Cyclical nature of design in a software company

How do you handle the cyclical nature of design in your company? Every software company I have been in, the design projects are like a snake swallowing its food whole. One big project pushes through and then you just have to wait for it to digest.

The projects come in the beginning of whatever cycle engineering has whether it be 6mos, a month or 2 week sprints. Everyone wants some design but not everyone is ready. One team is ready and a big push is made. Research, analysis and design are done simultaneously as the team starts up again. Everyone is learning, everyone is ramping up and the push for the designs is made.

Taking on one, two or maybe three teams at a time is about all that one person can take on and do a good job. After the design is put forth work is needed to make production versions of the features developers are going to work on.

So the work shifts between user analysis and visioning, product analysis and simplification and inline production work. Visioning and simplification are intensive design efforts in short bursts and the inline productions are routinized and drawn out. Since engineering tends to be the larger and schedule driven part of the organization, all the design work is done in their cycles. Most companies I have worked for align all their development teams on the same cycles so you get peaks and valleys.

Would companies hire a design partner that trains and staffs themselves with designers? A design partner that creates a deep bench that can meet the peaks and lows as needed. Create a permanent relationship as if we were your only designers however we keep the designers fresh, interested and invested by constantly providing the feast and scheduling around the quiet times.

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