August 20, 2018

DesignOps at SoftExpert

Headshot photo of Joao Santos


Design Operations


With João Santos — Design Operations at SoftExpert.

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

Making it simple what I believe being DesignOps: People, process and tools. I imagine maintaining this order of priority. Something that I also believe is that DesignOps is kind of an umbrella in at least two levels which are: Design System Ops and DesignOps. This definition is the same for these two levels, although it is applied in different scales and contexts.

Being more specific: Design System Ops is the bridge between design, engineering and branding (voice and tone); DesignOps is the bridge between Design Systems (consistency and scalability), company (strategy and vision) and people (retention, productivity and growth).

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?

Short answer: Inconsistency.

Long answer: Well, to explain it better I firstly need to talk a little about my professional background. My career has always been in Front End, but I had specialized in UI (CSS <3) and every time possible I got involved with designers and any business involving User Experience. Through my career I created a mindset in UI/UX that allows me to have a feeling of UX but without the technical skills (hands-on).

When I got to my present job I came as developer although with autonomy and challenge of implementing the culture of DesignOps. In few months I dove into this topic, seeking for knowledge and conversing with people, I understood the real meaning of having a Design System by following the DesignOps concepts. I noticed which my challenges were and how DesignOps might solve them. The main motivations were solving the inconsistency in design and the framework, improving the communication between teams, scalability of the product and, through the way, increasing team productivity (UX and Engineering).

This way I took on the responsibility of the Design System Ops to start the Design Systems and try to solve the problems I have already mentioned. With the time passing by a more organized and improved environment, the time for assuming the position of Design Operations Lead came. Now I operate in the same bases of the Design System Ops but broader scale, by leading the UX team.

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).

Certainly the main gain at the moment is the collaboration between designer and other teams (more specifically engineering). The following step will be consistency and lately productivity.

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

Process: Understanding, concept, validation, visual and code. This process involve three main personas: Designer, Product Owner and Developer.

Tooling: The main tool we use is Adobe XD and then InVision, though we are testing and validating other tools to improve productivity and delivers.

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 try to keep on updating me in all that is happening in the world of DesignOps and Design Leadership, all and any content release I try to read/listen/watch.

Though I have my main sources of knowledge, those reserve more respect: Dave Malouf, Nathan Curtis and Jina Bolton.

There are other professional sources of knowledge I could quote, such as Relating to the resources I can mention, all the links are from good origin.

The DesignOps Handbook is a great reference, and I try to keep up the talks in events and meetups. Again, I can name

As a reference of Design Systems, I could not forget to mention Airbnb, IBM, Salesforce and Atlassian.

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

Design Operations needs to be a leadership position ;)