Design maturity

How ‘design mature’ are your clients?

Business maturity is an accepted area of examining a businesses capabilities. The idea of business maturity modelling derived from a U.S. Defence Department model to assess the capability of businesses supplying to the U.S. Government.

A maturity model is a set of structured levels from ad hoc practices, to formally defined steps, to managed result metrics, to active optimisation of the processes.

The model describes how well the behaviours, practices and processes of an organisation can reliably and sustainably produce products or services.

The application of maturity modelling to design in businesses was started by the Design Management Institute in 2015 when they launched the Design Maturity Survey. People from more than 300 organisations have taken the survey, representing 36 different industries. There isn’t sufficient data to draw definitive conclusions about how individual industries compare but the DMI is reporting some patterns are emerging which give unprecedented insights into how design is perceived across different seniority levels in large and small organisations.

The Design Maturity Survey prompts people to quantify the maturity level of their design capabilities in five categories: empathy, mastery, character, performance, and impact.

This model is similar to the Danish Design Ladder which was developed to assess the economic benefits of design in Denmark.

The purpose of developing a design maturity model for an organisation is because it shows where and how design can be added to improve business performance.

The problem that I see with all these models is they require the organisation to acknowledge there is value added by design. Many businesses I deal with – and many of those that my design studio clients deal with – do not recognise design as adding value.

I can understand this attitude. Businesses owners have one ultimate goal – to make a profit. They may have very altruistic goals that help them achieve this but ultimately the HAVE TO make a profit to stay in business.

This is what the maturity model developers don’t understand.

A new approach to the design maturity model

At the DBC we have taken a different approach to the design maturity model and based it on Value Chain analysis. This recognises the profit requirement while still being able to measure design maturity. The process firstly looks at how and where the organisation adds value. This method was developed by Michael Porter in his 1985 book Competitive Advantage.

Porter’s premise is:
The value that’s created and captured by a company is the profit margin:
Value Created and Captured – Cost of Creating that Value = Margin

The more value an organisation creates, the more profitable it will be. By providing more value to your customers, you build competitive advantage.

The Design Value Chain approach

We’ve taken this model and modified it to become a Design Value Chain Analysis model. This looks at the ten core activities in an organisation and firstly determines how and where each activity adds value. Having done the value chain analysis we look at how design can be added to each of these core activities to further increase value.

The final ‘design maturity’ analysis is done after all the design value additions have been determined. The more design value is added the higher maturity score. As we apply this model we are building up a design value maturity index for Australian businesses.

If you would like to know more about this model please email Greg.

Contact me if you would like to catch up to discuss how you can help your clients develop design maturity.

Want to know more?

The Design Maturity Report is a major study into the use of design in Australian businesses.

Got a question?

Want to share your point of view? Please feel free to email me.

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Greg Branson

Contact Greg Branson if you would like to learn more about the many programs the DBC offers.

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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