The UX of Product Management

What is the difference between User Experience Design and Product Management?  Additionally, should product management come out of the marketing department or the engineering department?  This issues are coming to the fore recently at work as we start to mature our process and organization.

I have seen it both ways. Both ways are bad.  Reporting to marketing leads to a disconnect with the engineering realities.  Reporting to engineering results in a disconnect to real people and real users.  Both ways lead to conflict between engineering and marketing.  And where is the design department?  We are stuck reporting up to one group or the other, neither of which understands why we exist.  Both seem to think we are supposed to make it look pretty.  “Design is the way things work, not how they look.” – Jobs

My personal feeling is that product management should report to neither department.  It should be its own thing.  It should empower the engineering department and the marketing department at the same time.  The marketing department represents the ideal world.  They should ask for the sun, the stars and the moon.  The engineering department represents the reality of production.  What can be handled in what amount of time?  They need details and specifics.  Marketing should not be forced to provide those details.  They should be blue sky.  Engineers should not be told they can not have details, that is just unfair.

By having the product management department as an independent group, then it is the function of that group to interpret the dreams of the marketin/business people and turn it into the details and reality of the engineers.  I described this exact thing to the Intuit CEO, Steve Bennett as a UX conference.  He didn’t get it, but I tried.  It is the role of the designer to understand both worlds and produce the bridge between them.

It is an exciting time for me, as I try to help bring about this and see if it works as well as I imagine.

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