Over the past few years, designers and design teams have stepped into the spotlight for their roles in enabling organizations to scale at speed like never before. Their importance has grown significantly, so much so that businesses are starting to recognize the need for Design Operations, or DesignOps, for short.
In fact, major businesses like Spotify, Salesforce, and Airbnb have allocated DesignOps roles to 20-25% of their teams.
Broadly put, DesignOps is a field that aims to improve designer efficiency by providing a framework that enables design teams to produce consistent results at speed while using up lesser time and resources.
But that’s a broad definition.
Let’s take a deeper dive to understand just what DesignOps is.
What is DesignOps?
DesignOps (sometimes written as Design Ops) or design operations is a practice that establishes scalable processes and measures for designers to boost the growth and evolution of UX designers and their teams.
Just as DevOps revolutionized the development workflow, DesignOps aims to create efficient workflows and improve the impact and quality of the design team output.
DesignOps also plays a vital role in hiring designers for UX operations. The ultimate goal of DesignOps is to enable scalable design innovation and enhance the final UX and UI experience while maintaining consistent and efficient product delivery.
Why is DesignOps important for product development?
The traditional waterfall development model of product development forced developers to wait until the designers completed their tasks before they could proceed with their objectives. Establishing a DesignOps mindset in the workforce is an excellent way to avoid outdated business processes and optimize product performance.
In doing so, priority is placed on designers and developers to work together to create a collaborative and iterative model for achieving the best product output. DesignOps further increase collaboration between all design stakeholders by aligning various teams to the organization’s product goals.
Benefits of DesignOps to product development
- It can enable all organizational actors to communicate closely with the product development team to streamline the product development process.
- DesignOps ensures that design teams work synchronously with engineering and developers. This avoids traditional delays where teams had to wait on one another to complete individual tasks before they could proceed with product design. Establishing a seamless product design process reduces delays and eliminates bottlenecks that arise due to a lack of efficient team collaboration.
- DesignOps allows for better product resource allotment, ranging from allotting an optimum number of designers to a specific project to creating contingency plans for additional resource allotment during various project stages. Managing resources efficiently ultimately benefits the project outcome as every step of the process is planned, and every resource required is allotted beforehand.
These are just some of the ways that DesignOps can help improve the product development process.
DesignOps is integral to all aspects of product operation
Whether you’re hiring and maintaining a designated DesignOps manager or setting up a DesignOps as a mindset for your business, the primary objective is to enable the design team to be more efficient and effective. DesignOps ties people, business, and workflow operations to deliver on the desired promise.
Design operations help to improve how people work together in an organization. This can vary from addressing design team skillsets and building robust and efficient design teams to enabling better intra-organizational communication. DesignOps also aims to improve the onboarding process so that new designers can join design teams quickly and be up to speed on ongoing design projects and organizational procedures.
DesignOps tries to ensure that design teams have access to all the resources they need to consistently deliver quality output that is in line with business goals. This includes resource planning for respective teams and ensuring that design teams have access to an adequate budget and design infrastructure to perform optimally.
DesignOps’ greatest role is in streamlining workflow operations. This involves providing design teams with the necessary design systems and tool stacks, process guidelines, access to relevant organizational knowledge, and enabling measurement of design impact. All this drives the creation of products that can build substantial customer relationships via research and a creative production workflow.
PS: Check this list for the best tools for DesignOps managers.
DesignOps requires certain inputs from the design team to deliver on the promise of a sustainable design culture and sustained design impact.
DesignOps Inputs for Successful Product Development
Here are five inputs that allow design teams to design at scale consistently:
Instilling a sense of purpose in your design team and their role in defining the business’s future value helps build motivation and drives productivity across the team.
The ability of a design team to perform depends on its members’ skills. Providing great employee experiences and predefined career paths can be a motivational method to ensure that top talent is attracted to further expanding business capabilities.
Simply mobilizing talent in design teams will not suffice when aiming to drive high design performance. Driving team performance should be considered a process requiring open communication between team members and a learning curve for team members with constant room for improvement. To summarize, the goal is to achieve the least amount of time to get a new designer to trust the process to enhance workflow efficiency.
The following vital input in DesignOps is providing teams with the tools required to allow them to perform. Using an organization-wide unified design language, communication tools, and prioritizing collaboration could help stakeholders share reviews and feedback that eliminate friction or inconsistency, allowing for better product outputs. The right designer tools can substantially benefit the organization as a whole.
The structure determines where lies the authority that makes the essential project decisions and the trajectory course of the business and its products. Design should be operating strategically within or across all functional teams to drive the right outcome for the design problem at hand, and the right structure input goes a long way to achieve that.
With the right inputs in place, relevant results that align with the product goal can be achieved. Here are some outcomes perceivable as evidence of achieved results:
The right work culture can provide employees with an overall purpose and a clear understanding of their general role and impact on the organization’s success. An excellent culture can encourage design teams to contribute to overall success using the preset tools, structures, and processes to the best of their abilities.
Results are the quantifiable metrics that can measure the impact of design output. Typical measures of results include ROI, KPIs, customer satisfaction and churn rates, team efficiency, and reviews on organizational culture. Documented standards help define what outcomes can be perceivable as great UX. This standard helps build an elegant UX process that acts as a guide for new employees to achieve the same in the market.
Tips to improve the design workflow
Improving the efficiency of the workflow is a principal goal of DesignOps. One major aspect of improving your design workflow is successfully integrating the best design system practices for your team. Here are some of the methods you can pursue to improve your design workflow:
Free up your designer’s time to focus on designing
Assigning multiple tasks, responsibilities, and roles to designers outside of design may result in a drop in design quality and consistency. When dealing with startups and small teams, increasing long-term scalability by delegating non-design tasks away from designers could enable long-term business gains.
Eliminating design process inefficiencies
Inefficiencies in the design process can imply that the best methodologies aren’t in place for optimal workflow. Identifying and removing these inefficiencies can significantly increase functional team performance and optimize workflow.
Creating a collaborative product design environment using appropriate tools
Collaboration is vital when dealing with large organizations with multiple functional and cross-functional design teams. Adapting to the right tools in the form of market-tested DesignOps software can help product development teams drive business and product value. A collaborative environment can be especially beneficial to companies with remote teams working together where efficient collaboration is crucial to the quality of the product outcome. Organizing periodical standups, meetings, and town halls to discuss all relevant information regarding the product design process openly can further help improve stakeholder collaboration.
Creating transparency in the career paths of designers
As discussed earlier, the strength of the design team lies in the talents of its members. Encouraging and motivating your employees with a clear picture of where they stand in value as an employee and their career path with the company can help boost morale and, ultimately, a higher quality of performance. DesignOps mitigates this through transparency in providing specialized roles to employees upon completion of each project, allowing them to showcase their learning curve and the skills they have acquired, allowing for promotions at milestone moments during project completions.
Encouraging pair programming for better collaboration
Pair programming is a practice where designers pair up with other designers to work towards a common objective rather than work alone. The principle behind pair programming is that the minds of two designers are mightier than one. Design can be quicker and more efficient when combining an ideal pair, thus leaving less room for inconsistencies. There are multiple types of pair programming to select from depending on the unique problem at hand. For instance, when a problem requires the expertise of a designer and a non-designer, a cross-disciplinary pairing can achieve the ideal output resulting from the best of both worlds. Another instance is when one designer’s skills are better suited to design and coding. At the same time, another designer is more aligned toward strategic and logical thinking, which could call for a driver-navigator pairing between both designers. Hence, the nature of the problem and end objective can help decide the best pairing combinations to achieve optimal results.
Adopting a goal-oriented approach for the design teams
Business goals and targets must be transparent and communicated to the various teams as they are updated. A workforce with a clear picture of what the business aims to achieve with its products is more inclined to contribute to driving growth and scalability to achieve organizational goals. These goals can be measured in real-time using dashboards with relevant metrics to drive employee motivation and productivity further.
Moving away from information silos toward sharing
Eliminating information silos to favor a more efficient information-sharing system should be a top priority for your DesignOps strategy. Information silos occur when designers and design stakeholders place all relevant design information into repositories that are not aggregated or integrated with other organizational departments and teams. Information silos act as the opposite of a single source of truth and can cause significant inefficiencies and miscommunications within all organizational actors. Dealing with multiple information silos and their respective tools additionally increases the overall operational complexity for the business and design teams.
Setting a common design language backed by guidelines
Setting a uniform design language for all organizational actors improves the communication quality within the organization and dramatically reduces the chances of inconsistencies and mistakes. Combined with documented guidelines, designers and their teams have the necessary information to keep them on the right path toward maintaining the brand image and reputation.
How Cubyts can help you set up robust DesignOps for your business
We at Cubyts strive to offer a state-of-the-art DesignOps Platform specially designed for design experts and leaders to eliminate inefficiencies in the design workflow, establish design processes, run design projects, and track metrics. Instilling a culture of DesignOps for your business has never been easier through our platform.
Request a demo with Cubyts today!