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Design Maturity Model, Design System Maturity Model - Focus Areas

how-is-design-maturity-measured

Design maturity models are a great way to measure the progress of your design team and ensure that you have an edge over your competitors. The design system maturity model is a framework that helps organizations assess their current design capabilities and identify areas for improvement. It provides a roadmap for teams to follow as they strive for excellence in their designs. By understanding the different stages of design maturity, organizations can better plan their resources and prioritize initiatives that will help them reach their goals faster.

It is proven that design organizations with a high design maturity have consistently succeeded in the market. Companies that prioritize design functions within their business have a competitive advantage over their competitors.

However, a design-focused company doesn’t happen overnight. Understanding and implementing it effectively requires tonnes of planning, strategy, and confidence.

That’s where design maturity comes in. Design maturity is a tool that helps organizations assess the current effectiveness of a design system or practice and supports identifying the capabilities they need to acquire next to improve their performance. 

There are numerous design maturity models that you can use to identify where your design functions stand within your organization, but the one we created has a standard 5 levels of design maturity.

Our design maturity model has the following 5 levels:

We arrived at this model by using six key areas of focus within an organization, which is what we’ll be covering in this article.

 

Six areas of focus to look at when measuring design maturity

Many businesses look at multiple different parameters, and we focus on these six dimensions for measuring the maturity of an organization.

  • Culture
  • People
  • Operations
  • Knowledge 
  • Strategy
  • Leadership 

We use these six parameters to measure an organization’s design maturity by identifying each with a score out of 5, representing the different maturity levels. 

Let’s take a look at each of these parameters, their roles within an organization, and what they look like at each level of the design maturity scale.

 

Operations/Standards

Design Operations or DesignOps is the act of orchestrating and optimizing people, processes, data, systems, and craft to amplify the design’s value and impact at scale.

Growing companies often see a sharp increase in their design needs. This can be due to expanding product lines or the creation of new business lines. 

Usually, there is a proportional increase in the stress, workload, and pressure that design teams face, which can be a bottleneck to further growth. 

DesignOps eliminate these bottlenecks and helps companies scale by:

  • Setting processes and frameworks – DesignOps is about designing processes and defining frameworks, identifying existing processes’ critical gaps and weaknesses, and building a strategy to optimize designers’ day-to-day workflow thereby maximizing engagement and reducing duplicated efforts.

  • Enabling team coordination – DesignOps is the glue that holds the organization together and the bridge that enables collaboration among cross-disciplinary team members. Tools can certainly help, but good communication, feedback loops, and strong leadership are the foundation for building efficient teams. 

  • Empowering teams with the right tools and data – DesignOps recognizes the need for harmony between processes, toolsets, and the people who use them. DesignOps empowers the team with the right set of tools needed to work efficiently.  They standardize the tooling and systems, introduce new tools, and ensure designers adopt them. 

  • Providing an organizational knowledge base – DesignOps access saved and stored artifacts and libraries that build the standard design processes, templates, and frameworks. This standardization of processes saves a significant chunk of time spent on projects and helps the organization to scale the design function efficiently and effectively. 

The most important thing to note is that DesignOps is a mindset that has to be ingrained into the very principles of an organization for it to be effective.

Question to ask: Does your organization understand the value of Design operations? 

Culture

Design culture is about inculcating the right values & principles in the organization that enables continuous user-centric innovation. 

It’s a change in mindset that lets every employee of the organization explore ways & means of improving overall satisfaction in the entire customer journey while aligning their tasks to the overall business goals.

An inclusive design culture is a key element that keeps organizations happy and healthy. Design culture is about creating an environment where good design can thrive. 

It’s about instilling a shared belief in the power of design to solve problems and create value, setting high standards, and empowering designers to do their best work. 

A strong design culture can also help foster creativity, collaboration, and innovation, all of which are essential for success.

Question to ask: How conducive and productive are your practices? 

Team

Building a design team of the right people fosters an environment of teamwork and collaboration and enhances the work culture, leading to impactful outcomes and accomplishments. 

What framework can you use to build an effective team? It helps to consider the following aspects early on –

  • Identify gaps in team competency – Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current team to start pairing skills and recruiting what’s missing from the set. 

  • Map talent with the project goals – Every team member brings their own expertise and becomes part of a successful project. Every project has its competency demand, and mapping the right talent to engage makes the project run efficiently and effectively. You shouldn’t have to ask an information architect to conduct user research.  

  • Assess real-time team competencies – Assessing the team’s competencies in real-time is critical to ensure team members’ right allocation and utilization.

  • Enable collaboration –  To build and encourage a productive team, it is essential to use tools and tech platforms that enable collaboration with other disciplines to create high-performance work teams. 

People in a design function are about team size, various functions that they align to, and their utilization. 

Question to ask: How is the ratio of designers to developers in your organization?

Leadership

Design leadership goes beyond design management. 

The primary role of a design leader is to push the business vision forward. The best design leaders provide compelling stories & data and persuade other teams to collaborate and make great design happen everywhere.

Some of the roles and responsibilities of design leaders include:

  • Assessing team design maturity –  A leader must be competent enough to assess the team’s design maturity on a timely basis. To access the team’s design maturity, he must identify the primary and secondary strengths of the team, allocate them to the right tasks and find the right organizational structure. 

  • Setting visions, goals, and processes – Design leaders art tasked with sharing clearly defined goals, visions, and processes with the broader team, bringing your team together periodically, communicating directly with one another, and mapping talent with the project goals to lead the team into the right direction.

  • Observing progress and quality – Set parameters to track and measure the progress and quality of your team and keep guiding them at every step with the right set of tools, processes, and guidance. 

  • Making data-driven decisions – Measures every task or action by designers, adding to the organizational wisdom that can be analyzed and made available to designers/PMs to make design-driven decisions. Every activity, task, and unit action gets captured and used as insights to build a guided recommender system.

Question to ask: Is leadership in your organization able to bridge the gap between business and design? 

Strategy

Design strategy is a meeting point between what’s valuable for customers and profitable for businesses. It ensures your team produces what your business needs to align its success with its customers’ needs.

Having a solid design strategy before starting a project helps design teams align overall business vision with project goals, strategically plan activities using design metrics, outline team competencies, and visualize design RoI.

Question to ask: Does your design teamwork towards a common goal or strategy?

Knowledge/Expertise

Organizational wisdom is like muscle memory that strengthens the core and structure of an organization once it goes into the system.

Teams and organizations have defined processes, frameworks, and infrastructure to accumulate and reuse knowledge. A common organizational repository can save time and resources by making the content searchable as well as making recommendations when starting a new project of a similar style.

Creating a shared knowledge repository help organizations to have a single source of truth for all and have quick access to standardized design systems, brand guidelines, common frameworks, libraries of templates, and artifacts. 

It also helps organizations easily access past information and reuse that for current and future projects. 

Identifying common emerging design patterns also opens the door to learning an organization’s best practices or defining the archetypes.

Question to ask: Does your organization has a well-defined design process that is consistent throughout the teams?

How Cubyts can help measure design maturity

Defining what and how to measure should be the process owned by the design team. Every design team has a different and unique context that needs to be considered. 

Discussing the measures and the approach is a great starting point for any evaluation discussion and also makes the team feel like they own their self-evaluation maturity model. 

Whether the team is centralized or distributed, measuring design maturity makes it easier for the design team to assess how they as a team or individually are ranking in terms of design maturity, starting the conversation about what needs to be done and where to invest more in order to improve and scale effectively.

Ultimately, developing knowledge of your design maturity will be the only way to improve the caliber of your design work and the user experiences you offer.

Utilizing this knowledge and information enables you to systematize design work in a way that integrates it into the very fabric of your company.

We have a simple self-assessment exam that you can take if you want to evaluate the design maturity of your organization and know where you stand right now.

Simply sign up to Cubyts, head over to the Playbook tab, and self-assess in five minutes!