Enterprise Design Systems Management

Stages of the Maturity Model

Ben Callahan

Ben Callahan

Enterprise Design Systems Management

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The "Stages of the Maturity Model" 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 provides an overview of the four stages of the design system maturity model, including building version one, growing adoption, building an iterative product mindset, and maturing into stable leadership.


Transcript from the "Stages of the Maturity Model" Lesson

>> So let's dive into an overview of the design system maturity model. So there's kind of four big components here, I've broken this up in an interesting way. We'll kinda start just by covering the four main stages that most design systems go through in their maturity. So the first one stage 1, I just call very simply building version one.

[LAUGH] This is literally everything that you do, leading up to that very first release of something that's available for subscribers or consumers inside your organization to use. Of course, the decisions that you make, you're gonna have a big impact on how things move forward. I'll say that stage 1 can look wildly different based on a lot of different factors.

So we're gonna talk about sort of the generalized ideal, and then I'll share with you another concept called origin stories that helps clarify why this stage 1 can look so different. Really hear you are digging into the foundations of your brand and you are doing what I just called discovering the right first version, that's kinda of your main focus.

So the transition from stage 1 to stage 2, is actually the only one that's really obvious. And that's because it's connected with the release of that first version. So whenever you get through your beta, your pilots or whatever it is you do to kind of early test the system early on and get it ready.

As soon as that first version is live, you're in stage 2 period, and you'll never go back to stage 1 unless you start over. [LAUGH] So that's the nice thing about stages 1 and 2. Yeah, so then you're in stage 2 and stage 2 we just call growing adoption.

And again, this begins as soon as that first official version of the system is live. And really, this is because as soon as you spent all this time and effort and money building this thing, of course, you wanna know, is anybody else gonna wanna use it? [LAUGH] Now hopefully, you've worked with a few potential subscribers during that first version, that during stage 1, so you've got a couple subscribers, right?

There's a few folks who maybe were on board early on who got it, but really, stage 2 is interesting because the thing you've built is almost never the thing that everybody wants to adopt, right? It's an early version, it's an early iteration. And so stage 2 oftentimes looks like you iterating on the system to make it really obvious, that it's a thing people want to adopt, something they wanna use.

And also, to make it really easy for them to adopt it, and we're gonna talk a lot more about that in the stage 2, deep dive. This is also where you'll realize, wait, we actually have to support people. [LAUGH] We have a product they're using, and so now, beyond just focusing on building a thing, we have users, we have people who have a set of expectations about what it means for them to use this system.

And so there's a whole another aspect to the work that kinda comes into play here. Now, the transition from stage 2 to stage 3 is a mindset shift, that's why it's a little bit harder for you to figure this out. It's really the mindset of the design system leads or the design system team.

It's when your focus shifts to challenges that are beyond adoption. So adoption is the first thing you're gonna worry about because you can't really measure anything else until you have people using it. And if nobody's using the system, you can't have any impact. And so really it's about you sort of understanding adoption enough, and not having so much work to do every time one new person, one new subscriber wants to use the system, so you've made it really easy.

Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself in stage 3. Stage 3, I call surviving the teenage years because I have two teenagers at home, [LAUGH] And so I am in the throes of this in my personal life. But this comes with a whole new set of challenges.

You've got lots of subscribers probably at this point with more subscribers or consumers comes a lot more bugs, right? A lot more feature requests, a lot more of people trying to do stuff with your system that you never imagined they would try to do. So this is where things get really interesting.

You've got to hear, prove that your system is making the impact you promised, it was gonna make back in stage 1. So this is where you made a promise in stage 1, you got some buy-in, you built the thing. Now you've got people using it, now leadership is gonna say, what are the results?

Show it to me, prove it. So you're keeping your promises in stage 3. And it's really about building that sort of iterative product team, product mindset in stage 3. I'll also say I start to see organizations, some start with this in mind, but most of the time, I see more complex processes, things like contribution and deprecation.

Those are the things that start to kind of evolve out into stage 3 systems. So the transition from stage 3 to stage 4 is also harder to recognize. And it is also a mindset shift, but it's a change in the perception the organization has of the system. So whereas moving from stage 2 to stage 3 was about the change in the perception of the design system team, we've stopped worrying about adoption.

We feel like we have that under control. Now we can move on to other challenges. Stage 3 to stage 4 is a mindset shift for the organization. So the perception is that the system and the system team are really influential leaders, and that means you've kind of reached stage 4.

Stage 4, I call evolving a healthy program, and that's when your system has moved beyond being just a product to an entire program inside the organization. The focus here, you're maintaining a lot of what you've already done, but you're also adding in these ideals of sort of sustainability and growth.

There's really typically very highly evolved engagement with subscribers here. You're learning how to stabilize the system in the midst of a lot of change. You've probably seen a leader or two come and go by this point, right? And you've had to survive that change in leadership. And in fact, a lot of times these systems, the teams of a stage four system are seen as people who have a voice in the direction of product even.

And so they're brought to the table in much deeper, bigger conversations. Your focus here is to kind of mature into that sort of stable leadership position.

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