May 11, 2021 | by Budi Tanrim
How to frame the design system rollout
“Why should we spend more time to replace components?” a product manager asked.
It’s a valid question. Why would they?
After the design system team builds the library, you’ll need to roll it out. Hoping that team will adopt it and in the long run, hopefully people will contribute to it. But, here’s the thing about rolling out: it takes time and effort.
Some people will stand against it, especially in a fast-paced environment. People generally choose the short-term rewards over the long-term consequences. In the psychology circle, it’s known as temporal discounting. Just like smoking—people know it will increase the chance of lung cancer, but still smoke for the immediate reward. If the product decision-maker couldn’t understand that, they will more likely ignore the design system.
You need a good reason to roll out a design system. The key is to find the biggest levers in your company. Some companies care about business performance. Some care about how visually the product appears. Here are a few framing you can use:
Improve the product performance. Suppose you work in a business-focused environment. Frame the conversation around the product performance instead of framing it as a “component replacement”. For example: improve the checkout page, and people can check out quicker—as a result, it will increase the number of transactions.
Illustrate the efficiency. Project the future value from past data. The simplest example would be the component bug or maintenance. Talk to the engineers and see if they can help you calculate how many hours they took for bug fixing or maintenance. Take three months of data and then present that. Come and say, “If you add one week on the development now, you’ll save a lot of hours in the future because we’ll be taking care of those maintenances.” But of course, you shouldn’t overpromise what you can’t.
Support the revamp effort. Whenever there is a revamp effort, ride the wave. It’s probably the best opportunity you have to collaborate and slip the rollout effort here. You can frame your involvement to support them. In my experience, we assigned one designer and two engineers from the design system team. It actually helpful for the product team since they get an additional man power.
These are some tactical thinking you can use. The underlying principle here is to focus on adding value instead of focusing on the rollout itself. Of course, it will be much easier if you have a design system on the OKR, but that’s probably not realistic if your company doesn’t have a strong design leader.
Keep it rolling. Don’t forget to emphasize with each other.