July 10, 2019

DesignOps at Nordea

Headshot photo of Mateusz Horak


Head of DesignOps


With Mateusz Horak — Head of DesignOps at Nordea.

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

I think about DesignOps quiet broadly - usually, when I introduce my role to the new stakeholders I describe myself as a person that “cares about everything the company needs to keep the Design being delivered on time”. From a design team perspective, this description might seem a bit shallow since it is missing “customer/human-centric” factor :)

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 started to work in large/corporate Software Development companies in 2012 and ever since was interested in an optimal way of integrating the business, design, and coding. I witnessed a couple of different digital/agile transformation efforts - landing with better or worse outcomes. All of them were supposed to provide better efficiency at delivering software but not necessarily optimal customer experience based on the well-integrated design thinking process. This got me inspired and I started to sketch out my own processes and WoW for the small-scale design setups. At a large scale, I had a chance to introduce the DesignOps in Nordea, when the number of designers (and development teams supported by those designers) reached a point in which we could no longer rely on just team-based small-scale operations. The simplified career path: Designer -> Senior -> Team Leader -> Creative Director -> DesignOps

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

This is complicated and hard to explain without pictures but I’ll try. When delivering the end-to-end CX Design we work in a three-tier WHY/WHAT/HOW process involving Understanding (implementing Research & Service Design), Discovery (designing the Product/Solution in close collaboration with Business) and Delivery ( Digital Design & Software Development). Nordea Digital as a quite large organization decided to use SAFE Agile Framework as an operating model. Design processes that I introduced here were fine-tuned to work well with that particular setup and built-in to the overall WoW.

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).

DesignOps positively affect every aspect that you mentioned. Happiness (or maybe lack of major frustrations) being the most important.

What advice would you give to designers wanting to make a career pathway in DesignOps?

It is all about communication, influence, stakeholder management, elasticity. Make sure that your case is strong and get ready to have thousands of conversations and discussions. You may design the best process ever but if you can’t convince the company (CEO to Junior Assistant) to follow it and prove that it works, you will fail.

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).

The DesignOps stuff that Dave Malouf is preaching/publishing helped me to clarify and expand my own vision of the whole discipline.