by Jim Garrett
Bridging the gap between development and business teams is no small task. Our Certified Usability Analyst of the month, Aman Singal, is just the person to bring connection between these two groups. Aman shares his experience of how it all changed fifteen days after becoming a CUA.
Aman is product manager for McKinsey & Company. The company’s core is management consulting. Aman is involved in digital consulting and is based out of McKinsey’s India office. He works with a team of twenty designers within a total of five hundred employees globally.
His team is focused on building digital products and applications. For their clients they build everything digital, including big data intelligence, commerce platforms, data visualization tools, productivity tools, and more.
What is your greatest challenge as a product manager?
My greatest challenge is to get the design, usability and user experience right. Getting to understand what design is and speaking the same language as the designers is imperative to understand the nuances. And then there is the tough part of convincing the stakeholders that design is important and there is a science behind it. As a product manager, I was hands-on with design and usability but not an expert; I understood design from my experience, but the validation and science behind it was missing.
I have to always maintain that fine balance between business requirements and consumer needs. Since becoming a CUA, the challenge has been mitigated as now I understand design, usability and user experience a lot better. I understand design strategy as to how to go about creating a good design plus good design strategy. It has helped me to understand the logic and the fundamental principles behind why something is good, and why something is not.
Is it usually part of the product manager’s domain to know about design?
Yes, because at the end of the day the product manager is the CEO of the product. If anything fails in the product, be it functionality, ease of use or scalability, it is the product manager’s failure. I am the person who is responsible for strategy, conceptualization, and building the product. At the same time, I work closely with the design and development teams to get the product built. I also keep track to make sure the product development is on track via implementing various methodologies like Agile. So my role consists of being the product manager during the early stages of product development and then donning the hat of project manager during development process. Seventy percent of my work is around strategy, conceptualization, stakeholder management, and the rest is working with design and the development team to get the product delivered.
Has the relationship with the design team changed with your new perspective on UX?
I think there has been significant change because now when I talk to the designers, I understand what they are talking about. Previously, most of my design thinking was based on my work experience rather than principles of design. Moreover, what I learned during my UX training is something I was able to take to the product management group. This, I think, helped in breaking a glass ceiling between the product and design teams. Now there is more collaboration between both teams. Before it was my design vs. your design; it was that kind of a conversation because designers are usually resistant to change to what management is proposing. Now I am able to negotiate between them better, so I think that has helped a lot.
Are there any specific projects that you are working on right now that you can talk about?
We are building the end-to-end digital platform, which includes commerce platform, self-service and customer support for a huge telecom operator. They currently have a static website showcasing their services of what they offer to the customers in the region. We started with building a commerce platform for them where they are able to sell services/products, and customers are able to check the serviceability and pay for desired services/products.
For example, if you are signing up for a broadband connection or a new mobile connection, it is a four-step process:
The idea is to move the client’s entire off-line customer contact platform to digital. Essentially we are building an omni-channel presence for them.
Is a lot of your work geared toward mobile?
The product we are building is responsive and would work on all digital mediums like mobile and tablets. Yes, we do see a lot of focus on mobile platforms whenever we set out to build new digital products. Moreover, being based out of India we do see a lot of work which is mobile focused since India is understood to be mobile first market in terms of internet adoption. The penetration of conventional broadband services is low but more and more people are moving to smart phones.
Where do you see your training from CUA going in the company; do you see it broadening out?
I think the scope of this broadening is tremendous, because the gap between the product team and the design/UX team is huge. I have been fortunate because I come from a more consumer-facing background; I had some sense of design and user experience with me that I carried forward in McKinsey.
Most of my peers are either from a management consulting background or from an IT services background, so I feel the gap between how they conceptualize the product and how they think about design and usability is still there.
Is there one particular thing that you think was significant for you in the HFI training courses which prepared you for the CUA exam?
How to build an effective design was the highlight for me. From my experience, I already understood a lot about the mental models and the usability testing, because that is what I have been doing as part of my job. But the process of creating an effective design and understanding the strategy was really amazing.
Where do you derive your satisfaction in your work?
I have been answering this question all my professional life. I have worked for a lot of organizations over the last nine years, solving a variety of customer problems to make their life easier. If what I deliver as a product/service satisfies the customers’ needs and makes their lives easier, then it is the satisfaction I seek from my work. To add to that, I think the feedback I get is very important, whether it is constructive or positive. If it’s not so good, it pushes you to improve. If you get positive feedback, it is motivation for you because it is the validation of all the hard work you and your team put into delivering that experience to the customers. My satisfaction comes from the user satisfaction.
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