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How do product management and UX work together for business growth?

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On the surface, UX (user experience) researchers and product managers (PMs) appear to have similar roles and goals. After all, they are both concerned with creating value-added products that users will love and rely on data-driven insights for decision-making.

Yet, this similarity also leads to worry. A recent Nielson Norman Group survey of 372 PMs and UX professionals found that duplicative work is frequent and leads to “confusion and efficiency”, with some individuals questioning whether their role even holds any unique value for the organisation.

Although both roles do have some overlaps, the unique strengths of PMs and UXRs mean that a collaboration between both is vital to a successful product development cycle. In this article, we will look at the roles and responsibilities of PMs and UXRs, discuss why both parties should collaborate, cover tips for facilitating successful first-time PM and UXR collaborations, and wrap up with some general best practices for PM-UXR collaboration.

What is the role of a product manager (PM)?

As the title suggests, a product manager is responsible for making informed decisions on the types of products that should be built. The exact job scope of a product manager differs by industry and the type of product they are managing.

For instance, a product manager handling a B2B (business-to-business) product would be focused on building products that can generate good insights for companies. These insights can then be used to better workflow or generate business growth and innovation.

On the other hand, an internal product manager would be creating applications for internal employees that help with aspects of the company’s operations, such as increasing sales or improving customer relations management tools.

One important similarity that connects different types of product managers is their concern with employing design thinking to create successful products that users will love to use. These successful products are defined by metrics such as the amount of revenue they generate and/or the costs they save.

Another important similarity is that product managers wear many hats in their role, such as managing stakeholder expectations, building a product roadmap, putting together a team for a product, and crafting a product vision, among others.

As a result, they have less time to get into the nitty-gritty of choosing research methodologies and creating a detailed research plan. This is where user experience researchers enter the picture.

What is the role of a user experience researcher (UXR)?

Like product managers, user experience researchers (UXRs) are also concerned with building value-added products for users in a manner. What differs is that UXRs are primarily focused on how the research conducted will impact decisions to be made about a product, rather than advocating for the launch of particular products for business growth.

Thinking in terms of a UX strategy, UXRs’ work is critical for validating product ideas that can help product managers understand why a particular product should be built. Since there might be gaps in existing market research on the target audience and the problems they face, conducting user research is crucial for checking if initial assumptions about users and their problems are correct.

After reviewing the actionable insights from user research studies, PMs are then better informed as to the pulse of their target audience. This helps them make the final decisions on how a product should be built.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Why a PM and UXR should collaborate

While a product manager certainly can do user research, the reality is that they will not have the time to do a deep dive into research on top of the rest of their workload. As such, UXRs are invaluable for providing a framework to help product managers know what to build by providing reasons for why it should be built.

One critical benefit of PM-UXR collaboration is that product ideas can be validated at an early phase of the project. This can help prevent product managers from pursuing product ideas that are neither feasible nor viable for the user!

Another benefit is that collaboration can help in reducing biases. In advocating for a new feature or product, product managers might be eager to have research prove that their solution is the right one, even if it is not so. The ability of UXRs to ask further questions and determine the context behind the proposed solution, the reason for the research, and the expected outcomes can help ensure that the research will actually gather a broad range of useful customer opinions, instead of simply being tailored to provide support for an initial solution.

How to facilitate a successful first-time collaboration between a UXR and a PM

For a UXR collaborating with a product manager for the first time, it is likely that there are some gaps in the product manager’s knowledge, which prevent them from having clear learning objectives in mind for the research project. To better improve learning outcomes and the impact of a research project, a UXR should expect to interview the product manager and understand the following details:

1. The delivery cycle

This refers to when a product/feature is expected to be delivered. The length of a delivery cycle will help UXRs choose the most appropriate method to use.

2. The metrics a PM wants to measure

These help to indicate whether the research conducted has yielded clear directions to drive next business innovation steps. For instance, if one is looking for ways to increase sales on an e-commerce app, a good metric would be the percentage of successfully completed transactions, rather than measuring the number of people who express interest in using an application.

3. Clarify research learning objectives

A good learning objective should consider the following:

  • What is the product/feature being tested?
  • Who are our intended users?
  • What are the gaps in our current research that we need to fill in through user research?

For a product manager working with UXRs for the first time, they should consider why they need user experience research in the first place. For instance, it may be the case that the only data available on an issue is survey data, which is not giving enough insight into why users behave in a certain manner. Having some research questions in mind will be helpful for UXRs to better figure out a method that best answers the research question.

By being clear about the project timeline, metrics, and learning objectives from the beginning, product managers and UXRs will have a clearer roadmap on what users need and why they need them, and how best to build a value-added product for consumers.

Best practices for PM-UXR collaboration

Find answers together

Where possible, product managers should be invited to sit in on user research sessions and observe for themselves how users react to a product and/or features. UXRs should also be aware of existing market research and understand the metrics that product managers use to assess the success of a product.

Facilitate the communication of actionable insights

Since UXRs might not be involved in every meeting with key stakeholders and decision makers, it is important that actionable insights are not misinterpreted. One way to prevent this is to create comprehensive documentation linking research evidence to actionable insights. This enables not only PMs, but also other important stakeholders such as developers and designers to have a common document of insights to refer to when making product design decisions.

Clearly define responsibilities

One of the biggest reasons product managers and UXRs cited for an overlap of work duties and the ensuing tension was a lack of leadership on defining who was responsible for what. Being able to clearly define responsibilities will help prevent unnecessary overlap in work and also allow both parties to respect where the final call on decisions lies.


In conclusion, product managers and UXRs are working to achieve the same goal — creating value-added products that users will love, in a manner that is aligned with company goals and business growth objectives. A collaboration between both parties can better enhance the product creation process, with UXRs doing a deep dive into research to better understand the user experience and product managers using these insights to better inform product decisions.

If you want to know more about user experience and its industry, do check out our other resources available on our website, such as our articles, weekly webinars, and podcasts.

CuriousCore offers mid-career professionals specialized and career accelerator courses and we also provide practitioner-led masterclasses and consultations for organisations to improve their customer experience strategy and business growth.