Knowing the value of project management and UX helps us build better teams and products
As a UX developer (Aly) and a project manager (Judith), we’ve both had jobs where the value of project management and UX wasn't recognized. We were written off as “overhead” or a “nice-to-have” instead of being treated like necessary functions that improve the final product.
Table XI could not be more different.
Here, we build solutions instead of just developing tech, so no one treats us like we’re unnecessary. UX, design, project management and development are all four equal parts. We each get the same input — instead of being treated like an add-on to development — so we can all make sure we’re doing our best work.
Did we mention we’re hiring? We are hiring.
Treating UX, design, project management and development as equals isn’t just about making us feel wanted — though that’s a nice perk. It’s about making better products for our clients by valuing every part of the process. Table XI understands what each practice brings to the table. And that understanding has led to a completely different culture than we’ve experienced anywhere else we’ve worked. Here’s how Table XI does tech right:
Everyone gets a chance to creatively solve problems
Since UX and strategy are baked into every project, each team gets an opportunity to contribute their ideas. Both of us came out of jobs where we didn’t get a chance to work with other creatives. Aly was always the styling person on a backend team, and Judith had an arts background, but was a director for internal systems without a design team. Both of us have seen our work improve tenfold by being able to pair with designers and incorporate more creative thinking into our processes. Judith even joined a Product Design Workshop to learn more about the UX Design process.
Those benefits extend to the developers as well. In a rigid Agile environment like the one Aly came out of, the design happens, and then it’s handed off to developers to execute. At Table XI, we’re trying to figure out how those things fit together into an iterative development cycle. In the beginning, it wasn’t as natural for a lot of our developers to talk through ideas. But now that product design is woven into the process, they’re enjoying the chance to give input early, so we can find solutions that are simpler to build and therefore more cost- and time-effective for our clients.
We can collaborate across disciplines
Designers collaborate naturally. They’re used to talking through their ideas, and they’re used to managing input from clients who have ideas about how things should work and look. Collaboration doesn't always come so naturally to everyone though. Working closely with designers allows us to take what works from collaborating with them and apply those strategies to our work with people who aren’t as used to talking through their ideas. We’re building out systems that give everyone an opportunity to talk through their ideas, so we can make sure all three parts — design, development and project management — are working in sync.
Every project teaches us something. We’re always learning and adapting so we can get closer to a fully collaborative process. At this point, we really start with a holistic look at what the end result of an engagement is going to be and how it’s going to work, and then we negotiate backwards, refining time, scope and cost to fit the client’s needs. We're trying to institutionalize delivering better products by increasing the collaboration between developers and designers.
We continuously improve our practice groups
Table XI has been around for more than 15 years, but the UX design and project management teams are still relatively new in the scheme of things, as is the mobile development team. That’s why we enjoy the emphasis on building the practice groups. Ed’s written about how the mobile practice group is constantly learning, but the same is true in our two other disciplines. The UX Design and Delivery Assurance teams (which includes project management) are always looking at how we can better work both together and individually on every single project to build the right solutions.
If that conversation wasn't happening and we were just doing the same thing over and over, we wouldn’t be improving nearly as much. The experiments that we're running sometimes don't work out, but then we pivot and try something else. It’s not ad hoc. It’s really purposeful, we’re actively trying to do all of this to the best of our abilities.
Egos never get in the way of good ideas
No one’s afraid to ask questions at Table XI. Even bad ideas are listened to here. We’re not going to go down that path if the idea doesn’t match the constraints, but we will hear it out. No one’s expected to “stay in their lane” here, we encourage ideas to come from all places. That’s why we have all disciplines represented when we scope a project out, and it’s why we regularly survey everyone who works for us. We want everyone’s input, no matter what your job description is. After coming from places where your concerns had to match your job description — and being told not to worry about anything that wasn’t expressly your responsibility — it’s refreshing to see that level of openness.
Everyone takes responsibility for their work, and for each other
At the places we’ve worked before, even so-called Agile teams, we had very deliberate processes and a lot of rules about when and what we could do. All that overhead slowed us down. Here, things move way quicker than at any place we’ve ever worked, largely because everyone’s trusted to own their work and get it done. The most important thing is to internalize the client and do the best work we can for them. That's what Table XI cares about.
They also care about us burning out. Every week the TXI management team looks at people’s utilization to make sure no one’s over capacity. If they see you’re working too many hours, they’ll step in and find a way to get you help, even if they have to pick up the extra work themselves. No one is above doing the work, no matter what it is.
The concept of people owning their work is so refreshing. We all know that no matter who we have on our team, everyone’s primary goal is to deliver high-quality work for that client. It's a non-issue. It's not about politics, it's not about who has what title. There's none of that. It's how do we do the best job possible for our clients.
If that sounds like the kind of place you want to work, check out our careers page.
Published by: Judith Sol-Dyess in Design