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Broadcasting vs Protecting.

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Welcome back to our Design at Scale™—Academy series, focusing on design practice in a team of one hundred. This article explores the contrasting mindsets of "protecting" and "broadcasting" design knowledge. We'll delve into how these mindsets influence the design department's output and ultimately shape the organisation's culture.  We'll also examine how these mindsets impact the information customers receive.

Information is the key.

Unarguably, information is the lifeblood of any successful business. However, a culture of information protection can emerge in many large organisations.  Teams become gatekeepers of information, acting as the sole source of truth and wielding power over who has access and usage rights.  This "old-school" model creates significant challenges in large organisations, particularly when peripheral teams lack the necessary information to make informed decisions.

For example, consider a meticulously crafted design system.  If this valuable resource is not effectively communicated across the organisation, it loses its purpose.  The design system and the team behind it lose value, and the entire business suffers the consequences of design inconsistency.

Thought leader

As a designer, you have a critical obligation to advocate strongly for customer experience within your organisation. This applies regardless of your role, whether you're focused on day-to-day improvements in existing products, collaborating with delivery teams, working in a supporting function, or playing a central role in design proposition development.

Being a thought leader in this area goes beyond simply advocating for the end user. It's about fostering a sustainable and flexible creative environment. This allows colleagues to efficiently utilise, adapt, and build upon the work of the central design team.  Ultimately, this approach enhances the organisation's design ecosystem and accelerates delivery speeds.

Evaluation

Historically, departmental silos prevailed.  Accounting protected accounting information, development guarded its code, and design kept its design assets close.  However, the modern landscape demands a more integrated approach.  In today's world of interconnected services, accountants benefit from seeing the design and development lifecycle.  Likewise, designers gain valuable insights into financial realities and customer impact. This necessitates a thoughtful information-sharing strategy,  differentiating between internal and external communication.

Internal Sharing:

Design System Information: Shared exclusively with the design system team.

Departmental Information: Shared within relevant departments.

Company-Wide Information: Disseminated across the entire organisation.

External Sharing:

Peripheral Information: Shared by designated teams with customers.

Protecting

While customer data protection is paramount,  overly guarding design processes and methodologies isn't necessarily protecting intellectual property (IP).  Design principles and presentation methods are constantly evolving, and even internal branding teams need to adapt over time.

The key lies in striking a balance between information protection and knowledge sharing to empower others.  For example, a design team that fiercely guards its work can significantly delay peripheral teams who rely on those designs to deliver projects.  These delays create unnecessary friction and hinder peripheral teams' ability to utilise design assets effectively.

Therefore, it's crucial for peripheral teams to clearly communicate their needs and requirements to the central design team. The central team, in turn, should orchestrate the workflow and establish a transparent roadmap outlining the release schedule for design artefacts.  This clear communication ensures peripheral teams know when to expect design assets, their quality level, and any iterative improvements planned. With this knowledge, they can effectively launch features or software extensions for their digital products.

The absence of a defined communication strategy can hinder the business's flexibility and potentially lead to significant operational budget overruns.

Broadcasting 

In contrast to information hoarding, strategic broadcasting offers a multiplier effect.  Once information is carefully structured and prepared for dissemination, its reach and impact become significant.  Broadcasting leverages a "one-to-many" knowledge-sharing model.

By openly sharing artefacts like templates, composition diagrams, and other resources, we empower peripheral teams to extend our reach and deliver high-quality products or services aligned with our direction.

This collaboration fosters a two-way learning dynamic. Peripheral teams, being the closest to real customers,  can provide invaluable feedback on our design system components (elements, atoms) in actual use.

For instance, after a three-month gap analysis, we standardised our design system based on a technical engineering evaluation for code conversion.  Our comprehensive documentation effectively communicated our readiness to the engineering team, leading to the launch of the first alpha version as a product.

Within four months of releasing the alpha version, 75 units across one business with seven banks successfully implemented the fully automated design system.  This translates to approximately 3,500 digital properties adopting the new design language, empowering businesses to deliver a more unified customer experience.

Subsequent data analysis revealed a 12% reduction in the product learning curve and a 17% increase in customer interaction speed.  This marked just the beginning of a successful journey driven by effective communication and knowledge sharing.

Cultural impact 

Technological advancements and automation are not the only driving forces shaping our discussions.  We are witnessing a pivotal moment where design's power is acknowledged across the entire business.  This newfound appreciation translates to a more transparent environment; gone are the days of concealing conflicts or errors from design teams.

Our expertise is now actively sought after, and we are routinely included in critical communication channels.  This culminates in a seat at the table – the decision-making centre of the business.  Design's presence at this round table signifies its integral role in shaping the organisation's future.

This cultural shift has a profound impact. The design department's confidence flourishes as our involvement becomes increasingly interwoven into cross-functional discussions.  We are actively involved in defining design's impact on internal processes, solidifying its strategic importance.

Informational impact 

The Power of Streamlined Communication

A direct consequence of this cultural shift is a significant improvement in communication efficiency – over 50% – between peripheral and central teams.  Previously, features and components required manual development.  Now, through our automated design system (DS), we can deliver fully functional and integrated components to peripheral teams within two days.

These improvements significantly impacted our alpha stage design system rollout.  More importantly, we demonstrated the design system's scalability and effectiveness in measuring internal team adoption of digital assets.  We can now measure the impact on end-customer satisfaction and overall interaction with our products and services.

The Value of Broadcasting the Right Information

In conclusion, strategically broadcasting the right information at the right time demonstrably benefits the organisation. It fosters design team confidence and underscores their vital role within the company.  This streamlined approach extends beyond design, positively impacting procurement, accounting, management, product teams, engineering teams, solution architects, and integration teams – all stakeholders benefit when the design team delivers on its promises.

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