Join us on 22nd Sept 2022 for a session on "Scaling product design and development with DesignOps"
How remote design teams can benefit from DesignOps
How remote design teams can benefit from DesignOps

During the pandemic, design processes evolved to enable a shift of the design function to allow design teams to work remotely while maintaining (if not improving) pre-pandemic productivity.

Working remotely across time zones & a diversity of mindsets can be challenging. However, institutionalizing best practices & operationalizing design workflows can ensure seamless working with remote teams. Several organizations across the world have set up a dedicated  DesignOps team to streamline communications, collaboration & delivery.

Challenges faced by remote design teams and how to mitigate them

DesignOps empowers the remote design function by improving productivity, collaboration, communication, and quality of output. Here are some of the challenges faced by remote design teams and how DesignOps could be the ideal solution to mitigate them:

Communication

Effective communication is critical for team collaboration when working with remote design teams. Seamless communication helps team members keep track of each other’s progress toward achieving common goals and design outcomes. Failing to do so may lead to unclear project and design requirements, lack of detail of shared work within design teams, and vague objectives and constraints between teams.

Communication is crucial in remote teams

Excellent communication is not always accessible as it often requires dedicated channels for all stakeholders to communicate, especially for large design organizations with multiple teams. A good DesignOps platform should allow unified communications through tech stacks integrated with communication software such as slack and zoom. These tools significantly improve communication when design teams work with non-design employees and other external stakeholders. DesignOps helps mobilize all design communications to a single channel that keeps all relevant parties informed and up-to-date with up-to-date design processes. 

The existing communication channels like Slack or Microsoft Teams can be leveraged for all design operations-related communication.

Inadequate collaboration tools

DesignOps provides teams with the right tools to make collaboration between different teams and stakeholders simpler and seamless. The lack of proper collaborative design tools is a big challenge faced by organizations with many design teams working remotely. The right design ops tools allow designers and non-designers to collaborate efficiently to accomplish daily tasks. 

Such tools also make it easier for design teams to post feedback on their work and that of other teams to create a continually improving design ecosystem. Working with DesignOps platforms that work with full tech stacks such as GoogleDrive, Slack, Jira, and many more is a great way to improve the overall performance of your remote design teams. 

DesignOps platforms integrated with remote design tools such as Figma allow design teams to collectively access all design files on the cloud and extract code snippets from any design element.

Efficiency tracking & measurement of productivity

Measuring and tracking the productivity of remote design teams is one of the biggest challenges facing organizations engaging in remote employees. Maintaining efficiency is hard without gauging how well your resources are being utilized and spread across various teams. For instance, some teams may be underperforming due to a lack of resources, while others work with more resources than necessary. Another common discrepancy is allotting unbalanced design tasks to different teams. Combatting this requires design leaders and managers to set up KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to clearly define appropriate timelines and expectations for remote workers on task priorities during every remote workday.

These KPIs track and evaluate the performance of each team in real-time, ensuring that all design team members are kept aware of organizational expectations irrespective of how big the teams are or where they operate. These KPIs provide accountability for remote teams and a set of standards and expectations they must meet, similar to working in a non-remote environment. These KPIs also are known to be a key motivator for remote teams to improve the quality of their design and outcomes.

Standardization

Remote team management requires standardization of processes & activities to develop visual consistency across products. Standardization does not necessarily mean a rigid set of rules that restrict designers. Instead, it builds a solid design foundation with all the necessary tools, and guidelines design stakeholders need to reduce operational redundancies.

standardization of design processes

It also allows design leaders to create an infallible system by strategically layering future innovations over the standards. Low-quality outputs and operational inefficiencies commonly result from DesignOps managers that do not address broken processes & non-standardized activities. This occurrence is especially the case when working with remote teams. A good DesignOps tech platform should be able to quickly mitigate this problem and help design leaders maintain standards and consistency despite having varying teams, locations & mindsets.

Alignment with Business

Remote teams struggle to align themselves with overall business & functional goals and usually have independently operating remote teams. In such situations, there is no central place to define, manage & align work done by remote individuals or teams toward achieving meaningful goals. This misalignment often leads to design inconsistencies, delays, and other avoidable repercussions that affect the design output quality. DesignOps, on the other hand, creates a unified collaborative environment between all remote and non-remote teams to achieve business alignment and subsequently improve design consistency and quality.

Learning Organization Culture

Creating a great design culture for your organization involves encouraging communications, making diverse hires, maintaining an inclusive workspace, and ensuring the design culture is applicable throughout the company. When remote working organizations fail to create an appropriate design culture, employees working in isolation feel undervalued and demotivated.

Excellent design requires planning and training on all organizational levels for optimal results. A reasonable consideration for design-led businesses is to create open communications between all organization stakeholders.

Building transparency and trust

DesignOps should be able to streamline communications between remote managers and team members. Doing so bridges the gap between the two parties and makes it easier for transparency when dealing with mutual concerns between remote work managers and their teams.

This transparency helps organizations build trust between managers and design teams and is one of the most important byproducts of adapting design thinking and DesignOps for institutions.

Through DesignOps, transparency in product expectations, wages, work hours, payment timelines, and project status updates helps build trust between managers, leaders, and their teams.

DesignOps brings efficiency to remote design teams

DesignOps brings efficiency to virtual teams

The biggest challenge remote work faces are teams working in isolation with little to no coordination with other design stakeholders. Such situations can lead to inconsistent delivery timelines and failure to deliver adequate UX.

DesignOps helps bring remote and non-remote teams together in a unified workspace enriched with the proper selection of collaborative tools designed to overcome any bottlenecks and disharmony that may form between design and development teams.

DesignOps allows businesses to optimize their design workflow and provide a single source of truth for all relevant files and resources, simplifying the processes and allowing teams to focus more on product design.

Tips for implementing DesignOps in remote teams

When implementing DesignOps for remote teams, it is essential first to identify the problems facing the remote design teams. This helps identify all the DesignOps problems faced by remote workers and relevant stakeholders. 

Once identifying the pain points, design leaders can customize the DesignOps implementation strategy to fit the unique problems at hand. For instance, in some businesses, design teams may need to fill a designated DesignOps role that focuses on driving the design operations.

In other cases, a designated design ops role may be redundant, and instead, the organization implementing design thinking, DesignOps strategies, and standardized processes are sufficient to derive excellent outcomes. Either way, it may be beneficial to follow up the research and determine the value DesignOps has for team performance. 

Devising a priority-based roadmap that can map out all the short and long-term design goals and timelines that DesignOps can help the teams achieve is a good rule of thumb to ensure consistency in achieving business targets. By following these steps in implementing DesignOps for remote teams, businesses can effectively plan products and initiatives in a quantifiable and manageable way.

The tools needed to implement DesignOps remotely

Some of the collaborative tools that are advantageous in making DesignOps for remote work seamless are: 

Google Drive: Google Drive allows your files to be stored on the cloud for all design and non-design teams and stakeholders to access remotely. The need to manually send files back and forth for edits is long gone; multiple team members can now remotely access relevant files and folders simultaneously.

Zoom: This communication tool revolutionizes how remote teams communicate with each other. Zoom meetings facilitate a virtual environment where all design and development discussions between designers and non-designers can be seamless and empowered with rich productivity tools.

Slack: A communication channel that allows design employees, teams, and other organizational stakeholders to communicate seamlessly on day-to-day tasks and goals.

Figma: An important tool that enables DesignOps to function for remote teams. Through Figma, you can create applications, websites, logos, and much more. Design leaders can use Figma to monitor team design activity, intervene, and course-correct mistakes or offer suggestions to remote design teams when necessary.

Jira Cloud: This software is used in DesignOps to help design team members plan, monitor, and manage their remote work. This tool allows design team members to build new workflows, highlight issues, and increase remote work quality.

These are just some popular collaborative tools businesses use to achieve DesignOps for remote teams. A great DesignOps platform should have a tech stack with all these and more collaborative software.

What you should keep in mind while scaling DesignOps for remote teams

Improving remote collaboration with designops

The most important thing to keep in mind when scaling DesignOps for remote teams is to track and gauge the DesignOps efforts and outcomes derived as a result of the efforts. For this, you require different metrics to estimate the impacts of all DesignOps efforts implemented, however big or small. Here are some of the parameters to measure to gauge the effect of design ops implementation:

Engagement

If the level of attention that team members show toward following DesignOps practices is low, and team members are cutting corners, it indicates something wrong in the DesignOps processes.

Further assessment and strategizing can help remote workers follow all DesignOp efforts without resistance. Remember, a sound system is strong only while the key players follow it.

Gauging design quality

This measures the rate at which the design quality has improved or declined since implementing DesignOp procedures. By estimating this, DesignOps processes can be customized to fit the individual organization and enhance design quality through DesignOps further as a byproduct.

People utilization

By ascertaining the essential tools and their frequency of usage, design leaders can customize the DesignOps to include only the best tools to drive the best remote work outcomes.

Furthermore, redundant tools that do not serve any purpose are easily identifiable through this assessment.

Time spent on various core skill areas

This is to understand the utilization of the design team’s time and resources. Businesses need to understand the time utilization of designers and their teams. Suppose a designer or design team uses much of their bandwidth to perform administrative work.

In that case, they do not fully realize their potential to generate new designs. This step focuses on shifting the bandwidth of design teams away from routine and mundane administrative tasks to what they do best; design. Keeping an eye on these parameters ensures that your remote DesignOps teams always function optimally.

In conclusion, a dispersion of team members does not mean that design team performance should drop. The right DesignOps platform can help keep design teams, and their members connected and provide tools and processes needed to achieve the best design outcomes.

Explore Cubyts’ state-of-the-art DesignOps platform and how it may be precisely what your organization needs to derive the best product designs. Contact us to find out more.