DesignOps – What is it, and why your design team needs it

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Many organizations are seeing the value and ROI of UX design, and have established a design practice as a way to build and offer better products and services to their customers. However, although design work is being done in your organization, it may not be done effectively, efficiently, and with the highest quality output. This may be caused by a misalignment between people on the team, a lack of processes in place to ensure consistency and standardization, or a lack of understanding of the purpose of design and how it fits into your organization as a whole. The key to ensuring design teams are successful, and to help guarantee a higher return of investment from design practices businesses have set-up within their organizations, is taking a more strategic approach through the establishment of Design Operations. Design Operations (DesignOps) is essential to getting the most out of your existing design team by optimizing the people and processes of your design practice, leading to higher impact design solutions, and ultimately maximizing value for your organization.

So what exactly is DesignOps?

DesignOps is a set of practices and principles aimed at streamlining and improving the design process within an organization. You can think of it as steps an organization can take to measurably improve a design team’s performance and its impact to the business. It is especially important to operationalize design practices since design is an area that can still be misunderstood, poorly integrated, and not well supported within many businesses.

At Fuzzy Math, we believe that in order to deliver exceptional user experiences, businesses need to set up design processes that promote creativity, efficiency and more streamlined integration. In addition, design team members should be enabled and empowered to do their best work. DesignOps is a tool to help optimize your UX design team, and ensure they are working in the best ways to support your business. In this article, we will explore why DesignOps is important, and how to best implement it within your business to help achieve success.

Why is DesignOps Important for your Business?

Right people, right seat

Setting up design operations can benefit your business in a variety of significant ways. Firstly, it ensures the right people are in the right roles. As design teams grow, DesignOps helps to identify which roles are needed, which skill sets are necessary for that role’s success, and helps to ensure the right people are hired to best sustain the team and project needs. When you are more aware of the design team make-up and skill set, you can better resource projects to align with skills and availability. This helps to avoid burnout from people being over-resourced, and increases productivity due to clearer assignments. If you aren’t at a place to invest in growing your design team, DesignOps can also better enable your current team to do their best work through increased motivation, efficiency, and alignment. It can help ensure that your design training is relevant and accessible, avoid redundancy of more than one person taking on the same responsibility, and help separate teams or team members work better together. This leads to getting more, higher quality output from your team without increasing headcount. It also helps keep the talent that you have since designers are able to make more impact, have clearer purpose, and are assigned to teams and tasks that align with their skills. Through the incorporation of DesignOps, the design team is aligned on their roles and responsibilities, and supported within their roles in order to do their best work.

Consistent, efficient, and scalable processes

Once you have the right people to do the work, DesignOps can also help ensure that work is done efficiently and sustainably. By establishing standardized workflows, tools, and guidelines such as design systems, designers can produce consistent design outputs more quickly and at a higher quality. Without this type of shared documentation, businesses risk design assets being made in silos, causing inconsistency and frustration from designers by accidentally re-doing something that was already done. Having a design system is necessary to ensure higher quality control, and can help reduce the time and effort spent reviewing and ensuring each design matches an organization’s standards. Establishing processes that encourage collaboration and feedback also helps ensure that the work that is being done is alignment with what is needed, and can be completed within the proper timeline. This can include regular design reviews to iterate and align earlier in the design process before moving too far in the wrong direction at a high fidelity.

Another important process to establish within your organization is user research. ResearchOps is an aspect of DesignOps that helps ensure research is done with intention so that designs are user-centered and impactful. This is particularly important to ensure design can solve the right problems based on the user experience itself, instead of being utilized to help make smaller, bug fixes. ResearchOps helps create a shared understanding of the larger opportunities for the product and service which leads to higher impact solutions. It helps create a design process that is proactive instead of reactive. When research is implemented at the right time and in a meaningful way, designers can create designs that are more aligned with your customer needs and goals – thus driving sales and customer retention.

Aligned with business goals

Lastly, DesignOps can help the entire organization better understand the purpose and impact of design, and create a shared culture around the user-centered process. Through the establishment of metrics, the design team can measure their impact to the user experience and the overall success of a product or service. Metrics can also highlight the importance of a design practice to other roles and teams within the business. Just like any other team within your organization, your design team should have a clear mission and an understanding of how their team directly contributes to the organization’s success. When that mission is properly communicated and understood, designers better understand how their work fits into the bigger picture and feel more respected and valued as a result. DesignOps can create a shared culture among the team, increasing camaraderie and a sense of belonging to your organization.

How Fuzzy Math Implements DesignOps for Our Clients

As an organization dedicated to UX design for over 15 years, Fuzzy Math has developed proven methods that have helped us work better as a design team, which we have also used to optimize the design practice for our clients. In this section, we will walk through the steps we take to implement DesignOps, and provide additional insight into some common problems we see within organizations that your business may be struggling with as well.

Step 1: Assess current state and identify pain points

In order to best implement DesignOps for our clients, our process starts with developing a more thorough understanding of where the organization’s design practice is at today. Similarly to how we solve UI design problems, we typically start these projects conducting research to better understand the current state and identify the largest pain points. This can save your organization time by avoiding focusing on the wrong things, and instead utilizing your time and energy addressing the specific aspects that will make the most impact for your team and your business.

To identify what problems DesignOps can best address, you first should conduct research into the make-up of your design team, what their process looks like when doing research and design work, and how your designers are collaborating and supporting other teams within the organization. At Fuzzy Math, we help organizations conduct this research through a series of assessments. We gather information from UX leaders, contributors, and other teams within the organization to better understand the current state. These assessments can help uncover inefficiencies and inconsistencies within our client’s design process and misalignment within their design team and across the full organization as it relates to the purpose of design. Fuzzy Math asks organizations a variety of questions to assess an organization’s design practice as it relates to these three key areas:

  • People: The design team has an intention that drives their work and propels them forward.
  • Purpose: The design team feels their purpose is known and valued within the organization
  • Process: A user-centered design process is embedded in the work that’s produced and delivered by the design team.

Step 2: Uncover solutions and take action

Once you have uncovered the key problem areas that may be leading to inefficiencies and misalignment within your design team, you can take action in implementing DesignOps to address these issues head-on. Here are a few examples of common problems we typically see with the clients we work with that your organization may be running into as well, including specific actions your company can take to implement DesignOps to address those issues:

Designers are siloed and producing inconsistent, lower quality work

Especially for larger organizations where designers may be working on separate workstreams without much overlap, it can be hard to ensure consistency, and for designers to all be aware of previous design decisions. This can lead to a higher risk of designers producing work that isn’t aligned with the product vision, that needs to be redone, and that may not provide the best user experience.

Creating and maintaining a design system is essential in helping to keep all designs for a product consistent. It also can reduce time wasted looking for specific design assets in old documentation, or redesigning something that was already designed. Fuzzy Math recently created a design system template to help us in our own design process which we use to more efficiently create design systems for our clients to ensure successful implementation and scalability.

Other documentation and standardized training can also help address this issue. This can include setting up training and utilization requirements for common tools, like Figma, to ensure designers are working efficiently, and in a way that supports consistent integration across different projects. As a result, designs don’t just look the same, but are built in ways that the entire team understands and can utilize for future iterations of your product.

Lastly, scheduling collaboration and feedback sessions that bring designers together across teams can provide opportunities to share work, learn from one another, and ensure design decisions for all offerings from a business are aligned. At Fuzzy Math, we implement a monthly meeting called a “Designer Hangout”, where all designers across multiple projects are invited to share what they have recently learned on projects, showcase their work, and receive feedback from other designers on our team. These opportunities also helps make design teams feel more connected, especially when designers may be currently siloed and focused on different workstreams or projects.

UX design isn’t well understood throughout your organization

When the value of design is not well communicated throughout your organization, it is harder for design to be implemented during the right times and in the most impactful way.

Crafting a mission statement for your design team can both ensure your designers have a shared purpose, but also can communicate that purpose to other teams and leaders. A mission statement should align with your larger business goals, and feel connected to its success. Organizations also should provide opportunities for designers to educate others about the user-centered design process to help it feel better integrated into the overall culture. This helps to ensure all decisions are being made with the user in mind, and can help maximize impact and customer or client satisfaction.

Another step to communicate the value of design is to create metrics to measure it. Establishing KPIs related to design outputs provides ways to track the impact of design as it relates to your business’s bottom line. KPIs should measure aspects important to your organization’s success including time to market for a product, user retention, and usability.

As your larger organization better understands the design process and its measurable impact, design will be better integrated and enabled to support the success of other teams such as development, marketing, and product management.

Designers are burnt out, unsatisfied, and motivated to leave

In order to retain top talent, organizations need to support their designers and ensure they have opportunities to provide value.

Having a process around resourcing designers on projects, and ensuring you have a team that can support requests and scale as your company grows is essential in preventing designers from being overworked. This includes evaluating the ratio of developers to designers, ensuring the design team is big enough to handle the work that is trying to be developed without causing a bottleneck.

Setting clear processes for approval and feedback also helps to avoid frustration from unclear timelines, drawn out iteration cycles, or confusion when there is conflicting feedback coming from too many directions without a clear approver.

Additionally, designers should feel like they have ownership over their designs, and have space to contribute to the strategic design direction. To avoid having them feel like “pixel pushers”, ensure design is being implemented at the right times and integrated into the overall vision for your products or services. This includes creating processes for user-centered research through the establishment of ResearchOps, so designers have the time and resources to identify pain points and align design decisions to real user needs.

When design feels like an important, well-integrated aspect to the business’s success and is given the proper resources and support, designers will feel more respected and valued thus leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover.

Step 3: Measure impact

Whatever actions your organization needs to take to implement DesignOps, it is critical to ensure that you are also setting up metrics to measure its success, and the impact those changes have on your design team and the business. A few examples of metrics include:

  • Design team retention rates and overall satisfaction scores
    • Does your design team feel more fulfilled and invested?
    • Are they more likely to stay?
  • Design team performance and efficiency
    • How long does it take for designers to do their work?
    • Are they performing successfully and in alignment with their role?
  • User satisfaction score, net promoter scores and quantitative tracking
    • How satisfied are your customers with your company?
    • How satisfied are your customers with your product specifically?
    • Are users able to utilize the product successfully?

When setting up metrics, be realistic about what metrics make the most sense to track for your organization and ensure you can track those metrics regularly over long periods of time to get an accurate sense of any measurable changes.


Design Operations is the key to optimizing your design practice within your organization. Through the implementation of DesignOps, your design team can maximize their impact and mitigate risk through increased efficiency, standardization, and an aligned purpose. At Fuzzy Math, DesignOps has helped us as a UX design team work more efficiently across all projects, train and retain our designers, and create better solutions for our clients.

Does your organization need help getting the most out of your UX team? Fuzzy Math has been refining our own DesignOps and that of our clients since we were founded in 2009. Get in touch to see how Fuzzy Math can help implement DesignOps within your business.

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