Scaling Digital Product Operations: Navigating Challenges and Democratizing Design Across Finance Organizations

Digital product design isn't just about aesthetics, especially when it comes to digital experience that drive the finance industry. Design is a strategic capability that can revolutionize how banks, insurance carriers, fintech platforms, and other finance organizations operate, communicate, and innovate. However, scaling design systems and digital product operations across an entire enterprise organization comes with its own set of hurdles. Beyond strategies for tactical elements like design tokens and components, teams must satisfy risk and compliance requirements to manage resource distribution and staying ahead of technological shifts. The journey towards a comprehensive, sustainable, scalable design system practice is rife with challenges - but the opportunities and potential rewards are monumental.

Embracing Change and Overcoming Resistance

One of the primary obstacles in implementing a design system across an organization as complex as most in the Finance space is resistance. Convincing stakeholders, especially risk and compliance teams, requires more than just a pitch; it demands showcasing the system's ability to manage risks and ensure compliance effectively. Clear communication, consistent feedback loops, and engaging stakeholders in the digital production process are pivotal in overcoming these hurdles - even (read: significantly) more so than what components you choose to work on first. Illustrating how contributions enhance the system's efficacy can transform skeptics into enthusiastic advocates, especially, in highly regulated industries like finance.

Aligning the design system initiative with both product and technology teams and crucial business stakeholders is paramount for its long-term success. Introducing new requirements and priorities for product teams - however exciting and powerful they may be - immediately makes it an uphill climb. System teams that find ways to align to existing priorities and accelerate initiatives that already have momentum are the ones that win over stakeholders. Regulatory considerations - and related processes that are sinkholes for efficiency - can also serve as catalysts for instilling belief in and encouraging adoption of the design system, resonating with both leadership and individual contributors alike.

Building Communities and Governance

Fostering communities around the design system is crucial. These communities not only accelerate the design process but also serve as guidance hubs within the organization. Establishing a centralized governing body is equally important, ensuring that the system aligns with evolving technological trends and remains adaptable to change.

Through fostering cross-collaboration and highlighting the intrinsic value of inclusive design, organizations have witnessed the thriving growth of communities. These communities play an instrumental role in propelling the advancement of their design systems, expediting processes, and offering indispensable guidance and support to individuals within the organization.

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Resource Management and Strategic Vision

Resource distribution and strategic alignment often pose a conundrum in finance organizations, which often face both distribution of resources and tight resource management. Merging style guides, strategy documents, and the design system under a centralized body aids coherence and decision-making. This creates an instant appeal and alignment to clear priorities for senior leadership that you can use to win support. Balancing operational tasks with strategic vision requires involving key stakeholders in the decision-making process, ensuring alignment with organizational goals.

Future Challenges and Adaptability

Future-proofing the design system against rapidly evolving technology trends is a persistent challenge. Continuously monitoring technological advancements and appointing a governing body to integrate emerging tech into the system is essential for adaptability and sustainability.

Democratizing and scaling design across an organization isn't a sprint; it's a strategic marathon that demands continuous effort, clear communication, and alignment with organizational objectives. Navigating these challenges involves a blend of strategic skills, attention to detail, and a willingness to embrace change. But the payoff—a streamlined, cohesive, and innovative design system—is invaluable for companies seeking rapid market entry and sustained growth.

In conclusion, the journey to democratize and scale design across an organization may be arduous, but it's an investment that pays dividends in efficiency, innovation, and market competitiveness. It's not just about design; it's about transforming the way organizations operate and thrive in an ever-evolving landscape.

Looking for guidance?

The team at Knapsack is always excited to speak to passionate Design, Enginering and Product leaders looking to modernize how their teams build digital products together. Reach out to or contact us on social channels to schedule your no-commitment consultation.

At our recent Digital Production Operations in Fintech Summit, Stephen Schroth spoke on scaling and democratizing design at KeyBank. Stephen heads the Key Design Studio, an internal group that has led the creation of the Key Design System over the course of the past three years. This team has successfully created and executed a plan that has seen Key create more consistency, efficiency, and compliance. See his presentation here for his blueprint of the five-step process developed by KeyBank to shape an organization to be more user-driven and strategically design-oriented. This is just a glimpse of how the design process can evolve in a holistic approach, thus advocating for the benefits of operationalizing and democratizing design across an organization.

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