Design Ops 2018 – Recap

This post is a brief recap of all the presentations at the 2018 Design Operations Summit, and includes links to the full length blog posts.  At the end of this post I share a few thoughts about the presentations that I most enjoyed, and why.

Opening Keynote

Leisa Reichelt
Blog post: Operating in Context

In this opening keynote, Leisa shares her experiences with adapting to different organizational contexts.  What ways of working are successful across contexts?  In a new context, what might need to be done differently, and why?  

Theme 1: Communicating the Value of DesignOps

How might we define DesignOps for the purpose of selling the idea and communicating its value organization-wide? How might DesignOps and ResearchOps have a measurable impact?  Curated by Lou Rosenfeld.

Brennan Hartich
Blog post: Communicating and Establishing DesignOps as a New Function

In the first morning presentation at @designopssummit, we learned how Intuit has established a Design Program Management team, clearly described their services, and delivered measurable business impact.

Chris Moses
Blog post: Stretching the Definition of DesignOps

Continuing the ‘Communication’ theme at @designopssummit, @chrisaaronmoses shared how athenahealth cross-functional teams work together to measure the usability of key product workflows.

Mark Boulton
Blog post: Ops without Designers

In this @designopssummit presentation, @markboulton shares the challenges of bringing a DesignOps mindset into a scientific research environment.

Theme 2: Integrating DesignOps

What does it take to integrate DesignOps into your organization? How about ResearchOps? How do you merge strategies, align goals, integrate processes, and connect people to ensure that design and research can be effective and truly scale?  Curated by Kristin Skinner.

Neema Mahdavi 
Blog post: Operationalizing DesignOps
Video: the @designopssummit kick-off for the’Integrating’ theme, @neema shares his experiences of picking both the right problems and the tools and tech to support their work.

Jacqui Frey
Blog post: Flow and Superfluidity for Design Orgs

In this @designopssummit, presenter @freyjacqui shares how MailChimp DesignOps team uses the concepts of Flow and Superfluidity to guide their team’s efforts.

Alena Iouguina
Blog post: Designing Systems at Scale

In this @designopssummit presentation, @biologytodesign shares the ways in which our business practices mirror how our brains work, and what we need to know to make the magic happen in our own teams.

Dan Willis
Blog post: Filling the Void

In this @designopssummit presentation, @uxcrank shares his experiences of bringing incremental change into very challenging organizations.

Cheryl Platz and Jason Specland
Blog post: Collaborative Creativity through Improv

From the Design Operations Summit website:  Improvisational theater performers create an environment where creativity is maximized within an environment of listening and non-judgmental collaboration. Take a peek behind the curtain as two professional improvisers (and technologists!) demonstrate some of the key principles they apply not just onstage, but their day jobs at software companies as well. All this while laughing your way through the end of the day!

Theme 3: Growing People and Teams

What types of organizational structures support DesignOps and ResearchOps? What do teams go through as they grow? How do they deal with recruiting, hiring, onboarding, cultivating culture, outlining career paths, mapping out guiding design principles, and learning and development?  Curated by Kristin Skinner.

Jason Mesut
Blog post: Shaping design, designers and teams

Our @designopssummit theme of ‘Growing People and Teams’ kicked off with @jasonmesut sharing how he uses Shaping workshops to help designers understand both their growth areas, and how they can support the growth of others.

Holly Cole
Blog post: Understanding Experiences: When you have to do more than work

In this @designopssummit presentation, @hollyface1975 reminds us to use our own methods to deeply explore our own teams and how to make them more effective, more integrated, and happier.

Jennifer Kanyamibwa
Blog post: Creating the Blueprint

In this @designopssummit presentation, Jennifer Kanyamibwa shares six life lessons that have informed her work as a Design Program Manager.

Courtney Kaplan
Blog post: Taking it to the next level: Career paths in DesignOps

Our ‘Growing People and Teams’ theme @designopssummit concludes with lessons learned from the mature Design Program Management team at Facebook.

Miles Orkin
Blog post: Creativity and Culture

In this @designopssummit presentation, @milesorkin talks to us about the importance of culture, and the power of moving from empathy to true compassion, thereby enabling people to bring their full selves & all their talent to work.

Theme 4: Methodologies and Work Environments

How might we implement DesignOps and ResearchOps in an agile environment or team? A distributed team? A small design organization? A massive organization?  Curated by Dave Malouf.

Megan Blocker
Blog post: A Selectively Scrappy Approach to ResearchOps

We kick off the afternoon of @designopssummit with the ‘Methodologies and Work Environments’ theme. Here, Megan Blocker shares her ‘selectively scrappy’ approach to building ResearchOps at McKinsey

Maria Skaaden
Blog post: Continuous Design: One eye on the horizon and the other on the next wave

How do we support immediate design needs, while still being mindful of the long term? In this @designopssummit presentation, we learn how Maria Skaaden and her team have done that with their team at the railway system in Norway.

Hana Nagel
Blog post: Turning Research Ripples into Waves

In this @designopssummit presentation, Hana Nagel shares what she learned about designing for social impact, and what service design in the non-profit world can teach us about our work in the enterprise space.

Closing Keynote

Doug Powell
Blog post: Design at Scale: Building a human-centered culture at IBM

In the closing keynote of @designopssummit, IBM design leader @douglaswpowell shares some of the practices they use to drive change & measurable impact, thereby securing buy-in for design at the most senior levels of the organization.


There were a number of talks that I enjoyed this year, for very different reasons:

I liked the opening presentation by Brennan Hartich from Intuit, because he provided specifics regarding how to distinguish between design leaders and design ops, and offered specific examples from his DesignOps service catalog.  

I appreciated Jason Mesut’s presentation about providing career guidance and coaching to designers.  He shared some of the many frameworks he uses, and explains why bespoke models are important, in part because they create personal clarity and ownership over career next steps.

Although it’s not a new story, I enjoyed Maria Skaaden’s presentation about the experience of integrating UX into Agile.  She did a nice job providing the socio-political context for her work with the Norwegian railway, and then described how she and her team struck the right balance between supporting immediate engineering needs and taking a more proactive stance on future product direction.  She also shared how they put very practical measures in place to ensure that everyone (not just UX) hears the voice of their users. 

I appreciated Hana Nagel’s presentation.  She opened her talk by sharing how the underground music / dance scene is used to build bridges between Palestinians and Israelis, and then explaining how we can bring learnings from social justice into the enterprise.  It was a blend of academic and practical work, grounded in her own fieldwork and well-articulated theory. 

I found Doug Powell’s closing keynote to be both relevant and compelling.  I most enjoyed his discussion of the executive-level metrics they use at IBM to track their progress in design, but there were lots of other insights about to drive large-scale, transformative change.  

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