The Art of DesignOps

Jena Rapone | 12/15/2023

The What

What is DesignOps?

Design Operations, also known as DesignOps, enables creative teams to focus their attention on what’s important: developing innovative and impactful ways to help clients accomplish their goals. DesignOps prioritizes human-centered strategies to support design teams, enabling more efficient processes and seamless coordination among team members.

The core of DesignOps lies in our mastery of the design process. We understand how to optimize design teams and support their capabilities, resulting in multidisciplinary collaboration for the benefit of our clients. Put simply, the role of DesignOps involves planning and orchestrating design teams’ tasks while ensuring effective teamwork between design, product and engineering during the development process.

The Why

Why does DesignOps matter?

Building, deploying and evolving a well-balanced team demands thorough preparation and organization. Design professionals possess varying skill sets, which makes it crucial to have experience and overarching awareness in determining when and how to expand a team. When DesignOps isn’t involved in an engagement, design resources are less able to focus on crucial tasks and therefore their output is hindered, which makes clients less inclined to reengage.

DesignOps assists our clients in crafting unique digital experiences and achieving strategic objectives.

The Who

Who makes up our DesignOps team?

Within the EY Design Studios sits the DesignOps discipline. Our DesignOps team consists of diverse backgrounds and skill sets, including:

  • Traditional project and account management
  • Business development and strategy
  • Agile team leadership
  • Project finance and economics management

Finding the right type of operational and strategic support depends on the client, account maturity and team makeup. We have DesignOps resources that span from Staff level to senior professionals. At the top of their game, our senior team members own projects and drive large-scale initiatives, lead teams in framing and solving hard problems, possess excellent communication and relationship-building skills, and drive process improvements.

The How

So, how exactly does DesignOps optimize the design process?

DesignOps rests on three foundational pillars: people, processes and platforms. By concentrating on these pillars, DesignOps creates pathways that enable design teams to deliver efficiently and effectively.

People are at the heart of our EY design community. DesignOps nurtures cross-disciplinary collaboration to foster effective communication not only within our community, but also with our clients. Sharing a collective vision and common goal for creating a product or service is fundamental to a successful relationship.

Processes form the backbone of DesignOps, where we cultivate continuous cooperation and improvement through an agile approach and varying methodologies. To maximize value for our customers, we advocate for a swift, iterative process that is adaptable to evolving business and user needs. By dividing projects into smaller chunks and leading teams through cycles of planning and execution, we can consistently assess and improve our ways of working.

Platforms and essential tools, like Kanban boards or Gantt charts, are simply the devices that DesignOps uses to enable a streamlined and productive workflow. We aim to establish consistency and uniformity across these platforms and tools, eliminating confusion and friction. They enable the smooth flow of information, organization of tasks and resources, and ability for everyone to contribute effectively to the design and development process.

With a deep understanding of the design process, DesignOps can optimize design-team structures and supportive frameworks, revealing the true potential of cross-disciplinary collaboration and teamwork.

The Where and When

At which point should DesignOps become engaged in a project, and where should they focus their attention?

Creating a DesignOps culture is fundamental to all aspects of a business, enabling an organization to strategize methods for enhancing design, elevating user experiences, and attaining meaningful outcomes. To establish an effective DesignOps practice, it’s essential to foster cross-functional team collaboration, cultivate an environment that enables trust and communication, embrace new design tools and systems, and recognize the appropriate time to bring in a specialist. The role of DesignOps relies on the needs, strengths and weaknesses of our clients and their digital products or services.

There are a few indicators we look out for when determining the need for DesignOps:

  • The rapid growth of a design team with increasing client needs
  • The need to improve the quality of a design team’s output
  • The need to eliminate bottlenecks and inefficiencies in a workflow
  • The lack of sufficient management or organization of a project

In summary, the DesignOps function is vital within any design organization. DesignOps functions as the conductor of a multidisciplinary orchestra, bridging gaps in cross-team communication and facilitating the smooth operation of the design process. DesignOps is instrumental in maintaining the balance between creativity and efficiency, ultimately contributing to the success and growth of the entire design organization.

Illustration by Regina Zambrano