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DesignOps: Design Operations 101

04
Dec
2023
DesignOps: Design Operations 101

Design is not just about making things look good but also about making something work well, solving problems, and delivering the value of an idea to users. It's a crucial part of Product Lifecycle Management Operations. Still, it can also be a complex and chaotic process that involves many business aspects. How can you ensure your design team is efficient, effective, and aligned with your Business Strategy? That is where DesignOps comes in. This post will explore DesignOps 101, its importance, and how your design organization can implement it in its operational aspects. Are you ready to embrace the future with Design Operations?

What is DesignOps?

You may have heard of DevOps, which combines Software Development and IT Operations to deliver faster and better software products. The idea of Design Operations is similar but focuses on unifying the design language across platforms during Product Management and Development. DesignOps streamlines and scales the Design Process, from ideation to delivery.

It applies operational principles and methods while defining the communication flow among product and design teams. This approach improves efficiency, effectiveness, quality, and collaboration by ensuring Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD). DesignOps is not a buzzword but a strategic and tactical approach to user-centered and design-thinking processes that can help you create better products and services for your users through balanced activities.

How Does DesignOps Work?

DesignOps connects "how the design work gets done" to "what matters" regarding creative consistency and User Experience (UX). It's a tool to help address and ease changes in Product Design and Product Development workflows and improve the quality of the execution of projects.

It focuses on three operational areas: people, business, and workflow. Each area is weighted differently depending on the size or purpose of DesignOps within your business. For example, a large company with many designers may need more people operations to ensure career development and skills alignment. In contrast, a small company with few designers may need more business operations to secure the budget and resources.

DesignOps works by streamlining design, removing inefficiencies, and enabling the designers to flow with the research they need, repeatable processes, and tools to succeed. DesignOps also helps grow and evolve design teams by operationalizing workflows. It helps manage project intakes, budgets, and hiring. It does not necessarily drive designers' primary activity, actual design.

DesignOps Team Management

Building and managing a DesignOps team is a challenging but rewarding task that requires a clear vision, a mature design practice, and a strong design background culture. Here are some steps and tips to help you create a high-functioning dedicated team:

1. Definition. Before you start building your DesignOps team, you need a clear idea of what you want to achieve with design and how DesignOps can support that. You also need to define the roles and responsibilities of your DesignOps team and how they will collaborate with other teams in the organization.
2. Documentation. As you build your DesignOps team, you must document your processes, workflows, and best practices. You can use tools like UXPin, Figma, or Sketch to create design systems, libraries, and templates that will serve as your sources of truth.
3. Maturation. A DesignOps team needs a solid background covering the entire design at scale, from research to delivery. You need to establish methods and tools for conducting User Research and Layout Prototyping. You also need to measure the impact of your design work and track metrics and Return On Investment (ROI).
4. Relationships. A DesignOps team is not a single-person unit but a part of a cross-functional team that involves Product Lifecycle roles such as Designers, Design Managers, Developers, Product Managers, and Project Managers. You can ensure communication through Project Management tools like Slack, Trello, or Jira to help with communication and design handoffs.
5. Design. A DesignOps team is not just about operations but also in charge of design workflows. You need to celebrate the art of UX/UI Design and showcase the value of your design work to the organization and the users. You also need to keep up with the latest trends and innovations in the design field and inspire your team members to learn new skills and techniques.

DesignOps Benefits

DesignOps can bring many benefits to your organization, such as:

 Productivity: DesignOps can help you automate and standardize the design process, reducing the time and effort spent on repetitive and mundane tasks. It can also help you organize your daily Design Sprints.
 Consistency: DesignOps can ensure your design roadmap meets the desired standards, goals, and expectations. It can also help you implement Quality Assurance (QA) and testing methods, providing your digital products are error-free and user-friendly.
 Innovation: DesignOps can help you create a more agile and flexible design process, enabling you to respond quickly and effectively to adapt your design strategy to changing market demands and user preferences.

DesignOps Challenges

However, DesignOps also comes with some business challenges, such as:

 Skepticism: DesignOps may face opposition or indifference from your design team or other stakeholders, who may perceive it as a threat to their autonomy, creativity, or expertise. You may need to convince them of the value and benefits of DesignOps and address their concerns and expectations.
 Complexity: DesignOps may involve a lot of coordination and integration among different people, processes, and communication tools, creating confusion or conflict. You may need to define and clarify the roles and responsibilities of each party, as well as establish common standards and protocols for design operations.
 Maintenance: Design Operations management may require significant time, money, effort, and team insights to set up and sustain, especially in the initial stages. You may need to allocate sufficient resources and support for DesignOps and monitor and evaluate its performance and impact to avoid business risks.

Why is DesignOps Relevant?

DesignOps addresses the growing design requirements, needs, and challenges in the modern world. Design is no longer a peripheral or isolated activity but a core and integrated part of any Product Development process. It is also becoming more complex and demanding as it involves more people, tasks, design tools, and higher expectations and standards from customers and stakeholders.

These practices can help you cope with these changes and demands by providing a systematic and strategic approach to design that can improve and amplify design capabilities, output, and impact. It can help you create beautiful products that are functional, scalable, and sustainable. Design Operations teams are the way forward for design teams in the 21st century.

Conclusion

DesignOps is not just a buzzword but a way to empower ambitious companies to improve design standards and quality, which increases design impact. Whether you have a small or large design team, a mature or emerging tech company in the design industry, or a simple or complex design challenge, DesignOps can help achieve design goals and align them with business objectives. What are you waiting for? Start implementing DesignOps today in your design process and business focus to see the difference it can make for your work and your organization.