Measuring Design System Success

Use OKRs to Set Goals & Track Progress

As an advocate of your system practice, can you paint the picture of what success looks like? And, is it measurable?

I’ve had some success helping system teams express goals in the form of objectives and quantifiable key results:

Google established this process of OKRs to help individuals and teams to set ambitious goals and track their progress in a measurable way. To me, they are a fantastic blend of being specific, direct, and flexible to help you reach further than you think you can go and be satisfied with incremental, reasonable achievement.

What follows is a glimpse of the kinds of examples I’ve heard and helped others form using that model. May they inspire your team to express their aims to publish tools and documentation, foster adoption across a product portfolio, operate a systems team, and create a community of contributors.

Product Adoption

Let’s make one thing clear: you don’t succeed when you launch a living style guide or release a code kit.

A system’s value is realized when products ship features that use a system’s parts.

Therefore, your main motivation is to help your customers — teams making experiences — improve efficiency, cohesiveness, and quality. And that’s accomplished by them adopting what you make.

Sample Objective

Sample Key Results

Within a defined period, such as 12 months:

Operating a Systems Team

Setting up a smoothly operating systems team can be important to getting things done. You need people dedicated to the cause, and some teams struggle to persist the commitment and keep their leaders engaged.

Sample Objective

Sample Key Results

Within a defined period, such as 6 months:

Cultivating a Community

Some design and engineering leaders see the system as a lever to change culture and collaborative practices. Whether literally open sourcing a codebase or nurturing connectedness and collaboration, it’s time to build a community.

Sample Objective

Form a community to share decisions on, contribute to, and release shared design assets and code.

Sample Key Results

Within a defined period, such as 6 months:

Monitoring Product Improvement

For most teams, capacity to make a library is an ongoing challenge. Measuring efficiency or product quality seem a luxury unless the enterprise has an existing program the system can build upon. Beyond that, I’ll direct teams to consider triggers of a system investment.

Accessibility could be one. In a recent system pitch to executives, conversation when a VP responded to our promise of built-in accessibility with “Oh yeah, our product teams can’t do this themselves. And we’ve needed to mitigate that risk in a few markets for awhile. Let’s do it!” That’s an executive endorsing an objective.

If a corporate goal exists — accessibility, responsive web design, or another measurable criteria — and the system can help, redirect system objectives and track results commensurate with that goal.

Need help with your system?

EightShapes can energize your efforts to coach, workshop, assess or partner with you to design, code, document and manage a system.