DOps17 – Design Management Office

The Design Management Office
John Devanney, Managing Director at Moment

From the Design Operations Summit website:
John and the team at Moment have developed—and continue to evolve—a new framework for effective design management: the Design Management Office (DMO). Their goal is to cultivate this new model and share it with our community to better deliver the value of design more consistently and effectively. John will share insights into the challenges design leaders and managers face as they create, grow, and measure the impact of design teams within large, complex organizations.

He has been doing design for over twenty years now.  At Moment they work with many large organizations.  For years as a small company, they have seen a lot of these challenges in many different places.  Across industries, over time – it’s about scale.  But we were designing products and services, but then they were coming with many other questions beyond that.  Helping clients think about career paths for their own designers, how do we handle intake, etc.  We wanted to help our clients solve these problems, even through we were ill-equipped, at first.  You can follow John on Twitter at @johndevanney and @momentdesign.

This started as a design project – doing research, design, and synthesis.  He is gong to share observations and the Design Management Office framework they developed.  The terminology is not the key thing – focus on the concepts.

At it’s core, the key question was How to deliver value of design at scale?

A lot have written about the value of design to business (like Roger Martin), and we have no shortage of books on methods.  But not much has been written about what happens in between.

What is the value of design?

We continue to ask this question because it is difficult to answer – we need both quantitative and qualitative ways.  Four approaches:

  • Interfaces – improving both performance and visually connect to brand
  • Capabilities – invest in new features and assets that can be leverage across multiple areas of business
  • Services – realizing relationship strategy by considering ecosystem
  • Relationships – strategy that strengthens the bond with customers over time and builds loyalty

Many times we are looking into the wrong quadrant to measure the value and impact.

Are all design projects the same?

Is is a small project, or a large one?  Is is something new, or something existing?

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Design Operations makes sure there is connective tissue to make sure resources are aimed at the right issues.

What you need to do next depends on where you are in your maturity.

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Design leaders who are evangelists may not be the right people for growing capacity, measuring impact.  The head of design may not be the right person for the phase your organization is in.

The operational requirements of scale are:

  • Increasing leverage of design teams
  • Improve quality of delivery
  • Build and retain high-performing staff
  • Shape projects quickly and effectively
  • Communicate the value in terms the organization understands

Being Head of Design for an organization results in new challenges.  For People, Process, and Projects, you need to get clear how you’re going to define, equip, and connect them.  Here is the framework:devanney-04.png

He will talk about each of the dimensions next.

Process

Thinking about user-centered design approach, tool, and methods.  Moment has built their own, but IDEO has a good one too.  It’s important to have one.  It gives you a common set of practices, and you can iterate on it to make it your own, rather than starting from scratch.

Teams are generating research and insights in a variety of different ways.  But sometimes they get stuck using one methods, e.g. customer panels.  Alexa created a toolkit to bring the right method at the right moment in time.

We also need to create design systems, but the DMO can make sure it continues to meet the needs of the team.

We are often asked to bring “this design stuff” to the rest of the organization.  Intuit has a group called the Catalysts.  It doesn’t need to be an independent team, but you do have to have that focus on sharing, offering it out.  If nothing else, to keep it from being something that only designers do.  It creates an important foundation for dialog.

People

Kristin has already said a lot about designing organizations, so he is not going to discuss that further here.

In terms of equipping them, learning and knowledge management is something that all organizations struggle with.  When we are in rapidly-changing environments, it’s so important.  And of course it’s a big motivating factor.  Where teams are happy, it’s usually because they are learning and growing.  So it’s about more than retaining institutional knowledge.  One way to do this is to give people a learning budget.   In some way, helping them think beyond a client project.  And then sharing back with the team to create a culture of explorations.

Ensuring that we think about career paths, career growth.  At EUX, Ian Swinson shared a framework from Salesforce, worth looking at again.  It’s good for discussing how to diversify skills.  Lots of discussion about finding T-shaped designers, but much less discussion about how to grow them.

What are the standardized approaches we’re going to use?  This sounds like process, but it’s also about people.  Katie Gill on Airbnb has a vimeo around a shared way of approaching work.

Projects

Having a way to track pipeline is key. 

Inventory model, how are you going to engage with the rest of the organization.  Russ Unger has shared how they are going about this.  But because they see us as customers, they share that back out with us – lots to learn from that.

Project Framing is important.  What possibilities do we see?  Why is it exciting?  The Creative Brief is used in many fields (architecture, agencies).  John C. Jay discusses this in “Briefly” on vimeo.  That is an important leadership role – framing the project in the brief is important for that.

They have a survey about how you’re doing on these dimensions.  By far, the lowest area is impact evaluation.  We have to bring this to the world.  There is a lot of cultural hesitancy to quantify the qualitative.  If we’re not hesitant, our team members likely will be.  Every quant measurement has qualitative decision-making underneath it.  There are very few examples to share.  But a company called Funda in the Netherlands.  Barbara Coop has a framework called CHIP – qualitative framework that translates to numbers.

Communicating that value back to the organization is critical.  We may share anecdotes or stories.   Or we may find a performance metric that moved.  But we need to do more of that.  They have started to look for measures that might be predictive in the future.  How can we improve reaction time, resolution, the content and tone we’re using.  If we improve those four things, you’ll ultimately have bette business outcomes.

Q&A

Work for a consultancy / agency.  Has scaled rapidly with 50 designers, 10 researchers.  How do you see this working when you have to create it for a specific client, and for your own organization as well?

From the consultancy side, we have our own philosophy about UCD, but we’re not going to be developing our own design system.  Knowledge management is important regardless.  But work with your team to evaluate together what areas need improvement.  They give the frameworks away because ultimately they want the product and service design work with their clients.

She is in a very old, large enterprise.  There aren’t good repositories, so that is a big problem.  And getting IT to recognize that new tools are needed.

If you can come back to what you have had to do to recreate that knowledge, that might be one way (qualitative).  There is also a people element – if there are retention issues, for example (quantitative).

Interested in project inventory, share your thoughts further?

The biggest struggle here is not that people don’t know about the projects, but projects come in through many different channels.  This is not unrelated to project framing.  Some of the most critical projects come in in the most informal ways – e.g. a conversation with an executive, it doesn’t come with a formal request and a brief.  A lot of it stems or framed or brought in in the first place.

What is a sane cadence for iterating on process?  What about organizational changes?

Standardized team gives you something to start building on.  You don’t want to iterate on everything at the same time.  You can’t do all of this at the same time – it’s too much!  So how do you decide what to do.  Here is how we are performing on each dimension, and focus on the ones that most need improvement. Not all dimensions will have the same level of criticality for your organization.

we are looking at integrating design into development.  Both have different schedules.  Design assets have to impact multiple technical deliverables.  Have you thought about how to integrate / have handshakes?

Yes, we all face these challenges.  There is a whole talk tomorrow about design systems which will help with some of this stuff.  How do you equip people so you don’t need to take everything on.  When we are dong things beyond the system, it’s abut collaborating beyond the technical team that they might not be getting.  So … it depends, and it’s a conversation.

There is a lot of interconnectedness with these dimensions.  What did you focus on first at Moment?

The challenge is there are many ways of seeing it.  XPLANE will help.  You can make lots of arguments about the structure.  But you need a shared understanding of scope.  What they have worked on the most at Moment.   Intuitively, they are a people business first – career, learning and development is the most important to them long-term for the business.  Designing the environment is a hard thing to scale.  But it is worth it – shaping how their space is designed (for dedicated teams).

Closing comment

If you take the poll at bit.ly/2gT5J9C Moment will share back how the community as a whole is doing along this framework.

 

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