Why Merging DesignOps and DevOps Benefits the Whole Org

The DevOps movement brought broad changes along with it. Not only did DevOps change development team roles, but it also introduced a method to eliminate department silos while increasing team collaboration — no more simply handing projects over the wall piece by piece. With DevOps, the entire team became responsible for getting the application release to the finish line successfully.

Organizations follow the DevOps method when they need to increase development speed, product quality, team collaboration and profitability. DevOps enables role sharing or role variances while the team works on development, testing, release deployment and implementation. The old department islands where developers code and design, then the QA team tests, developers deploy release code and operations handle the customer implementations at their peril, those are gone. DevOps follows a shared responsibility model that enables for higher-quality design and testing for improved user experience and application quality.

Like DevOps, DesignOps is a shared responsibility method of team management. DesignOps brings UI/UX design team members into the DevOps team model. Let’s discuss what DesignOps means, why it’s important and tips to merge DesignOps into DevOps.

What is DesignOps?

DesignOps is a method of team management. DesignOps standardizes team design processes, documentation and business practices to improve communication, collaboration and user experience. Standardizing application design sounds boring, but DesignOps ultimately results in happier, more collaborative teams. The approach provides team organization and functional principles that help manage the team’s work in a productive and effective manner.

DesignOps addresses team management challenges:

  • team growth

  • hiring designers with the desired skills

  • creating efficient, organized business processes or workflows

  • improving the quality of team deliverables for greater impact

DesignOps brings the UI/UX designer into the project from the beginning through the end. By enveloping them into the DevOps team, designers learn to work alongside development to implement workable designs into the existing technical architecture. Without merging DesignOps and DevOps, the designers remain isolated; this makes collaboration efforts ineffective — or outright disastrous.

Designers and developers have different skill sets. Designers are artistic. While there is an art to coding, developers are technical, and base their code on existing code and architecture. There’s nothing that wastes more developer and designer time than receiving designs that cannot or should not be implemented.

Benefits of DesignOps

Merging DevOps and DesignOps benefits the design team as well as the company overall. DesignOps benefits include more consistent design practices and processes, tool usage and workflows. Companies can also more easily scale UI/UX design. Combined DesignOps and DevOps put the focus not only on quality design, but on efficiency, business impact and collaboration with the development team.

One top DesignOps benefit is standardization. As teams and products grow in complexity and numbers, the organization’s teams must scale to keep up with the business pace. Consistent design output enables all team members to know what the UI/UX designer provides in their work and what tool sets are used to create the designs.

Additional DesignOps benefits include giving designers input into application development as well as the overall business strategy and objectives. More voices and eyes on application development and design throughout the project create a higher quality customer experience with the resulting application. It also helps align the design with broader business goals.

When combining DevOps and DesignOps, UI/UX designers become involved and included with the DevOps team end to end. Inclusion fosters increased collaboration and innovation, which improves employee loyalty, product quality and team productivity.

Why use DesignOps with DevOps?

Hybridization causes increased vigor, meaning teams become more powerful together than they are separate.

Both DevOps and DesignOps methods intend to solve the following problems:

  • siloed departmental functions

  • lack of team communication or collaboration

  • disconnectedness from the customer experience

  • complications — or chaos — on large, complex projects.

By reducing the barriers between teams and merging them, the organization as a whole becomes more unified. Additionally, communication and feedback between teams improve, and the result is a better product, delivered with higher quality at a faster pace.

Merging DesignOps and DevOps begins by preserving the principles of each practice but adjusting them to meet both groups’ needs. With a merged DesignOps-DevOps team, the teams can eliminate unnecessary re-work, bottlenecks and delays caused by misunderstandings. Coordinating workflows improves the flow of sprint and iteration work, and it gets the team closer to delivering improved user experience at a more rapid pace.

Sounds wonderful, but how do you get there?

Most UI/UX designers and developers don’t tend to share the same knowledge — one understands the user experience and design standards, the other understands code standards and practices. Knowledge gaps typically result in miscommunication that wastes time. By merging teams, UX designers learn to understand the existing code architecture while developers build their knowledge of UX design.

Of course, understanding code infrastructure, requirements and restrictions take time. Investing the time will save countless hours of frustration when designers toil for days on a design only to find out the product can’t be built that way.

In the same way, developers tend to be logical and literal. If they can implement the design, they will, even when the design was only meant to convey a concept. Developers are most productive when the design is part of all discussions on products and features, so any framework restrictions are clear before designs are created. DesignOps and DevOps collaboration ensures the team members understand both the purpose and importance of the design for user experience.

Tips for Implementing DesignOps with DevOps

What can be done to merge DesignOps and DevOps? First, bring the teams together either organizationally or by involving them in meetings and reviews relevant to the project.

Consider pairing designers and developers upfront when working on features. This dev-design pairing enables collaborative input during the coding process. Designers can display and explain their design requests, while developers can explain which designs are possible or not. They can come up with a solution together that still serves the user experience.

It might help illustrate the design’s intent to create a coded prototype to display the functional design. Many design tools allow for design prototypes to simulate functions to show the intent without the need to build the underlying code.

Most importantly, emphasize that the team should focus on the customer behavior or user experience goal for the feature, not the precise feature functionality. When you focus on the business goal or customer goal, adjustments to the feature are then made collaboratively to meet that shared goal.

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Other options for merging DesignOps and DevOps include:

  • adding UX designers to the product development team, and including them in all story or sprint planning and design discussions

  • including UX design tasks within the work tracking tool, sprint or Kanban board for visibility

  • sharing current user experience ratings, and establishing a goal to improve upon it

  • encouraging developers, QA testers and other development team members to participate in design and code reviews, which ultimately improves innovation and productivity.

The goal of merging DesignOps and DevOps enables effective collaboration and improved design within all phases of application development. More standardization in the design process helps the teams work together more cohesively and create an application that customers want to experience.

Modern applications need exceptional user experiences to succeed. Positive user experience has finally moved into the forefront, and it is now more important than ever for application development organizations. Without a positive user experience, the application is doomed to fail. Ignoring user experience is no longer an option. Get your team moving forward together by merging DesignOps and DevOps.

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Amy Reichert
Freelance QA SME/Test Engineer
Reading time: 6 min

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