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The "Adoption Journey" Lesson is part of the full, Enterprise Design Systems Management course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Ben discusses managing expectations with time and effort for the adoption journey, defining the adoptable system parts, and defining adoption. Providing a path to follow can help potential subscribers adopt in a healthier way.

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Transcript from the "Adoption Journey" Lesson

>> So, the reason this works, I think, is because like any new thing, right? When you're asking folks to change, there's gonna be sticky points up front. So, right? So, the first few folks that come on board, it's gonna be hard. You're gonna have to do some handholding, you're gonna have to get in the weeds or maybe even gonna sit with them and help them figure out some of those integration points.

[00:00:22] Over time, you start to recognize the patterns and the challenges and then you start to solve those problems more efficiently. Now it's much easier for them to come on. It takes you less time and you can focus on supporting your current subscribers better. So, it just gives you the time and space available, frees up your space to do the other important tasks here.

[00:00:41] So, I wanna talk with you a little bit about how that impacts the journey of subscriber's adoption over time. So, as you can tell by now, I'm a really visual thinker. [LAUGH] So, none of these concepts make sense to me until I get the napkin and pencil out and start sketching stuff.

[00:01:02] And that's just the way my brain works. In this case, I was talking with a handful of subscribers. Most of my conversations to be fair have been with people of design system teams, but I've taken some time over the last year or so to start having more conversations with the people who we we're asking to use the systems we're building and I'm learning a ton of stuff from them.

[00:01:22] [LAUGH] And so, I've just started asking them this question about, what is the journey like to become a subscriber And early in stage two they describe it kind of like this, if we're plotting out say their excitement versus their frustration maybe on the Y and we're thinking about the time and effort across time over the X axis here.

[00:01:42] This is kinda what they tell me in their early stages like, somebody did a good job of selling something to them, right? So early on, they're excited. Okay, great. This is gonna be amazing. It's gonna save me time, my work will be better. All of this? And then you'll notice this like scary slope instantly down, right?

[00:02:00] And that's because as soon as they start getting into this and start actually trying to put it into practice, there's a lot of frustration that surfaces, right? Especially early in stage two, when you probably you just released your first version, so it's probably buggy in some ways, right?

[00:02:18] You haven't actually gone through a lot of these adoption processes yet, so there's a lot of kinks to work out there and of course you're just asking them to change the way they work. And of course, it takes a good amount of time here for us to climb out of that dip of frustration, right?

[00:02:35] There's gotta be real value that we're showing for them to actually get back to being excited about the potential value this thing can offer them. So, throughout stage two, there's a way to kind of think about how to change this that actually helps you mature through stage two in a really healthy way.

[00:02:56] And what you're trying to do is get to what I usually seeing like a really healthy late stage to adoption which is something that looks a little bit more like this. So you've done a better job you can see, early on you've done a really good job of setting their expectations, right?

[00:03:16] [LAUGH] Like, you're being more realistic with them, I think is maybe the the right way to think about this. So you've, instead of kind of going in with that big pitch of saying like, everything's gonna be amazing when you use the system, you're going in and you're saying to them, you're setting expectations appropriately.

[00:03:31] You're saying, this is gonna take some work, but it's an investment that's worth the time because it's gonna get us to a place where we can do better work together. So that's kind of the shift in the language around that initial conversation. And then you've done a lot of work here to move the frustration levels up.

[00:03:49] This is all what I was talking about earlier about making the system easy to adopt. And we're gonna talk in a moment about defining adoption paths, because that's one way. If they can see the end of the light in the tunnel for their adoption, that makes all of this stuff kinda worth it.

[00:04:07] So the more clarity you can give them around what it's gonna be like and here's the steps you can take, that actually makes this a lot less frustrating for them. It's not that the work is different, it's just their experience compared to the expectations you set is more aligned.

[00:04:22] And then of course, the result of those two changes is that, this point where they move from being frustrated to being excited is a lot sooner, which is great, right? They're happier, sooner. So really some clarity and forethought is really gonna help this, right? It's going to help in moving that that starting point lower that trough up.

[00:04:45] And then the combination of those things kind of brings their their excitement level a little sooner in the process. So let's talk about ways to kind of do these things. Well, we spent some time in stage one thinking about our adoption or our subscriber groups, right? So now the second part of this if we're gonna start to actually track adoption in stage two is that we have to define what parts, pieces and parts of the system are adoptable on their own.

[00:05:10] Now, part of the intent with the anatomy of a design system model is that it is intended to be adopt, the way that's broken down is that these layers create things that are adoptable in and of themselves. So, in other words it's possible for a subscriber to just use the foundational concepts to not use any of your assets but just to understand your guidelines around color and actually create something that aligns perfectly whether or not they use your specific tokens or your core systems to do that, right?

[00:05:43] So, I can adopt at a foundational level, that's a valid adoption, right? Now, you don't necessarily have to use my model, but what I want you to do is, however you've defined your system, is think about what are the pieces and parts that can be adopted, okay? And then this one seems ridiculous, but you actually have to define what adoption means.

[00:06:04] And like this seems like I can't tell you how many articles I've read where like the first sentence of the article is, we launched our design system a year ago and we have 80% adoption. And I stop at that point and I just say to myself, like, 80% adoption, like what the heck does that even mean?

[00:06:22] That literally means nothing to me. So I don't understand how anybody could even use that statement. And let me give you just a few statements to help you understand why there's so much more nuance to this. So here's just a few situations you might find yourself in, One of your subscribers uses the grid and spacing core system from your design system to handle layout in their product's production code, but they don't use your color or elevation systems.

[00:06:51] So are they adopted? Is that part of the 80% adoption? One of your subscriber teams uses everything that your design system offers, but only in the sign-up flow of their product. So is that adoption? The UX folks on one of your product teams use the design system to prototype and test.

[00:07:10] That's great. But the developers on that same product team aren't using the engineering assets that you also provide. Is that adoption? One of your subscriber teams uses a version of the design system that's two releases old. How does that count, right? The devs on one of your product teams start with your design system components, but they modify them to fit a specific use case.

[00:07:33] Is that adoption? [LAUGH] So you get the point here, right? There are so many ways, there are so many nuances to this conversation. So, what we have to do is actually give your subscribers a path to follow. And you dont have to only have one path, but you gotta have something for them to [INAUDIBLE] On to, and so what we need to do is start to think more about all this from the perspective of your subscriber groups.

[00:07:59] So what's the path that they need to follow in order to become a subscriber at various tiers? And the way to do that is to give them tiers of adoption levels of adoption to that they can use as targets. And so here's an example of just a very simple set.

[00:08:17] And I'm not saying you should use this, right? Though, all of this stuff has to be customized for your specific use cases but here's an example where we might say a level one adaption means you understand and apply the foundations layer, right? That simple. And a level two means you're using the core system assets for layout type and color.

[00:08:36] So it's another way to think about it. We're saying hey, layout type and color is gonna get us a long way there. We've offered some really good systems for you to put into practice in your features, your products. So after you've started applying the foundations, jump right into using these assets we've built for you in your specific context.

[00:08:54] Level three maybe. Use all the parts of the fundamental layers, that's the first three layers that's just not components, basically everything but the components. Level four, use all parts of the components that are relevant to your product. And then maybe we say level five is more involved, right?

[00:09:12] This is where we're getting you to contribute back in some way. So that's like a level five adoption. So and again, I just want to reiterate, I'm not telling you this should be your roadmap for adoption, okay? You'll have to do the work to understand what makes the most sense based on remember we discovered the right scope.

[00:09:32] So the early versions of a design system are all gonna look different. So you need to look at that scope that makes sense for you. What is it that you're actually offering folks? And then you need to tell them, here's a good path for you to come on board.

[00:09:45] If those subscriber groups have product owners or project managers or whatever that role is, where there's someone who's kind of leading the vision or the direction of a specific product, sit down with those folks. They will help you understand the impact of adoption for their product and you can talk through what layers are reasonable and how these things can build upon each other.