Conference Program

We live—and work—in difficult, punishing times, and designers need more support than ever before. That’s why resilience is our theme for DesignOps 2020; we’ll explore design operations’ role in helping individual designers, design teams, and entire organizations adapt, survive, and thrive.

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We can’t talk about DesignOps without talking about workplace loneliness. This L word doesn’t just affect those who are working as a team of one. Thousands of designers and DesignOps pros in full teams around the nation are silently suffering from loneliness. This chronic workplace loneliness has a negative impact on individuals, teams, productivity, and company success.

Lonely workers are twice as likely to quit their jobs and around 60 percent of Americans report feeling lonely on a regular basis. When people suffer, so does the bottom line. At the average national voluntary turnover rate of 25 percent, a company of 100 people with an average salary of $50,000 will spend between $625,000 and $2.5 million dollars on staff replacement costs in one year.

Well-connected teams that have a high amount of belonging and inclusion experience greater productivity, improved decision-making, lower expenses and a more efficient and happy workforce. In this talk, Sr. UX Designer and Connection Coach Kat Vellos will share insights from her book We Should Get Together and highlights why its lessons matter for DesignOps more than ever before.

Guided Meditation

Theme 1: The Resilient DesignOps Team of One

As DesignOps is new, many solo DesignOps practitioners and operations-minded designers are functioning as DesignOps Teams of One. How might these lone operators sustain and scale DesignOps practices, deepen relationships with design teams and organizations, and change culture… all without burning out?

As DesignOps is new, many solo DesignOps practitioners and operations-minded designers are functioning as DesignOps Teams of One. How might these lone operators sustain and scale DesignOps practices, deepen relationships with design teams and organizations, and change culture… all without burning out?

Design operations is not for the faint of heart. In many ways, design operations for the team-of-one is a choose-your-own-adventure game; it’s essential to choose your own path in this new discipline. In this session, you will learn about the challenges encountered, and lessons learned from the perspective of a single-player design operations manager at EA, one of the largest gaming companies in the world. You’ll walk away from this talk with a strategy guide on how to navigate design operations in your organization, and the methods and best practices you can use to be a resilient team-of-one.

Culture is the glue that holds everything together. When our work lives are disrupted and norms shift, your culture can be at risk. Let’s discuss the role that Design Ops plays in designing and upholding company culture. We’ll look at ways to turn your beliefs into behaviors that reinforce healthy creative culture, even in uncertain times.

Break

Not Black Enough to be White

Of South Africa’s total population, 92% are people of color. In Design however, it’s less than 9%. As a Cape Colored Designer, this made having an identity that my fellow designers could relate to extremely difficult as I am neither Black nor White. In order to navigate a post-apartheid country, I had to realize that belonging nowhere could mean that I, in fact, could belong everywhere. This talk is about the “Cultural Edge Effect” of my heritage and how that has helped me build Enterprise Design teams and attract and build the diverse design skills of South Africa’s future.

Without a culture of safety, people literally can’t think. We can’t collaborate, create, or innovate. That is because as human beings, we are biologically hardwired to belong to a tribe that can protect us from outside threats. Unfortunately, most of us don’t feel a sense of safety in our work tribes. When our work relationships don’t feel safe, we armor up and spend precious energy protecting ourselves from each other instead of learning, collaborating, and well just … working. In this workshop, DesignOps professionals will get practical tools to build and scale the safety of their teams.

Break

For the past 20 years, Dr Karl K. Jeffries has been fascinated by the study of creativity. In this presentation, he shares some of what he has learnt about creativity and how it applies to DesignOps professionals. Whether you consider yourself creative or not, the science of creativity has much to offer professional design practice in all its many forms. As a critical 21st-century skill, having an informed understanding of creativity is crucial to navigating the next five years. In this presentation, Dr Jeffries begins to explore a few insights to ignite your interest in creativity for DesignOps.

A design process is only as good as the people who run it, no matter how “efficient” the process claims to be. This talk will cover the circumstances of a case study and the strategies that took place to establish and maintain momentum on a product that didn’t have a direction. With the collaboration of a team in “flow,” the work seemed (sometimes unbelievably) natural, enabling and empowering everybody not only to trust each other, but also to trust themselves in their own decision making and their own exploration of their craft and strengths with mutual trust and respect.

BBVA began 2019 with a full scale re-org based on agile principles, for the design team in Mexico that re-org included dismantling the 3 years old designOps team because it was considered redundant and a simple admin job that other teams could do. Regretfully it ended in a complete disaster and a step decline in the quality of the design team with the following project problems and complaints of executives and stakeholders regarding the user experience. This was only stopped by rebuilding a more resilient and integral designOps team, revisiting shortcomings and failures of the Head of design and the team’s effort to rebuild itself.

Wrap Up

The 2019 design census states that 3% of the design industry are African American/Black designers while 71% are White/Caucasian. Anthropologists Audrey and Brian Smedley wrote “Race in the American mind was and is a statement about profound and unbridgeable differences…It conveys the meaning of social distance that cannot be transcended.” Racism is divisive and destructive. DesignOps practitioners often find themselves facilitating difficult conversations, pointing out disparities, and creating safe environments for teams to do their best work. So, how do we as practitioners remain resilient when faced with the complexities of racism within our organizations? The goal of this talk is to provide a protocol in which design leaders can engage uncomfortable conversations to help teams become more inclusive. We will explore an often overlooked yet valuable source to ensure the future effectiveness of our design practice, black youth.

Listen to Vincent on the Rosenfeld Review podcast.

Guided Meditation

Theme 2: The Resilient DesignOps Team

As organizations shift, grow, and react to outside influences, DesignOps teams need to adapt and pivot too. How might your team maintain its resilience in the face of constant change? And what metrics will help keep your team’s work consistent and sustainable?

As organizations shift, grow, and react to outside influences, DesignOps teams need to adapt and pivot too. How might your team maintain its resilience in the face of constant change? And what metrics will help keep your team’s work consistent and sustainable?

The hustle of “Uber 1.0” (moving fast and breaking things) is still remnant in parts of Uber’s culture today. As a DesignOps team of two to start, Maggie had to break through many barriers to help quickly and effectively implement a new practice. Within one year, the team grew to 14 Design Program Managers working across 6 global, distributed design studios. How does a team scale and find their voice amidst many cultural challenges, negative news cycles, and multiple rounds of layoffs? This talk will explore how DesignOps can remain a constant pillar of reliability when the structures around a Design team are constantly evolving.

The IBM CIO portfolio is comprised of thousands of tools and services. Given the organization’s obsession with the IBMer experience and their desire to positively impact IBMer productivity, it is extremely important that they allocate their scarce Design & Research talent to the projects that have the greatest impact on IBMers’ work experience. To this end, they have refined their staffing processes and developed a new metric, The Design Staffing Score, that allows them to measure the degree to which their staffing approach aligns with project priority. Patrick will describe their refined approach to staffing, how progress is measured, and the tangible benefits they’ve realized.

Break

DesignOps is all about scaling up design teams while creating organizational efficiencies yet it is not always evident how impact and gained efficiencies can be quantified and measured. There’s a certain confusion around what are the inefficiencies and there is no established process to determine those metrics. This session is not about providing a list of metrics to be replicated. It’s about providing a tested approach on how to identify, quantify, and measure inefficiencies and how to define measurable and realistic targets. This approach can be applied and replicated in any context to support the DesignOps community to gain additional credibility and to ensure DesignOps professionals are able to demonstrate the value of their work to the business with objective data points and quantifiable gains.

Most content design leaders stretch their teams to cover many products at once, or sometimes 5-10 or more. This unintentionally causes the team to constantly switch context, drive less product impact, lag in their career development, earn less pay, and ultimately burn out and leave, only to repeat the cycle elsewhere. This as normal… but it shouldn’t be. I’ll show you how we redesigned content design to increase people’s focus and depth of work, multiply their product and business impact, and even accelerate their growth and compensation… all by working on just one product at a time.

Break

Leading a team during the pandemic may seem impossible given it’s likely the most stressful time of your team’s lives. Recently, I lead our team through a design sprint where we explored improving unemployment benefit access in the middle of the pandemic, which required us to shift how we work. In this talk, I’ll share how we reimagined collaboration, communication, and processes to reduce the stress load while maintaining forward momentum. Together as leaders, we’ll explore how to ethically lead our teams while keeping their resiliency in mind and bring these learnings into the post COVID work life.

Session Details to Come

You’ll come away knowing

  1. How to collaborate without borders — workflows and tools to successfully execute high quality designs (Dropbox, Sketch, Figma, etc)
  2. Management techniques for remote leaders and how to establish trust and goals.
  3. Best practices for team alignment, particularly when you’re not in the same office or time zone.
  4. What work-life balance means to Ana, particularly now that WFH is the global norm.

Wrap Up

Session Details to Come

Guided Meditation

Theme 3: The Resilient DesignOps Organization

When your design organization has scaled up to hundreds of people, it’s no longer a design practice. It’s a design business. And it needs to address big, messy issues—like accessibility, governance, and creating and proving business value—at scale. How might your DesignOps organization navigate these thorny issues while continuing to grow and operate sustainably?

When your design organization has scaled up to hundreds of people, it’s no longer a design practice. It’s a design business. And it needs to address big, messy issues—like accessibility, governance, and creating and proving business value—at scale. How might your DesignOps organization navigate these thorny issues while continuing to grow and operate sustainably?

The Cigna Digital Design Operations stood up a new Digital Accessibility and AccessbilityOps team. Digital accessibility as a general term is the inclusive practice of ensuring that digital products (websites, apps, PDFs, etc.) can be used by everyone — including those with a disability or physical impairment — while retaining functionality and usability. Our team ran into many roadblocks including establishing processes, team structure, organizational support, and human resource issues, including onboarding a new team member who was blind. This case study showcases the steps, challenges, and lessons learned standing up a Digital Accessibility Ops team at a Fortune 100 Health Insurance company.

Business leaders now recognize the Business Value of Design, but how about the importance of Design in driving our Business Values? DesignOps plays an essential role in defining how individuals, teams, and organizations think and operate. Now comes the next chapter – operationalizing our values. As system designers who establish new processes, scale best practices, connect teams, and facilitate alignment, how might we utilize our DesignOps superpowers to unlock greater business value for our stakeholders, customers, and communities? Together, we’ll examine how Design Ops is leading the way to put business values like collaboration, equity, and innovation into practice.

Break

Personal story of how we not only improved the way of how designers worked with the other team members and external stakeholders but also found the ways to automate the routine work.

The goal of the story is to motivate other people to build custom scripts, plugins, extensions, and products. Also, we’ll cover how open source projects can help to increase brand awareness to attract the best talents in the world. Actionable insights to boost up the automation process.

Farid will share some insights on how to analyze and find the weak spots in the design teams’ processes. Then he will provide an action plan on how to automate different aspects of the work as well as simplify the onboarding process for the newcomers.

A design system is a set of repeatable components and standards guiding the use of those components. Standards can come in the form of documentation, videos, blogs, discussion channels, meetups and office hours just to name a few. A design system may be built internally within an organization, or there are hundreds of open source design systems that can be downloaded and used. However, only a small percentage of those open source design systems are set up such that they can be successfully implemented in a manner that results in software that is accessible to people with disabilities who use assistive technology to interact with technology. This talk will discuss the importance of accessible design systems and a high level overview of the ten best known open source design systems.

Break

What happens to your DesignOps team when your Design organization hits scale? Juggling the growth of your product, your people, and your processes is a demanding challenge, and strains the jack-of-all-trades skillset of even the most seasoned DesignOps practitioner. Our solution? Evolve DesignOps into two discrete tracks: Team Ops and Product Ops. We’ll look at how these tracks emerged, how they operate in practice, where they intersect (and where they differ), and the lessons learned from our “conscious uncoupling” of design team ops and product design ops responsibilities.

While Design Operations (DesignOps) is only a few years old as a practice, it is evolving rapidly. As we finish our 4th year at The Summit, we’ve seen so much change in our community of practice in this short time. So, we want to end this year’s Summit with a look beyond. If we are to be resilient what are we being resilient towards. Jon Fukuda (Limina), Dominique Ward (Atlassian), and Adrienne Allnutt (LinkedIn) will share their perspectives on where DesignOps is going and why. Moderated by Dave Malouf (Northwestern Mutual). We will be fielding questions from attendees, too.

Wrap Up