Bridge the Tech Design Divide: 14 Ways to Deal with Conflicting Project Goals
New product design is a core component of day-to-day business for many tech companies, but it can come with complications. While it’s often exciting, validating and fun to design a tech product as a team, there’s a real chance for conflict to arise. With so many people invested in the project, there may be multiple goals to be reconciled.
If there are too many or conflicting project goals under consideration it can hamper progress, endanger deadlines and damage the design team’s cohesion. So, what’s the best course for leaders faced with competing product goals? Below, 14 members of Forbes Technology Council offer their advice.
- Categorize Your Goals
When you have conflicting goals for a product design, you have to first categorize them as “must have” or “nice to have.” You then prioritize which goals are important for a target market and customers. Get customer feedback and then decide on the goals. - Naresh Soni, Tsunami ARVR
- Let the Market Settle Conflict
Gain feedback by asking your target customer base strategically designed discovery questions; ask a minimum of 50 customers. We use the feedback as design inputs and then set the product design goals as a team. This method keeps the design team focused on serving customer needs and avoids internal conflicts and egos. - Ryan Ramkhelawan, CleanEndo
- Develop Customer Maps
One of the most important topics to evaluate when a new project arises is how the project will provide benefit to the customer and stakeholder. Therefore, all new projects should be evaluated and aligned with a customer map. Conflicting goals can be easily resolved by assessing what most benefits the customer. - Maria Clemens, Management and Network Services, LLC
- Designate A Single ‘Chef’
“Too many chefs spoil the stew” means that too many designers will lead to conflicting goals. Inviting discourse helps to refine goals in the interest of the finished product, but too many decision makers will only cause delays. From the start, decide who makes final decisions to ensure you are moving the product design forward while incorporating feedback from testing and other team members. - Arnie Gordon, Arlyn Scales
- Align To Your Company’s Vision
Stick to your company’s vision or to the intended value the product is supposed to deliver. Ask yourself which one of the conflicting goals will make you progress effectively toward the vision or value and decide. - Thiru Sivasubramanian, SE2, LLC
- Work Backward From The Customer
Whether conflicting goals come from conflicting business objectives, conflicting design philosophies or just personal preferences on the product team, always try to work backward from what best serves the customers. They give us the right to do business, independent of what’s going on inside the walls of our own companies or the results of our past experiences. - Steve Pao, Hill work, LLC
- Make A Data-Driven Decision
We use prioritization matrices to determine which feature has the best overall value to the business. We’ll assign a weight to each business goal (for example, UX, revenue, optimization and so on). Then we’ll rate each feature’s contribution toward each business goal. Once we tally the feature up according to the weighted goals, the features that should be implemented first will pop to the top. - Kathy Keating, Apostrophe, Inc.
- Remember the Bottom Line
It’s easy to get swept up in market trends or to want to build a “cool” product. Leaders must always consider the financial ramifications of each decision. For example, time spent trying the latest design trend could instead be spent adding revenue-generating features; don’t lose customers and sales in an effort to make the product flashier. Don’t be afraid to intervene if costs outweigh benefits. - Jason Gill, The HOTH
- Abandon Analysis Paralysis
You’re always going to have conflicting priorities, whether in product design, market focus, reporting structure or whatever. The most important thing is to not get stuck in analysis paralysis. Take in all the facts, then make a decision — keeping alive a state of ambiguity is much worse than picking a path you later have to course correct. - Chris Moustakas, DevonWay
- Find Ways to Reach Common Ground
Listen to each conflicting goal and hear why it’s important to consider. Find ways to reach common ground or unite the goals. Give everyone time to explain, and make it an inclusive experience. When you decide which goals make the most sense, communicate why to everyone involved. Always make it about the end objective. - Jon Bradshaw, Calendar
- Apply The 80% Rule
When planning, there are near-term, long-term and bleeding-edge goals. Always apply the 80% rule to near-term goals. If there’s a conflict on which features or products should get the lion’s share of capital and time, it should be useful and/or asked for by 80% of users. Many really great things are developed and never see success because too few users know how to use them. - Tom Roberto, Core Technology Solutions
- Have a Clear Goal in Mind
It takes conflicting views to get the best ideas, through either testing assumptions or trial and error. But without a clear goal the outcomes will be muddled and the product experience will suffer. What is helpful is to focus on objectives and an organization’s grand vision, identifying your end users accurately and working backwards on how a product will solve problems instead of creating them. - Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC
- Make Fair and Analytical Decisions
For true conflict items where the team needs to choose “A” or “B” for a major feature, the decision must be made fair and analytical. Ask yourself and your team which feature is (1) most important to our target market? (2) most difficult for a competitor to produce at or above our quality? (3) the least limiting to other aspects of the product? - Bret Piatt, Jungle Disk
- Test Mock-ups with Real Users
It is not uncommon to have several goals when building products. The conflict often arises from translating goals to design and attempting to use one design to satisfy many goals. We recommend mocking up and testing several product designs with real users and seeing how many goals can be achieved with specific designs. We have witnessed far too many goals fail based on unproven design assumptions. - Chris Kirby, Retired
Source: All the above opinions are personal perspective on the basis of information provided by Forbes and contributor Expert Panel, Forbes Technology Council.