Design Operations, DesignOps, DesOps — you may have heard one of these terms in whatever abbreviated form, over the past year as this specific area of design gains more traction. With the New York DesignOps Summit taking place last week, it seems an apt time to share some of the DesignOps work we’ve been doing at FutureGov.
What is DesignOps?
There are many definitions out there, but I think this is one of the good ones:
“It’s the department (or person) that plans, defines and manages the design process within an organisation. Their goal is to ensure the design team becomes a well-oiled machine, functioning at high efficiency, low friction and generating high-quality design outputs.” — Fabricio Teixeira, Work & Co
And this is a quote that got a lot of airtime at the Global DesignOps conference back in May this year, due to its simplicity:
“If a designer is not designing, they’re doing operations.” — Meredith Black, Pinterest
This quote resonates with me because, at FutureGov, we’re always aiming to maximise the time designers spend designing. The thing they’re best at doing. And not spending hours on operational tasks.
Much of my role is making this happen by ensuring things like knowledge transfer, personal development and software are set up in the easiest and most efficient way possible.
Gathering DesignOps insight
Knowing where to focus efforts is largely informed by the conversations on our design Slack channel. It provides useful insight into the areas designers are requesting help for and spending time on outside of their design work. It’s also a great example of a team that supports each other whilst we work continually for better setups to respond to their needs.
The requests and support broadly fit into four widely recognised areas:
- Design culture: finding the best FutureGov examples of designed outputs, advice on progression, finding/sharing/organising events
- Design team: intros to people with specific skills or knowledge, requests for additional resource on projects, advice on producing a certain deliverable
- Design process and governance: organising design reviews, streamlining workflows, clarifying company processes/procedures
- Design tools: standardising tools and systems, introducing new ones, sharing tips/tricks for latest programme/tool updates
Over the past year, we’ve been constantly working on tweaks and larger scale initiatives to improve many of the above. Examples include:
Best of FutureGov (in alpha)
A site that allows the team to search a selected and endorsed range of deliverables, guides and templates from our work over the past decade, giving them ‘north star’ examples and inspiration.
A nine-month internship programme
Supporting new talent into design and for them to support us with our work. The programme consists of working on live projects and six internal modules to learn about the different areas within the business from service design, to delivery management and business development. The aim is to ensure they fully understand how their work and skills form one cog in the larger FutureGov machine.
A streamlined design review process
Supporting the best work and learning over projects. Our new set up (designed by Lead Service Designer, Jan Blum) will help us bring the right people together to support multidisciplinary teams and make sure the work is going in the right direction. Project Strategy Sessions will ensure we’re approaching the work in the right way and Design Check-ins will ensure we’re producing outputs that are impactful.
I love working on these initiatives as in my 14 years of working as and with design teams, one thing has remained true.
Designers want to do meaningful work in a seamless and supportive setup.
We certainly have the meaningful work, and our DesignOps practice ensures we are constantly identifying, reviewing and addressing the ways in which we work whilst retaining the parts of our culture that attracted designers in the first place.
FutureGov will continue to develop the operational support needed for designers to produce impactful work. We’ll also carry on sharing our thoughts, ideas, experiments and knowledge as we go, with organisations who are setting up their own design teams and practices, and anyone else who’s interested in building the DesignOps practice.
If this is you, please get in touch!