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What is Design Observability?

“What is not measured, cannot be improved” - William Thomson Kelvin

Complex prodev environments. Siloed & scattered teams. No single source of truth. Hard to acquire data on work done. The challenges design leaders face in accelerating design-led digital transformations are apparent, but getting visibility on projects/sprints, people, tools, time & budgets is very hard to get. You are flying blind with no eyes & ears - you will land somewhere - however, it will not be a smooth well-intentioned landing. We spoke to 200+ design leaders running a mid-to-large design team and they echo similar challenges.

We looked around and saw how DevOps has solved similar challenges. Several companies like Splunk, Dynatrace, and IBM have focused on the data to observe, draw inferences, and make recommendations. In this blog post, we will explore what design observability is all about and why design leaders must have visibility into its performance & effectiveness. Let's dive deep into the world of design observability!

Why Design Leaders Need Visibility

Design leaders play a crucial role in driving innovation and shaping the overall user experience. As the spearheads of DesignOps, they need visibility across various aspects to ensure effective design decision-making.


Monitor team performance

By having insights into key metrics such as project timelines, resource allocation, and team productivity, design leaders can identify areas for improvement and allocate resources efficiently.


Improve effectiveness

All managers need data to make effective decisions.  Observing the correct data, by focusing on the right signals (rather than all the online chatter) and getting it real-time, can help save money, effort & time. Several other functions (like DevOps or RevOps) have been observing/using data to continuously improve the maturity of their function using data → inferences → recommendations trio.


Measure design impact

Furthermore, visibility allows design leaders to assess the effectiveness of their DesignOps function. They can track design quality such as standardization, process orientation, acceptance criteria, etc.


Boost collaboration

Having visibility enables design leaders to align with other stakeholders within an organization. It allows them to collaborate effectively with product managers, developers, marketers, and executives by providing clear communication channels where everyone understands the goals and objectives.

What is Design Observability

Like any other function, Design managers should actively monitor, measure, and analyze the impact and effectiveness of design within an organization. It is crucial to gain visibility into how design decisions are made and implemented and to measure the team's efficiency and processes. This aspect of design observability will be critical to managing and growing a mature design function.

There could be several aspects of design observability:


Visibility

By implementing effective tracking systems and using tools specifically designed for design observability, organizations can gather valuable insights into operational visibility and design impact. These insights help designers optimize their work processes and iterate on designs based on feedback and insights.


Impact

With design observability, we can measure the Design Impact - how are my various design initiatives helping improve the CX/UX metrics such as onboarding time, churn rate, adoption, and engagement. This enables them to make data-driven decisions that are backed by evidence rather than relying on subjective opinions or guesswork.


Collaboration

Design observability facilitates collaboration among cross-functional teams by providing a shared understanding of project progress through visualizations like dashboards or reports. It allows stakeholders from different departments to have a holistic view of the entire design process and contribute their expertise effectively.


Empowerment

Design observability empowers organizations to unlock the full potential of their DesignOps function by making it transparent, measurable, and adaptable based on data-driven insights. By continuously monitoring its impact on business goals, organizations can ensure that they are investing in impactful designs that drive success.

The Challenges 

In most organizations, individual contributors are reluctant to report on tasks started or completed, issues, red flags, escalations, delays, etc. It’s rare to see a design/research team operate in a structured manner like most engineering folks do to report work & time data. Most team leaders operate in a data vacuum that makes it difficult to improve quality, and productivity or reduce risks.

Many tools use data from project management, design, and research and aggregate them on spreadsheet tools like Notion, Airtbale, or Coda. However, it is a lot of manual work to slice & dice the right data & to draw any meaningful inferences.

Measuring the effectiveness of the DesignOps function is undoubtedly a challenging task. With design teams working on multiple projects simultaneously and using various tools and methodologies, capturing accurate data for evaluation can be complex.

One of the main reasons why measuring DesignOps effectiveness is difficult is due to the lack of standardized metrics in this field. Unlike DevOps or product teams, where there are established KPIs and benchmarks, DesignOps lacks a universally accepted set of measurements.

Additionally, design work often involves collaboration between different teams within an organization. This means attributing specific outcomes solely to the DesignOps function becomes tricky when multiple variables come into play.

Design leaders must invest in robust tools and technologies capable of gathering real-time data about team performance, project timelines, resource allocation, design impact, etc., enabling them to gain visibility into their operations effectively.

Conclusion

Design observability is critical in empowering design leaders with visibility into their team's productivity and impact on business outcomes. By embracing new measurement techniques explicitly tailored for DesignOps functions while aligning them with organizational goals, leaders can foster continuous improvement in their design practices.

 

About Cubyts Design Intelligence

With Cubyts Design Intelligence platform, design leaders can gain operational visibility into the design process and effectively measure its impact.  To know more, book a demo.