Does PM get to have final say about UX?

I am very disturbed by this. throughout my entire career I was really into UX (if before UX was coined). But every time my feedback was shot down by PMs.

I've been to seminars, I've read books and researched online. As far as I understand it, PMs are responsible for meeting the project's requirements in the given deadline. The UX designer however is responsible for the UX vision.

It seems logical to me that these 2 roles collide in some way, but who should have the final say about UX?

If I gathered some UX relevant tasks for my team, should I approve it with the PM?

  • What reason did the PM offer for the decision?
    – MCW
    Feb 26, 2014 at 12:51
  • Not high priority or not necessary. Could it be that all UX suggestions are turned down due to relevant reasons? just now, I sent an email to my team (the UI team) that we can remove a click (instead of 3 the user will have 2 clicks), and I cc'd the PM out of kindness. The PM returned an email saying "Please dont do any changes to the GUI without PM approval". even the R&D leader liked the feedback, and the PM still said "All of the below need PM approval". is that true? does it really require PM approval? Feb 26, 2014 at 12:55
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    If I were managing a project and had used all my project budget, and then someone in UX went direct to the developers and asked them to make a change, I would respond in the same way because to make the changes would cost budget and I would need to be involved in decisions that consume budget/resources/cost especially if they were unplanned changes. Could this be the reason as I would not expect a PM to be the SME on user experience?
    – Marv Mills
    Feb 26, 2014 at 13:19
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    Eventually the PM is responsible for managing the project and its risks, so the answer is yes. Code refactoring carries a risk and if the PM feels that the risk is big then he/she can decide to defer it or tone it down so that potential issues can be minimized. Feb 26, 2014 at 13:36
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    @guymograbi Stack Exchange is a Q&A site, not a discussion forum. Comments are primarily for clarification of posts. You are welcome to open new questions on related topics, or if you simply want to discuss the answers or engage in a broader conversation about your role or your ideal organizational structure then you may want to move this thread to chat.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Feb 28, 2014 at 13:15

2 Answers 2



You lack clarity about your role, the role of the project manager, and the necessity for change control on a formal project. It is extremely likely that you lack the delegated authority to make resource allocation decisions for the project, and that attempting to set engineering priorities directly would bypass the project's change control process. You should clarify your role and the limits of your authority with the functional manager that you report to.

The Roles of Design and Controlled Delivery

The UX designer however is responsible for the UX vision.

No. From a project perspective, the UX designer is a resource responsible for delivering user interface design tasks related to the project's goals.

The vision for the product is ultimately the responsibility of the stakeholders, although it's quite likely that they look to you—perhaps even rely on you—for subject-matter expertise. However, unless you have been explicitly granted the authority to unilaterally define the interface without an approval, oversight, or budgeting process, it seems likely that the organization has not made the limits of your role clear to you.

The PM returned an email saying "Please [don't] do any changes to the GUI without PM approval".

The UX designer is not the person who sets project priorities or allocates budgetary or engineering resources. While recommending design improvements is part of your job, deciding whether the project should expend resources on implementing the design changes is the job of the stakeholders, who then implement their decisions through the chain of command for the project. In your case, that appears to be the Project Manager.

In addition, the Project Manager is generally the person responsible for enforcing the project's change control process. Change on a project generally must be controlled, and on a large project it must be formally controlled. Bypassing the change control process is not only stepping on the political toes of the Project Manager, but it may also put the project itself at risk in a variety of ways.

Integrate with the Process

User interface design should be part of a project, not outside it or above it. Therefore, you should be following the same change control process as the rest of your project team. It's probably a good idea to talk to both the project manager and your functional manager to identify the project's core processes, and to delineate the roles and responsibilities your organization has defined for your position.

That's often all it takes to clear up misunderstandings. If it is not a misunderstanding, but rather a role that you feel limits you in ways you can't tolerate, you have some hard career choices to make.

  • Great feedback. Gave you +1. I would be happy if you can elaborate your opinion on one thing. same change control process as the rest of your project team. Different changes are sometimes handled differently. For example - small bugs are handled internally. A lot of times, error messages are not defined to all cases and the developer makes up a message. I mean - not everything is under PM supervision. Is there anything UX related you can think of that might be decided without PM permission? Feb 27, 2014 at 22:18
  • @guymograbi The threshold will vary by company, but essentially anything that costs time, money, or resources that can be charged against a project is within the project manager's scope of responsibility. The PM or management can delegate authority to make certain decisions within the project, but this must be explicit and should be documented in the project's charter.
    – Todd A. Jacobs
    Feb 27, 2014 at 23:31
  • This is very vague. Even a minor bug has some implications on the project but most (if not all) PMs don't get involved in every minor bug fix. Feb 28, 2014 at 6:04

Does PM get to have final say about UX? No, the client holds that power. But the PM should verify if building a UX vision is part of the project scope or not. If it is not a project deliverable and if by working on UX tasks the project scope/time would increase then the PM is correct in rejecting those suggestions as scope creep.

What should you do? For larger UX items, you should prepare a case and present it to the client. Try to convince the client about the potential advantages and if possible talk in the language of finance. Inform the client about potential revenue which your UX vision could bring in. If the client finds ROI then a separate budget can be allocated for the UX changes.

For minor UX items, try to inculcate a culture within the team so that each developer thinks about usability/user experience while coding. So that UX items are not treated as new tasks/re-work but those things get covered as regular work.

  • Your last suggestion kinda sounds like "do it without notifying anyone and say it was part of the task". The project is ongoing, we have a lot of customers using it. I represent the UI team, I want to deliver good UI and I know I have the customer's interest in mind. I am unsure the PM has the UI interest in mind, as they mostly care the product is usable in a basic level. Feb 26, 2014 at 13:27
  • Oh, so the project is live. In that case, I believe the PM is correct, why because it is possible that the PM has to communicate those changes to a wider audience (clients, customer support team, documentation team, etc.) Feb 26, 2014 at 13:33
  • I disagree completely. The dev team is responsible to communicate changes to support/documentation, and about the customers - the UX is responsible for that. Which PM notified me about google instant search? sounds to me like bad practice to let PM have so much control. Feb 26, 2014 at 13:53
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    I agree that you may disagree :) There is no hard and fast rule about it. You may lobby for a change in the current process inside your organization. Feb 26, 2014 at 13:59

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