May 24, 2018

DesignOps at LinkedIn

Headshot photo of Adrienne Allnutt


Design Program Management


With Adrienne Allnutt — Design Program Management at LinkedIn.

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

DesignOps is designing experiences for our creative friends to be creative, get shit done, collaborate, be silly. This results in hiring and retaining top talent, ultimately creating better products, more money, and a better business.

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?

There was satisfaction in this space for me right off the bat. When you’re in a role that allows others to do their jobs better and they are happier at the end of the day, it’s a win-win. When you get a “thank you” a couple times a week when you’re just doing your job, it drives you to think about the future of an entire team dedicated to partnering with design leaders.

We started with some simple things, like: Bringing people together for kick ass All Hands; organizing our files; diving deep into some projects to advocate for design and rally our designers in an organized way; communicating out where things are stored; and curating the amass of information that our specialists had been developing.

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).

We saw some quick wins, but also a lot of “so… what exactly do you do?” that required showing incremental value over time. The design organization has scaled and matured quite a bit in the last couple of years, increasing the demand for swim lanes and guidance. Our team has grown in demand for this reason, and I still feel we are catching up to our potential.

We’ve seen the most improvement how we review work, how we share work, how we communicate what’s important, how we connect the people and projects, and ensuring that there are many opportunities to take a break and change your mindset. We also hear and see a lot, allowing us to triangulate and escalate as needed.

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

Oh man, hefty question. Well, hmmm. It’s different depending on what team you work with (short answer). We are currently working on a high level design process, allowing our designers and researchers to speak the same language – and also conveniently opening the door to alignment of resources and best practices for our teams.

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).

I really enjoyed the podcast series called High Resolution, interviewing influential designers and creative leaders. The book, Creativity, Inc. has so many key take aways and inspiration for DesignOps teams and scaling.

I enjoyed the first DesignOps conference last November in New York – it was great to see so many people gather to talk about similar struggles and ideas to make their design teams better.

Even as of last November, I remember emailing back and forth with the woman who worked on the event and her asking what is this title “design program management” – and how DPM, DesignOps, etc are taking off as an industry term for in-house creative teams… so, so cool to be part of.

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

  1. People will always complain, even when you give them what they want. And you have to be ok with that.
  2. Don’t formalize something that doesn’t even need to exist. Sometimes the answer is removing the thing altogether.
  3. Hot sauce may just be the cure for all things.