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Design maturity: How to overcome those growing pains

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When design operates in the right conditions, it unlocks measurable growth and drives customer satisfaction. But, often, design and design teams are isolated from the core of the business. When this happens, objectives become siloed and businesses miss out on design’s massive potential to contribute in a meaningful way.

At ELSE, we help businesses understand what design maturity is, and why it matters, to help you establish the right culture, capability and communication channels to better harness the power of design.

Measuring maturity reveals its importance

Design maturity became part of mainstream business conversation in the early 2000’s. In 2001, The Dansk Design Center devised their design ladder: a quick assessment to articulate a business’s design capability and how it is leveraged.


(Example of the Dansk Design Center’s Maturity ladder)

At the bottom, the ladder starts out at a basic and superficial level — where design is applied in an unsystematic way — with little user perspective considered during its application. At the top rung, design is involved in business strategy and seen as an integral part of the company’s value chain. Each rung on the ladder reveals more opportunities to unlock the benefits of a design-based innovation culture.

Simply put, moving up the ladder increases the value design can bring to a business. 

A leg up the ladder from ELSE

Here at ELSE, we use the design ladder specifically as part our Design Maturity audit — to help us understand the segment in which you currently sit, but more importantly to identify the plan for your business to move up to the next.

To power your transition, we make it clear what it will take from a capability, team and systems point of view. We’ll also identify any and all barriers that might sit in your way. This means we can show you clear outcomes NOW (next 6 months), SOON (next 12 months), and LATER (18+ months).

This process involves:

1:1 Stakeholder & product team interviews

We seek to understand the challenges at each business level and assess overall stakeholder alignment.

Workflow deep dives

We spend time with your design teams to understand the challenges and pain-points they face at different stages of the design process.

Product roadmap deep dive(s)

We examine how product teams’ deliverables relate to your overall business roadmap and evaluate planning effectiveness.

Content authoring process deep-dive

We evaluate the effort involved in creating, uploading and maintaining digital content and present workflow solutions to make the process more streamlined.

Business Analysis/Tech Audit (Optional Extra)

We assess your tech stack, digital estate and broad capabilities within the business to deliver the proposition.

We’ll take a look at user-centricity, expectations, methods, resources, platforms, leadership and culture. And offer you the tools you need to bring fragmented teams closer together. We’ll offer you insight into workflow inefficiencies, expose bottleneck areas, and help you establish KPI’s that allow you to measure the effectiveness of your future efforts.

A new state of readiness

With information collected from the audit, we pinpoint actionable next steps, and define the impact those steps will deliver. Once we’ve identified where and how focus can be applied across your business, you’ll be in a stronger position to increase revenue, improve operational efficiency and drive customer satisfaction.

We can work as an embedded team, or directly with key stakeholders, to change behaviours and raise the design maturity of your business.

You can use Adobe’s tool to start understanding the different dimensions of design maturity in relation to your business — this will also help you focus on where you might need further support. Then, get in touch with us here at ELSE. Wherever your business is now, we’ll help make sure you can use design to get to where you want to be. 



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