways of communicating, and approaches to problem-solving. With time, they become the so-called T-Shaped people, with deep expertise in one subject and basic knowledge of all neighbouring disciplines.

Shared experience reduces misunderstandings and fosters empathy. How?

  • People speak the same language and help each other with their responsibilities.
  • Mutual support creates a better atmosphere in the team and boosts creativity.
  • People who work closely together are not afraid of sharing ideas, which results in more innovative concepts and solutions of higher quality than those developed by individuals who work separately on their small bits and pieces.

New approach

Building products is a big challenge that requires a lot of hard work and a lot of time. For a project to succeed, you need people that can walk the extra mile. When problems arise, you need to be sure people will solve them by teamwork.

UX designers are no longer in charge of User Experience – they don’t own it. Their role is starting to be all about facilitating collaboration within the team. Wireframes are no longer a key deliverable. They rather serve as a conversation starter to help the team find the best solution. Projects become more and more complex, so everyone has to take part in the UX design process – everyone can think like a designer to some extent.

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