There are so many things to think of when a company is in a state of motion. Whether it is a small team trying to grow, or a larger corporation looking to keep their crown. With design, the work process could begin to bulge at the seams. Chaos ensues, and you’re stuck with confusing design documentation, hundreds of questions keeping your team distracted, and you experience more confusion than a football team at Wimbledon.
What is DesignOps and what impact does it have on designers, teams and company products? Here are the top 10 signs to help you figure it out if you need DesignOps to optimize your workflow.
1. In the company, designers work on products in small groups of 2–4 people, or each designer works independently of the others
When moving to another company, a specialist faces different perspectives and alternative ways of working. You have to learn the nuances, get used to new stages, weekly report forms, or even the format for preparing a layout for developers. And these are just a few of the examples you’ll most likely face. This is normal because we are talking about changing companies — but what if this happens in your current company?
Standardization of design documentation, preparation of layouts for development — and their maintenance, make the interaction between designers more efficient and comfortable. It also reduces the number of questions from developers, whose time is extremely valuable, like that of a marathon runner trying to break their former record.
If you are worried about cases where production times are slowing down because of the lack of component states in the design, not understanding how a prototype works, or even personal habits of preparing layouts for development — you need the DesignOps manager.
DesignOps is ideal when you’re looking for:
- Standardization of design documentation
- Preparation of layouts for development
- Maintenance of these layouts
- Fewer questions from developers
2. The company is working on several products at the same time
This is especially true if products are developed from the stage of forming an idea to entering the market. If you are a full-cycle company, you need DesignOps.
Regardless of the type of project, the design team must understand how to start work on a product, how to develop it in the next stage of production, what methods to use, and what is expected of it at the end of each stage. This empowers the manager to rotate designers in teams, making teams more independent.
The most important thing is that the timing, processes, and results become predictable for related teams and specialists like yourself.
DesignOps is ideal when you’re looking for:
- Less head-scratching — more focused effort
- Managing expectations
- Optimizing workflow
3. The company has no budget for hiring experienced designers
If a company’s business model does not involve hiring experienced, yet expensive, designers, you find yourself in a vicious circle — the company does not have its intellectual resources to chase competitors or produce more sophisticated products that would work for the loyalty of partners and end-users, ultimately pushing the company out of the limits of this circle effectively stagnating.
Should this happen, the DesignOps manager will help build a culture of leadership in the company, establish effective design processes and improve them as designers helping them grow professionally. DesignOps must identify growth points for designers, draw up individual development plans, and conduct truly effective performance reviews.
While spending money sounds counterintuitive, the right investment can help put your company and team back on track. And that track will lead to growth, less stress, and more leads. Besides, making a huge investment right off the bat might still be too much, which is why with DesignOps it’s possible to work part-time with our managers as well. Dipping your toes in the water, so to speak.
DesignOps is ideal when you’re looking to:
- Create a culture of leadership in the company
- Establish effective design processes
- Identify growth points for designers
4. You hire designers with a good portfolio, but difficulties still arise during the design development phase
The whole secret is in the phrase “good portfolio”. As long as you evaluate the skills of a designer in such a subjective way, you will regularly come across a biased understanding of what the result of a designer’s work is, what it should be. Every designer, stakeholder, manager, and the client has a subjective opinion, which can be a “war of all against all”.
DesignOps managers will implement processes to correctly evaluate designers for their ability to enter projects, make deliberate, deliberate decisions, and influence product development with such decisions. This does not mean that every decision made by such a designer will be conditionally “correct”. But in case of disagreement with them, well-grounded decisions lead to deliberate dialogues together with alternative solutions. This is precisely the influence on the evolution of the product.
Searching for and finding the right designers is the job of a DesignOps manager.
DesignOps is right for you when:
- You believe a ‘good’ portfolio is more smoke than a mirror
- You want to avoid bias at all points during the hiring process
- You want to hire only people who fit right in
5. Difficulties with the personal development of designers
This is a bit like the lack of experienced designers on the team, but there are differences. The main thing is that the company could have an illusion of personal growth and mistake clumsy processes for smooth ones.
This happens a lot more often than you think.
Even experienced designers cannot always correctly identify growth points and try to apply the patterns that worked for them to develop less experienced colleagues. This is far from an effective personal development system — people learn in different ways, this is obvious. It is also obvious that the skills to develop are different for everyone.
The goal of DesignOps is not only to use patterns but to understand the personal characteristics of the designer and customize the processes of personal development.
DesignOps is ideal for you when:
- You want a personal approach for each member of the team
- You need more understanding about how your team grows and learns
Side note: By the way, if your designer attends more design conferences per year than design courses or workshops, the personal development plan might’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.
6. You haven’t tried a single new design methodology in a year
Glad you found and built a process that seems efficient and meets the needs of the business. But design, as part of product development, never stops evolving. There is no way to take part in that evolution if you’re afraid of experimentation. Standing still means getting left behind by your competitors. DesignOps manager tracks trends in design management, methodologies, and process management.
The processes built by the DesignOps manager will allow you to test best practices and innovations on real projects, without the risk of negatively affecting them. This is important in cases where the company cannot allocate time to the design team for full-fledged training projects.
What is the business benefit? Companies with a more developed design culture find it easier to attract specialists, which means that hiring is cheaper (not only designers!). Companies that test and implement innovative techniques get better results in the same amount of time, which means they increase product value while lowering production costs.
DesignOps is perfect when you want to:
- Remain a leader in your field by adapting to new ways of working
- Test best practices and innovations on real projects
- Make it easier to attract specialists
7. The company is growing, the number of projects is growing, the design team is scaled up
Growth is great. But scaling a team could become a painful part of this growth. Habitual patterns stop working, habits become weaknesses, and the process becomes jittery and less efficient. It’s that moment when you’re so stressed out, you order pineapple pizza as a mistake — which is especially awkward when you’re standing at a Starbucks lost in thought.
Did you know that staff turnover peaks during the growth stages of a company? It would be great if someone took care of the processes, the transition, and made the growth process a challenge, not a painful problem.
DesignOps will help with that before it all takes a nosedive. The establishment of effective communication where there are two or three more points of interaction for each specialist will prevent confusion and stress. From that point on, DesignOps develops new onboarding and helps you recruit new designers.
DesignOps is the right choice when:
- You want to leverage your growth potential
- You want to avoid ‘rookie’ mistakes in the early stages
- You prefer smooth waters instead of rough seas
8. The product is growing out of proportion
Sounds abstract — how do you know when a product is getting “too big”? This means that there are more frequent design consistency issues at the UI level and the user experience level. Sometimes the product does not give the impression of integrity, especially if you are creating an ecosystem of products and services — for example, you use unique patterns for similar user scenarios.
DesignOps manager will help improve communication between product teams or individuals and implement Design Experience Review processes, which aim to organize design components and patterns and maintain a sense of harmonious product integrity.
DesignOps is perfect for you when:
- You love structure and planning
- You prefer processes instead of ad hoc solutions
- You want to keep everything unified across multiple touchpoints
9. Keeping it clean
A large product means complex processes at the level of development management, documentation, and systems support. Within a couple of years, you will find so many obsolete tasks, components, screens, prototypes, and other entities that use documentation in this form, making it less and less expedient.
There is an inventory of design artifacts that the DesignOps manager initiates, maintains, and runs to address these issues.
DesignOps is ideal for situations like:
- Getting rid of obsolete processes
- Making more time to do the actual work rather than struggling with design artifacts
10. You have consciously decided to improve the quality of the design, to increase the degree of its influence on the value of the product
To begin with, you are the best. The only thing that remains now is to figure out how to leverage that potential — quickly, efficiently, and with the least amount of investing.
The answer is simple — it’s time to upgrade your company or team with DesignOps. This will help with the development of the design team, make finding and hiring specialists transparent and efficient, build the necessary workflows, and ultimately improve the quality of the result of the work of designers and their impact on the product.
Now that you have the why, here’s the who.
DesignOps aims to improve communication within and between teams, is interested in standardizing (and even automatization, if possible) processes, effectively working with feedback, as well as testing and implementing new ways of working.
The other side of DesignOps manager work is the effective hiring of designers with the right skills, participation in their personal development, and optimize the qualitative development of the design team. To make the whole affair even more comfortable, the DesignOps manager plans the work, defines the process and specific methods for achieving design goals for each specific project.
DesignOps culture in the company helps to save on hiring, have fewer unforeseen situations not only during the design stage but during the design implementation stage, and to create products that are more popular than competitors, due to better design solutions and faster withdrawal to the market of tested MVPs.
Before the curtains close, here are some lingering questions you might have.
“My team is pretty small, can I still use DesignOps?”
“Do I need a separate DesignOps specialist?”
You don’t have to hire DesignOps as a separate specialist at all. A lead designer or experienced product manager can start implementing Design Operations processes at the company level. This is the case when even partial activity is better than none.