Chances are you’ve heard of DevOps. You might even have a good understanding of what it entails. But have you heard of DesignOps? It’s a newer term that’s becoming increasingly popular in the design world, moving beyond buzzword status to achieve staying power. So what is it?
DesignOps is a structured, scalable design framework that focuses on optimizing people, processes, tools, and culture while enabling tech product design teams to more effectively and efficiently deliver value throughout a product lifecycle. Successful DesignOps ensures shared alignment on business goals across cross functional teams. Similar to how DevOps transformed the development process to become more agile and iterative, DesignOps has made the design process more agile, iterative, and scalable.
Breaking Down DesignOps
People: Very broadly speaking, this is having the right people on the team with defined responsibilities, and a plan for scaling, including attracting new talent and professional development.
Processes: These are the simple and flexible workflows that ensure the right steps are in place and the right people are involved. They combat silos by requiring collaboration and a flow of information within and outside of the design team. And, they encourage feedback collection early and often to ensure that a product is viable and meets business goals.
Tools: When it comes to tools, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. This includes tools for communication, collaboration, and documentation, all of which help to drive learning and decision making.
Culture: None of this would stick if a Design Thinking mindset wasn’t built into the culture of the organization. This includes visions, goals, and community, especially how people interact from the top down. Empowering teams within the organization begins with leadership.
We find that DesignOps is an important practice for our clients to understand and adopt, especially for those organizations that know the value of design and are willing to make an investment in it. Because, even with solid designers in place, if the team has not been set up for success operationally the business value will not be maximized. We’ve experienced this firsthand while working on-site alongside client partners with less mature UX teams. With our guidance, we’ve taken teams from good to great by establishing a research-driven, iterative design process, collaborative environment, and elevated standards to result in fast-tracking the client’s UX maturity level and delivering ongoing value.
The primary goal of DesignOps, then, is to establish highly efficient teams that use design thinking to explore, test, and determine solutions to business problems. This is done by implementing and documenting repeatable processes around all facets of research, interaction and visual design, and collaboration with developers for implementation. It requires alignment on business goals and ensures decisions always call back to those core focal points. Throughout the process, collaboration and communication tools and guidelines ensure a consistent and scalable model for working together, adding new members, and delivering value within the team and the broader organization.