As our business has scaled, so too have the brands, products and teams that service them. For example, our engineering team has organically scaled over the years and has put functions like DevOps in place to help support their growth. As our design team scales, we too needed to equip our designers with the tools and systems to support this growth.
Which is why we introduced a new DesignOps function to our Design Team at REA Group. Our team’s mission is to support Product Designers embedded in cross-functional product teams.
Where did DesignOps come from?
Over the last few years, we have seen companies like Airbnb, Pinterest, Spotify and many others introduce a DesignOps function, which is likely because they too reached a point in their organisation’s growth where their design team needed to scale. Dave Moulouf, one of the founding members of DesignOps and co-author of the DesignOps Handbook, strongly believes that “DesignOps is the key to scaling digital product design teams with more efficiency”.
Last year we were fortunate to have Dave Malouf visit from New York City and present a DesignOps Essentials workshop at REA Group. Dave’s visit was the catalyst for establishing a DesignOps function at REA.
Issues started to bubble up
We noticed several issues occurring across the design community that needed a DesignOps lens to help solve:
Our design system was now widely adopted and starting to become a product which needed support and service. We asked ourselves how can we manage this product as the system continues to scale? Who is going to manage support requests?
Designers were spending too much time on the small details like colour, icons and spacing. How can we take this off their hands so they can focus on the bigger picture?
Inconsistencies in our ways of working, rituals were different among teams and causing confusion amongst Design, Product and Engineering. How can we standardise rituals and process?
Visual inconsistencies in how things look and feel. Who owns the visual identity? Who is responsible for driving our brand forward in our products?
No dedicated coordination of design-specific learning or training beyond working groups. How can we continue to drive our great design community forward and provide learning opportunities?
Five pillars of DesignOps
The following pillars guide our team to focus on effectively servicing the REA design community:
Design Process – Helping create processes that ease collaboration and ensure effectiveness across our network of teams. We also remove barriers between Product, Design and Engineering and optimise the way we work together.
Design Systems – Ensuring our Design System continues to grow and our design language is unified across all platforms. We empower designers and engineers to build solutions as parts of a greater whole, all while accelerating the design and development process.
Design Culture – Nurture our thriving community by building a creative culture with regular events, great learning opportunities and attracting the best talent to come and work with us. We also ensure that we amplify the value design brings to the business and celebrate and share our successes.
Design Tooling – Manage the tools we use to ensure we have what’s required to get our job done. We also keep across new tools entering the market and ensure new designers are seamlessly on-boarded in the way we use these tools.
Visual Identity – Ensuring our design is executed to the highest quality across all our products in a consistent fashion. We work closely with marketing to provide a better representation of our brand in–product and exploring opportunities to delight our customers with motion and illustration.
Our DesignOps team is a mix of designers and developers. We believe that having an integrated team helps to build a better product for everyone. One of the products we operate as a team is our Design System. As such, our design system is a meaningful collaboration between all in the team.
Although unique disciplines, both designers and developers have a shared passion for code and design. Sharing rituals such as showcases and all hands provide a deeper understanding, and ultimately, a better product.
What we have started to see
Our DesignOps team has helped foster a collaborative culture and in turn we are seeing efficiencies for product teams.
We have helped bring back that magic space for designers and developers, giving them more time on the tools and solving problems – the things they do best.
Our design system is now robust with a vast library of components making it easier for designers and developers to design and build. In turn this has allowed are product teams to focus on the bigger problems.
Progress towards continuous improvements to enhance our process. We anticipate to see a future of smooth collaboration between Product, Design and Engineering.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these insights…. If you’ve thought about starting a DesignOps function at your organisation but not quite had the momentum, get in touch – I'd love to chat.