I’ve been asked several times recently what it’s like to work in UX at Red Gate and how we organise ourselves as a team. In this blog post I’ll attempt to briefly answer those questions.
1 – We are a functional team.
Development at Red Gate is split into divisions based roughly on product maturity. Each division contains a small number of multi-disciplinary teams, comprising the various skills needed by their project. For example, a mature product with a large user base typically requires a different type and scale of development compared to a newer, riskier, more experimental product, as well as a different style of design. This divisional structure helps us have processes and skills appropriate to the products being developed.
UX people are embedded in development teams. We are not a central design studio. However, we do meet regularly as a group to discuss function-specific issues (such as establishing a UX roadmap in the company), collaborate on non-product related matters (sharing project retrospectives, watching UX related videos and webinars etc.), and run design katas (where we sharpen our design swords). We also encourage UX people to meet on an ad-hoc basis to share design problems and help each other out.
2 – Neither centralised, nor decentralised.
As well as the teams that keep Red Gate ticking over as a business (finance, HR, facilities etc) we have three development divisions:
- The first one, deals with market validation. This operates like an incubator within the company: hosting internal start-ups exploring new markets.
- The second one, works on opportunities that have been validated in the first division as being worth more effort. A little bit like an accelerator.
- The third one, maintains our mature products and make sure they satisfy our customers.
In each of these divisions, the UX needs are different, and therefore we are organised differently in each of them:
- In the first one, there are 3 small development teams, with a single designer shared between them (and hopefully a second one soon). Unlike the rest of the company, the teams don’t have very specialised roles (such as “project manager”, “technical author”, “sales person” “marketing expert” etc.) but everyone does what needs to be done in the project regardless of job title. This is very much like a startup environment. If you are designer and some copy needs to be written, then you might well be asked to do it. Equally, we expect software engineers to run user tests if that’s what the project needs at the time.
- In the second division, there are 3 teams, working on projects that have graduated from the validation phase to be a bit more mature. These teams are multidisciplinary, and our aim is to have one designer per team. The designers are managed by the project manager, and have to collaborate with product managers, developers, tech authors, etc. to deliver the project. Roles are a bit more defined, but it is still very much a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach.
- In the third one, there are 6 designers covering 40 products (not all in active development) and 3 project teams. There, the UX people work in rotating pairs on one or two products at a time, according to the product pipeline schedule. At any given point in time, the designers are still embedded in multidisciplinary teams, but they are also part of a wider group that sit together in the division. In this part of the organisation, designers are managed by other designers, and we play to people’s individual strengths (in visual design, interaction design and research) as much as possible. This allows for peer design, good knowledge sharing, and quickly ramping up on a project.
Last, we have one visual designer shared across all of the divisions. Right now, he is working on a style guide to unite them all :)
So, in a nutshell, that’s how we work at Red Gate. We are neither a design studio nor fully decentralised. We hope we get the best of both worlds: flexibility, consistency, common practices where suitable, the potential for people to share and learn from each other and an opportunity to expand their skills.
This way of organizing ourselves as team is still quite new to us, so we expect it to evolve as we learn what is and isn’t working well.
If you are working in a centralised or decentralised team, I’d love to hear what your experience is, so make sure to comment below!
Oh, and by the way, we are hiring :)