Ever had to enter your personal details in three different places just to switch from your browser to a mobile app? Or had to scroll through 167 products you’re not interested in because the filter options don’t make any sense?
If you work in the product world, you probably start wondering who’s to blame – developers? UX team? Some meddling from marketing?
The answer is none of the above.
Or rather all of the above. Because the real culprit is a lack of collaboration between departments.
In this article, we’re zooming in on collaboration problems, and their consequences for product complexity. Followed by some practical tips on working towards smoother cross-functional teamwork, for a streamlined product experience.
Collaboration complications – what’s going wrong?
We all know that collaboration is key to innovation… in theory. But when it comes to the day to day practice, a lot of employees aren’t reaching beyond their immediate team. Some of the main blocks:
On an organizational level, you may be set up to fail at collaboration.
Assigning specific parts of the user experience to separate teams at different times, with no one in charge of the overall flow. Encouraging employees to be creative and experimental with their specific project but not giving them enough context of the big picture. Setting Objectives and Key Results by department, with no clear organization-wide goals.
These are all common practices which are well intentioned but counterproductive when trying to reduce product complexity.
On an individual level, each employee has their zone of genius. That’s why you hired them. The problem is when their passion overrides objective input and allows experience bias to influence key decisions.
This person is an expert in their craft. They’ve dedicated their career to understanding and leveraging the complexities of their specialization. If they’re not exposed to other perspectives, then product leaders or UX specialists will have a hard job convincing them that simplification is an opportunity, not an insult.
Which leads us to the crux of the issue.
Where’s the user?
With everyone going down their individual, compartmentalized path, the user’s perspective is lost. Small teams are spending months working on features that the user never wanted, or that won’t make sense in the flow of their journey.
If your objective is a smooth and streamlined product experience, this is not good news.
The result? A product complexity nightmare
The bottom line is that siloed working methods lead to a disjointed experience for the customer. They may love the interaction with a certain new feature, but if the next part of the flow isn’t aligned, you’ve lost their interest.
Out of sync timelines and objectives create extra twists and turns in the customer journey, when the current market demands a simple straight line. People no longer have the patience to deal with unnecessary friction and will simply look elsewhere.
So what can we do about it? How to approach collaboration to reduce product complexity
Introducting Design Thinking principles can change the collaboration game. In fact, a Design Sprint is the perfect format to identify those UX obstacles and solve them in just 5 days. Here’s why:
Put heads together… literally
Traditional collaboration often meant working individually, then coming together to compare notes and essentially each stakeholder ‘negotiated’ to include their points of view in the project.
A Sprint brings different skills sets and perspectives in the same room for a condensed, highly focused working environment. This automatically sparks innovation, because it gives the freedom to get creative without judgement. If everyone agrees to try a scrappy solution, then everyone takes ownership and works together on improving and iterating, rather than a single department who’ll then have to ‘justify’ their choices.
Change the lense
In Design Sprint language, each invited team member is referred to as an ‘expert’ and called upon to bring their unique perspective based on their knowledge and department. We often include an ‘expert interviews’ exercise where each expert is interviewed by their teammates. This always leads to perspective shifts in problem framing (internal link to problem framing article), and a better understanding of the bigger product picture.
Centre on the user
The Sprint process ensures that the customer is the focus from day 1, by creating a customer journey map which becomes the base for all the ideation, prototyping and testing work. So we’re not piecing together a product from individual departments wish lists, but responding to what the user actually needs and how they experience the prototype.
This way, everyone has a clear action plan with a common goal, and you build a product that sells itself.
Now we’ve explored what’s going wrong with cross-functional collaboration and product complexity, and what we can do to improve it. Are you experiencing any of these challenges in your own organization?
If so, we can lead you through a Design Sprint, or even better put the tools in the hands of your own employees through a Training Sprint. Kickstart better collaboration and more streamlined product experiences for the long term.