When is the right time for DesignOps?

Design Operations has been a trending topic over the last few years, with the growing demand for innovation and the proven impact of design on business growth.

DesignOps has become a keyword for many design-centric businesses. As organizations scale, there is a constant need for design services across different teams/departments in an organization — DesignOps helps integrate & scale the design function seamlessly.

But the question is, when should one focus on DesignOps? What parameters should be kept in mind while adopting and investing in DesignOps?

In the last few years, many large enterprises have been investing in Design and are willing to invest in it at a much higher rate than ever before. Some of the global leaders are adding designers & growing their teams rapidly. Here are the stats on six companies’’ designer: developer ratios in 2017 and compared to half a decade ago. The growth is staggering — companies like Atlassian have gone from 1 designer: 25 engineers in 2012 to 1 designer: 9 developers in 2017. Uber’s design team has grown 70x since 2012, and they’re now targeting one designer: 8 engineers. Check out the rest:

These numbers validate the increasing demand for design in organizations, and this new trend fuels the need for DesignOps.

What is DesignOps?

Growing companies often see a sharp increase in their design needs. This can be due to expanding product lines or the creation of new business lines. Usually, there is a proportional increase in the stress, workload, and pressure that design teams face, which can be a bottleneck to further growth. DesignOps aims to establish processes and measures that support scalable solutions for these challenges so that designers can focus on design and research.

Value/Benefits of Disciplined DesignOps -

  • To remove any bottlenecks and obstacles in the design process.
  • To standardize and optimize the design process.
  • To coordinate communication and collaboration across all teams.
  • To allow designers to focus on design.

So is DesignOps suitable for large enterprises only? Can startups and SMEs benefit too? Are there any parameters that can tell us when to adopt DesignOps?

We believe that under the following circumstances, DesignOps can play a significant role –

  • Business Growth — A growing business to scale effectively and efficiently needs design support, utilization of design teams, and cross-functional collaboration.
  • The design team is distributed across locations — When there is a growing demand for managing multiple design teams across different locations.
  • Specialized design skills — UX designers are not unicorns. Instead, there are dedicated roles for design researchers, UX writers, motion designers, illustrators, and brand designers when a diversity of talent needs to be optimally utilized for specialized activities.
  • There is a need to deploy a standardized design process — When information exists in silos, and there is less communication between different teams. It’s not uncommon for marketing and product design to have their own separate sets of brand guidelines that vary from one another. That’s when a standardized and consistent design system is needed.
  • When you want designers to be more effective — To bring more productivity and efficiency in their craft, designers need to focus on what they are skilled at and leave the rest of the responsibilities for the DesignOps team.

Prioritizing DesignOps improves the value of your entire design team’s output. Be sure to measure as you go, adjust as you learn, and be as inclusive as possible when increasing the scale and distribution of your operations.

Once a solid design-thinking culture is established in the organization, it’s natural to move to the next orbit by scaling design operations to keep design seamlessly integrated and constantly communicating its value to all internal & external stakeholders. Achieving this stage will help companies get in a positive spiral of design efficiency & maturity. In that sense, DesignOps helps above & beyond design thinking to cement companies positioning as a continuous user-centric innovation company.

How do we identify the DesignOps threshold?

Each organization and each team is different. Therefore there is no universal rule. However, if your organization and your team present any of the following signs, it is time to start considering DesignOps to maximize your team’s impact.

We are recommending a few DesignOps thresholds based on our experience and interactions with several designOps team members across the globe –

  • Running more than five parallel design-led projects/initiatives
  • Having more than ten designers and scaling year on year
  • Design Teams working from more than one location
  • Having multiple specialized roles — researchers, designers, architects, or content strategists — who need to collaborate closely.
  • Demand for higher productivity

The thresholds will change depending on the nature of the project, company, or industry.

When you hit a hurdle of crossing more than two thresholds, establish DesignOps role, capability and mindset.