Working in silos? 3 things you should know about UX in multidisciplinary teams

Working in silos? 3 things you should know about UX in multidisciplinary teams

14 December 2017
Marjan, UX Designer
Picture of Hilde at her desk

As a UX designer or researcher, you often work alone or in a silo. In this way, skills, information and knowledge are centralized and thus not used optimally. If you want to be fast, you should do it that way. But what if you want to get far?

People often work in silos. Skills, information and knowledge are centralized in one team or department instead of shared across the entire organization. Not only does this decrease the company’s efficiency, but your own efficiency suffers as well. You don’t get things done if information isn’t flowing between teams. So what’s the best remedy? Working in multidisciplinary teams!

As a UX designer at Internet Architects, I am working with colleagues with different profiles in multidisciplinary teams: frontend developers, backend developers, UX researchers, visual designers, strategists, sales managers and project managers. The teams I am in don’t just include direct colleagues at Internet Architects, but we also collaborate with the development teams of our technical partners in Belgium and abroad.

If you are struggling with team-work and you find that you are the only designer in a team of developers, you may feel a bit lonely and misunderstood, and you may have trouble to communicate your own ideas and concepts to the developers, software architects and testers in your team. At times like these, it may be difficult to put on your rose-tinted glasses and see the advantages of working in a mixed discipline team. But we at Internet Architects believe that working in this way can give a great stimulus to defining the right solutions. In fact, part of our methodology is to talk to all the stakeholders and create empathy for the end users within the team. The examples below could help you break the silos.

Why are multidisciplinary teams an advantage?

Shared hard skills

What are the advantages for you as a designer? For one thing, other team members can help you with their hard skills. You might be surprised how much you can learn from a short meeting with the technical lead of your project, who often knows exactly how to solve your design problems using technical components.

On the other hand, don’t underestimate your own hard skills. You can help your team by using your design skills: making ideas tangible in a sketch or a wireframe can help them to see how the product will evolve over time and enable them to make decisions. This cross-pollination is beneficial to all team members and makes the team stronger, with everyone contributing to the organization’s specific objectives.

It improves your (UX) designs

Another advantage for you as a designer is that your designs often become better when they are challenged by experts with a different perspective. Ask a front-end developer what they think of your design and they will probably come up with some scenarios you never thought of yourself. Ask the product owner (customer) what they think about your design, and they will probably pinpoint exactly what is missing. Okay, you won’t finish your design as fast as you would like, but the result is worth the effort. Multiperspective feedback breaks down your gut feeling. You will create empathy and an ultimately better product.

You’re not alone

You can only benefit from a collaboration if there is a structure, a flow that works for all team members which you agreed on. Sit around the table with the project manager or the scrum master and visualize the workflow. My team and I failed here, and we didn’t know how to solve problems together. Only after discussing our workflow, we were able to carry on in a more structured way. It gave us a process to hold on to, an information flow that enabled us to understand each other. In this way, we became a team with shared responsibility.

At Internet Architects we are still convinced that working in multidisciplinary teams is the best way to combine business, technology and design perspectives. If you want to be fast, do it alone. But if you want to go far, do it together. It’s worth the effort.

Are you up for a change and curious about our multidisciplinary environment at Internet Architects? Our teams are looking for you. Check out our job page!