design, product, and engineering working well together

Image generated by DALL·E of product managers, designers, and engineers working collaboratively together

What is design ops?

Design Ops holistically enables high-performance collaboration and seamless ways of working amongst designers and with their partners like engineering, marketing, business, and product management. When done successfully, design ops brings processes and tools to the team that support consistent, quality designs.

Why do design teams need design ops?

The adoption of design ops is important for addressing several challenges a design team faces such as:

  • Improving the quality and value impact of designs
  • Creating efficient workflows and processes as a team
  • Establishing capabilities to grow and evolve the team
  • Finding and hiring talent with the right skillsets

What indicates a need for design ops?

Some of the following can be indicators of a lack of design ops best practices:

  • Lack of time to design
  • Difficulty collaborating with partners
  • Difficulty collaborating across the team (especially accentuated in a global or remote context)

Recent Examples of Design Ops Work

The framework below, "how we work together", "how we get work done", and "how work creates impact" comes from the NNG and I like to use it as a way frame capability building for design teams.

  • From Project in-take to Product Alignment

    Redesigned the team’s engagement model to better align designers by to supported products creating a transparent view of the support costs attributable to the team and enabling a clear business case for additional funding to grow the team
  • Launched design career pathways

    Launched career pathways for experience designers at Johnson Controls as a part of the enterprise job catalogue and with team developed capability models tying to our 5 core development pathways - user research, UX design, service design, industrial design, and experience design leadership.
  • Established role clarity

    Design organizations operate differently depending on the company leading to role confusion between product managers and designers. Together with product management leadership created and lead an exercise to define the roles and responsibilities between design and product management.
  • Sped up research cycle with refreshed toolset

    Reduced the lag in team’s research cycle, from participant recruitment to delivery of insights, from 5 months to 1 week by implementing a refreshed tool suite that re-leveraged existing budget enabling the research team to deliver faster insights that improved product outcomes.
  • Adopted common toolsets

    Fostered adoption of common toolsets (Jira & Figma) to enable closer collaboration designers, and product and engineering.
  • Strategic design system adoption

    Championed design system adoption for designers and developers to enable master brand strategy and accelerate NextGen product work.
  • Hiring great talent & establishing vision

    Hired first design ops role for the team to further mature standard ways of working, capability building, and seamless onboarding to team.
  • Experience Scorecards

    Championed and fostered the adoption of product analytics to establish experience metric scorecards.
  • Customer Advisory Board

    Facilitated and lead the customer advisory board for OpenBlue's digital products.
  • OKR Rollout

    Rolled out OKRs to the design organization to create a common language of value and measurement.
  • Executive communications

    Created materials for design ops reviews, board presentations, and senior operating committee meetings.
  • Digital Accessibility

    Established a digital accessibility statement at Johnson Controls and served as a keynote speaker on the business case for digital accessibility at our business resource group's DEI annual 2024 summit.