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DesignOps101: Why it matters to look beyond Software Design

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Design has been an integral part of human life, and with the advent of technology, design has evolved to encompass a wide range of disciplines such as product design, industrial design, service design, and more. As the design industry continues to grow and evolve, so does the need for Design Operations (DesignOps), a discipline that ensures the effective management and coordination of design teams, processes, and workflows.

What is DesignOps (Design Operations)

DesignOps is a human-centered approach to the orchestration and optimization of people, processes, and craft in order to amplify design’s value and impact at scale. Analogous to DevOps, which has revolutionized the software development process with an agile, iterative approach, DesignOps allows organizations to rapidly scale and iterate design processes across teams.

Why does DesignOps matter now?

Over the years, thanks to the evolving role first as the arbiter of good taste in physical objects, then as the task efficiency and cognitive load expert with medical devices, and more recently as software attached a tangible ROI to Design, Designers have won the fight to be “included”. Increasingly, we are intrinsic to both business strategy and technical solutions, and even less design-centric industries passively acknowledge the value of design. In short, they get it.
Unfortunately, this recognition of strategic importance brings additional non-design workload, leaving us with less time to design, even as we have to deal with more complex issues than ever before. As more organizations embrace design across disciplines, and a distributed product- or project-specific team model, there is a growing disconnection between designers who are spread across the organisation. As a result, consumer workflows and design decisions are not only increasingly distributed, but inconsistent.
The objective of DesignOps is to support the design team in alignment with the customer-centric vision of the organization. Although DesignOps is often associated with user interface design for software, it is essential to understand why DesignOps matters for all design disciplines.

The Universal Objectives of DesignOps

At its core, DesignOps is about creating a framework or ingredients that allows design teams to work more efficiently and collaboratively. This includes establishing clear roles and responsibilities, defining processes and workflows, and implementing tools and technologies that help automate and standardize tasks.
  • A sense of Purpose. Demonstrate support, and in turn let the team demonstrate how to win.
  • Organize Structure: By hierarchy, and role, for power and authority to make decisions and enable individuals.
  • Collaborative processes: A set of rituals that turn people into teams that deliver.
  • Humanize: Bring on board the right talent. Establish interview practices and career pathways.
  • Standardize: design systems, style guides, and design tools
  • Harmonize: Repositories, Libraries, file nomenclatures, and asset management systems
  • Prioritize: Establish relative values for various efforts
  • Socialize: Share core design methods with broader development and marketing organisations.
  • Measure Results: Make design accountable with objective targets.
One of the primary goals Business looks to DesignOps for is to reduce the time and resources required to complete design projects, while also improving their quality. This is achieved through a variety of strategies, such as creating design systems and style guides that enable designers to work more consistently and efficiently, and establishing feedback loops that help teams learn from each other and iterate on their work more effectively.
DesignOps also plays a key role in ensuring that design is integrated into the broader business strategy of an organization. This involves collaborating closely with other teams, such as product management, engineering, and marketing, to ensure that design is aligned with the overall goals of the business.
To implement DesignOps effectively, organizations need to invest in basic but appropriate tools and technologies. This includes tools for collaboration and communication, as well as discipline-specific tools for prototyping and testing design before implementation. These could be both internal and external resources for 3D Printing, or Animations. Customer conscious organizations will establish metrics and KPIs that help track the success of DesignOps initiatives and identify areas for improvement.
In conclusion, DesignOps is a powerful approach for optimizing the design process and improving the quality of design outcomes. By applying principles of operational efficiency and project management to design teams, organizations can create a framework that enables designers to work more collaboratively and efficiently, ultimately resulting in better design outcomes that are aligned with the broader goals of the business.
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 and markets positively. Collaborative DesignOps has been central to enabling our success in unlocking the power of design in their organizations.

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