Fostering a Collaborative Onboarding Team to Design Better Onboarding Experiences

The Onboarding Experience

Mastering the art of user onboarding

A column by Himanshu Sharma
February 19, 2024

A good onboarding team brings together people with many different talents, as follows:

  • planners—Product managers map out the user journey and UX designers design the experience.
  • UX designers—This team makes the onboarding process visually appealing and easy to understand and use.
  • writers—They craft clear instructions and helpful messages.
  • user researchers—This team endeavors to understand what users need and how they feel about the onboarding process.
  • customer-support representatives—These people work directly with users to help them if they get stuck.
  • data analysts—They track the ways in which users interact with the onboarding process.
  • technology developers—This team builds the actual onboarding tools and features.
  • project manager—This person oversees the entire onboarding project and makes sure everything works well together.

When everyone works together collaboratively to help new users get started, they can create a smooth, friendly experience for new users. They talk regularly with each other, share common goals, and follow the same plan, enabling them to adjust things throughout the project, as necessary, and make the users’ first experience even better.

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How Companies Handle Onboarding

Different companies handle onboarding differently. There are different ways to approach onboarding, and the best method depends on the company and its needs.

  • Big companies sometimes have specialized onboarding teams. These dedicated teams focus solely on making sure new users get a smooth start with a product. The onboarding team might be part of the product team or a separate group altogether.
  • Some companies use diamond teams. These teams temporarily bring together people from different departments—such as Design, Product Management, and Customer Support—to work on onboarding together.

I’ve experienced both approaches!

  • When I worked at HSBC on their World Class Onboarding Team, we helped many different users with diverse needs get started with their products.
  • I also helped onboard Michelin dealers to their new Motorsports Forecast product.

The way these two different companies—one a business-to-consumer (B2C) company, selling products directly to consumers; the other a business-to-business (B2B) company, selling to businesses—handled onboarding was different, but some things stayed the same. In both cases, people often made the following comments:

  • “Let’s launch now and figure it out later. We’re behind schedule!”
  • “Our product is easy to use, so there’s no need for extra help.”
  • “Let’s copy what our competitors do. ”
  • “We can just throw together a quick video instead of providing proper instructions.”
  • “Users will figure it out themselves. Just give them everything we’ve got.”
  • “We’ll deal with this later, not now.”

When teams focus on just launching quickly, it can hurt the user experience, including the onboarding experience. Even though everyone’s working on onboarding, they don’t all agree on how to do it best.

So, even though different companies were taking different approaches to onboarding, some people still had the same unhelpful attitudes—rushing to launch, assuming things, and copying others. This confusion leads to a reality in which everyone wants to help new users, but doesn’t quite know how to work with one another effectively.

What Happens When Executing Onboarding in Silos

When different departments operate in isolation during the development and execution of an onboarding process, it stunts innovation and hampers the development of effective user-onboarding procedures. With Marketing focusing on email messages, product teams tweaking the user interface, Sales pushing upsells, and Customer Support waiting for user inquiries, the result is a disjointed approach, a fragmented user experience, and missed opportunities to enhance the onboarding experience.

Recently, while interviewing an internal product team about their onboarding process for a new customer platform, I discovered that the product owner had already introduced a new onboarding process via email, highlighting the disconnect between departments.

Only by breaking down departmental silos and promoting cross-functional collaboration can companies streamline the onboarding process, improve user satisfaction, and drive growth. Creating a successful onboarding experience requires integrating representatives from all relevant departments and ensuring alignment with both user needs and business objectives.

The Members of an Onboarding Squad

A successful onboarding team, or squad, consists of people and teams that represent diverse functions working collaboratively within a company—each with unique goals and responsibilities.

Product Manager

Goal: Help new users quickly experience the value of the product.


  • Orchestrates the in-app onboarding experience.
  • Sets up the onboarding workflow.
  • Measures how users feel as they progress through the onboarding process.
  • Provides invaluable user feedback to the business.

Customer Success

Goal: Ensure that customers are successful with the product.


  • Reaches out to new users who are struggling with the onboarding process.
  • Provides support and guidance to new users.
  • Collects feedback from new users to improve the onboarding process.


Goal: Craft clear, concise copy that helps new users understand the product.


  • Writes onboarding email messages and in-app messages.
  • Develops a consistent tone of voice for the onboarding experience.
  • Ensures that onboarding copy is easy to read and understand.

Quality Assurance (QA)

Goal: Identify and fix bugs in the onboarding experience.


  • Tests new user flows to ensure that they are working properly.
  • Identifies bugs and reports them to the development team.
  • Provides feedback on the usability of the onboarding experience.

Marketing and Branding Team

Goal: Set realistic expectations for new users and ensure consistent branding


  • Develops marketing materials that accurately represent the product.
  • Sets expectations for new users about what they can expect from the product.
  • Provides feedback on the onboarding experience from a marketing perspective.

Customer Service

Goal: Provide support to new users who are having problems.


  • Answers questions from new users about the product.
  • Troubleshoots problems that new users are having.
  • Provides feedback on the onboarding experience from a customer-service perspective.

Legal, Privacy, and Security

Goal: Ensure that the onboarding experience complies with all applicable laws and regulations.


  • Identifies and reviews any legal, privacy, or security requirements that might impact the onboarding experience.
  • Provides guidance on how to comply with these legal, privacy, and security requirements.
  • Approves any changes to the onboarding experience that could impact legal, privacy, or security requirements.

Including all of these folks in the design process can help prevent surprise requirements from surfacing late in your development cycle—and might even result in your having new champions to help you make your case for a superior onboarding experience.

If you’ve ever interviewed individual stakeholders before the start of a project as a UX professional, you’ve probably discovered that they often have different vested interests in the project. The same goes for onboarding projects. People might have different ideas about how to design user onboarding and that’s okay. But making onboarding work really well for new users is possible only when everyone on the onboarding team agrees on the most important goals. To make your onboarding process really amazing, you need everyone pulling in the same direction.

Getting Everyone on Board with Onboarding

To help your team learn how to create an optimal onboarding experience, start with a chat about how you can collaborative to achieve the following goals:

  1. Define what onboarding means to you. From signup to mastery, how do you see the ideal user journey?
  2. Connect onboarding to your product’s growth. Why does a smooth, welcoming onboarding process matter for your success?
  3. Figure out where the onboarding process begins and ends. Is it just signup, or is it an ongoing process?
  4. Define success for both users and your team. What does success look like when everyone’s happy?
  5. Identify opportunities and challenges. What can your team improve, and what’s already working well?

Just share your honest thoughts and have an open discussion. Remember, the better your team members understand one another and their goals, the better you can make the onboarding experience for everyone! You could even use Miro for a fun, collaborative workshop!


To conclude, the internal alignment of team members who are designing an onboarding experience can help you proactively avert unexpected demands and potentially garner new advocates who support your cause. No team would appreciate the addition of late-stage screens to their tasks or a bundle of change requests that would reflect undue negligence on the requirements gathering side.

Making a concerted effort to build a united front prevents departmental silos, leads to the development of a streamlined onboarding process that enhances user satisfaction, and ultimately, contributes to the company’s growth. Aligning everyone on common goals is essential to the creation of a cohesive, successful onboarding strategy. 

Senior UX Consultant at Publicis Sapient

Potsdam, Berlin, Germany

Himanshu SharmaA seasoned product designer and onboarding UX consultant consultant with more than 12 years of experience crafting easy-to-learn, engaging user-onboarding experiences. He has helped drive user adoption for major brands such as HSBC, Michelin, IBM, and Publicis Sapient and is passionate about unlocking a product’s true potential through best-in-class onboarding practices. Himanshu also holds an MBA in Marketing and International Business.  Read More

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