1. Design teams are bigger and more complex than ever.
Today, perhaps more than ever, being a good design leader means working effectively with stakeholders from other teams. Harrison Wheeler, Product Design Manager at LinkedIn says, “Having a seat at the table is table stakes. Our responsibility as design leaders is to move beyond thinking about our role as a core discipline and evolve into being strategic partners. This means thinking about the impact, value, and consequences of our decisions on the business, and our users."
[text-highlight]One out of two designers said that integrating their workflow with these stakeholders was “critical” to their team’s success[text-highlight]. Another 1 out of 2 said this lack of inter-departmental integration was among their organizations’ most significant challenges.
And with more collaboration comes a need for more skills. You’re less likely to find team members who are only designers now. More than 60% of designers reported having development experience, and 42% said they plan to develop more technical skills in the future.
2. We need better ways to measure impact
It’s clear that [text-pseudolink-ee-ruler]measuring[text-pseudolink-ee-ruler] and reporting on the impact of design is important, and even necessary. What’s a little less clear is how teams can achieve this. When asked how they measured and reported outcomes and impact, there were as many different answers as there were designers. Overall, it seems that design teams do try to capture both data-based and qualitative feedback. But marrying these together to tell a compelling story is tricky, resulting in many answers like this:
“Analytics are collected, but customer reactions determine whether projects are considered successful or not. The analytics always show that updated and redesigned processes have improved but if customer feedback isn't positive, it doesn't matter.”
“Reporting is a combination of user data, how many new users started using the product, and user interviews.”
“[It’s not done] easily. I use a mix of quant-based data to show good design choices are being made, and qual data from user testing to show impact and desire. I'm trying to measure the DesignOps and workflow side as well, but that's a larger challenge.”
So it makes sense that [text-highlight]2 out of 3 designers said that the design operations tools they use are lacking most in reporting and analytics.[text-highlight] The [text-pseudolink-ee-apple]appetite[text-pseudolink-ee-apple] is there, but the functionality is not. Instead, leaders have to find their own ways to determine success.
3. The shift from outputs to outcomes
“As designers, we know that design can drive business strategy, we have seen all of the supporting research,” says Vitale. “We have to realize that design isn't seen as the center of the corporate universe, especially in large enterprises. So we have to build relationships and find partners that we can collaborate with. When we show how design can improve outcomes, that’s how we become seen as strategic partners.”
4. Today’s biggest challenges: collaboration, people, and data
How do you show progress?
McIlwain says the key is showing the rationale behind a design. [text-highlight]“Learning how to document design decisions enables rationale to become the tiebreaker,”[text-highlight] she says. “If you can share the rationale behind your decisions, then you take opinion off the table. Opinion no longer becomes the deciding factor in what goes out the door.”
As it stands now, it takes a fair amount of [text-pseudolink-ee-drumstick]legwork[text-pseudolink-ee-drumstick] to both communicate and protect design decisions. It begs the question, if we are better able to document processes along the way, could it be easier to allow design decisions to stand on their own?
5. What’s the next big thing for design?
Our respondents agree: 46% believe DesignOps tools and platforms are most lacking in documentation, while 61% believe reporting and analytics are the features most lacking.
The answer seems clear: design teams need the kinds of tools that allow them to measure and document work so they can continue to scale and contribute to [text-pseudolink-ee-money]business outcomes[text-pseudolink-ee-money] in a more meaningful way.
[text-highlight]The more decisions we can make using data, the more we can use our designers’ talent and creativity where it counts.[text-highlight]