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As a Lead UX Designer, I did the unthinkable and I pivoted my career to become a DesignOps Manager. Why would I do that? At some point, I realized that I cared more about making things work for my UX team members than designing and refining solutions for users that I rarely meet. It was the personal connection and immediate feedback on my work that made helped clarify my next career move.

What is DesignOps?

DesignOps, also known as Design Operations, is a set of practices and processes that enable design teams to work more efficiently and effectively. It is a relatively new field that has emerged in response to the growing importance of design in technology companies.

DesignOps focuses on streamlining the design process, improving collaboration and communication among designers, and creating a more productive and efficient workflow. It involves applying the principles of DevOps to the design process, using automation, standardization, and metrics to improve the quality and speed of design work.

Some of the key elements of DesignOps include:

  • Tooling and automation: DesignOps teams focus on building tools and automating processes to reduce the time and effort required for repetitive or manual tasks.
  • Standards and guidelines: DesignOps teams create standards and guidelines for design work, helping to ensure consistency and quality across projects.
  • Metrics and measurement: DesignOps teams use metrics and data to track the performance of the design process, identify areas for improvement, and optimize workflows.
  • Collaboration and communication: DesignOps teams facilitate communication and collaboration between designers and other stakeholders, helping to ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same goals.

Learn more about how DesignOps helps the UX Team with collaboration here.

A lot of what DesignOps managers do is to identify inefficiencies

How does one become a DesignOps Manager

A lot of what DesignOps managers do is to identify inefficiencies in how UX designers and researchers collaborate, share work, and communicate internally and with their cross-functional partners like Product Managers and Developers. Once you have found those problems and prioritized fixes, then comes the hard work of doing process change within an organization. You must like a Program Manager.

What is a Program Manager?

A Program Manager is a senior-level professional responsible for overseeing the planning, execution, and delivery of large-scale programs within an organization. Sometimes you see the titles of DesignOps Manager and Program Manager interchanged. This area of focus is still new. They are typically responsible for managing a team of project managers and coordinating the efforts of multiple departments and stakeholders to ensure that the program is completed on time, within budget, and meets the objectives of the organization.

The role of a program manager can vary depending on the organization and industry, but some common responsibilities may include:

  • Defining program objectives: Program managers work with stakeholders to define the goals and objectives of the program, and to develop a roadmap for achieving those objectives.
  • Creating a program plan: Program managers develop a detailed plan for the program, including timelines, milestones, and budgets.
  • Assigning tasks and responsibilities: Program managers assign tasks and responsibilities to project managers and other team members, and monitor progress to ensure that deadlines are met.
  • Managing risks: Program managers identify and manage risks associated with the program, and develop contingency plans to mitigate those risks.
  • Communicating with stakeholders: Program managers communicate regularly with stakeholders to keep them informed of the program’s progress, and to address any concerns or issues that arise.
  • Monitoring and reporting: Program managers track the program’s progress against the plan, and prepare regular reports for senior management.
  • Ensuring quality: Program managers ensure that the program meets the quality standards set by the organization, and that deliverables are of the highest quality.

Is your UX Team new and does it need an idea of where to focus its new DesignOps Manager? Check out this post on the three things every UX team needs!

Key to moving large-scale programs forward

Overall, a program manager is a key player in the success of large-scale programs within an organization. They must have strong leadership skills, excellent communication skills, and the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously. They must also be strategic thinkers, able to anticipate and mitigate risks, and to align the program with the objectives of the organization.

DesignOps resources and communities

DesignOps is a growing field, and there are many resources and communities available for designers and design operations professionals. Here are some popular ones:

  • DesignOps Summit: This is an annual conference from Rosenfeld Media that brings together design and operations leaders from around the world to discuss best practices, emerging trends, and the future of design operations.
  • DesignOps Community: This is a community also from Rosenfeld Media where professionals share resources, knowledge, and experiences. They also organize regular events, webinars, and workshops.
  • InVision DesignOps Handbook: This is a free resource that covers everything you need to know about DesignOps, including team structure, process optimization, and tool selection.
  • DesignOps Assembly Slack Community: This Slack group that brings together designers and design operations professionals from around the world to discuss DesignOps topics and share resources. I volunteer for the community to help wrangle all of the resources and connect professionals where possible.
  • DesignOps Report: This is an annual report that provides insights into the state of DesignOps and emerging trends in the field.
  • DesignOps Podcast: This is a podcast that features interviews with design operations leaders and experts, providing insights and best practices for building and scaling design teams.

Closing thoughts

DesignOps is a new and growing subset within the UX industry. Since shifting into this role, I have met a lot of people interested in this. That is a plus. One challenge is that UX managers, practicioners, and companies are not sure how to work with you. This leaves a lot of room and responsibility for a DesignOps Manager to educate and advocate for the role.

Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.