Product Trio: the team that makes the product better

July 19, 2023, by Gabriele Giaccari




For us, working on a product means bringing in different skills and perspectives. For us, building a good product means being able to count on the Product Trio.

The Product Trio

Product Manager and UX Designer are usually seen as the mind and arm of the product, engaged in synergetic and collaborative work.

Nothing could be truer. Their approaches are complementary and necessary, they are the ones driving the entire process, and from their different positions, they set the rules for product development.

Their collaboration makes the process linear, agile and effective.

One might think that a Product Manager and a UX Designer are enough to come up with the best solutions, but don’t you feel like something is missing?

Let's refer toMarty Cagan’s words when talking about roles and goals:

"While the product designer is accountable for ensuring the solution is usable, and the engineers are accountable for ensuring the solution is feasible, the product manager is accountable for ensuring the solution is both valuable and viable."

Here the figures involved in the process are three: the designer, the engineer and the product manager. And so the pair seems to expand to include an additional professional, with an even different vision and very different skills, in the team.

When talking about Product Trio, as Teresa Torres does, we refer to the core base that appears necessary to build good digital products:

"A product trio is typically comprised of a product manager, a designer, and a software engineer. These are the three roles that - at a minimum - are required to create good digital products'.

At 20tab, we endorse this approach and put it into practice in our daily work. Now, let us explain why.

Why a Product Trio

Product manager, designer and developer represent the three sides of the same coin and, if you will, the three souls of the product.

These three figures share the journey and propose, test and improve the most suitable solutions. Each of them will have, so to speak, responsibility for a specific aspect of the product: the product manager must ensure business and user value, helping define goals, strategies and roadmaps; the designer will focus on usability and user experience, while the dev more on feasibility. After all, if one of these pieces is missing, the process comes to a halt and the product appears incomplete from one side.

This is already something innovative because, with a waterfall approach, the three figures do not work together in defining the solution. Instead, there is often a Project Manager, who sets requirements from above and tells the designer what to do, and eventually hands over the fully planned project to the technicians, who become mere executors.

In a world that is constantly changing, that increasingly requires putting users at the center, this approach often leads to failure, shifting the focus away from the results achieved and towards the implemented functionalities.

The team becomes truly functional only when it becomes a 'team of missionaries', as defined by Marty Cagan: a team that has the freedom to conduct research and define priorities, with communicated business goals that it can independently achieve by studying opportunities that it can leverage to change the behavior of its users. In contrast to the so-called 'team of mercenaries', where the focus is solely on the implemented features, dictated from above, and where designers and devs are mere executors, often without the full picture of what they are building and lacking understanding of the reasons behind it.

According to Cagan, the best products are born from ‘teams of missionaries' who pour all their creativity and skills into the process. Moreover, based on 20tab's experience, these products are born when working together in a cyclic and collaborative process, without any relay.

In this vision, all team members are jointly responsible for a shared result and tackle together all the necessary steps to understand the client and build the best possible product.

For instance, user interviews are analyzed together, Impact Mapping is worked on as a team to identify challenges and opportunities, the roadmap to follow is discussed collectively, and solutions are generated collaboratively. Throughout this iterative process, from development to testing, the team acts as a cohesive multi-headed organism.

This collaboration, starting from discovery and extending to product enhancements, ensures a greater impact because each of them - product manager, designer, tech lead - brings a different perspective and idea that can only enrich the final result.

From Product Trio to Product Team

Building a product is a journey filled with challenges and pitfalls. Having several arrows in one's bow, each capable of addressing a different criticality, allows us to be better prepared for moments of difficulty - which yes, are present for everyone - and to find increasingly fitting and creative solutions.

Adding the technical element to the basic unit of Product Manager and Designer, to whom the research and UX aspects are usually delegated, ensures the feasibility of the solutions we are seeking and certainly improves our understanding of user needs, as well as encouraging communication and shared knowledge.

For us, the Product Trio represents the ideal formula for tackling this work. However, let us remember that product development is a collaborative process, in which a thousand paths open up, and we must evaluate and make thoughtful decisions, supported by numbers and metrics. That’s why, depending on the case, there are many professions that can bring added value to the process.

At 20tab, we have embraced this approach and continue every day on the journey of team development, a team that includes devs, product owners, designers, marketers, very different roles but equally involved in product building. Starting from the discovery phase, we include very different roles in the process, because we believe that each of these professionals can provide a fundamental contribution and, together with others, form that 'team of missionaries' capable of maintaining focus and finding the best possible solution.

Thus, product development becomes a synergic and pluralistic process, fully Agile, where we work iteratively, guided by shared goals and combining skills and attitudes to better understand both business and users, delivering them a usable and enjoyable product. Without wasting time and money.

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