Enterprise Design Systems Management

Consistency & Efficiency

Ben Callahan

Ben Callahan

Enterprise Design Systems Management

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The "Consistency & Efficiency" 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 an overview of how the key takeaways mentioned previously connect with the model of a design system. Two main benefits of design systems consistency and efficiency are also discussed in this segment.


Transcript from the "Consistency & Efficiency" Lesson

>> So just to wrap up this little section, you'll remember that my first big takeaway from those two consulting engagements I described earlier, is that there's still a lot of confusion about design systems out there. One of the reasons that I tried to develop this is because I want this model taken all together to offer some clarity around the pieces and parts that make up a system.

Most importantly, I hope it gives you all an opportunity to think about and talk about how you define design systems inside your organization. Frankly, I don't really care much if you choose to use my model or not, what's important is that you define it in your context. If you have got people all over the organization that have different ideas about this thing, you're gonna have a really hard time wrangling them together to make something good.

So, I would encourage you to spend some time to actually develop your own definition, develop your own language around this. I know at least in my consulting practice at Sparkbox, we're doubling down on the education that we're doing as part of that. It's just, we cannot make assumptions that everybody understands these things in the same way.

So that's takeaway one. Takeaway number two, you'll remember was that, teams aren't realizing the full benefits of a systematic design practice. So, when you think about benefits of design systems, there's always two concepts that kind of rise to the top. The first is this idea of consistency or cohesion.

And, so let's just talk really quickly about this. I think the layers, the foundations, the tokens, the core systems, the components, they can give us some level of consistency. So simply having components for folks to use, allows those individuals to say that, The buttons in my product all look the same, right?

So there's a level of consistency or cohesion at that individual level. And having foundations, tokens in core systems, those fundamental layers will allow your departments, like a larger part of the organization, to say, All the digital products we offer look and feel the same. So this is like another level of cohesion or consistency that you can achieve.

And these are admirable kinds of consistency, these are the things that I think most people are trying to achieve with their systems. But I think there's actually a deeper level of consistency that we can reach that only happens when we are rooted in the established brand. And in that case, the culture of the organization is that, every interaction a customer has with us aligns with our brand.

This connects the work that you're doing on a digital interface with the bigger mission and vision of your company. It's different than consistency at the individual and department level, because it speaks to interactions with your company's audience way beyond just the digital work that you do. And that's why I think it's cultural, it's a recognition that you're all on the same team, the product folks, the marketing people, the IT, your customer service, logistics, even your salespeople, [LAUGH] all on the same team, right?

And this is a really healthy perspective I think for us to get back to. I'm not saying that having a design system is gonna give you this automatically, but design systems that start rooted in the brand and build out are gonna at least have a shot at achieving this kind of cultural consistency.

So, the other main benefit that folks always talk about is efficiency, right? How many of you would say design system, you're doing it cuz you need that efficiency, you wanna be faster, right? This is a common thing. And, I think it's the parts of each of these layers that really give that to us.

The assets will enable an individual to design or build a feature faster, right? I have the things I need to be able to do the work I wanna do. And I think the processes allow us to work more efficiently with each other, right? That's gonna help us get to market faster.

We're defining how we work as individuals, so we don't have to guess, right? We know the process, we understand how that works. And these, I think, are the primary kinds of efficiency that most organizations are thinking about. But I think the documentation is actually where we define the language that we use, to talk about the problems we're solving.

And when you have all three of these parts for each layer, you're giving your organization a shot at this cultural level of efficiency, which is that, we understand each other. I know saying that, We understand each other, seems so simple. [LAUGH] On the surface, it definitely feels that way, but it's not.

I can tell you from my own experience, I've been in meetings where we're just talking about some future work, everybody thinks they're on the same page, we all go off to do our own things, and we come back a week or a month later to review, and we have all gone in different directions.

[LAUGH] And that is a massive source of inefficiency inside every organization. And it's one that, I don't think we track that, we don't pay attention to that. But that's simply miscommunication, that happens because we haven't established a language for communicating with each other about the problems we're solving.

That kind of miscommunication is widespread, and it creates the most damaging inefficiencies. I've talked with folks who've experienced this, it's frustrating for the employees, it creates animosity between departments. And at the root, it's simply because we haven't taken the time to document the language we use. Now, again, designed systems are not gonna guarantee that you reach this level of efficiency, but, when they're built right, they at least give you a shot at better understanding each other, and that's where real efficiency comes from.

So, in addition to providing some clarity about what systems are, [LAUGH] I hope this model makes it clear why it's important that we do this work. And I hope these ideas will help you realize a little bit more meaningful efficiency and more authentic consistency in your systems work.

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