Achieving creative quality while guaranteeing efficient workflows is a daunting challenge in the fast-paced world of design. This is where Design Operations (DesignOps) comes into play. But what is Design Operations, and why is it so important in the design world?
Design Operations, often known as DesignOps, strategically coordinates people and processes to improve design outcomes. It is the foundation for design teams, providing them with the necessary tools, techniques, and collaboration frameworks. In this article, let’s explore the value of DesignOps in nurturing creativity, simplifying processes, and producing amazing design results.
Table of contents
- Key Takeaways:
- What are Design Operations?
- The core responsibilities of Design Operations
- Does your company need DesignOps?
- How to get started with DesignOps?
- 1. Review your current design team workflow
- 2. Set achievable goals and objectives
- 3. Identify DesignOps leadership and build the team
- 4. Collaboration with stakeholders
- 5. Define standardized processes
- 6. Select and implement tools and software
- 7. Create and maintain a repository
- 8. Implement communication strategies
- 9. Monitor and measure progress
- 10. Scale and evolve
- What tools do you need for Design Operations?
- DesignOps Courses
- The power of DesignOps: Wrapping up
👉 Design Operations (DesignOps) is a set of operations that optimizes design processes, improves collaboration, and ensures efficient design workflows.
🔍 The core responsibilities of DesignOps include standardizing processes, documentation, effective communication, project management, team culture building, onboarding new members, and budgeting.
📈 To determine if a company needs operations design, consider factors like team size, workflow assessment, project complexity, quality issues, project delays, and communication challenges.
✅ Getting started with DesignOps involves reviewing the current workflow, setting achievable goals, identifying the scope, appointing DesignOps leadership, building the team, and implementing standardized processes and tools.
💡 Essential tools for DesignOps include communication, project management, user research, and design/prototyping tools, chosen based on the organization’s specific needs and goals.
What are Design Operations?
Design operations refer to the set of activities aimed at the orchestration and optimization of people and processes to deliver better results. From an organizational perspective, design operations are crucial in making sure the design team has all the necessary resources and procedures to produce outstanding designs.
DesignOps means more than just design; they have more to do with a user-centric approach to design, which is crucial for UX/user research.
Standardizing design processes, documenting best practices, promoting effective communication among team members and stakeholders, project management, resource allocation, and fostering a collaborative team culture are all responsibilities of DesignOps. It also includes training new team members planning, and tracking results using key performance indicators (KPIs).
According to the DesignOps definition, its role is crucial to increasing the overall productivity of the design team, allowing them to create amazing designs, meet project deadlines, and work effectively with other departments, such as product development and engineering.
The core responsibilities of Design Operations
Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Now that we’ve discussed the significance of Design Operations, let’s look at the fundamental roles that drive successful design projects.
Standardisation of Process
Defining processes and implementing workflows is crucial to ensure consistency in processes to be followed within the design team. Developing clear and efficient workflows includes defining how design tasks are initiated, reviewed, approved, and delivered. Efficient workflows reduce constraints and help in achieving project deadlines.
Standardization of processes will ensure that everyone follows the same procedures, which will lead to enhanced quality and greater efficiency in design work.
Once the processes are defined, it is essential to document them. Design operations teams create and maintain documentation that outlines these standardized processes; proper documentation ensures design assets are well-organized, easily accessible, and follow industry standards.
This helps standardize collaboration and ensures the long-term usability of design assets; the same should be made accessible to all team members. This documentation can include style guides, design guidelines, and workflow diagrams.
Facilitating Effective Communication
Another critical role of Design Operations teams is to foster open and transparent communication among various stakeholders, including designers, developers, and others. This involves selecting a communication medium, setting up communication channels, conducting regular meetings, and ensuring that feedback loops are well-established.
In operations design, project management primarily involves two functions:
- Project Planning
From project initiation to delivery, design operations teams have various responsibilities, which include planning and coordinating design projects. The key responsibilities include defining the scope of the project, timelines within which the project needs to be completed, important milestones, points of escalation, resource allocation, and tracking progress.
- Resource Management
Without the right mix of talent, a project cannot be completed with client satisfaction. Viability is the key; be it financial, technological, or human resources, the DesignOPs need to ensure that the design team has the necessary resources to execute projects successfully.
Building the Team Culture
A good culture not only acts as a morale booster for the team members but also helps retain them longer. Design operations foster a culture of collaboration, thus promoting innovation and continuous improvement within the design team. This includes mentorship programs and various team-building activities, which ultimately promote a shared sense of purpose and values among team members.
Onboarding New Team Members
The design operations job description includes building a remarkable team, which means onboarding new members. It primarily involves two functions:
When new members join the team, DesignOp’s responsibility is to ensure a smooth onboarding process by providing orientation, training, and access to relevant documentation and tools.
Joining a new organization and jamming up involves effort. Putting new team members with experienced ones can help streamline the process and accelerate the learning process. They will be better able to fit in with the team and comprehend the culture and design process as a result.
The design operation team is also involved in financial management; they often play a critical role in budgeting and managing finances for the design projects. This includes allocating funds for design tools, training, and other resources and tracking and reporting on expenses.
Does your company need DesignOps?
DesignOps speeds design processes, stimulates collaboration, improves project management, and assures optimal resource allocation. Whether or not your firm requires DesignOps is a strategic decision that can substantially impact the efficiency and quality of your design initiatives.
If your design team is having difficulty producing high-quality work on time or maintaining consistent design standards, embracing DesignOps practices may be the solution to empower your team and drive greater results.
To determine if a company needs DesignOps, you can consider the following factors:
1. Team Size
One of the most important aspects of the design operation is its team. So, you might be wondering how to structure a DesignOps team. You must begin with the team size, as the ideal size can vary based on the size and complexity of the design organization.
For a large organization, a DesignOps team might consist of several team members, including a person responsible for managing the DesignOps, along with workflow specialists and documentation experts. In smaller companies or teams, a single person might handle DesignOps responsibilities alongside their design work.
2. Workflow Assessment
The workflow assessment is the second and most important aspect of the design operation. As the deliverables of the project involve processes and methodologies to be followed, assessing the workflow for improvements can involve a systematic evaluation of existing processes.
Here’s how you can assess and potentially improve your workflow:
- Identify Pain Points
The starting point is to gather feedback from your design team, developers, and stakeholders, which will help you identify the pain points in your current workflow. Common issues could include unclear processes, communication gaps, or resource constraints.
- Process Mapping
Before making changes to the existing workflows, document the same from project initiation to delivery. Identify areas where there can be a possible bottleneck or where there is room for improvement.
Your workflow should be as per the industry’s best practices and standards. Comparing your workflow with that of the benchmark can help you identify areas where you might be falling short.
- Technology Assessment
The assessment of technology involves evaluating the tools and software your team uses. Is there any gap or hindrance in your workflow? If yes, then explore better tools that are available.
- Training and Skill Gaps
Review the technical skill set of your team and whether they have the necessary skills to execute the workflow efficiently. And if there’s any lack, provide them with appropriate DesignOps training to plug the gap.
- Iterative Improvement
Implement changes to tackle existing issues and regularly review them to understand the impact of these changes. Continuously gather feedback from team members and stakeholders to refine further.
- KPIs and Metrics
Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and track the success of workflow improvements. Metrics can include project stakeholder satisfaction, completion times, and design quality.
3. Complexity of Projects
If your design projects involve cross-functional collaboration, from multiple design stages to convincing stakeholders, DesignOps will help streamline these processes.
4. Quality Issues
If there are quality issues or inconsistencies in design output, DesignOps can help standardize and improve quality.
5. Delays in Project Deliverables
If there are frequent delays in deliverables, missed deadlines, or challenges in the design process, this would indicate a need for more efficient workflows.
6. Communication Challenges
DesignOps can help bridge the communication gap for better collaboration among the designers, developers, and stakeholders.
How to get started with DesignOps?
To get started with DesignOps, there are several key steps and considerations, as mentioned below:
1. Review your current design team workflow
Find out everything you can about your existing design workflow. From beginning to end, every stage of the project should be documented, as it will help identify pain points, bottlenecks, and opportunities for improvement.
2. Set achievable goals and objectives
While implementing DesignOps, it’s crucial to understand the end goal, which could include improving process efficiency or standardizing processes, meeting deadlines, enhancing collaboration, and ensuring design quality.
As we know, DesignOps is a combination of various aspects. You have to determine which part you would want to address, e.g., process standardization, selection of tools, communication improvement, documentation, or a combination of these.
3. Identify DesignOps leadership and build the team
For DesignOps to operate, a person needs to be assigned as the leader of the team, also known as the DesignOps Manager or Director. Your organization’s size and complexity will determine the strength of the DesignOps team. Generally, roles include workflow specialists, documentation experts, or communication facilitators.
4. Collaboration with stakeholders
It may require that design projects involve cross-functional collaboration between design, development, and other relevant teams. Ensure that all stakeholders are involved in the DesignOps process, as their input is critical for success.
5. Define standardized processes
A clear and concise document that guides how projects are initiated, reviewed, approved, and delivered.
6. Select and implement tools and software
Another critical role for the DesignOps team is to identify and implement tools that support standardised processes and improve efficiency. These could include project management tools, design software, communication platforms, and content management systems.
7. Create and maintain a repository
As much as documentation is important, ensuring its proper maintenance, keeping track of all changes, and accessibility for all team members are also important. Design documentation includes design principles, style guides, workflow diagrams, and best practices.
8. Implement communication strategies
All communication gaps and possible disruptions need to be identified and clearly laid out in communication strategies between designers, developers, and stakeholders. Conducting regular meetings, closing feedback loops, and establishing channels to enhance communication.
9. Monitor and measure progress
Improvement is a continual process. You need to monitor the impact of DesignOps on your design team’s performance. Various key performance indicators (KPIs) can help measure performance.
As mentioned earlier, DesignOps is an ongoing process of improvement. Feedback from team members and stakeholders will be helpful in making iterative refinements to your processes and workflows.
10. Scale and evolve
The DesignOps need not be static rather, as your organization grows or changes, your DesignOps practices can adapt accordingly. You should be prepared to scale your team and processes for new challenges and goals.
Getting started with DesignOps requires a strategic approach, a commitment to continuous improvement, and collaboration across teams. By following these steps and remaining adaptable, you can build a robust DesignOps framework that enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of your design team.
What tools do you need for Design Operations?
Design Operations (DesignOps) relies on a variety of tools to streamline processes, improve collaboration, and ensure efficient design workflows.
Here are examples of tools across different categories commonly used in DesignOps:
These are platforms and software for real-time and asynchronous communication among team members. There are a variety of apps serving different purposes, like messaging apps, ex. Slack, video conferencing tools like Zoom, email clients, and more. These tools facilitate information sharing and collaboration within organizations.
Project Management Tools
These tools help to manage projects, software, and platforms designed to plan, organize, and track projects. They help teams manage timelines and tasks, allocate resources, and communicate; examples include Asana, Trello, and Jira.
User Research Operations Tools
ResearchOps tools, such as UXtweak, help organizations collect valuable insights from users further to enhance the design and usability of products or services. It offers a range of capabilities for conducting usability testing, user research, and collecting feedback from customers.
Software programs or UX Design and Prototyping tools are required for the design and development process. It lets designers visualize their ideas, collaborate with team members, and effectively communicate design concepts. These allow designers to create graphic designs, mockups, and interactive prototypes, including online and app design. For instance, Figma, Sketch, Axure RP, and so on.
These tools can be customized to suit your design team’s and organization’s specific needs. The choice of tools should align with your DesignOps goals, facilitate collaboration, and enhance efficiency in your design processes. Additionally, some organizations may integrate these tools to create a seamless DesignOps ecosystem.
Here are a few online courses and resources related to DesignOps that you can refer to:
1. NN/g: DesignOps: Scaling UX Design and User Research
A specialized course by Nielsen Norman Group built to help in defining, sharing, and implementing design and research operations.
2. DesignOps for Developers
This course by LinkedIn learning, focuses on DesignOps concepts for developers. It covers design thinking, prototyping, and collaboration between designers and developers.
3. LinkedIn Learning: DesignOps Foundations
LinkedIn Learning offers a course called DesignOps Foundations that provides an introduction to the principles and practices of DesignOps. It covers topics such as design collaboration, workflow optimization, and design systems.
4. Online Design and UX Communities
Consider joining online design and UX communities like the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) or UX Design Institute. These platforms often offer UX resources, webinars, and courses related to DesignOps and UX design.
5. YouTube Channels and Webinars
Many DesignOps professionals and organizations share informative content on YouTube. Search for DesignOps-related channels and webinars to find valuable insights and discussions.
6. Online Workshops and Conferences
Keep an eye out for virtual workshops and conferences focused on DesignOps. Events like the DesignOps Summit and UX conferences often include sessions related to DesignOps practices.
7. Books and blogs
Explore books and blogs authored by experts in the field of DesignOps. Books like “DesignOps Handbook” by Dave Malouf and “Scaling Design” by Benek Lisefski can provide in-depth insights.
Check the course material, instructor credentials, and reviews before enrolling in an online course to ensure it fits with what you want to learn. Additionally, some courses may offer certificates upon completion, which can be valuable for your career in the design and UX field.
The power of DesignOps: Wrapping up
DesignOps empowers designers to focus on their creative work, which ultimately leads to higher client satisfaction. It stands as a strong ally in the constantly changing field of design. From building team culture to standardizing processes, it makes it possible for design teams to succeed and consistently provide great results.
Remember that DesignOps is more than just a set of practices; it’s a driving force for excellence and creativity. So, embrace DesignOps and let your imagination run wild. The future of design is bright, and with UXtweak, you can shine even brighter.
Create your UXtweak account today and empower your DesignOps with quality research.