5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Design Team

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Leah Buley for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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More and more organizations have begun to invest in their design practices — some in very high profile ways. Capital One has opened a series of research labs in cities across the U.S. as a way to deliver digital banking services tailored to modern consumers. IBM has invested more than $100 million to expand its digital design practice, including 1,000 new employees and 10 experience labs. Consulting firms like McKinsey, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young have acquired design shops in order to meet the growing demand for expertise in the field.

A recent study by my company InVision finds that organizations that have mastered design have seen outcomes that go far beyond improved product usability and customer satisfaction. Our data is based on a survey of more than 2,200 organizations around the world — from small businesses and non-profits to large enterprises and the Fortune 500. We asked each company about the specific behaviors their design team engages in, as well as the outcomes they see as a result of those behaviors. Our goal was to discover which processes separate companies that are simply practicing design from those who are truly using it as a key differentiator.

We identified five natural levels of design maturity, with Level 1 being the least mature and Level 5 being the most. Those at Level 5 are characterized by having achieved tangible benefits through their use of design, and have effectively institutionalized design to achieve those benefits repeatedly throughout the organization. Ninety-two percent of the companies that ranked at Level 5 said that they were able to draw a straight line between the efforts of their design team and their organization’s revenue. Eighty-five percent of those organizations said they’d delivered cost savings through design, and 84% said that design had improved their time to market.

One of the aims of the study was to identify the specific practices and behaviors associated with these kinds of concrete business benefits. We found that companies that achieve more business benefits through design exhibit some specific and markedly different behaviors than those that don’t. At the most design-mature companies, the entire organization — including the executive team —participates in design. This means that key stakeholders from outside the design team get involved in user research, work in shared software, and develop product ideas jointly.

What’s more, the organizations that saw the most concrete benefits treat it as a decision-making tool, whereas those who saw the least benefits approach design in a way that’s limited to improving the aesthetics of their app or website. Level 5 companies design processes to test and learn what best supports their customers’ needs. They also use design to strategize where and how to play in their market by developing a vision for new offerings that is informed by user research, validated with customers, and socialized throughout the organization.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Leah Buley is the Director of Design Education at InVision, a leading digital product design platform powering more than 5 million users — including 100% of the Fortune 100 — to create the world’s best user experiences. She’s a veteran of the experience design industry, and is also the author of the book The User Experience Team of One. In her work at InVision, she researches, analyzes, and shares what makes design teams successful.


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