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What is DesignOps?

Last updated

17 January 2024


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Mary Mikhail

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Software users expect well-designed programs that deliver the best user experience possible. DesignOps plays an essential role in improving software design. 

Here are some of the most important things to know about DesignOps, including how it works, and how it can benefit your business.

What is Design Operations (DesignOps)? 

Most customers expect your software to look good while functioning well. Primitive software served businesses fine two or three decades ago, but cutting-edge businesses need more.

Design Operations (also known as DesignOps) involves optimizing nearly all aspects of the software design process. This ensures each product provides the best user experience possible. 

Most types of software programs involve a lengthy design process. This consists of several rounds of changes before releasing a final version, which may receive regular updates. 

DesignOps plays a major role in solving problems and improving the software’s design before and after launch. This ensures the finished product provides the best possible value for customers. 

The role of DesignOps 

Strong and efficient design workflows are central to creating software that works well and provides an ideal user experience. 

Most of a DesignOps workflow involves finding ways to improve the design of your software. It also ensures you use your team and technologies to their maximum capabilities. 

Strategic improvements can make the most of your team’s resources, strengthening your ability to create well-designed software for your customers. 

Optimizing your team is also an important element of DesignOps. Many problems directly stem from team members, and even the strongest teams can be lacking in certain areas. 

Software development teams used to have a few members capable of handling nearly any aspect of a design project. Now, these teams have experts in specific areas. 

Rather than expecting your entire team to manage UX research, coding, wireframes, and other elements of software development, create a specialized team. Hiring expert team members can help you build a well-rounded team that covers every area at a high level. 

With a larger team, ensure everyone understands your business goals and values. Once you have a team you trust, the DesignOps process can continue reducing barriers to the best software. 

DesignOps's heavy focus on optimizing every step of the process allows it to improve your team’s efficiency and effectiveness. You’ll also see improvements to your software, resulting in even higher-quality finished products. 

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Why DesignOps matters 

Understanding how DesignOps can benefit your business can help you make informed decisions to incorporate as many elements of this strategy as you can. 

These three reasons are why DesignOps matters for your business:

1. Better communication and stronger collaboration 

Communication issues can significantly inhibit your team’s overall productivity. 

DesignOps can play an important role in reducing these concerns and their impact on the quality of your company’s software.

It can help your team members identify and address miscommunication, siloing, or other potential pitfalls of departments functioning too independently. 

Companies generally want team members to be able to handle their responsibilities with a minimal amount of management. 

However, isolating team members or departments can lead to silos. This is where certain types of information don’t reach people who may need it. 

Silos can lead to teams spending an unnecessary amount of time clearing up miscommunication and searching for answers they should already know.

Encouraging collaboration with team members, departments, or other design professionals can enhance your team members' knowledge of the industry. It also allows them to bring their new-found knowledge into your team’s projects. 

2. Streamlined workflows and processes 

Disorganized workflows and processes can lead to a significant amount of wasted time and missed steps. 

DesignOps can improve your team's efficiency in these areas by creating standardized design processes and automating certain types of repetitive tasks. 

Some tasks don’t require constant human input, and automations can: 

  • Reduce the likelihood of errors

  • Identify and eliminate design process bottlenecks 

  • Use your resources more effectively

3. Improved productivity and efficiency 

Accomplishing more in less time can significantly improve your company's bottom line. DesignOps gives you many options for automating repetitive tasks and finding other ways to get the most out of limited time. 

Components of Design Operations 

DesignOps finds ways to optimize three key components: 

  1. The people that make up your team 

  2. The processes that bring your products from vision to reality 

  3. The overall design and functionality of your company’s software products

These three elements define your overall DesignOps strategy, including how much you focus on them and how they interact.

How to incorporate DesignOps into your company 

Effectively incorporating DesignOps involves building a company culture that prioritizes good design and quality products. You should also create a specific position for a DesignOps expert.

Build a DesignOps culture 

Making any lasting change to the quality of your business's products involves shifting your company culture. It’s key for team members to focus on crafting well-designed software, which can be a huge change when many are used to working with tight budgets and time constraints.

Providing an amazing user experience and intentionally focusing on quality can truly set your company apart. 

Create a stand-alone role or department 

Every software development company should incorporate DesignOps principles and strategies. 

However, not every company has in-depth knowledge of this complex topic and its best practices, making it tricky to get the most out of DesignOps. 

Adding an expert to your team could be the solution. They’ll know how to structure a DesignOps team and incorporate the practices to enhance your business. 

Large corporations may benefit from creating an entire department of DesignOps experts who work together to find ways to apply these principles to every aspect of the company. 

What does a DesignOps team do? 

Here are some of a DesignOps team's most significant responsibilities: 

DesignOps team duties 

Some of the most important duties a quality DesignOps program can fulfill include: 

  • Managing every aspect of the design process 

  • Coordinating your team members 

  • Creating a culture that values top-of-the-line design 

Operations support is on the outside looking in

Your team may have biased views of how your products should function as they’re so close to the development process. 

DesignOps can simplify and standardize how software looks and works from the customer's perspective. This outward focus can help you make adjustments that bring your software closer to what your users want. 

Project support works in parallel with design leaders 

Even the best companies can benefit from learning from leaders within their industry. 

DesignOps allows your business to incorporate ideas and feedback from some of the best software designers and learn about industry best practices. 

Tips for improving your design workflow and operations 

Even the strongest design workflows have room for improvement. The best DesignOps teams constantly search for ways to improve their software.

Newer or developing businesses often need to focus their effort on fundamental issues. 

However, well-established and high-performing companies have more time and resources. They can focus on smaller changes with the potential to turn a good user experience into an unforgettable one. 

Here are five helpful tips for improving your design workflow and operations to create an even better user experience:

1. Prioritize strong communication among team members and stakeholders 

Communication is key to ensuring the right people always have essential information. 

Successful businesses thrive on strong internal communication and sharing relevant information with stakeholders that support their mission. 

Intentionally keeping everyone informed can significantly reduce wasted time and help your business get the most out of its limited resources. 

2. Stay on top of best practices 

Nearly every industry changes yearly, especially software and other types of technology. What worked well for your business a few years ago may no longer meet customer expectations

Regularly checking on DesignOps best practices can ensure you’re taking every opportunity to create well-designed products that provide the user experience your customers expect. 

3. Understand your company as much as possible 

Digging into the details that make up your company's goals, values, and operations can give you a better understanding of current shortcomings and what it needs to succeed. 

While most businesses can take general steps to improve, relying too heavily on basic recommendations can limit your improvement ability.

Thinking critically about how your company can meet its goals can help you fine-tune specific aspects of your business and reach its true potential. 

4. Add a dedicated DesignOps expert 

DesignOps thrives on ensuring your team has experts in each software development domain, and one of these areas should be DesignOps itself. This could look like:

  • Adding a position for a DesignOps expert

  • Sharing their knowledge with your team members

  • Creating structures that incorporate these details

  • Staying on top of DesignOps developments and best practices

5. Use data to better understand your design 

Designs that you expect to work well may be better in theory than in practice. 

Studying data to determine why a particular concept may not be providing the results you expected can uncover where adjustments are needed. Analyzing various metrics can efficiently locate the source of a particular issue.


What is the difference between DesignOps and service design? 

Service design is similar to DesignOps. Its end goal is creating a better user experience, but it focuses more on the wider concept of service than on software design. 

What is the difference between a design manager and DesignOps? 

Design managers are responsible for implementing DesignOps concepts to optimize various aspects of software development. They typically serve as the leader of your business's design team. 

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