June 7, 2018

DesignOps at IBM

Headshot photo of Ana Manrique


Design Manager


With Ana Manrique — Design Manager at IBM.

In your own terms, at a high level, how do you define or think about “DesignOps”?

To me DesignOps is not only about design and its optimal practice to maximize the cooperation with other disciplines within the organization, but also how Design is best practiced within the Design department to make designers most happy and effective.

What was the tipping point for you, where you realised this was something that was required and beneficial in your team/company? Was there anything that made you take notice and decide to venture down this DesignOps path? Or any early wins that made you pursue it further?

I have to admit that until I joined IBM, a lot of my close to 20 year career has been spent explaining that design is a business function and that successful design is a direct result from inclusion and intent.

The reason I believe in Design Ops, is that it focuses as much on people and process as it does on benefits to the business.

How does DesignOps effect the efficiency/effectiveness of your day-to-day operations in the team as a whole, and more specifically in the design team? Where have you noticed the most improvements? (ie. Speed of work, frictionless of handovers, happiness of employees, quality/consistency of work etc).

I think the biggest benefit comes from clarity of purpose. Design Operations helps making designs contributions to the business measurable. That being said, I believe there is still ways to go to achieve it.

What does the tooling and flow/process look like for your design team (and development team - if applicable)?

The tooling is a sore point to be honest. Since the projects we work on are so complex and range across functions and continents, there is not one tool that works well for all.

In terms of flow, IBM has a very well established and proprietary design thinking practice that has been adopted and studied by all other units which makes this a very unique place to work at. Seeing Engineers and Product Managers use design terminology is indeed very refreshing.

What resources or influences have had the most impact on the way you approach your day to day operations in the DesignOps space? (This could be other companies, books, podcasts, articles, talks etc).

What is something you believe, that most other people would think is crazy?

In terms of design operations or in general? I believe in a lot of crazy things, that is why I’m in Design. :D