DesignOps as a New Function

Communicating and Establishing DesignOps as a New Function
Brennan Hartich, Design Ops Leader, Intuit

From the Design Operations Summit website:
When introducing DesignOps as a new function to an organization, the first few months are critical as you set the stage for how the organization familiarizes itself with your new team. In this session, Brennan will cover how DesignOps can partner with other functions, how to pick the right programs to tackle first, and how to measure a new team’s success. He will showcase tools that are useful to help establish your team’s newly formed brand within your organization.

Brennan started as a producer and program manager in an the agency environment.  Later, he moved to Intuit to lead Design Program Management.  He then took a similar role at Facebook, and then went back to Intuit.

There are 500 designers at Intuit, and 12 design program managers.  Design Ops in the umbrella term for the department, the role is ‘DPMs’ for short.  They weren’t sure how to explain the role and the need to the rest of the business.  They grounded the need is some challenges that existed across the organization, including communication gaps due to teams being siloed; there was little to no visibility across teams into progress or launches.  Constant change was creating churn and duplication of effort.  And finally, the efforts of Intuit to truly go global.

A simple survey showed that designers were only spending 3 hours a day on real design work – about 15 hours a week, 37% of their designing.  Needless to say, that was really concerning!  But a very important baseline for their subsequent efforts.

Before they started placing DPMs in product teams, they did a roadshow.  They offered design leaders a Design Program Management Menu – it was not a buffet.  Here are the offerings:

hartich-02One interesting learning on the Teambuilding piece is that designers on the team are more open to sharing information with the DPMs (even more so than their own team / leadership) because the DPMs are neutral.

In addition to design leaders, the DPMs offer services to support cross-functional partners:

hartich-03.pngThey made an effort to define who was responsible for the three PPPs (People, Process, and Priorities):


The people dimension is typically handed by the design manager.  Process aspets are handled by Design Ops, in part because they are Switzerland.  🙂  And then Priorities, which for them is done by the Design Director.   This has become a three person job, but in smaller companies these roles could all be done by one person.

Once they got their first headcount, they had to decide where to begin.  They prioritized Building Communication, Going Global (sharing best practices across regions), and Increasing Efficiency.  As part of the latter, they implemented ‘maker time’; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday from 1-4 pm was established as dedicated heads down time for designers.  It’s hard to make that happen in an 8K person organization, but they had made some headway (and it shows in their outcomes, below).

Things they learned:


What was the impact on productivity?  Adding a DPM for six months increased designer productivity to 4 hours a day, 20 hours a week – and 50% of their day.  In other words, adding a DPM provided more business impact than adding another designer.  210 hours a week, up to 280 hours for those 14 hours a week.  They would have had to hire 3-4 additonal designers to achieve the same increase in productivity.

500 designers at Intuit, teams are about 10 people each.  So, they gained 2,500 productive design hours by adding DPMs (with existing headcount), rather than adding designers.

What’s next?  They are focused on ensuring that Design Operations is clearly defined in their organization, especially in relation to PMO functions.  They also want to get more clear about the distinctions between Design Program Manager, Producer, and Operations.  They are realizing that a lot of things they do should apply to PMs as well.  Where does their boundary end – shouldn’t they onboard Marketring, too?  Finally, like many of us, they are starting to think in earnest about a design and research repository that cuts across product teams.

1 Comments on “DesignOps as a New Function”

  1. Pingback: Design Ops 2018 – Recap | Natalie Hanson

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