After the pause and exploration into the DesOps / DesignOps area of roughly a year and half, I am back, with with some reflections with the focus on “Process”.
Unlike the early years, back in 2013-14, when I had started with design automation to make the life of the designers easy; gradually started writing about connecting different stages of SDLC to Design for optimising the PM-Design-Developer handovers, coined the DesOps as the next step to with a design centric DevOps philosophy in 2017-18, and wrote about the DesOps/ DesignOps as a next-wave in design — now it has taken a centre-stage in various design related debates and posts. Also many organisations are now more than curious in trying out the new philosophies shared by various design thought-leaders and experiment with the newly opened roles.
Thanks to all of those who remained in touch, and shared their unique stories of experiences and challenges in various organisations they serve at various roles including design. These helped me immensely to evaluate concepts against scenarios and do the litmus-testing around the real life use-cases.
Starting with this 2nd series, with the topic, that was initiated from an old time friend and well-know member of the design community, who asked me about the perspectives around the design leadership role in DesOps.
Traditional View of Human as (is) a Resource!
During beginning of industrial revolution, the enterprises brought various processes to the organisation and the product creation and delivery journey in order to achieve optimisation and improve efficiency.
When we talk about “Just in time” and other similar processes are purely functional models, where time or resource is at the centre. These processes gradually got matured and got transferred to the modern day and thereby today’s organisation inherited many processes from these that dealt with product creation, delivery, marketing and managing resources.
In the industrial revolution era, humans associated were seen as resources by the organisations. They were similar to other resources required for the product or service life cycle to operate and run. No surprise that we have Human Resource (HR) departments in the organisations.
Most of the processes put into practices were associated with how to procure resources and optimally use them as part of the whole life cycle. The organisational policies formed were around these philosophies. For example, the rules in hiring, managing working hours construct, creation of the vertical-roles and responsibilities came into existence through such policy creation.
These helped the organisation run the operations required to successfully manage the value creation and delivery roles. Because of these many roles gradually came into existence as part of organisational structure, which were mostly modelled on such processes and the responsibilities. During these processes were built around either process optimisation or automation perspective or efficiency perspective.
So what was excluded from these, is the “human” himself. The functional centric processes prescribed the actions and boundaries around different roles, without considering the role being associated with a human-being and there by needing the “empathy” angle. That’s why there are many policies and organisation-cultures are shaped by these processes are in most of the cases are not able to support the some of the modern-day philosophies like “Open Organisation”, where empathy plays a greater role to shape the culture as well as the processes.
The organisations like RedHat and others who deal with open source communities had to break the bounding box beyond each role and break the vertical org-structure at least at the bottom of the pyramid otherwise it would not have been possible to operate in the open source community, where the contributors or the team may spread across the globe unlike the traditional industrial revolution concept of an enterprise.
Many of the contributors to some of the key and flagship open source products available online were contributed by house-wives or working-mother who use to commit code in their spare time. These team members traditionally do not fit into any ‘fixed role’ or the “working-time” construct.
In today’s post pandemic world when most of us are working from home for our organisations, the old traditional human resource concept of any role and the policies and process around it start falling apart. Many organisation have now started exploring the workaround the new policies which were not holding water during these troubling time through these new working models.
Through DesOps, while we try to build the organisation design led, and highlight the importance of a “design-driven development-led human-centric value creation, delivery and management process“, we bring the human back into the process. We provide them the centre stage and use empathy to understand the existing pain points and process gaps to bridge them and design the tailor made activity sets and tailor made play books to work around the existing challenges and through out this improve the process.
As every organisation is different, so is their unique needs for operation, a DesOps leader helps in applying Design to make the organisation “Design-Driven” which leads to the optimal design outcome and delivery.
Who is a DesOps/DesignOps Leader?
The typical responsibilities of DesOps/DesignOps leader would involve the following –
- Growing the cultural aspect – evolving design teams – aligning to the “design maturity” model.
- Identify the pain-points in the team culture to reduce the impact of any bias design ideation and communications that gets impacted and thereby impacts the design outcome.
- Bridging the skill gap – ensuring the hiring process is able to recognise the right blend of skill-set for the design role.
- Improving the touch-points and the process connects the different roles in the organisation as the part of product design-cum-development life cycle.
- Define and suggest alignments to applying design thinking at all levels of the lifecycle.
- Identifying the gaps in the day today design operation and optimise them.
- Define tailor made play-books for different decision making that the different roles and the team can use to take decisions.
- Optimising the tools/eco-system to bridge between designer and stakeholders as well as the engineering organisation.
- Bring automation to the design-development lifecycle through deploying Open Design System through Symantic design-system model in order to align to take the next step for the DevOps model. (yes I name it correct — DesOps is about taking DevOps to the next level)
- Educate and evangelise how the “design” is the common thread between all the associated disciplines so as to build the “design-led” culture in the organisation
- Build and manage a DesignOPs Center of Excellence (COE)
So the “North-star” leader in DesOps/ DesignOps should be blend of understanding all the six spaces/ dimensions –
- The vision and stakeholder space – Product management/ Service management space
- Understanding into organisation culture and the process involved with Human Resource.
- Understand the Design process and models, methodology and tool sets
- Need to understand the Project /program management models used for delivery
- Need to have good understanding of the technology space involved along with the tools/eco-systems and design system.
- Should be a practitioner of Design Thinking as a way of life to apply in the context of all of the above five.
From a career growth perspective a “traditional” design-leader with his ability with the backbone of human-empathy, can migrate into this orchestrator role, by gathering understanding around the other involved disciplines/spaces and especially it can start with growing into either product or programme management.
Center-of-Excellence (COE) for DesOps/ DesignOps
In many of the attempts by many thought leaders while articulating about the DesignOps or DesOps, many frequently talk about the role involved – the DesOps-leader aka DesignOps leader . But without the team of right composition, DesOps leader will not be able to execute on the ground.
A DesOps leader in the organisation, is more an orchestrator than a solo-executioner, as it is not practical. He needs to have the vision of DesOps philosophies along with sense of responsibilities and attributes, but yet he has to have the right combination of skilled as well as positions team around him to ensure the DesOps model is available.
The closest analogy is a Product Manager‘s role. It is a role that orchestrates among the different disciplines and departments in order to ensure the product/service or the value creation and delivery life-cycle is smooth and efficient. And remember, the DesOps philosophies are modelled due to the similar necessities of ensuring the right design outcome as the part of the value creation lifecycle.
That’s why a Center-of-Excellence (COE) of DesOps/ DesignOps in the Organization makes a lot of sense rather than just bringing up a design-leader as a solo DesOps/DesignOps director.
The DesOps COE in the organisation connects with the various spaces, or departments. In the ontology of touch points, in the first volume of my book “The DesOps Enterprise”, I had explained how throughout the journey various, touch-points can be explored as part of roles, models, ecosystems, tool sets etc.
For a DesOps leader when connects with the different stakeholders who are part of the value creation process (as well as the ones who work to shaping up of the right culture), he connects with these various touch-points.
The DesOps acts as the rudder to the organisation to providing the direction in bringing up to the right maturity level in making the organisation design-led.
Let’s continue the journey of DesOps from the process aspects in the subsequent posts.
Keep in touch!
(c) Samir Dash, 2020. All rights reserved. This content including the images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
[ First published on LinkedIn (August 19, 2020) at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/putting-human-back-value-creation-process-enterprise-samir-dash/]