The Power of Cross-Functional UX Teams

So, you’re part of a user experience (UX) team or thinking of forming one. Who are actually involved in this team? What are their roles? Are they from similar or diverse backgrounds? How do you choose them? These are important questions given the complex nature of the field of UX, and the fundamental role that the team plays in user experience research and design, as well as the whole product development process.

It is no doubt that at work, collaborating with colleagues from other disciplines is essential to bring about the best ideas and solutions. Research has consistently shown that diversity is key to the success of teams and organisations in general. For UX teams, this diversity is indeed essential as the field of UX is formed of different scopes and disciplines. Plenty of researches about the complex nature of UX confirm that diverse teams perform at a higher level. As Xiao (2016) also says “The best UX professionals and teams have a diversity of skills in their arsenals that they use to research, design, and communicate effective design decisions.”

Today, effective and efficient UX teams include people having diverse skills who have expertise in such fields as programming, engineering, design, psychology, and anthropology. These team members normally put their collective effort into a specific task. Unlike traditional organisational structure in which professionals with similar expertise or skills work together having limited interaction with other departments, UX brings people from different backgrounds, builds relationships by removing the barriers among departments, and facilitates greater interaction.

Think of a traditional organisational process. Managers work in isolation from other employees by having long and unproductive meetings where representatives of relevant departments review documents to be presented, get feedback, and assign new tasks to others. On the other hand, in a cross-functional team, the communication, team learning, and knowledge sharing process are much more efficient. By bringing people from diverse backgrounds together, a stimulus for multidisciplinary thinking, and a potential catalyst for creativity and innovation is created. Thus, big ideas can proceed much easier with this team dynamics to resolve possible problems arise in every step of the process.

Organisational cohesion is another important dimension of cross-functional UX teams. People in cross-functional UX teams take part in almost every step of research, prototyping, and usability testing. This offers an opportunity that traditional organisational structures do not — a sense of cohesion and increased engagement. In such an environment, everyone connects with each other, sees each other’s perspectives and ideas, and creates strong social and professional relationships.

Our research team consists mostly of psychologists and anthropologists. However, we carry out most of our research in collaboration with designers, developers, engineers, information architects, and product owners working as a cross-functional team. This way, we use time more efficiently, maximize creativity and organisational harmony while we work on new products and services. We always try to involve everyone in the research process, from planning the research to data collection, usability tests, and data analysis. Besides, we find it very useful to immediately share our findings with other team members.

As researchers, we act as a bridge between users and the team. We try to understand user’s needs, abilities, constraints and behaviours and the importance of sharing this information with our team in a way that everyone can infer insights for design. Therefore, we believe that understanding of human behaviours and motivations combined with making use of the advantages of cross-functional team dynamics to maximize this understanding will put you on the right track to produce usable, useful, and satisfying products that serve the real needs of users.

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