Written by Scott Craig|Posted on May 16, 2017
Bridging the gap between the “creatives” and the “techies” is one of the greatest challenges to overcome when effectively defining, designing, developing, and delivering products people love to use. The respective members of cross-functional development teams are not only trained in completely different processes, but they also have two extremely different mental models and methods in which their goals are established and rewarded.
Designers are both intrinsically and professionally trained to focus on the human user of the technology. Developers, on the other hand, are focused on the features and functions of the technology itself. These two hemispheres of the same system can create friction within the team, cause miscommunication, and slow down product development.
Creating a great product, of course, it is not as simple as only getting the two sides to work together. The other players in this sandbox are the business executives, marketing and sales professionals, growth hackers, and product owners. These players are often the most ignored and yet are mission-critical to creating marketplace awareness of the product and successful adoption. Creating balance and harmony between these players is essential for driving and delivering the ultimate product experience.
Fundamentally, all members of the product or application’s cross-functional team are dedicated to delivering the same result: product experiences that people love. However, it can be challenging to get all team members communicating effectively to make cohesive decisions about product development.
To help facilitate this process, I created the “Better Together” mandate. This mandate serves as a basis for all input and decision drivers that must be balanced and understood throughout the end-to-end development lifecycle (THINK/MAKE cycle). This mandate requires that all team members be involved in the entire THINK/MAKE cycle and provides a framework for making decisions.
This simple process, using the “Better Together” mandate principles, starts with an IDEA (that is presented from any source – usually the business leaders – but truly from any player). The cross-functional team then immediately engages to validate if it is worthy and what is involved from a BXT (business, eXperience, technology) 360-degree view. This requires THINKing it through together. Designers often lead this portion of the cycle due to design thinking and HCD (human-centered design) methods being the key input components. However, the technologist should be heavily engaged and contribute to the process so that everyone stays on the same page and agrees with the proposed solutions. There are no hand offs if everyone goes through the THINK processes together.
Some teams struggle to keep a technologist engaged during the THINK portion of the cycle. One way to help with buy in and participation from the developers, is by managing this cycle as SPRINT 0. Most developers know they are to do a SPRINT 0 before planning the Sprint 1 through X rhythm, to clearly define and validate what is to be built. And most developers are at a loss for how to effectively process this Sprint 0 needed. The light seems to come on when they are stepped through the design thinking approach and they usually fully embrace and participate in the process.
Including ALL of the cross-functional creation team members (DESIGN and BUILD) at every step can increase project costs and is therefore an investment choice. However, my experience proves time and again that to have the team engaged in every part of this cycle has paid off huge dividends in realizing the goal of their work together.
The following article will be served up in three parts: Part 1: THINK, Part 2: MAKE, Part 3: LOVE. My goal is for all members of the design, development, and business teams to understand the fundamentals of how the THINK/MAKE cycle works and to ensure that everyone understands their role within the cycle. This understanding is, without a doubt, the key to effectively creating successful experiences that people love. This harmonic approach of playing “Better Together” can remove the built-in blockers of most real-world processes.
Kirkland, WA, USA