(Originally first published on April 17, 2018 at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/desops-next-wave-design-part-6-10-principles-driving-its-samir-dash/ )
As pointed out in the last article, the dimension ‘Culture’ has at the hindsight 3 life-lines, namely
i. Principles & Practices
ii. Cultural Shift towards Lean Philosophies
iii. The way the team works (Mostly Design team but not excluding the intra-team work-culture)
In the current article, we will be focusing on the Principles that drive the DesOps philosophies. Broadly, the DesOps can be seen based on 10 commandments or the guiding principles which help set the goals —
1. Implementing DesOps is to follow service design methodologies.
In reality, DesOps is the most evolved service design methodology, that touches upon all the different roles involved in a product lifecycle starting from conceptualization till the point product being used by the consumers. Therefore, DesOps implementation should establish the best practices for designing services according to both the needs of customers and the competencies and capabilities of service providers.
2. The feedback loop should cut across the product lifecycle
Ensure the requirements are fed into the DevOps cycle through feedback loop seamlessly so that the adjustment of the requirements can be done based on the feedback loop in the design stage that is also iterative and in the agile sprint loops. The requirements formulation is one of the core activities of design.And the requirements should be able to adjust based on the feedback that typically comes from means that cut across design as well as the development -test-deployment-production stages. So it involves the feedback from the large part of the delivery-deployment track, which is fundamentally DevOps impacted process areas. And when continuous integration and delivery (CI & CD) are part of the DevOps implementation, the continuous feedbacks that pours from various stages of DevOps should be addressed in an agile as well as iterative design stage, where these feedback fuel the design decisions to adjust requirements ignorer to meet the user as well as market needs. It is therefore critical that the DesOps implementation must follow the principle of completing the full circle of feedback loop that would cut across both designs as well as the dev-deploy-production stages – i.e. the complete SDLC and use it as an input for Design.
3. Empower stakeholders for better decision making — Hypothesis and Data-driven decision making for design and development
Many decisions are taken for a product based on the experience and the gut-feel of the stakeholders that impacts the product. The design – the creative problem solving – gets impacted by this as in real world, design decisions are always biased by the stakeholder’s view of the product and the market. A true DesOps should enable the stakeholder to take decisions based on a more data-driven way. Typical A/B testing, Hypothesis-Driven Development approach and analytics-driven decision making always help the stakeholder to evaluate the options and it guides him to take the more pragmatic decisions by reducing his baseness from his pre-conceptualised version of the product, user, and market. True DesOps, aspires to a world where decisions are taken by validating the data against the postulates that impacts the design as well as the success of the product itself in the hands of users and market.
4. Enable Design Thinking in the team
When we broadly speak about design, we do mean the core essence that is about creative problem solving which transcends beyond the typical professional design practices such as social context and business. Because of this, the Design Thinking strategies as solution-focused thinking fuels innovation and in today’s world, it is a popular approach that is employed in communities and organizations.
Many organizations, like IBM, KPMG etc. Have been improving the Design frameworks around the core concept of design thinking to come up with design strategies that would work with product life cycles and project management processes supporting Agile and Iterative approaches. For example, IBM Design Thinking (here is a quick guide https://medium.com/eunoia-i-o/quick-guide-notes-on-the-ibm-design-thinking-78490d7433dd )
However, in many angles, all these versions of Design Thinking fail flat to impact the final deliverable products in a quick paced agile environment powered by continuous integration and delivery track. The workshops of such Design Thinking sessions do provide innovative outputs, but when it comes to implementations, the sync between these and the final MVP that goes out of the delivery track, is lost and in most of the cases the stakeholders feel that despite the investment into the design thinking approaches, the expected level of outcome in delivery is not met and in many cases changes in requirement in the middle, too many iterations leading to over budgeting, mismatch of skill set and resources requirements to the initial planning work and the feasibility aspects were blamed for the inferior quality of delivery in contrast to the grand outcome from the Design Thinking.
Some years back, I was part of a large UX team of a Software Conglomerate, where I practiced their version of the Design Thinking framework. And during many workshops with major customers, and also from casual discussions with some of the stakeholders and Design Thinking practicenors, I realised that though many of our design thinking workshops were successful and were received by the clients with excitement and sense of achievement, this in many cases died down after a few months of implementation happened over fast paced agile delivery modes, as the translation of the great solutions that came out from the design thinking sessions, didn’t actually live up to the expectations due to too many changes in requirements happened because of feasibility, resource management, technology and similar issues.
For me, the takeaway from there was that in fast-paced delivery track, the feedback loop must be connected across the design stages to be reviewed at the same pace to ensure that the overall speed of the delivery with quality remains intact. In many cases, because of the fact the issues that popped up during the implementation stages, were never efficiently part of the Design Thinking sessions of the next iteration or design cycle that runs, it was not effective in coming out more practical and pragmatic design solutions and make the necessary adjustments to the requirements. And in such cases the DevOps even when efficiently implemented, the lagging and relatively slow churning-outs from the Design Thinkings, the overall delivery gets impacted thereby resulting into inferior quality MVP than that of the envisioned one. As the Design and Development are two wheels of the bicycle that the product is riding on, even if the Dev wheel is made efficient by implementing the best possible DevOps, the overall pace and efficiency of the cycle is reduced and is equal to the other lagging wheel i.e. Design.
To overcome this, one of the core principles of DesOps is to empower Design Thinking to make it more efficient in a fast-paced DevOps enabled delivery process, thereby making it the best fit case for the organizations to adopt.
5. Advocate Lean Methodologies and Agile Philosophies
All “Lean” models typically focus on reducing waste in a process by removing it from the value chain of the usability process. One of the key goals of DesOps is about taking proactive measures in reducing waste and fundamentally support tries to bring the practical implementations of it. Therefore, DesOps, at the core advocates, Lean philosophies like that we see in Lean UX models. Along with the fact that Lean UX itself is based on 3 basic principles like “Design Thinking”, “Agile Software Development” and “Lean Startup methods” like “build – measure – learn”, it is an organic part of in DesOps philosophies.
6. Translate User-Centered Design into an actual process that can be used on the ground
DesOps supports User-Centered Design (UCD) process in which “the needs, wants and limitations of end-users of a product are given extensive attention at each stage”. Basically, in DesOps, the focus is same as on any optimized UCD process, where most of the priority is on understanding the behavioral aspect of the user interacting so that the user’s learning curve in using the system can be evaluated in order to optimize and reduce it. As DesOps, emphasizes on optimizing the product around “how users can, want or need to use the product, rather than forcing the users to change the behavior to accommodate the product”, it loads the philosophies of typical UCD model. So DesOps inherits the following factors from UCD, namely —
- Needs of Users
- Limitations of Users
- Preference of Users
- Business objectives of the Product.
7. Cohesive play in the cross-functional team— designer, stakeholders and developers into the team play
As DesOps advocates LeanUX, it inherits one key attributes from Lean UX, which is about cross-functional team-play. Typically the Lean UX advocates that specialists from various disciplines should come together to co-create the product. Such team traditionally comprises of roles in software engineering, product management, interaction design, visual design, content strategy, marketing and quality assurance or testing disciplines. DesOps fundamentally enables this in bring these diverse roles to the same page and improves productivity through improving feedback loop and communication and providing a train of outcomes of the product development track that helps in “continuous discovery” and validation of product requirements and ideas.
8. Technology decisions should be guided by lowering the boundaries between roles and automation to reduce waste and repetitive jobs that work for the product and project.
Perhaps the biggest visible attribute of DesOps is the technology aspect, and the basic principle around technology is about the technology decision making. This is one of the most critical and impacting principles, as the right decision making for choosing the correct technology that will enable or help implement the most effective DesOps for the target organization/team. As DesOps involves the workflows, that touches the different aspects of Software Development Life Cycle and as the goal of DesOps is to achieve scale, the tracking, and traceability of workflows and responsibilities involved from different team members, technology, and tools employed to make it possible are carefully selected to meet the specific design culture that was redesigned with the re-engineered processes and workflows. Employment of automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence plays a key role in the context of the technology selection to aid the DesOps implementation as well as improving the case for it to play a complementary role for DevOps to make the full-circle. We will elaborate on this aspect in details in coming article of the series.
Back in 2014-15, in one of my old exploration into visual design prototype called Specstra,I was exploring the possibilities to remove repetitive manual work of draftsmanship in the creation of visual design specs or style guide (part of static design systems) involving automation the process to reduce the efforts from days to just 2-3 minutes. It used standard design file formats including properitry ones like Photoshop (.PSD), Illustrator (.AI) and PDF, as input to generate completely detailed pixel perfect style guide with annotations and target resolution and device screen density specific specifications that can be used by the development team to create screens. You can read about this story at IBM Design Blog at https://medium.com/design-ibm/specstra-experimenting-with-automation-in-design-industry-4641c0b4244d or watch the video below :
(Video – In my experimental prototype Specstra the attempt was made to bring automation to visual design process to reduce repetitive manual tasks. )
9. Redesigning and re-engineering the Processes
Optimised and re-designed processes are key to reduce waste and remove repetition, At the same time lower boundaries between roles. Broadly the processes that are redesigned in a DesOps implementation include strategy and workflows for reducing wastage. Any repetitive blocks are removed or replaced with the ones that provide quick turnaround time for design deliverables as well as the access to all-around feedback -loops across the lifecycle including development, deployment areas. The goals of improvement of processes also include lowering boundary among different roles to enable a cross-functional team to quickly iterate and produce design outputs which can be fed into DevOps thread in the cycle. Also, process improvements include automation focus along with workflows for traceability and tracking and preparing benchmark data and validating the feedbacks and product performance against them in a seamless way. Also, alongside the focus of the process redesign as part of DesOps include the areas to customize and complement workflows to the existing SDLC if required, that is in the process where possible e.g. Agile, Iterative and Lean models.
10. Enable reviews based on data-driven benchmarks.
A DesOps implementation should support benchmarking and validating against those benchmarks for design as well as implementation aspects. You might have noticed, that the feedback-loop is fundamental to the DesOps philosophies. And you might have noticed that in the previous principles, most of them directly or indirectly pave the way for integrated feedback-loop that helps to enable faster delivery track for an efficient and productive product delivery with the tint of innovation. So, it is critical for the DesOps as a service design must make ways for benchmarking the various attributes of the product and the delivery method itself that contributes to the speed and agility so that the feedback loop can make good use of these to validate and support a faster and informed decision making. In one of my recent explorations into beta-testing for RedHat’s QE CampX and Idea Incubation prog, I had focused on this aspect and tried to come up with a prototype called BetaStudio,that tried to address how to create benchmark for attributes which are more on the creative side and fall in the design stages of a product’s lifecycle, and thereby using some kind of mechanism to validate based on such benchmarks. Read about Beta Studio at https://developers.redhat.com/blog/2018/01/05/beta-testing-automation/
The above diagram shows the high-level vision of BetaStudio that used benchmarking of design aspects which were used at a later stage (mostly the track covered by DevOps) to validate the feedback most of which were generated by automation. In later articles, I will be elaborating on this aspect in details.
(Video – In my experimental prototype BetaStudio the benchmark based review and feedback loop was explored )
While implementing DesOps in the organization if we contradict any of these principles, it would result in a half-baked design operation that would not help in achieving the goal. In one of the organizations I was part of in recent past, some attempts were made to improve the design process. And in the effort to make the design team’s activities streamlined, certain design tools licenses were bought and the team members are asked to follow certain fixed process and semi-automation plugins etc. Along with this an earlier design system was revamped to provide commonly used patterns and widgets to be used. In the name of improving the process Agile model was cut-pasted and was followed. But over the period it was noticed that the overall efficiency dropped in the team. The interesting part was even though the steps to improve the design work culture implemented some of the key principles we discussed, and missed many, which led to a failed process re-engineering. The whole agile process implemented was designed to make the design teamwork as a separate entity to match the organization structure of the team as a separate business unit in order to ensure easy budgeting and determine responsibilities of the team across multiple projects running. If we review this case, we can find that the putting the design team’s own process delivery cycle didn’t contribute to the overall product delivery cycle. It conflicted with the DesOps principles like Cohesive Team-play and supporting Lean model which advocated the arching DesOps should encompass and cut-across all the teams responsible for the product and not just the design team. Also making design team as a single entity, put it into a silo because of which the feedback loop was not effective, thereby it impacted the translation of UCD philosophies.
Well, we will elaborate on similar cases in upcoming articles of this series sometime later. Now as we covered principles, let’s see in the next article, what are the practices that contribute to an idea DesOps. Hope you enjoyed the DesOps journey!
(c) 2018, Samir Dash. All rights reserved.