May 26, 2018

DesignOps at VMWare

Headshot photo of Red Dolan


DesignOps, Product Design & Research


With Red Dolan — DesignOps, Product Design & Research at VMWare.

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

Principles and processes to assist designers in becoming more productive and collaborative. Ultimately help make designers happier.

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 noticed quite a bit of inefficiency within the design team and process soon after being hired. I immediately started mapping out ideas on how to improve things. I was moved to another project that pulled my focus from that effort.

It was about September 2017 when a discussion between my manager and director around improving things across the Design Org started to solidify into DesignOps as a solution, mostly because I showed strengths in solving this. We could tell that there were terrible inefficiencies and issues that designers were having that we could solve.

Some of the early parts of this solution were through the efforts of our design system, Clarity. I personally had developed several Sketch tools to help with rapid prototyping. Then we began discussing what else we could solve - what were some bigger things we could solve?

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).

Our design system has banded together consistency across the company and has freed up designers and developers to work on more important and tougher problems.

The DesignOps efforts have begun to drive consistency in the way things are done from a process perspective. It has also begun making it easier to share ideas and quicker to share work with teammates.

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

Tools we use are Sketch and InVision, primarily. We do have some work in Framer. I have been working with a handful of designers to test InVision Studio, which has the potential of replacing the aforementioned tools.

Our process is somewhat Wagile on some projects and Lean UX on others.

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).

Medium articles, the DesignOps Summit conference call, Slack, and some of the recent video conferences that InVision has done on DesignOps.

Oh, and just trying things out. I have found a fairly good process to work with, but am continually improving it.

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

My process is applying “design thinking” to solving the DesignOps, or design org and scale issue.

Who are my users? What are they trying to accomplish and what keeps them from accomplishing it? What are some light weight ideas/solutions that I could test with someone or a small team?

Test the solution. Get feedback on the solution on what would make it better. Iterate until it feels about 80% there. Share it with the greater team.