DesignOps 101

DesignOps 101

DesignOps elements to help amplify the value of your organization’s investment in design
Sean Rhodes and Albert Dang

Like many methodologies throughout the digital boom, DesignOps is having a “moment.”

What is DesignOps?
DesignOps is a human-centered approach to building stronger design teams that support the orchestration of individuals, processes and tools to amplify creativity and impact at scale. Similar to DevOps, which has revolutionized the development process with an agile, iterative approach, DesignOps allows organizations to rapidly scale and iterate design processes across teams.

Why is DesignOps important now?
Today, organizations realize the importance of digital experiences to create more meaningful customer relationships and understand the value of designers’ creativity, empathy and innovation as part of their winning strategies. These organizations invest in building large design capabilities to imitate the success of other leaders moving at a world-changing velocity and scale. Organizations often struggle to unlock the full value of their investments, not because of the strategy or the specific designers that have been hired, but because the team has not been set up for success organizationally. This is a common challenge we see when working with clients to activate their organization for success or innovation.

This is where DesignOps comes in. The idea of the lone wolf genius designer is dead. Today, design is an inclusive team sport. DesignOps is about holistically enabling high-performance collaboration between designers and their partners like engineering, marketing, business and product managers.

The following elements of DesignOps will help amplify and extend the value of any design team.

The objective of DesignOps is to support the design team in alignment with the customer-centric vision of the organization:

  • DesignOps starts with a focus on humans; our customers. When designers have the tools and processes to respond to the customer—and the permission to look to the future—those teams deliver on a meaningful vision that sustains deep customer relationships over time.
  • Meaningful customer experiences are where the rubber meets the road. The products and services designers help create support how a customer feels across the journey engaging with various touchpoints and interactions within an organization. Delivering great experiences is the entire point.

The inputs guide the design team’s ability to effectively fulfill the objective by enabling them to deliver at scale for the organization:

  • Purpose demonstrates why the design team exists and how they will win. As a design team matures, its remit becomes increasingly holistic and strategic, creating greater value for the organization.
  • Talent is the heart of your design team. DesignOps enables a positive employee experience, determines your organization’s ability to attract and grow top talent, and focuses on capabilities and behaviors aligned with the purpose.
  • Processes are the key rituals that “turn people into teams.” These linkages enable how information flows across stakeholders, teams, management and operations. They create connections that might not otherwise occur to combat siloes, facilitate knowledge sharing, advance decisions, define success, collect feedback, capture learnings, and celebrate success. Processes help to determine how and when design fits into the right moment, and when to leverage methods like lean, SCRUM, agile and others for the best outcome.
  • Enablers are the tools and assets that enable work. Enablers focus on communication tools, facilitation of collaboration, reviews and feedback mechanisms to facilitate learnings, inform decision-making and drive better team efficiencies. There are many dynamic and evolving cloud-based collaboration tools that amplify a designer’s impact by removing points of friction between design and collaborators in engineering.
  • Structure determines how decisions get made and where power and authority are placed. Determine the organizational structure that design operates within or across functional teams, such as product, innovation, IT, or the organization at large. Design should be operating at the right altitude for the problem and need, be it strategic or tactical. Physical working environments also send strong signals about how work should flow.

The outcomes provide evidence that the design team’s creativity is being employed to accomplish the objective:

  • Culture is how it feels for a designer to work in your organization. A meaningful culture empowers employees with a clear understanding of how their contributions enable the overall purpose, and gives them the autonomy and agency to contribute in a manner that is empowered by process, tools and structure.
  • Results are how impact is measured and crosses business (ROI, revenue / spend KPIs, customer satisfaction / retention), efficiency (time to market, ways of working) and culture (impact, job satisfaction). We create a set of design standards that define what good experiences look and feel like and have the means to deliver them effectively to the market.

DesignOps focuses specifically on enabling designers to accomplish the most meaningful work possible, bolstering both creativity and overall impact. Of course, every organization’s design team will have a unique blend of goals and maturity level. It takes a careful orchestration throughout the organization to allow design to become a part of the working fabric of day-to-day operations. By helping our clients deploy DesignOps successfully, we’re helping them design for change that lasts.

Our mission is to create products and services that transform businesses at scale. DesignOps has been central to enabling our client’s success in unlocking the power of design in their organizations.

Authors
Sean Rhodes
Executive Design Director
Sean Rhodes
Sean Rhodes
Executive Design Director

Sean Rhodes is a leader with a passionate belief in the power of design, technology and business to shape the world we want to live in. His focus has been building world-class teams and environments for multi-disciplinary collaboration that delivers creativity and productivity for product and service design.

Albert Dang
Design Technology Director
Albert Dang
Albert Dang
Design Technology Director

Albert helps clients innovate by bringing new products and services to life through a blended practice of strategy, design, and technology. As a director of Design Technology, Albert has helped in shaping the Design Technology practice for frog at-large and our NY Studio.