PRODUCTHEAD: Working well with user researchers

PRODUCTHEAD: Working well with user researchers

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

subterranean homesick product #


tl;dr #

More specific questions yield better user research findings

User research works well when the team collaborates with a specialist user researcher

Increased team user exposure hours correlates with more successful product improvements by the team

The sooner you start user research, the greater impact it will have on your product

A Kanban board helps the team to collate and track the questions to be researched


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every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to

hello #

A question that crops up from time to time in my coaching sessions is, ‘I’ve never had a dedicated user researcher on my team before — how should I be working with them?’

For many product managers who have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, their experience has been at organisations where, for reasons of lack of budget or appreciation of value, the product manager is expected to do user research for themselves.

To then suddenly find yourself in a multidisciplinary team with a dedicated user researcher can be a little perplexing. You might be wondering how you’re going to keep them busy (and interested)? Or possibly a little embarrassed by your own user research you’d considered adequate.

It’s okay to recognise that you’re not a user research expert — as a product manager, you rarely get the opportunity to acquire a career’s worth of experience in disciplines other than your own.

It’s also okay that you did the best you could in the circumstances of your previous roles. After all, any user research is better than none.

Like any other specialist, particularly those used to collaborating on autonomous, empowered multidisciplinary teams, they won’t expect you to know everything about their discipline. That’s why they’re the specialist, remember?

They can help you and team to start asking and answering better questions, and to communicate findings so that everyone is clear why something is a problem as much as what that problem is. They can even help the team to participate more directly in user research, so that everyone has their own visceral sense of how frustrating it can be when a user can’t accomplish what they want.

So this week I’ve pulled together some great content for you, written by user researchers explaining what they do, how they do it, and how to work well with them.

Speak to you soon,

Jock Busuttil

what to think about this week #

10 tips for working with your user researcher

Whether you’ve just got a user researcher on your team, or you’ve been working together for a while, there are ways you can make sure you’re collaborating as effectively as possible.

User researchers work with the entire team. So whether you’re a product manager, a delivery manager, a designer, a developer or an analyst, your team’s user researcher will be able to help you.

Get the most from your user reseacher

[KIERON KIRKLAND / GOVERNMENT DIGITAL SERVICE]

Fast path to a great UX – increased exposure hours

As we’ve been researching what design teams need to do to create great user experiences, we’ve stumbled across an interesting finding. It’s the closest thing we’ve found to a silver bullet when it comes to reliably improving the designs teams produce. This solution is so simple that we didn’t believe it at first. After all, if it was this easy, why isn’t everyone already doing it?

2 hours every 6 weeks for everyone

[JARED SPOOL / UIE]


Product Management Coaching

Whether you’re new to product management or have been a product manager for years, a coaching session can help you to step up your career.

We’ve coached people wanting to get into product management, product people with nobody in their organisation to manage them, and experienced product managers preparing to apply for a promotion.

We can help you prepare for your product manager interview, including mock interviews.


“Jock has been instrumental in my personal growth as a product leader but also as a person.”

Ludovic Lacay

Ludovic Lacay
Co-founder & Chief Product Officer, Napo


A proportion of the fees from every coaching session is donated to charity. Just reply to this email if you’re interested in finding out more.


‘User research is a team sport’

User research is a team sport’ is the most powerful thing I’ve learned in government. Forget user needs. Forget discovery, alpha, beta, live. Forget agile. Forget the service standard and service assessments. This is the one thing I would save in a fire.

I love ‘user research is a team sport’ for two reasons. First, it increases the impact of our user research on the services we make. Secondly, and less obviously, it rapidly improves our research practice as individuals. These are precious outcomes.

When to involve the team and when to work alone

[WILL MYDDELTON]

UX research cheat sheet

User-experience research methods are great at producing data and insights, while ongoing activities help get the right things done. Alongside R&D, ongoing UX activities can make everyone’s efforts more effective and valuable. At every stage in the design process, different UX methods can keep product-development efforts on the right track, in agreement with true user needs and not imaginary ones.

One of the questions we get the most is, “When should I do user research on my project?”

Which technique to use and when

[SUSAN FARRELL / NIELSEN NORMAN GROUP]

How a knowledge kanban board can help your user research

We needed a way to plan this [user] research and also to document it, share it with the rest of the team and integrate it into the way the product is developing. To do this, we set up a knowledge kanban board.

The board takes us from the process of generating research questions right through to answering them. We can also use it to share our findings with the rest of the team.

Integrate, track and document your research findings

[KIERON KIRKLAND / GOVERNMENT DIGITAL SERVICE]

recent posts #

The unifying principles of product management

A recent tweet by John Cutler provoked some interesting reactions. It got me thinking about whether there are unifying principles of product management that apply in all contexts.

Become one with everything

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

What to do when service transformation goes wrong

When companies set out to improve a service or redesign a product, the results can sometimes be underwhelming. Instead of delivering service transformation, the team recommends only minor efficiency tweaks. If this has been happening to you, there can be many underlying causes. I’ve identified a few common problems and what you can you do about them.

Change means doing things differently, not just a rebrand

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

The neverending quest for product-market fit

Often the biggest barrier to your product’s widespread adoption is going to be whether it reaches product-market fit early on. Even if you do, you’re wrong if you think you never need to worry about product-market fit again.

It’s not a one-off exercise

[I MANAGE PRODUCTS]

upcoming talks and events #

I’ve spoken at various product management and technology conferences around the world. I share ideas primarily on the topic of product management, and this tends to overlap with agile and ethical product development, digital transformation, and fostering healthy product cultures and communities.


“Day 2 saw an impressive presentation by Jock Busuttil on user testing. He asked the attendees to lend each other a smartphone and take a picture. What a turmoil that caused ;-) ”

Walter Schärer

Walter Schärer
Marketing & Business Development Director, BlueGlass Interactive


If you’d like to book me to speak at your event, please get in touch.

can we help you? #

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from dwindling time and increasing workload.

Jock is a freelance head of product, author and conference speaker. He has spent nearly two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. His clients include the BBC, University of Cambridge, and the UK's Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, a product management consultancy and training company. He is also the author of the popular book The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management and the blog I Manage Products.

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