Sep 14, 2020

Entering product design – Chapter 3: Misunderstanding of business

Before we talk about anything else, I think it’s essential to address the typical misunderstanding of business upfront. My goal of this writing is to share a perspective on why so-called business-centric happens in the company.

I’m fortunate enough to work in a mature UX company and an immature UX company. So I can see both worlds.

Generally speaking, product designers often complain the company is so business-centric in the low UX maturity company. All the projects started because the business team says so.

In that condition, product designer gets frustrated and often develop a certain level of hate toward business or business teams.

I once hated the word “business.” I thought product designer must focus on making the customer’s life better. The word human-centered also contributes to this misunderstanding, at least for me. It says: human-centered. So, aren’t we need to think just about humans, users, or customers?

Apparently, that’s not the case.

Human-centered practice is suggesting human first, not human only. You should observe and understand the customer to find the underlying problem, so you can build a product that is more likely for customer to use or buy your product. While still considering all other factors: viability for business, finance, and legal and feasibility for technology to build it within a constraint.

Human first. Not human only.

But, why a company end up being business-centric? I want to share my observation to help you understand why this happens.

Lack of a customer-centric mindset or perspective in the leadership. If no one on the leadership think about customer, then there will always be something else on top of mind: financial, technology, sales, and others. As a result, the exec will believe they know what’s best for their customer and your team will receive this random project to work on that you don’t even know why.

Lack of business acumen in the design practice. Suppose researchers can’t bring an actionable or relevant insight for the strategic discussion for the company. This can create some frustration for the business team and they will come up with some solutions.

Absent of design leadership. The absence of senior design lead with the fluency of business in the design team can cause this, resulting in a disconnection between the design strategy and the business strategy. In any of those conditions, you will need strong leadership to analyze the gap and make a strategy to move to a better state slowly.

If you’re wondering what to do in any of those situations. Honestly, it requires a whole new book to talk about this. But, my short answer is: First, engage with business team to understand their perspective. This is the hardest step but often rewarding. Then, think of what can your team do to bring customer in the process to validate their assumption as early and cheaply as possible.

I hope you can start to consider that business is not your enemy. Product designer should be sensitive about it. They are your team. You should help each other.

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