Scaling Product Design & Development with DesignOps

Last month on the 22nd of September, we hosted a free, interactive webinar on the topic, “Scaling Product Design and Development with DesignOps.”

Last month on the 22nd of September, we hosted a free, interactive webinar on the topic, “Scaling Product Design and Development with DesignOps.”

Our speaker, Aurobinda Pradhan, with over decades of experience in UX Design, had some very interesting insights into the matter.

Here’s what we discussed in the webinar:

  • The importance of ops in functions, and the role of DesignOps,
  • 7 compelling reasons why you need to adopt DesignOps,
  • 8 open secrets to getting started with DesignOps, 
  • 5 tips to scale your product design and development with DesignOps and more.

With years of personal and collective experience, here’s everything he had to share with us on this webinar.

Importance of Ops in Functions

Even as a designer or design manager who is not aware of the term DesignOps, you have definitely used it every day without realizing it. When you learn the definition of DesignOps, it gives you an edge in the market, but the biggest challenge after that was scaling.

Every industry has used Ops to a degree, seeing how many different Ops there are – BusinessOps, FinanceOps, DataOps, etc.

This webinar’s focus is DesignOps, but first, you must understand what operations is.

Let’s take an example. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the success of the mission was not determined by him alone. There was a whole team of scientists and engineers working behind the scenes to make it happen.

That’s what Operations is. To put it plainly, operations are everything that works behind the scenes to make a function successful. 

Similar to DevOps and ProductOps, DesignOps is aimed to amplify a design’s value and streamline the designer’s work, allowing them to optimize their production time.

So with that, using the example we used earlier, Design is the final outcome, the final objective. DesignOps is everything that happens behind the scenes to make good design happen. Ops take away the operational headaches that designers may have to face on a daily basis.

The point of this webinar was to explain how DesignOps can scale product design and development, so here’s how:

  • DesignOps helps designers by increasing design time by reducing operational involvement.
  • DesignOps enables development to scale with design certainty and confidence.


Why it is critical to adopt DesignOps now

Here are 7 compelling reasons that Aurobinda gave for why now is the right time to adopt DesignOps:


1. It impacts design RoI

There is no point investing in DesignOps unless it has a quantifiable business impact. With that said, there are five stats that show you how it helps with design RoI.

designops impact on roi

Thanks to the streamlined process that DesignOps creates with the team, your products go to market twice as fast.

Your design productivity goes up because of the reduced design time, which in turn reduces the overall development time of the product, which in turn has been shown to increase the percentage of shares that shareholders receive by up to 200%!


2. Design, as a function, has expanded

The design market size as of 2022 is a whopping USD 162 billion markets and is estimated to rise to USD 400 billion+ in 2026.

Just the last two years alone have seen the demand for designers shoot up 10x, which is a clear indicator that DesignOps needs to be in the picture to use this potential to the fullest.


3. Professionals spend around 40% of their time in non-productive operational meetings

A study by HBR showed that around 40% of the time spent by professionals was gone in non-productive meetings. 

We did our own study a while later, and our findings were very similar – professionals spent around 40-50% of their time in meetings, time that could’ve been spent elsewhere.

If you ask yourself, “can we make time for work by making this process smoother?” and the answer is yes, you need DesignOps.


4. Number of tools used by designers has increased

Take a quick look at this graph by Statista.

no of design tools

The number of tools used by designers in 2015 was 8. Today it’s over 110!

With that many tools in the market for professionals to use, there is a necessity for a system that makes it easier to work with them without creating confusion within the team as to who’s using what. 


5. Look at how much DevOps has helped

With the development and engineering industry seeing a boom in 2017, they needed a system to eliminate the chaos that ensued with its increased demand.

When DevOps came into the picture, there was a massively positive impact on their workflow, with it leading to constantly faster and better deliverables. In fact, 99% of respondents from the industry said that DevOps had a positive overall impact on their organization.

devops stats

As we saw earlier, the design sector is seeing an increase too, and the success of DevOps clearly indicates that it’s time for DesignOps to control the scene.


6. Today, we use DevOps tools for design

Businesses today use DevOps to handle their design processes due to the lack of DesignOps tools, leading to near-fatal design immaturity and a diminished design impact. 

We need to consider design as a separate practice and use DesingOps to improve the overall design impact and design maturity.


7. DesignOps improves overall efficiency and efficacy

There was a DesignOps discussion panel in June 2022, and one of the panelists, John Calhoun, made the table that you see below.

He tracked a series of metrics before and after the adoption of DesingOps over a period of 6-8 months to see how big of a difference DesignOps made. 

designops improves overall efficiency and efficacy

As you can see from the numbers, DesignOps helped improve the overall operational efficiency and efficacy, showing the world of design the difference between doing the right things and doing things the right way.


When is the right time to adopt DesignOps?

According to everything we learned through experience, and using Pterizia Bertini’s grid as a reference, you need to embrace DesignOps if your team satisfies any of these 5 scenarios:

  • If you are running multiple design-led projects at the same time
  • If you have more than three designers in your team and are continuously scaling year on year
  • If you have members in your team working from more than one location, be it in different neighborhoods, cities, or countries
  • If your team comprises multiple specialized roles that need to collaborate closely
  • If there is a constant demand for higher productivity


How to get started with DesignOps

If your organization is already involved in design operations without implementing a proper solution or you belong to a team looking to get started with DesignOps, here is our tried and tested 8-point framework to help you:

getting started with designops


1. Know your business vision and design goals

Design is not about just jumping into the project and whipping out something. It’s easy to get lost in your world of creation without understanding the objective behind the project.

There are so many people involved in the project, and knowing the larger goals and vision of the organization and aligning the design team’s goals with the larger objective is critically important. This ensures that the team is aware of the business perspective and improves productivity.


2. Identify success metrics for design interventions

Once the design goals are established, identifying an objective, and setting up a process to monitor the success of the design goals will ensure that the target is achieved.

To start identifying these metrics, you can try asking yourself questions like

  • Are your customers satisfied?
  • Are your users able to accomplish their tasks?
  • How many customers are you retaining?
  • How engaging is your product?

All these can be tracked through various methods, such as using analytical tools or by doing behavioral or attitudinal research, surveys, and the like.


3. Prepare a roadmap, capture milestones, and efforts, and assess talent needs

As mentioned before, you can jump right into a project and then try to justify why it’s taking you so long to complete it, or you can prepare a roadmap to avoid that altogether.

Breaking up the larger goals into smaller and trackable milestones, along with the stakeholders, ensures that the projects move in the right direction. This also allows you to assess the skills and efforts required to complete a task.


4. Put together a competent team

You must have the right resources to complete the task. The team needs to be configured based on the design goal and should be competent enough to perform specific tasks.

Don’t hire one designer and expect them to do everything. A good team needs to have a collective set of skills that come together to reach the desired, common goal.


5. Standardize tools, processes, and ways of collaboration

Can you imagine the commotion if all the members of your team are running around doing their own thing that doesn’t necessarily help them deliver?

Even if they use different tools, is there a way to bring them together for a conversation that ensures they’re all on the right track?

That’s where standardization comes in.

To ensure that the team is working in sync with the design goals and the larger organizational goals, standardization of tools, ways to collaborate, and setting up common processes are extremely important.


6. Find means to track your progress

What’s the point of the project if you don’t know which stage of the process your team is at?

Finding ways to monitor and track speed, efficiency, consistency, quality of output, etc., will ensure that the team and the individuals are aligned with the pre-set goals. 

Of course, this needs to be a continuous effort at regular intervals in the project.


7. Share, review and iterate together

The most important aspect of DesignOps is collaboration. DesignOps tries to eliminate the scenario of people working in silos as opposed to working as a team, which has proven to be far more effective time and again.

With that said, everyone is an expert in their area, running their own ideas. And given today’s situation, remote working has become a major part of our work culture, so your team isn’t necessarily in one place.

Your team needs to be given a common platform to collaborate, brainstorm and share ideas quickly. This will ensure that team members are in sync with others and that the challenges are addressed quickly and effectively.


8. Be in sync with stakeholders

A design team doesn’t comprise designers alone. A design team is a combination of design and non-design stakeholders that come together with different ideas to make a single project the best it can be.

Not everyone is looking at the same deliverables and metrics that you follow, and you need to be empathetic toward how the rest of your team is looking at deliverables.

Understand the skills and limitations of the teams and be empathetic to the requirements and challenges of all stakeholders.

Here’s a summary of our 8-point framework for getting started with DesignOps.

summary - how to get started with designops


How to scale product design and development with DesignOps

Now for the topic this webinar tries to address and clear up – How can you use DesignOps to effectively scale your product design and development?

Here’s what you need to know after you’ve implemented DesignOps into your organization.


Prepare a common ground for collaboration and communication

If you’ve noticed closely, DesignOps isn’t about design. It’s about the people, processes, and craft that go into it.

The people involved in this process are not working alone. They are all using their areas of expertise to come together and achieve a common goal.

Using standard tools for cross-functional teams to discuss, communicate and share ideas is imperative for any organization. Hence using tools like Cubyts, Slack, etc., can be a great idea.


Provide visibility into design function in the cross-functional landscape

The biggest issue in today’s team culture is the update gap between various sectors of the team. 

The devs not knowing what’s going on with the research team, or the design team not being in tandem with the product team, and so on. These are situations that cannot be allowed for the productivity of the project.

Bringing transparency into design operations is critically important for other teams as it preempts possible roadblocks from the projects and enables an efficient flow of feedback.


Bring transparency into required design effort, timeline and skill need

As a simple example, let’s take budgeting.

To be able to create a solid budget plan, there needs to be a fixed timeline. It doesn’t help if your finance team asks how long it will take, and your design team replies, “I’ll only know when I get started”.

Creating a framework to understand costs, efforts, and skills required in completing particular tasks helps in proper budgeting, planning, and timely delivery of projects.

You should always have an informed way of telling a timeline to bring in some level of predictability to the project.


Link design metrics with products and development metrics

Defining function and project-specific metrics help in assessing the products’ performance and monitoring deliverables effectively. 

Since design, development, and product teams are interdependent, their goals and performance metrics also need to be in sync.

For example, user retention is not just a design metric. It refers to how well a requirement is evaluated and how well it is being executed for usage by target users.


Be an equal stakeholder in the scaling journey

Scaling requires a lot of collaboration and organizational changes. It requires you to build a common ground for cross-functional teams, and overall transparency and visibility into the design function.

Since design is a function, you need to be an equal stakeholder in the scaling journey

To summarize:

summary - how to scale


To wrap up…

Apart from learning how to scale product design and development using DesignOps, the biggest takeaway from this webinar was one key element.

Now is absolutely the right time for you to adopt and implement DesignOps into your organization.

You need to ensure that design functions are successful by giving them meaningful support at every stage of the design journey. 

Design is not just about UI and UX. It’s time that we, as designers, go beyond this notion and adopt DesignOps to scale faster and make design functions successful.

If you’d like to watch the webinar in its entirety, click on the link to check it out: Scaling product design and development with DesignOps.