Checklist to Track DesignOps Maturity

Checklist to Track DesignOps Maturity

Maturing and scaling DesignOps is crucial for long-term success. But where do you start, what do you track, and how do you measure the right metrics?

We took inspiration from the NN Group’s DesignOps Framework and questions from our UXPin Community to create a checklist template DesignOps practitioners can use to track and measure maturity.

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Using Metrics to Track DesignOps

Without tracking DesignOps efforts, it’s impossible to know whether changes are successful or the organization’s maturity level. These metrics are also crucial for reporting success to stakeholders, getting buy-in, and scaling Ops.

Picking the Right Metric

Our December 2021 webinar with Patrizia Bertini looked at the ROI of DesignOps and picking the right metric. Patrizia framed DesignOps metrics in two categories, efficacy vs. efficiency.

  • Efficacy is about behavior and doing the right things. It can be subjective and challenging to measure.
  • Efficiency is measurable and quantifiable using numbers, percentages, and ratios.

Stakeholders like seeing efficiencies because it clearly shows cause and effect. But efficacy is just as significant because behavioral and subjective improvements help to increase efficiencies, thus helping to scale and mature DesignOps.

Watch the webinar again on our YouTube channel and learn how Patrizia approaches efficacy and efficiency. Subscribe for upcoming webinars on DesignOps, design leadership, and design systems.

Using a DesignOps Framework as a “Maturity Checklist”

The NN Group’s DesignOps framework is an excellent template for understanding the “DesignOps landscape.” DesignOps leaders can use this framework as a checklist for tracking maturity and identifying areas for improvement.

A 2020 survey of 557 design and UX practitioners from the NN Group found that DesignOps was “low in most organizations.”

The survey reported that “organizations only did 22% of recommended DesignOps efforts, did not have DesignOps-dedicated roles, and had low DesignOps maturity overall.”

Using this framework as a guide, DesignOps practitioners can create a checklist to track progress and maturity.

According to the framework, there are three primary DesignOps areas:

  • How we work together
  • How we get work done
  • How our work creates impact

How We Work Together

“How we work together” scored the lowest in NN Group’s DesignOps maturity survey with an 18% average. The category “Humanize: Enable development and growth” was the poorest performer in this area.

designops increasing collaboration group

Executives and Design/DesignOps leaders must be particularly concerned with poor performance in this area because it correlates to collaboration, communication, teamwork, hiring, and skills development–metrics related to UX output.

Organize: team structure

Building the “right team” is crucial for a project’s success. The NN Group’s survey identified three critical areas for improving DesignOps maturity:

  • Shared design team organizational structure
  • Balanced design teams with complementary roles and skills
  • Design leaders are peers with leaders from other departments

Collaborate: effective communication

  • Design’s role is understood and agreed by design team members and stakeholders
  • Communication channels for designers to share UX knowledge and insights
  • Work environments encourage internal and cross-functional collaboration
  • Formal channels for team members to share interests and passions

Humanize: Enable development and growth

  • Consistent hiring and interviewing practices that encourage objective candidate assessment
  • Defined onboarding milestones and goals with regular check-ins for new team members
  • Clearly defined paths for designer career development
  • Existing processes for regular skills evaluation to identify growth opportunities

Awareness of DesignOps services

Another way to frame “How we work together” is awareness–socializing work to build awareness and engagement across the organization. Some examples include:

  • Awareness of skills – essential for building the right teams
  • Awareness of skill gaps – crucial for long-term growth and scaling UX
  • Awareness of career status and opportunities – inspiring individual development and growth to retain talent and keep employees motivated
  • Brand and culture recognition – keeps UX in touch with the organization’s broader vision

Want to get better in the “How We Work Together” area? Get our free eBook about the first pillar of DesignOps and learn about this important aspect of DesignOps. Get it here: DesignOps Pillar: How We Work Together.

How We Get Work Done

How we get work done relates to project workflows, tools, processes, and protocols. This area is usually a primary focus for DesignOps because it influences productivity, project delivery, and consistency.

designops efficiency speed optimal

The NN Group’s DesignOps maturity survey showed a 20% average across all metrics. 

Standardize: Use consistent tools and processes

  • Standardized, documented design process shared with stakeholders and used by internal design teams
  • Design is adequately incorporated in the development process
  • Designers work with standardized UX principles that guide work for consistent project delivery
  • Designers use a consistent toolset for creating UX artifacts
  • Design tools integrate with external partners, primarily product and engineering

Harmonize: Share resources and insights

  • Shared design system or style guide
  • Centralized, searchable, shared research artifacts and insights
  • Shared, easy access to design artifacts

Prioritize: Decide what to focus on and why

  • Design teams operate at a realistic capacity–i.e., there is enough time for proper research, design, prototyping, testing, documentation, and delivery
  • Realistic timeframes and budgets for design projects

Usefulness of DesignOps Services

We add one more component to the NN Group’s framework, the “usefulness of DesignOps services.”

  • Design leadership and stakeholder’s awareness of design projects’ status
  • Design team health
  • Successfully completed design programs
  • Design system impact–productivity, efficiency, time-to-market, consistency, etc.

How our Work Creates Impact

Impact is the final DesignOps area of focus. While Impact scored highest on the NN Group survey at a 30% average, many metrics were below or near single digits!

designops efficiency person

Design advocacy plays a crucial role in scaling and maturing this DesignOps component.

Measure: Define and track design quality

Socialize: Educate others about design’s role and value

  • Design successes and case studies shared with partners and stakeholders
  • Unified messaging and sharing of design role and value to partners and stakeholders
  • Recognizing non-designers when they apply user-centered design principles
  • The organization understands design’s value

Enable: Cultivate organization-wide use of design activities

  • Design activities and methods are available to external partners to use
  • Design skills training for non-designers–i.e., design thinking for problem-solving
  • Employees outside of design participate in design processes–i.e., ideation, prototype testing, design sprints, UX research, etc.

Adoption of DesignOps services

We add another layer to the Impact component: Adoption. Adoption and completion are crucial for Impact because it gives DesignOps case studies and success stories to share with the organization and stakeholders.

  • Adoption of tools, processes, and systems–encouraging change
  • Attendance for design events, design team members, external partners, and stakeholders
  • Projects that follow standardized design processes
  • Projects that follow the design review process
  • Number of design programs managed
  • Number of successfully completed programs

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by UXPin on 4th August, 2022

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