How we built our user experience team (UX) at Conta Azul, Brazil

We are a diverse company, open to people from all nationalities and backgrounds. We're happy to share this article in English, as an invitation for you to get to know our team and methods.

I recently published an article about the onboarding process we have taken for the newcomers to the ContaAzul design team. ContaAzul is cloud-based management platform focused on small businesses and Accounting firms in Brazil. This article is the second of this series, with the aim of illustrating and mapping the different roles in the team.

Design Review meetings with the team

This article is divided into three parts:

  1. Contextualization on the Research and Development area;
  2. Model of Design leadership;
  3. Design Ops to support scalability and quality.

Shall we? =)


The beginning

One of our main achievements at ContaAzul is to have experience design as an inseparable part of the company culture, something that has been present since its foundation. We are seen as facilitators who wear multiple hats in order to meet the needs of the projects and the people who use our platform. Essentially, we get ourselves to ask the right questions before trying to answer them.

Nothing is more fair, then, that we are an integral part of the Research & Development area of ​​the company. On a daily basis, we also refer to this area as “Product Team”, which in our context is synonymous with studying and creating platforms, software, systems and solutions. We respond to Joca Torres, our CPO (Product Director). The R&D area is also closely linked to Marketing, which in its turn has UI/UX Designers focused on conversion media and new customers’ journeys.

As for the day-to-day operation, our R&D teams are divided vertically, following the "tribes" model (similar to Spotify). Within each tribe there are multiple squads, which are divided into specific features of the product. That is: each squad is responsible for a pre-agreed part of the ContaAzul.

The squads have the autonomy to research and develop their own initiatives, going through the whole design process: problematization, conception, prototyping, componentization, codification, implementation, measurement and feedback. These teams are composed of multidisciplinary people, raising the level of quality and agility of our deliveries.

The tribes have a horizontal structure, in which all members are mutual pairs. This encourages debate in multiple perspectives, mitigating the feeling of “hierarchy” or cascade. POs (Product Owners), PMs (Product Managers) and Devs are pairs of UX people and always work together.

Structure of our R&D Team

The design guild

In this management model, besides the tribes and squads, there is also the "guild" concept. This term represents horizontal interest and competence groups, which do not necessarily work together in the day to day. As you may have guessed, our guild is called Lumos (which in the stories is a spell responsible for providing light, in an allusion to clarifying doubts :).

Within the guild, we divide people’s responsibilities into three layers: strategic, tactical, and operational. As a manager, my role is the strategic vision, counting on the support of all team members to define the long-term vision of our competence. In addition to monitoring the processes, I need to ensure and raise the quality of all teams.

Within each tribe, there is a person assigned as a Design Leader, responsible for mentoring their peers UX Designers of the squads. These people are called UX Leads, with special emphasis on tactical actions, organizing and facilitating processes through technical support, with medium-term vision. They are also essential pairs of PMs, creating connections between the company’s vision and the tribe in which they operate.

Then, the UX Designers at Squads execute the process in a short term perspective. They are directly involved in the partial deliveries of projects (sprints), which are divided into different releases. These people count on my support, together with the UX Leads to evolve their practice and surprise at every delivery.

How the teams see UX?

Within the tribes, both UX Lead and UX Designer should encourage their peers about the importance of users’ requirements. Along with this, it is also necessary to keep track of the company’s business goals, which are drawn in large consensus meetings with the entire Product team (at a meeting called the Product Council).

In the day-to-day running of the squadrons, UX Designers are responsible for carrying out all necessary research for the development of the project, creating and delivering navigable prototypes that make solutions tangible, as well as conducting tests with our customers, partners and Patronum.

In order to have everything running smoothly and achieve the world-wide level we aim for, UX Leads and UX Designers are supported by the Design Ops team, described below.

Design Ops

To support the operation and to create processes, we built a Design Ops team with specialists in four roles: UX Research, UX Writer, Customer Experience and Design System Ops.

This team is responsible for providing support for the creation, maintenance, application and scalability of processes on a day-to-day basis. In addition, it is in charge of training the Research & Development area of ContaAzul in relation to best practices, increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of deliveries.

As a definition, Design Ops is seen as:

(…) an approach that encourages collaboration between design, product and engineering. The goal is to make design processes as scalable, robust and fast as those in development without compromising quality or creativity. Stu Collett (in UX Collective: Why our industry is paying more attention to Design Ops in 2018).

I detail below the responsibilities of each specialist:

UX Research

The UX Researcher takes care of the implementation and the conduction of the research processes in the teams. It is the responsibility of this professional to direct designers and other R&D talent in relation to the best methodologies, approaches and documentation. It is worth noting that this professional does not act directly conducting research, since they are conducted by the UX Designers of each squad. At the moment we have this position open (learn more in the Careers page).

UX Writer

The UX Writer has the role of empowering R&D people to make the language used in ContaAzul texts consistent with our brand, purpose and way of thinking. Each designer has the freedom to propose texts, but they have the support and talent of the UX Writer to evaluate, review or even re-design them. This person is also the link between Product and Marketing in relation to writing, branding, culture, tone and voice guidelines.

Customer Experience

The Customer Experience expert acts directly with our team of Enchanters (Support). His objective is to collaborate in the reduction of support tickets arising from usability doubts, contributing to the scalability of the operation teams. His day-to-day life consists of analyzing call scenarios, proposing improvements and mitigating possible identified problems, and anticipating possible setbacks before new releases are done.

Design System Ops

The Design System Ops expert is responsible for the construction and maintenance of Magi.CA, our Design System. His role is to ensure the efficiency, consistency and availability of our component library. We use Bootstrap Studio, prototyping directly with HTML. This professional makes the process as simple as prototyping in conventional software such as Sketch, Photoshop or Illustrator. He is also the focal point on interaction flows and interface pattern.

Final perceptions

It is part of our belief that all people can and should contribute to world-class deliveries. Therefore, we express our team in the form of a mandala, in a circle, representing the plurality of talents and visions that we share in the day to day. It is essential to develop an environment of acceptance, constant feedback and alignment, essential elements for the formation of high performance teams.

Distribution of UX people in the R&D area of ContaAzul

Communication should be free of barriers and information should be decentralized. It is quite common to end our emails to the company with “any questions, just look for anyone in the guild.” Investing in this culture encourages the emergence of new ideas, delivering WOW to our clients, partners, colleagues and community. And that’s just the beginning.

What is your team’s organization like? Do you have any suggestions for design processes? Feel free to ping me at: victor@contaazul.com

Also make sure you visit our Careers page and know our positions (open to people from every country, even though the page is currently available only in Portuguese. Feel free to submit your resumé in English).

Thank you!