In product development, the most important investment is not in the technology itself. It’s in the team that manages it. That’s why we recommend starting with the humans that will serve as a foundation for everything you create.
Building a cross-functional team is key. By incorporating roles from different domains and bringing in hands with different expertise, you set yourself up to create an application that’s useful, functional, attractive, and easy to operate.
Keep in mind that these roles we’ll discuss refer to specific responsibilities, not necessarily to individual people. One person can fill more than one role, or conversely, multiple individuals may share a single role. What’s important is that someone takes ownership of the expectations set for each role.
We’ll break the required roles down into three camps, the “ABCs” of product development roles and responsibilities: administrative, business, and creative.
- Administrative is responsible for technology. They translate the user stories and designs to build the application and connect it to data, helping users to access it. They’re also responsible for the ongoing maintenance and iteration.
- Business is responsible for the big picture. They identify the company’s problems or needs and direct app development towards an appropriate solution.
- Creative is responsible for engaging the user. They design easy-to-learn, easy-to-use apps that people enjoy and adopt.
While administrative and business roles demonstrate obvious value, some people mistakenly view the creative side as a “nice to have.” However, since creative roles focus on the user experience (UX), they’re essential to creating a product that users adopt—one that evolves to meet their changing needs. Not only does this help the app fulfill its purpose, but it also fuels further iteration by leading to better data capture and curation.
Let’s do a deeper dive into the top three roles from each category.
The talent you need for these roles is already at your company. They’ll make valuable contributions to a successful app by providing utility. Administration focuses on making data available to those who need to view and interact with it.
This role coordinates the various technologies that make up the solution. Besides being a tech-savvy evangelist for innovation, the technical manager knows the development team’s talent and understands the company infrastructure that will support the new app.
This role is the back-end admin. They connect Skuid to the company’s databases, ensure users can access that data, and oversee the security measures that protect it. Since Skuid can connect to many different data sources, ranging from Salesforce to SQL to those that use REST or an OData connector, it’s crucial to have someone who deeply understands these data sources, as well as the security and access protocols for that data.
This admin is responsible for setting configuration options, both for Skuid and the data source itself.
Skuid admin or architect
The final essential administrative role is the Skuid admin or architect. Simply put, they’re in charge of building, testing, deploying, and maintaining the Skuid pages that define the app.
When it comes to building a product, they combine the product designer’s vision with the UX designer’s input on intuitive workflows to build a custom app that solves business challenges.
The Skuid architect knows there are multiple ways to build a page in Skuid, and they have the experience required to know which option will most efficiently, effectively, and elegantly meet the business challenge while simultaneously enhancing user engagement.
Back to the administrative side of the role, it sometimes overlaps with the data/security admin; the main difference is that this role specifically requires Skuid expertise.
While administration is all about data, business is about solving problems. This role drives projects to successful completion by adding usability to the administrative group’s utility. They do so by ensuring that you build the right tools that help users efficiently solve business problems.
This role is in charge of the Skuid app’s value proposition. They identify and analyze the problems facing their company, and they recognize how Skuid can help. The business champion takes a macroscopic, strategic view of the problem while focusing less on the day-to-day happenings of the project.
This role, also referred to as the product owner in agile methodology, manages the development process and coordinates the various teams. They build the roadmap, determine the minimum viable product (MVP), and figure out what resources the teams need to build a successful product. They drive the conversation between all stakeholders and are the glue that holds a diverse organizational structure together.
The most important tool in the product manager’s arsenal is the product brief. We’ll cover this document in more detail in the next chapter, but for now, understand that it serves as a single source of truth for everything from technical requirements to user persona and needs.
User process manager
The third business role is the main link between the app builders and end-users. They intimately know the process and workflow of those on the front lines and have valuable ideas for how to improve it.
If the process is divided among different teams with different workflows, you may need more than one person to fill this role. Each will serve as a subject matter expert (SME) for their part of the process.
The user process manager’s main tool is the user story. Again, we’ll expand on this in the chapter focusing on tools, but this document provides a complete walk-through of the user’s day-to-day tasks and how they move through the targeted process.
Last but certainly not least, the creative roles add clarity and appeal to the utility and usability that the admin and business teams provide. Their job is to transform the app from something that people have to use into something they want to use.
From adding visual appeal to creating intuitive user interfaces (UIs) that are easy to navigate, the creative role provides the polish that completes the project.
This role spearheads the design effort by thoughtfully assembling the product’s features into a cohesive package. They look beyond mere functionality to push for exceptionally easy and intuitive UIs.
The product designer collaborates with the business roles to develop and reference the product brief and user stories. Additionally, they use UX tools like wireframes to map out a user experience and process workflow that’s streamlined, effective, and easy to learn.
Drilling down into the product designer’s wireframes is a task for the UX designer. While they deal with visuals and other aesthetic concerns, they’re even more focused on delivering an app that meets the high standards to which we’ve all become accustomed.
When we use popular consumer apps, we know they’ll work in predictable ways. Today’s users expect that same level of experience from every app you deliver.
The UX designer meets these expectations by helping users to navigate workflows through recognition, an instant understanding of what they need to do, rather than recall or memorizing steps. Recognition is faster and more efficient than recall, so this is a top priority for this role.
In our experience, assigning each of these roles is non-negotiable. We’ve worked with our clients to develop thousands of custom Skuid apps, and we find that what sets the most successful products apart is clearly defining the team’s structure and ensuring that voices across the organization are heard.
Remember, just because there are nine roles doesn’t mean you need nine people. Large teams can assign multiple individuals to single roles, like having two user process managers for an end product that will serve two different departments. However, be wary of having too big of a crowd. As a rule, everyone should fit in a single conference room.
Conversely, smaller teams run into problems if anybody takes on too much of the workload or if you don’t pull enough expertise from around the company. For instance, without a liaison between end-users and developers, the finished product won’t fully address the users' needs or pain points.
Ultimately, building the team comes down to filling each of these roles with the best person for the job. From there, it’s all about aligning on the desired outcome and establishing open channels of communication between teams.