Organising Chaos in Design 01: Project Types

Farid Sabitov
Jan 6, 2020 · 7 min read

This is a series of articles dedicated to organizing our daily work in Tech and finding the structure. I will speak about the design management and how to classify phases, classes and types of projects as a part of DesignOps practices.

The Purpose

With the growth of Design practices in Tech, there is an opportunity for DesignOps practices. I think you heard about the problems that designers are not integrated with the Agile. It’s hard to plan and review the work from the designers because there is no compiler that will show all the mistakes and we have more iterations rather than others. My goal is to show some of the practices that can resolve this problem and I would like to start with the basics. Project types will help us in our further discussions.

Understanding of project types will help us to:

  • Prepare the right workflows in Jira and other issue tracking systems as a part of Design Management. Will share my personal approach soon, stay tuned 😉
  • Present all activities and deliverables specified for each project type, because all of them have different objectives as a part of Knowledge Management;
  • Governance rules with the right organizing of deliverables and mapping with other systems as a part of DesignOps practices.

After 9 years of experience of working in studios, outsource company, product, consulting company and even trying to build my own startups I came up with the simple clarification of the project types. Your feedback is really valuable and I would like to know the reasons if these practices are not working in your environment. Just add a comment here or write to me directly on Facebook and I will add you to the meeting for further discussions ✌️

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5 project types mapped into the strategic, product and operations streams. Strategic, Innovation, Business Goal, Enhancements, Operations, Design System projects

As you can see from the diagram there are no clear borders which project is only focused on the product and which only on operations.

The difference between the product and operations is that the product creates value for the customer and the operations focus on efficiency, speed and quality of delivering these values to the customer.

Strategic Project Type

The place where the business tries to research and find opportunities on the market. It’s the beginning of all initiatives. Of course, not all the initiatives will be taken into the development and even if we will decide to take some of the ways, the market will not see the solution in the first couple of months. It’s like a chess game with your competitors to catch the right market and planning your moves in advance.

Let’s take Instagram as an example and go step by step. I’m not working or connected to Instagram and everything bellow is just my assumptions. Because everyone knows this product well, it will be easier for us to understand the examples.

Example: After the research about the market opportunities, trends and the problems with scaling into the new regions or audiences, Instagram understood that they need to focus on communications and tools to bring more creativity to the app.

As a result, they decided to focus on chat (and that will become our next project type as a business goal project) and face masks (innovation project). And that we are going to speak about next. You can see the diagram at the beginning of the article to understand the flow.

Innovation Project Type

Before spending more budget on the research activities and starting developing the solution, we need to make sure that it’s feasible and we have the capacity and knowledge to achieve our goals. Usually, it’s a small group of highly skilled developers who are trying to develop a proof of concept in a short period of time and we are speaking about machine learning, computer vision, big data competencies that are new on the market.

Again, in some cases after planning the budget and calculating the ROI we might just buy an existing solution that will help us to release this project faster.

Example: To deliver face masks functionality into Instagram and Facebook they decided to buy an existing product called MSQRD. That helped them to release and catch a specific market faster and have people who already know how to work with this technology.

Couple more thoughts about the importance of having innovation projects. I’m separating research into two types. The first one is used to find the user problems and validate some hypotheses with qualitative and quantitative methods and the second type is the innovations. I like the quote from Henry Ford:

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.

Just think about it. That shows the importance of having specifically dedicated teams for innovations in the company.

Business Goal Project Type

More default and commonly used. The project type with a special goal and the budget.

Example: Adding a chat platform to Instagram as a part of a communications initiative. A clear goal, a lot of dependencies and the touchpoints with the current solution. Starting with the discovery phase where we will understand the problems and will get rough timelines and the resource plans.

That’s my personal creation called triple loop product lifecycle for business goal projects
That’s my personal creation called triple loop product lifecycle for business goal projects based on the Lean UX.

Based on this diagram we can see visually how the project starts, where we will have more iterations and what kind of project phases we are going to have. I will cover all the details in the upcoming article.

Enhancement Project Type

When the product is already on the market and we are getting feedback from the customers we can start creating a dedicated team for the support. And for that purposes, we can use the enhancements project type.

A project that is focuses on improving the user experience throughout the app based on funnels data from analytics and feedback from the customers. More bugs and support issues are coming up.

Example: Let’s imagine that after the business goal project type called “Chat Platform” the team didn’t focus on the ability to select libraries from the camera roll on the chat platform. After the release, we’ve got a lot of requests from the people to add this functionality. And that will be the next functionality that we are going to focus on as a part of enhancements project.

In some cases, some of the features from the enhancement project can become a business goal project.

If you would like to know how to organize all your design deliverables in Sketch + Abstract or Figma, stay tuned I will prepare a detailed article about that as a part of DesignOps practices.

Operations Project Type

If you have more than a hundred people working on the product you might see that everyone works differently and the company becomes less dynamic. Operations teams are becoming more popular today. As a result, you might already know about the DevOps, DesignOps, BusinessOps and etc.

Big companies understood, that by having more people in the company it will not proportionally bring more value to the customers. Just having more managers is not enough. We need to think about how ways how to leverage the technologies and tools for automation. Having more clear and efficient workflows. Bringing new practices to the company that could help us to amplify the value and impact at scale. Support and help to the people in the company, so they can perform at their best levels.

Example: Let’s cover only the design competency inside Instagram. I don’t know how many designers are working on Facebook but with the larger team, we need to think about the way of how people are working with each other. Is the development team satisfied with the deliverables? Are the project managers know the availability of the design teams and can plan the work ahead? Can other designers on the team find all research reports from the previous time? How does the business work with designers? Is there a design library and integration with the development library in the company that we can call a design system after? For all of these problems, DesignOps practices can help.

And speaking about the design systems. Let’s cover that next. Because it has a different approach and team structure. I will post more details about the design systems soon😉

Design System Project type

I think you already heard about the importance of having a common design system for your project. It brings more consistency and saves you the time because you don’t need to reinvent the bicycle every time. You creating a lego brick and then building solutions using this bricks.

Example: You might find a lot of similar UI elements in Instagram that are reused in the app on different screens. Usually, for that purposes, there is a dedicated team who is building all the elements and trying to deliver easy to use bricks for other product teams. My favourite publicly available design systems are Atlass Kit, Material Design and Ant Design System.

Conclusion

I tried to cover all the main aspects of the different project types on this article and I will be referring to it in my upcoming posts. That’s the basics that I would like to start with as a part of “Organising Chaos in Tech” series.

Try to implement these practices in your company and at least create boards with custom columns based on the project types in Jira. Try to organize your deliverables and specify the main phases for each project type. I will share all my experience here, don’t forget to follow. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and experience on my Facebook or in the comments below!

If you liked it, please share some claps 👏 that will help me to post more interesting content here!

xOps Today

xOps community is focused on operations

Farid Sabitov

Written by

DesignOps Enthusiast with more than 9 years of experience in Tech and Experience Design. Working with enterprise companies from Fortune 500 in EPAM.

xOps Today

xOps community is focused on operations inside the design teams that can help to increase speed, efficiency and quality of design deliverables in order to amplify value and impact at scale. Our goal is to gather all people who are interested in Operations

Farid Sabitov

Written by

DesignOps Enthusiast with more than 9 years of experience in Tech and Experience Design. Working with enterprise companies from Fortune 500 in EPAM.

xOps Today

xOps community is focused on operations inside the design teams that can help to increase speed, efficiency and quality of design deliverables in order to amplify value and impact at scale. Our goal is to gather all people who are interested in Operations

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