I’ve been thinking about the topic of Tools in Design for quite some time. I wrote an article on that topic in 2022, and since then I’ve spent a considerable amount of time procuring a variety of Design tools. That particularly lengthy procurement process has taught me a variety of lessons, which I’m going to list and recommend to Design Professionals who are planning on embarking on this type of journey and bring a set of tools to their organization.

  1. Firstly, meet with the various Product Design professionals within your organization in order to understand and document what tools already exist. In case you’re the first Design hire for an organization, meet with possible contractors/vendors, or anyone who has been providing Design related services to the teams that are part of the Organization. If this is a blank canvas type of situation, where there’s never been any formal Design discipline or deliverable of any kind (aside from what I’m going to assume is Power Point), go to point number 2.
  2. Schedule at least three one-hour Brainstorming sessions with the Design Teams in your Organization. Invite Product Designers to the sessions, making sure to indicate what’s the purpose of each session, so everyone can prepare beforehand for the discussion at hand. You, as the organizer, should structure a document, typically a Digital White Board, either Miro/Mural/Figjam, with the categories of the tools you want the feedback on. For instance, I created categories for Essential/Operational for Design Artifacts (where one would include Figma for instance), one for Research/Usability Testing, one for Prototyping (Basic and Advanced), one for Metrics and Analytics, one for Email Send Out, one for Project/Task Management, one for Icons and Stock Imagery, and the list goes on. Remember to communicate these categories to every attendee, so they can prepare with their own recommendations/preferences. Pre-populate those categories with what you consider to be the baseline for what you need in terms of productivity, efficiency, collaboration and pertinence. When the meeting finally takes place, give the attendees an overview of what’s on the board, and give people time to add their own choices. When everyone is finished adding all their options, go through each category, and each product, and allow for each person who added it, to pitch it and provide extra content on its capabilities. This may consume all the time of the session. In the subsequent sessions, go through all the recommendations, and finally once everyone has presented their recommendations, ask people to leverage stickies and position them in what they consider to be the most important/relevant tools for what they do. This should give you an idea of which are the most desirable tools across the whole team. In case you’re a first hire for a Design practice, this process can be faster, as you can make the decisions based on the research you have performed.
  3. Create a document where you’re going to edify the business case for the purchase of these tools/subscriptions. Organize it in a way where everything is succinctly explained, with specific and substantial data to justify the choices. Which means, create a brief introduction on the content of the document (and its structure), followed by the showcase of the choices for the tools, according to their categories. This should also be complimented with information on the history of the provider of the solution, and the cost of that same solution (this is typically information you can gather from LinkedIn and their Corporate website). Another section for this document will be the applicability of these solutions in the Design Process. Include an infographic which illustrates where the tools come into play, and the role they impart on the operations of a Design Group (and their process). Finally, the final component should illustrate the ratio of cost/benefits that employing these tools will have for the organization. Think in terms of per hour costs, and how using these tools can save precious time, and reduce costs. Remember time is money. This rough draft will have to be further polished, but this first pass will give you enough to organize all your information and prepare any questions you’ll have for the next step.
  4. Reach out to the sales teams of the organizations of the tools you’re wanting to procure. You should schedule a conversation and subsequent demo of the application with those organizations, and include your peers, so everyone can have a clear perception of what these tools are able to deliver. Invite partners from other departments, since at times these tools are of interest for them as well, and they’ll in all likelihood be exposed to some of them (typically you should invite Business Sponsors, Product Specialists, Customer Experience specialist, Go to Market Professionals, to name but a few). Make sure the demos are recorded. Once the demos are performed, make sure you capture everyone’s feedback on what was showcased and their endorsement to move forward (or not). Also remember to ask from all the groups, particularly if you work in an organization with different Design groups, the number of accounts people are interested in getting. Document all these data points. Follow up with all organizations and request budgets based on the number of accounts you have itemized from everyone. If you’re just starting a team of your own, always remember to have at least 4 to 5 licenses to begin with, since you may need to share them with contractors and other temporary hires to begin with.
  5. Once you have all the information needed, update the document that is described on point 3. Place the actual values from the estimates provided, and make sure the ratio cost/benefit is also updated based on the values that have been provided.
  6. Schedule a session with senior Stakeholders/Leadership, explaining in the invite the topic which will be discussed. Once in the session, briefly explain what the intent for the showcase is, the importance of addressing standardization of Tools, and the value they bring to the Design Group and by extension to the Process of Problem Solving and the Organization itself. Introduce the document and contextualize the tools selected, why they’re important, what they deliver in value, and finally their cost and benefits. Make sure to give everyone enough time to ask their questions, and to explain you’ll send the document with all the information post-meeting so everyone has a chance to digest the information in their own time. Volunteer to share the demos of the products themselves if needed (you can also include links for the demos within the document).
  7. Schedule a follow up within a short time frame in order to get reactions from Leadership, understand their budget constraints, and what can effectively be done moving forward. Based on that feedback, reach out to the vendors selected and start the contracting phase.

This process can be a lengthy one and requires organizational skills and quite a bit of research. When you’re crafting a business case you have to clearly justify the investment that is being done. Demonstrate the balance between the current cost, and the benefits that are associated with leveraging these solutions for the short and long term. Always remember to emphasize the value that lies for the Organization from an efficiency and innovation perspective, but also from a reputation standpoint, which also impacts the ability of drawing the best talent on the market.

Henry Kissinger wrote:

“If you do not know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.”

Brief Considerations on Design Topics: 19. Procuring Tools was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.