Cross Team Collaboration: Maintaining Trust Between Product Design and Development Teams

by Olha Bahaieva

7 min read·

Product design and development teams operate in two different worlds, but these two worlds need to work together to launch a successful product. They have a shared goal, but they often have different beliefs about the best way to achieve it. 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” 

— Helen Keller

Every industry is going through an industrial revolution as new technologies change the way people conduct business. In this environment, having a trustworthy team is more important than ever before.

I’ve been working as a UX/UI designer for over 8 years and know how fast things change. The tech industry is ever-evolving and it impacts my work process and how I collaborate with developers.

The pressure for speed and innovation can bring mistrust among teams. Each team has its own culture, goals, methods, and language that can break down trust across various teams.

This is why it’s important to create an effective collaboration between the design and development teams. The major goal is to build trust so all can concentrate on their tasks and be excited about a product launch, while at the same time the teams avoid tech burnout.

Start From the Product Roadmap and Define Your Goals

First of all, it’s important for design and development teams to understand the general plan. To do this correctly, managers create a product roadmap. Even if you don’t have a manager, you can create a product map on your own.

Your major goal is to define features that need to be designed and developed in a particular period. It means you can plan your year, quarter, month, or even week.

This is a super-effective way because both the design and development team understands the number of tasks and order of completion.

Another benefit of using product roadmaps is deadlines. When you have a scope of work for some time, it’s important to stick to deadlines. Otherwise, you can’t develop a product on time.

This is why deadlines play a critical role for the design team to create a product, and for devs to implement the concept.

A product roadmap clearly defines goals and keeps everyone on track, even if you don’t have a manager. It’s a good way to work productively and efficiently.

Select Communication Channels and Management Tools

Once you know your goals and are ready to start, there is another thing for the design and development team to consider. You need to think about how to communicate with each other.

It might sound stupid if you see each other at the office and can talk to each other. But let’s imagine you work remotely. So you can’t talk to each other every minute.

You need tools to schedule calls and have a chat. This is why both teams should agree on what tools to use once a question arises. Also, it is worth mentioning that you need to have scheduling and productivity tools to work faster.

But what if I tell you that you need communication tools even when you’re in the office? That’s right. If you see your team members in front of you, it doesn’t mean that you don’t need communication tools.

At least you need to use scheduling tools to avoid pinging your team members every second, which can be a major distraction for people. 

Another important thing is you can’t ask everyone at the office the same question. It’s annoying. Instead, it’s easier to ask your question on a chat platform such as Slack so that people can answer it at their own time.

I tried different tools, but the most efficient from my experience are Slack, Trello, Jira, and Miro. These tools allow you to communicate and track progress at the same time.

Plan Daily Standups To Be Sure That All Team Members Are on the Track

I worked with many companies with different types of cultures, management, and even income. Depending on the company, I adapted my work to their standards. 

While startup companies prefer to meet when there's a need, like a feature discussion or brainstorming session, enterprise companies prefer to go with daily reports that don't bring much value.

This is how I used to think. But recently, I realized how daily standups benefit teams. It’s really important not only to have a call to discuss a technical question but let other team members know where you’re at.

So when each team member tells you what they've been working on, you get a sense of how work progresses in your team. 

While most people think it’s an unproductive thing, you need to consider adding daily standups to your work.

Design and development teams always work hand-in-hand, so it’s really important to have a common sense of the product creation journey.

Here are a few tips to make the most of your standup:

  1. Prepare a list of work that you’ve done during the day.
  2. Ask your team questions that are crucial to your work progress.
  3. Check your speed of work with a deadline for the whole team.

Learn How To Listen to Your Manager or a Team Member

Ok, now I want to share a thing which most employees would dislike. If you have a manager in your team — listen to them. I'm not saying that you need to agree with everything they say, but stay open to different opinions.

I was at your place once and hated when someone would give me constructive feedback. It’s not the end of the world, but it frustrated me.

Today, I think differently. I believe that all type of feedback is beneficial.

When you get positive feedback, you might feel inspired and motivated to do even better work. But do you grow as a professional? When no one points you to your mistakes or gives you ideas for improvement, your skills remain the same and are not progressing.

But once you listen to your manager and try to understand the reasons behind their opinion, you start implementing new ideas and your brain starts to work differently.

This is extremely important for the design and development team. Designers need to learn how to listen to different opinions to develop a concept, and developers need to listen to managers to work productively. As you know, development is a long-term game.

Don’t Be Afraid To Fail — This Is Beneficial for Your Work

Self-learning is a very important part of your profession.

If you don’t make mistakes and fail, you can’t learn and develop your career.

I wasn’t happy when I was doing mistakes in the past. It felt like I was wrong because I didn’t know anything. But now I realize that doing mistakes is a path to learning and improving.

My mistakes led me to who I am. They helped me gain knowledge that I didn’t even imagine gaining before.

For both designers and developers, mistakes lead to more career opportunities, a personal brand, and even a side hustle. As you can see, doing mistakes is a good thing and you shouldn’t worry about making them.

The important part about mistakes is that you learn from them and don’t repeat them in the future. Otherwise, you can’t grow.

Final Thoughts

Cross-functional team collaboration is a key point for successful product creation. When you work together, it’s a path for the product to be developed in a way the business needs it.

This is why it’s crucial to maintain trust and work productively. I collaborate with many teams but in most cases, I co-op with developers.

I tried many strategies, tools, and ways to work with the dev team effectively, and shared with you my best tips that can help you improve cross-team collaboration.

Good luck!

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FAQs

Q: How do product and engineering teams work together?
The engineering team always works together with a product one. This collaboration includes a concise strategy, like the scope of the work, business needs, features, and what is an important deadline. While devs are very technical, the product team creates a general approach that needs to be met.
Q: How do you define a good relationship between product and engineering?
A good relationship between product and engineering means ongoing communication. When a dev team has a question on the project needs, a product team gives an explanation of it. When the product team has a question about technology, and time of project creation, the dev team provides an estimation.
Q: How do you bridge the gap between product management and engineering?
The gap between product management and engineering can be removed with proper tools and daily check-ins. For example, to keep projects on track, the dev team works with tasks or tickets. Once there will be a question, update, or change, these tasks will be updated and everyone stays on track.
Olha Bahaieva
Olha Bahaieva
Senior UX/UI Designer

A six-time winner in international design contests, Olha has more than eight years of experience in UX/UI design. She is the Lead UX/UI Designer at Dish, a top Medium design writer, and a public speaker. She is also a design course author with over 1M views on Education Ecosystem and the founder of the UX Designers Club on Medium.

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