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Emerging design-led roles preserving the integrity of design

~ by Alan W

As the migration to a design-led mindset infiltrates organizations, your practice of design becomes more accepted, expected and naturally infused into your clients reality. Design firms are being pushed to mature and take lead, influencing and promoting a new ‘Design-led’ way of how a business responds to the world around them. They are watching and learning from you, some because they see the value of being a design-led business, others less by choice and more because it is just a reality for survival. Nevertheless, the inherent behaviours and ability of your design firm to be human-centered, to iterate, collaborate, co-design and co-create require adoption in order for these organizations to evolve.

Two key roles find themselves amidst this transition: the Business Analyst (BA) and the Project Manager (PM). Both function as a key link between design (your firm) and business (your client).

The Design-Led BA:

  • has one goal in mind: what is in the best interests of both the business and the users the business serves. This is why they help designers to consider and design around business needs (as they tend to lean toward the user and although the user may love what they design, it may not make good business sense) while at the same time helps business design requirements around user needs (as they tend to lean toward business efficiencies and commercials which can result in no/low user uptake).

  • considers and treats the business (the organization, stakeholders, key role players) as the user they represent, understanding the problem/s they are faced with and helping them solve them.

  • fosters a human-centered approach, integrating user needs and cementing a firm place for them within business requirements. User insights are used to help inform business decisions, ​​translating concepts into actionable business requirements, defining business objectives, managing stakeholders and expectations around them.

  • will ask more questions and get the business thinking more deeply about why they do what they do. They hold great influence in business adoption of change and are translators who are able to articulate (with meaning) the business sense in how and why we realistically push boundaries to keep up with users in a way that connects with business objectives and commercials.

  • Some designers say they can actually move mountains!

The Design-Led PM:

  • makes way for the design-let mindset to flourish as they offload the non-creative elements of delivery so that there is room for creative practice. Let specialists focus on their craft. They manage creativity, avoiding those rabbit holes and heads in clouds, allowing big ideas to be supported in the detail and outcomes.

  • understands what it means to be design-led, using this mindset as the glue that binds people together and moving in the same direction. Their strong design-led sensibility is well articulated, ensuring everyone is accountable for applying this mindset in their actions and deliverables they manage.

  • negotiates multiple relationships and personalities and masters empathy alongside big picture efficiencies with no quality compromises, using input to thoroughly understand in order to steer and direct. They introduce ways of work that foster the ability to be design-led such as the breaking down of silos, collaborating, creating forums conducive to co-design and co-creation, and so on.

Generalist BA’s and PM’s, will be left behind as we make way for the design-led BA and design-led PM. It is up to Design firms (if you choose to play a part) to pioneer this transition for our clients.

Work with Alan W

“Solving niche challenges founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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