As the common saying goes from business management consultant Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So, many teams put high priority on setting up ways that they can measure the impact of their work in order to manage it well.
Almost every team I’ve worked starts this process by seeing if they can dynamically generate a dashboard from any data they have access to. There are a few hurdles with this approach:
For years, my recommendation to these kinds of teams has been to try and use a Google doc, but that’s always been a half-hearted recommendation, as adding some new tasks isn’t really an thrilling proposition for an already-overworked team.
Lately, though, I’ve been much more excited about seeing modern suites of tools that make viewing data much easier. One in particular that I’m recommending to design system teams is Omlet. To get useful visualizations about your design system is as easy as as
npx omlet init. What used to take months to build a custom dashboard now takes seconds.
But that’s enough. You have to know what to do with the data once you have it. For that, I recommend setting up a metrics tracking practice.
That sounds incredibly official and like a big process, so let’s make it a bit simpler.
Let’s say you wanted to lose some weight. One might suggest that you set up a new exercise practice. What does that mean in the simplest terms? It means picking a day or two where you go to the gym, each week, regularly. That’s what a practice is: something you can do over and over again to the point where it becomes a habit that you don’t think about. Eventually, it takes more willpower and effort to stop that habit than continue it.
Here are some tips I recommend for a success metrics tracking practice, excerpted from my new book Design That Scales (now available for pre-order):
It’s not enough to simply set good metrics. After you’ve identified them, you have to make them matter by building a practice around them.
Add three events to your calendar:
Every Friday: Set aside an hour to look at the data for all of your key results to record what’s changed.
Every Monday: Set aside an hour to write an update to your fellow design team members to make progress—or the lack of it—visible. Make this message applicable at the ground level that everyone’s working on. Spend time in this message focusing more on key results rather than objectives, especially on what each team member can do or try to influence the key results in the direction you want to see them go.
On the last Friday of each month: Draft a message to all the people you initially interviewed and report what you’ve learned in the previous four weeks of tracking. Keep this message high-level by focusing more on the objectives than the key results—the opposite weighting of the message you send to the team each week.
The more intimately familiar you are with your data, how it’s being collected, and how much it can be influenced, the better story you’ll be able to tell around how your design system is contributing to the company’s overall goals.
What practices have you set up around your success metrics that keep you focused? Reply and let me know.
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