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Maximizing Your Career Potential as a DesignOps Professional

DesignOps is a discipline within the field of design that focuses on improving the efficiency, collaboration, and overall effectiveness of design teams. It involves establishing processes, tools, and systems to support designers and streamline design workflows. DesignOps roles vary across organizations, but here are some common DesignOps roles and their job profiles:

What does a DesignOps person do?


Design Project Management

Streamlining the design process involves identifying the gaps and weaknesses of the existing system. Through this, the design operations team can establish a process that optimizes a designer's daily workflow, leading to maximum engagement and reduced repetitive and unnecessary effort. They may define and implement new metrics of success, depending on the organization's business goals, and hold design reviews to ensure the high-quality execution of designs.

They review the total number of meetings per day and reduce it by removing any that are unnecessary or unproductive. This enforces good meeting etiquette for the team. Design operations also establish a clear design delivery scheme, including timelines and deadlines. This defines when a product requires review and identifies who does the checking at every step of the design process.


Team Coordination

Design operations ensure that someone else takes care of the design's business and administrative aspects so the designers can focus on designing. The design operations team handles all facets of budgeting, determining how much the team costs and how much it requires to operate efficiently, and ensuring that all resource allocations are transparent and accurate. Aside from budgeting, it also manages recruitment. It determines the number and skills of the people that a particular design project involves, and it helps human resources set innovative recruiting standards.


Manage Design Tools

Design operations create a design system and determine what tools enable the team to work efficiently. They standardize the company's tools and systems to enable smoother and more structured knowledge transfers. They introduce innovative tools to the design team and ensure that designers master using them.


Communication Strategy and Management

Design operations ensure a smooth communication flow among the design team, product managers, and product development team. They construct a system where internal messaging cascades efficiently to external teams. They unify the design language across platforms to help consistency. These professionals also establish a system for storing records and resources, such as an asset library the team uses to ensure easy retrieval of information.


Building a Design Culture

Design operations ensure that the organization implements and promotes a healthy workplace culture. This keeps design teams happy and satisfied with their roles. To enable a flourishing culture, leaders within the design operations team can conduct an analysis to determine skills and knowledge gaps and organize training for the development of the design team. Their development plan may include emotional and well-being support through team-building activities and mental health improvement initiatives. They design a continuous onboarding system with regular training sessions for existing and new hires to discuss new procedures and changes in tools.

As the Design Operations Manager, you will partner with cross-functional members of our product teams such as design managers, product managers, designers, engineers, and business leaders. You will help enable the design team to focus their time on designing and building great products as well as ensure design has a high bar for quality.  You will also manage the process and prioritization to align the delivery of high-quality design work to the most important product areas.  The successful candidate must possess a strong understanding of design and the different crafts that are part of the design family.  

The other way to look at the DesignOps role is that it is not a solitary function, but rather, it intersects and collaborates with various other Operations teams such as PeopleOps, CreativeOps, ProdOps, ResearchOps, etc

PeopleOps deals with the people aspect of organizational management, focusing on employee engagement, retention, and development. CreativeOps aims to streamline creative workflows while maintaining quality output. ProdOps ensures efficient production processes that are cost-effective and sustainable in the long run. Research Ops handles research data collection and analysis for evidence-based decision-making.

Incorporating these operational perspectives into the DesignOps function enables holistic solutions for complex design problems. By leveraging these collaborations effectively, DesignOps professionals can significantly impact business outcomes by improving team dynamics and productivity ultimately delivering better products to end-users.

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DesignOps Career Path

If you are looking to develop your career in DesignOps and progress through various roles, here is a possible career trajectory along with the key responsibilities and skills associated with each role:

Responsibilities:

DesignOps Manager

The DesignOps Manager is the person in charge of overseeing the design operations team and ensuring that all aspects of their work are aligned with the overall business objectives. They lead a team of designers, researchers, developers, and other professionals to ensure smooth collaboration across teams.

One of the key responsibilities of a DesignOps Manager is to identify areas where process improvements can be made and implement them accordingly. This might involve developing new workflows or streamlining existing ones to improve efficiency within the team.

In addition, DesignOps Managers also play an important role in talent management. They are responsible for recruiting top-notch design talent, developing career paths for their team members, and providing guidance on skills development.

As someone who understands both design principles and operational processes, they must communicate effectively with stakeholders from different backgrounds such as senior executives, clients, or external partners.

Being a successful DesignOps Manager requires excellent organizational skills along with strong leadership abilities –both technical and interpersonal- that will enable optimal delivery results while keeping up-to-date with industry trends.

Design Program Manager

A Design Program Manager is a professional responsible for overseeing and managing the design process within an organization or project. They coordinate and align the efforts of designers, stakeholders, and cross-functional teams to ensure the successful execution of design initiatives. 

He has the ability to lead and inspire a diverse team of designers, fostering collaboration, creativity, and a high level of performance. Lead and manage the end-to-end design process, from conception to delivery, ensuring that projects are delivered on time, within budget, and meet the desired objectives. 

A successful Design Program Manager should possess a combination of design expertise, project management skills, and strong leadership abilities to drive successful design initiatives within an organization.

DesignOps Director

The DesignOps Director is the highest role in the DesignOps hierarchy. This person oversees all aspects of design operations in an organization and is responsible for aligning design processes with business goals.

In addition to managing a team of DesignOps Managers, they work closely with senior leadership to drive strategic initiatives and ensure that teams are working efficiently towards achieving company objectives.

One of their primary responsibilities is to foster a culture of innovation within the design team while ensuring consistent quality across all projects. They also act as advocates for designers, making sure their voices are heard at every level of an organization.

To be successful as a DesignOps Director, one needs strong leadership skills, excellent communication skills, and extensive experience in both design and operations management. They must have the ability to think strategically while keeping track of details.

Chief of Staff

As a Chief of Staff in the DesignOps function, your role expands beyond the design team to support the overall leadership of the organization. You will work closely with executive management, assisting in decision-making, driving cross-functional initiatives, and managing high-level projects.

Excellent leadership and strategic thinking abilities, ability to influence and collaborate with senior stakeholders, strong project management and organizational skills, ability to analyze complex problems and provide insights, effective communication, and presentation skills.

Growth of DesignOps in the Design Function

DesignOps professionals play a crucial role in the design function ecosystem by providing the tools, processes, and infrastructure needed to enable designers to do their best work. Whether it's setting up workflows for collaboration between designers and developers or managing design systems to ensure consistency across products, DesignOps is becoming an essential function within many organizations.

Based on our interactions with several customers, we have not found a very definitive answer to what should be the proportion of DesignOps to Design professionals. However, we estimate that 1:8 would be optimum to ensure design operations play a significant role in enabling organizations to become more efficient, productive, and innovative. As companies continue to recognize the value of design as a strategic differentiator, they are investing more resources into building out their design functions.

Whether you’re looking into becoming a generalist or specialist or aspire towards managerial roles like DesignOps Manager or even higher positions such as DesignOps Director- it’s essential that you stay up-to-date with the latest trends within this field if you want your career trajectory moving forward!