ÁLVARO CARMONA
HEAD OF PRODUCT DESIGN   |   LONDON

DESIGN MANAGEMENT

As a Head of Product Design, I conduct strengthening the organization’s UX process, team, and culture in order to deliver business value and long-term ROI from UX activities, connecting tactical to strategic initiatives and with fluid movement between the organization’s stakeholder teams, the UX team, and the end-users of the design. I base my strategy in some fundamental pillars.

Company and product
awareness
Establishing or optimizing
the design process
Design tools and
collaborative software
Design process + daily work methodology
Team management
and mentoring
Monitoring results and performance

COMPANY AND PRODUCT AWARENESS

As a Head of Product Design when I join a new company or when one of my team members joins the company, the first action is to conduct a comprehensive onboarding plan to discover the product and the company structure.

Product awareness

In my immersion process to discover the company my first movement is to start knowing the product as if I were a new customer. I define a specific customer profile that matches with each branch of the product and I establish the goals that I want to get as a customer. In this way, is not only I can discover the product, but I also discover possible pain points in the process to create a customer and the journey that this customer would follow to get the results proposed.

Drawing up an onboarding plan for future members of the team

At the same time that I am discovering the product, I draw up an onboarding plan so that the future members of the design team can follow, and in this way, optimizing the time frame to incorporate the new members, getting easier for them to know the company, the product, and their colleagues.

When a new member joins the team, I select a person from the team to accompany our new colleague through the onboarding process. This person will help with all the doubts and needs that may arise for the new team member until its ready to be independent.

Knowing the team

It is very important to know all members of the team whom I will work hand-in-hand and they will involve in the design process to be able to adapt or create the most efficient design process.

As far as possible, I try to arrange a small interview with the managers of the teams and their members so that we can meet each other and be aware of the responsibilities and skills of each one. I create an organization chart with all the members that will be involved in the design process and I include it as a part of the onboarding plan for new team members.

If I join a company that already has a design team, I also arrange a small personal interview with each member in order to know their skills, experience, and goals inside the company.

ESTABLISHING OR OPTIMIZING THE DESIGN PROCESS

Having an established and well-optimized Design Process is critical to the successful execution of the design and development of the product. Nowadays, different product Design Processes can be followed (Design Thinking, Lean UX, Double diamond, Design sprints by Google, etc.), but in my experience, trying to strictly follow one of them is an almost impossible task. But what is certain, is that having a well-optimized and established design process allow the company to build world-class products in record time.

Minimize the execution time of design and development tasks

This means savings for the company in product development costs and more production capacity in the team, and allows the team to pause its design development at the first sign of a problem, make adjustments in the requirements and then bring it back on track quickly and with minimal lost time.

Maximize communication and teamwork

It helps all team members who are involved in the process to be constantly informed of progress and problems that may arise. In turn, the design process helps that in each phase all teams can expose needs and requirements and thus be able to reach joint solutions.

Deliver world-class products

The team will deliver products perfectly adapted and optimized to the needs of the clients, avoiding the problematically back and forth that companies on their product development without a Design Process suffer.

Choosing a Design Process

In my experience as a Head of Product Design, success in the implementation of a Design Process is not choosing an already created Design Process and trying to adapt the company to that process, but creating a specific process for the company and its product. All companies are different and do not have the same products, the same team structures, the same number of team members, the same internal processes, etc. For this reason, you can not choose a specific design process and follow it strictly. It doesn't work.

Creating a process for the company, not adapting the company to a process

My way of working is to do an exhaustive analysis of the teams and internal processes of the company and create a Design Process fully adapted to the teams and work methodologies, and thus be able to maximize its effectiveness.

By creating a Design Process specific for the company, I can validate it with the teams that will be involved in the product design, thereby creating an efficient process that all teams feel comfortable working on.

Choosing a specific Design Process and trying to adapt it is not the solution since depending on the product you want to make, there will be Design Processes that are more efficient than others, so I create a custom Design Process that is capable to cover all the needs of the product design and optimize its execution to the maximum.

Similarly, when I join a company and there is already a design process in place, the first thing I do is meet the teams involved. Then I test the efficiency of it for a couple of months to find out if there is a possibility to optimize it or keep it as it is because is working optimally.

DESIGN TOOLS AND COLLABORATIVE SOFTWARE

As a Head of Product Design, I have full knowledge and know-how with different design tools and collaborative software, and I always select the most appropriate for each company and the design in order to work effectively and efficiently.

Sketch

Figma

Adobe

Abstract

InVision

Marvel

Principle

Overflow

Google Analytics

Hotjar

Smartlook

Usertesting

Quicktest

Userbrain

Jira

Confluence

DESIGN PROCESS + DAILY WORKFLOW METHODOLOGY

As a Head of Product Design, teamwork is essential, so I establish as many processes as needed so that the entire team is involved and informed about all the tasks that the team is carrying out and maximizing productivity.

I use agile methodologies to manage daily work and keep the whole team aware of the backlog, making visible the tasks in progress, pending tasks, priorities, and problems that may arise during product development.

I establish a daily stand-up with the whole team or with the team managers (depending on the size of the team) to know the progress of the tasks and if there are problems that may be blocking their development.

The use of the kanban board allows the visibility of the work of all team members and knowing where we are in the iteration, promotes interaction and discussion in the team and that in this way joint solutions arise, and helps the team to be committed with the tasks to be done since its evolution is fully visible on the board. This way, I can also monitor team performance and productivity.

With the Design Process defined, each task will have a specific procedure that each team member have to follow. In this way, I can avoid doubts on the team members about how to approach each of the tasks.

I split the tasks based on the needs and establish a different and appropriate workflow for each one. E.g. We have the class B task that does not require a user's research but requires a previous study of the competition, the wireframes, the interface design, and the prototypes to finally run a user testing. In this way, each member of the team knows the process for each task avoiding possible doubts or blocks.

“As much better established all the product Design Processes are, the more efficient and profitable their development will be”

TEAM MANAGEMENT AND MENTORING

In my experience as a Head of Product Design, managing a successful team is fundamentally based on human factors, on the ability to transmit your values, passion, and knowledge to the team in a way that inspires them and makes them follow you.

It is very important to promote values in the team such as listening, respecting, considering, helping, acting, and understanding that in teamwork there is no place for competition.

Each member of the team must be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and be willing to teach and learn. We all work for a common goal and doing it together will make us a successful team and better professionals.

KNOWING THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF THE TEAM

As a group leader, it is essential to know the strengths and weaknesses of each of the team members. That implies that you have to inspire, involve and communicate with each individual in the way that best suits their personality. All team members must be aware of these strengths and weaknesses, in this way it will be easier for them to understand strategic decisions to optimize workflow and success in deliveries.

TEAMWORK AS AN ESSENTIAL VALUE

During my years as a Head of Product Design, I have realized that teamwork is critical to delivering successful products to market. All team members should feel part of all the different tasks in the backlog and no one should think that they own any of them. Therefore, as far as possible, I like to give the freedom for everyone to choose the task they want to carry out, but at the same time, I motivate the team to get out of their comfort zone and dare with new projects, always and when it is not detrimental to productivity.

I like to set up peer designing whenever is possible a technique that comes from software development but is also effective in product design. The association of two designers to meet a task allows each of them to take advantage of their strengths and carry out a “cross-training”. This technique allows new ideas to be generated and also promotes teamwork and mentoring.

TEAM MENTORING AND MOTIVATION

A Product Design team must always be in continuous learning and evolution and be up to date with UX trends as well as new technologies that help to improve the quality of the product and optimize the time to design it.

As Product Design director, I help each team member evolve and establish a culture of learning and sharing knowledge with actions such as workshops, courses, and UX trends research challenges to ensure as a homogeneous team as possible.

“Each individual on the team is a vital part of achieving the product design goals. As a team leader, praising, defending, supporting, and making each individual aware of their value within the organization allows me to have a motivated team committed to results."

The knowledge of the weaknesses of each individual is a valuable weapon to involve the team in a learning environment and motivation. Through running workshops, each individual will be able to transmit their strengths to others, making each one feel their value and importance within the team, and that they shine for their strengths and not for their weakness.

Researching challenges encourage the team to stay awake to new trends in product design. I usually hold a contest each quarter where all team members must look for a design trend that has to be valuable to the organization, the team is the jury and the winner will get an award for having made the most valuable discovery for the team's success.

REMOTELY WORKING

I am a strong advocate of remote working as I believe that it brings many more advantages than disadvantages. Nowadays it is entirely possible to work remotely on product design and development. Almost all the tools used on the daily work of the product design allow collaborative work, and nowadays high-speed broadband reaches almost every home in the world. I like to allow my team members to work from where they are most comfortable or consider to be most productive.

Working remotely, among other advantages, allows me to select the best candidates to join the team without country and city restrictions. It is essential to have an established but flexible work schedule where all members of the group must be available and online for the proper performance of the team.

"The freedom to choose the workplace increases people's happiness and comfort in their daily work, the possibility of better reconciling their personal lives with their work lives, and this generates an increase in productivity and the motivation."

MONITORING RESULTS AND PERFORMANCE

An essential part of the product design success is the steady measurement of the results that UX actions are generating in users' behavior and therefore, in the achievement of the company's objectives.

The researching of the user experience once the product is deployed is essential to determine the impact and real success of UX actions. When the product is deployed, the final stage of my design process is evaluating the results by conducting qualitative user research to measure the success of the UX actions and find possible points for improvement or optimization.

Using tools such as Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager allows me to get quantitative results and measure the efficacy of UX actions from a more strategic point of view. Good results analytics is also essential to understand the behavior of users using the product, improve the conversion rate and calculate the ROI of UX activities.