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The Future of Design Operations

Brinda Sereno

April 27, 2022

In recent years, the demand for a successful online presence has brought the need for a flawless customer journey to the top of the list for many companies regarding goals. Brand touchpoints placed throughout the user experience can help establish your brand, remaining at the forefront of customers’ minds when they need your products or services.

The rise of eCommerce and the current requirement to stand out among the competition has increased the workload for design teams and freelancers. With that increase came the revolution of Design Operations, often referred to in the industry as DesignOps.

What is Design Operations?

Design Operations can come in many forms. The position can exist as a single person, a remote freelance group, or an in-house team dedicated to planning, defining, and managing the design process within a company.

It’s important to note that while the responsibility of Design Operations is to manage the design department, they may not be designers. The job calls for more management and planning experience than it does actual design.

The role of DesignOps is to streamline the department processes and provide the design team with the tools needed to succeed. The specifics will vary from company to company. Still, for the most part, DesignOps will remove inefficiencies from the design approach and create operational workflows.

The Design Operations Process

A typical DesignOps team focuses on many workplace responsibilities, from managing projects to budgeting and hiring. They rarely have a background in design, as it’s not necessary to do well in the position.

The areas of focus for Design Operations do not have anything to do with the design itself. Most departments within any company have three overall focal points; people, business, and workflow. DesignOps is no exception to this rule.

People

A massive part of a successful DesignOps process is ensuring that the people, the designers, have what they need to work toward personal and company growth. A great Design Operations manager will help designers define their career path and identify any gaps in skills that need addressing.

The goal here is to build a world-class design team capable of bringing a brand to the next level.

Business

A mindset for business is necessary for DesignOps management. DesignOps can provide designers with the software and problem-solving tools required to do their jobs efficiently by determining and securing the proper budget for the design team. Working in Design Operations isn’t only about streamlining the process. It also means acting as the voice of your designers.

Managing Workflow

Any operations department is accountable for the workflow that exists within the department. As Design Operations continue to evolve, workflow responsibilities will begin to expand, and it’s imperative to set up sufficient design management software.

DesignOps should manage the workflow by concentrating on design research and scalable processes to contribute to company growth. The goal is a creative production flow that works regardless of company or team size.

The Importance of Design Operations

Staffing a Design Operations team wasn’t always necessary for running a successful business. Today, DesignOps are essential.

The days when success didn’t require a distinct online presence are long gone. Consumers expect to find prospects online for most industries, and eye-catching, precise design is the only way to grab their attention.

Design Operations act as a crucial piece of the design puzzle, ensuring that businesses deliver targeted content to meet market demands. Well-known companies are utilizing DesignOps on a global scale.

Still, smaller start-ups often can’t yet embrace the financial commitment that comes with staffing someone to handle the job of company-wide DesignOps. If this is the case, you can set up a design process that will keep your designers on task, eliminating their distractions and scaling their workflow.

Developing a DesignOps Mindset

To greatly assist your design team without hiring a specialized DesignOps manager, you’ll have to form your decisions and actions around a DesignOps mindset. Prepare to provide your team with full support, which can look different for every business but include the same basic principles.

The Objective

The objective behind your DesignOps team, or your DesignOps mindset, is to support your design team members fully. At the same time, they concentrate on consumer and business goals.

You can provide that support by giving them what they need to get their jobs done without asking them to complete side tasks or take meetings that interrupt the creative flow. It’s all about using the correct input to keep your design team consistent.

Provide Purpose & Obtain Talent

Please make sure the design teams know their purpose. When they understand why they exist, they can better ingrain themselves in company goals, aligning with success.

Create a workplace culture that makes your designers want to stay. Even if you don’t have the budget for a DesignOps team, take over that role until you do. Good employee experiences are the key to attracting top talent in the future.

Streamline a Process & Provide Tools

Even if you have the best talent, turning them into a team that functions seamlessly for day to day operations is a process. It allows for open communications and teamwork, allowing everyone to participate in team successes. 

Successful communication requires tools for collaboration. The right tools extend beyond just design software. They can remove any potential friction and roadblocks within the team design process. Think of anything that increases team communications and makes the job of your designers creatively easier as an effective DesignOps tool.

Focus on Structure

With proper structure within a design team comes the ability to act accordingly. The structure is crucial to the future of DesignOps, as it establishes communication methods and allows everyone to know how decisions are made and who will make them. It’s a massive part of leading any team successfully, primarily when the goal is an efficient workflow.

DesignOps Teams for the Future

It’s become increasingly clear that DesignOps is the future of design departments. It’s an essential piece of the puzzle, freeing up design teams and allowing them to do what you hired them to do; bring your brand design to the next level.

By

Brinda Sereno

Associate Vice President – Experiences

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