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 togetherHow we get work doneHow our work creates impactHow 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 groupExecutives 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 structureBalanced design teams with complementary roles and skillsDesign leaders are peers with leaders from other departmentsCollaborate: effective communication

Design’s role is understood and agreed by design team members and stakeholdersCommunication channels for designers to share UX knowledge and insightsWork environments encourage internal and cross-functional collaborationFormal channels for team members to share interests and passionsHumanize: Enable development and growth

Consistent hiring and interviewing practices that encourage objective candidate assessmentDefined onboarding milestones and goals with regular check-ins for new team membersClearly defined paths for designer career developmentExisting processes for regular skills evaluation to identify growth opportunitiesAwareness 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 teamsAwareness of skill gaps – crucial for long-term growth and scaling UXAwareness of career status and opportunities – inspiring individual development and growth to retain talent and keep employees motivatedBrand and culture recognition – keeps UX in touch with the organization’s broader visionWant 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 optimalThe 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 teamsDesign is adequately incorporated in the development processDesigners work with standardized UX principles that guide work for consistent project deliveryDesigners use a consistent toolset for creating UX artifactsDesign tools integrate with external partners, primarily product and engineeringHarmonize: Share resources and insights

Shared design system or style guideCentralized, searchable, shared research artifacts and insightsShared, easy access to design artifactsPrioritize: 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 deliveryRealistic timeframes and budgets for design projectsUsefulness 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’ statusDesign team healthSuccessfully completed design programsDesign 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 personDesign 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 stakeholdersUnified messaging and sharing of design role and value to partners and stakeholdersRecognizing non-designers when they apply user-centered design principlesThe organization understands design’s valueEnable: Cultivate organization-wide use of design activities

Design activities and methods are available to external partners to useDesign skills training for non-designers–i.e., design thinking for problem-solvingEmployees 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 changeAttendance for design events, design team members, external partners, and stakeholdersProjects that follow standardized design processesProjects that follow the design review processNumber of design programs managedNumber of successfully completed programsScale Design With UXPin Merge

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