We’ve all heard it from the immense Seth Godin and others: The product is the marketing, the product is the thing that makes itself stand out, be interesting, be useful, be remarkable.
So it follows that the product owner, or the person responsible for making the product what it is, has an immense responsibility. Every day they have to decide what is important to work on, and how important it is.
A good product owner needs to live inside the mind of a potential customer. They need free rent to know the how and the why of the people who may someday consider their product. That is no easy thing. In fact it’s quite daunting, especially given how many voices are in the room that aren’t the customer.
Now in comes your CX or UX researcher (the distinctions blur, especially on small teams). Listening is what they do. It’s like in the book/movie The Giver, or even the TV show Chuck: all of this knowledge is their business. They know a lot, but they don’t always know what they know.
It serves then that the CX researcher and the product developer are a match made in heaven. The researcher has the time, resources, and know-how to find out this voice and mind of the customer stuff, and transfer the best of that to the product owner.
In a way I see them as the same: they need to know a lot of the same knowledge and insights. They both are working to keep the engineering and marketing teams informed on the journey of the client.
But I see them also as different, in that a product owner simply doesn’t have the time the CX researcher does to do the research. They can and should participate, but done well it requires dedicated resources. Therein lies the split. Also the CX researcher can act freely without the burden of building a backlog.
So yes I see them as different, but not very different. In my experience they work best when they are working extremely close together. Your product depends on it.