How can your UX Researcher help you move forward in DesignOps?

By Lisa Misiaszek

The majority of companies have internalized design and are increasingly mature in design thinking, design sprint, and design system approaches.

As is often the case in our professions, a new methodology has appeared in recent years: Design Ops. The term "Design Ops" comes from the association of the word "design" with the contraction of the word "operation".

According to Norman Nielsen Group, Design Ops refers to the orchestration and optimization of human resources, processes, and know-how to amplify the value and impact of design at scale.

The goal of Design Ops is to establish processes and measurement elements so that designers can focus on design and research.

The feedback around this new methodology is still recent, and the implementation within organizations is still being considered, but here is my feedback.

Start with an operation audit

It is from this first step that the UX Researcher comes into play.

In a Design Ops project, the first step is to start with an operations audit. Operations audits are typically carried out to identify and classify gaps in well-established procedures or practices, as well as to help designers better understand their own functioning and mindset before considering any intervention measures.

Designers work collaboratively with the product, the tech, the data, and depending on the company, many other Directions.

This is why it is not only necessary to interview the designers but also all the other stakeholders with which they have interactions.
For example, for one of the major audiovisual company, I did 30 one-to-one interviews with designers, developers, product managers, content, and researchers.

It's from this strategic planning that the UX Researcher helps to identify existing best practices and pain points through the Design Ops catégories. This is useful to establish an overview and prioritize ongoing improvement actions.

Transform insights into strategic goals & prioritize them

Once this is done, and after analyzing all his notes, the UX Researcher can share the main findings with the core team to discuss each insight during a restitution workshop.

A lot of feedbacks are often already identified by the team but the fact of aggregating verbatims from several people is really impactful. On the other hand, some feedbacks may conflict between what the team thinks and what is really happening. This is also the objective of this audit, to compare what is done and what is said.

For the second workshop, based on the analysis, the UX Researcher and the core team will transform each pain point from Design Ops catégories to a "How Might We" questions.

After that, each participant imagines solutions to answer to each How Might We. Some solutions may already be in progress but it is important to note them as they may be related to other solutions, require more work, or just to keep them in mind.

In a third workshop, each participant votes on the best How Might We to work on. Of course, it is important not only to vote but also to use qualitatives criterias based on an emergency, impacts/benefits, implementation time, etc...

And finally, for each how might we identified, internal or external leads linked to their specific role or expertise will be attached. He will go deeper to resolve the pain point and answer How Might We, helped by solutions already identified by the team or the best practices from interviews.

Share insights and how might we with stakeholders

It is important to share the learnings with your stakeholders. On one hand, they will be able to use their deep knowledge and expertise to propose solutions or their help. This sharing is also a great way for designers to understand different types of behaviors or constraints occurring in each organization.

It's a good way to align the teams, to show that the company is trying to improve their daily lives, and to re-involve them in their work.

Some of the verbatims I heard were kind of this one :

"This is the first time I have an interview in 2 years, it was about time! It would have avoided making 10,000 different organizations"

I think Design Ops is still not very well known in France, but it's an interesting way to make everyone understand that design is not just a brushstroke and has a key role in the success of your business.

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