Andrés Ballén - UX Lead designer

Banking DesignOps


As the UX design team leader in a traditional banking institution, you are tasked with transforming the customer experience by strategically implementing DesignOps principles. My mission was to empower the UX team to operate efficiently, enabling them to deliver exceptional customer-centric designs that align with the organization’s overall business goals.

Client: Bank
Project: UX DesignOps
Date: 2023

The challenge

I faced the understanding the working process of a design team established by external providers. I had to analyze it in detail and transform the team’s perception into a facilitating entity that not only supports and builds from within but also collaborates effectively with other areas of the company.

This change in perception was crucial to visualize and demonstrate the impact of strategic design within the bank. By understanding and optimizing how the design team interacts with other areas, we were able to enhance the perception of both customers and internal users regarding design and its value within the organization.

DesignOps 101 framework

The DesignOps 101 framework from the Norman Nielsen Group was fundamental in establishing the foundations and implementing effective DesignOps practices in our organization. I focused on optimizing design operations so that teams could work more efficiently and collaboratively, leading to an improvement in the quality of user experiences. Additionally, project management tools were created and used to manage tasks and improve communication between teams, resulting in greater alignment and more effective project delivery.

The DesignOps strategy was centered on three key principles: people, process, and platforms. I prioritized team growth, communication, and belonging; streamlined workflows, established standards, and leveraged technology; and provided access to the latest tools, platforms, and resources. These efforts were undertaken to achieve increased design efficiency, enhanced design quality, improved collaboration, and greater design impact. The DesignOps strategy functioned as a living document, evolving alongside our organization’s needs to ensure our design team remained at the forefront of innovation.

Initial process

The process begins with the Discovery phase, where we conduct individual interviews with team members and key stakeholders to understand their challenges, needs, and expectations. This is followed by the Analysis phase, where we compile insights into a detailed report and review current design processes to identify areas for improvement.

Next, in the Definitions phase, we facilitate workshops and planning sessions to align on goals and strategies. This is followed by the Implementation phase, where we develop and execute a timeline to implement the defined changes. Finally, in the Measure phase, we establish and monitor metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of the improvements and ensure they provide value to the organization.


How we work together:

The team was well-organized with defined roles and complementary skills, but the internal vision of the design’s value was not widely shared outside the team. Despite having sessions to share work and knowledge, these could have been optimized, and communication channels, though effective, were used informally. Task tracking and project management practices were in place but did not fully ensure collaboration and knowledge-sharing practices were neglected due to the pandemic.

How we do our work:

Design processes lacked formal documentation and methodology, and technical limitations hindered defined communication channels for collaboration. Security limitations complicated file sharing between the team and external partners. While some design assets were clear and fundamental to the team’s work, the design system needed further maturity. Task prioritization was often unclear, and deadlines were not always well-defined, leading to scheduling issues. Day-to-day activities were time-consuming and required manual processes, and both recruitment and user research processes were challenging.

How our work generates impact:

There were foundational measures for work efficiency with existing methodologies and tools, showing potential to measure work hours, project effectiveness, and burnout. Metrics on the quality and coverage of work, such as usability test coverage, could have been developed further. Sharing team metrics could have added value to external teams and highlighted effective practices. It was also necessary to explore new ways to communicate the team’s work and its contributions to other teams to enhance visibility and understanding of their impact.

DesignOps framework implementation

After digging deep in our Discovery and Analysis phases, we roll into the Definitions stage. This is where we got everyone together for workshops and planning sessions to create a design process that works for all. We set up what we like to call an ‘Experience Observatory’ and a ‘Research Lab’ to gather and make sense of all our findings. We pick out the best tools to manage our projects, keep track of tasks, and log our time. We also create a shared space to store all our files. To keep everything neat and tidy, we standardize our templates and documents.

Then comes the fun part: putting it all into action. We fine-tune our design system and make sure it plays nice with our other tools. We also think about how to measure if we’re working efficiently and if what we’re doing is making a real impact on the business. Oh, and we set up a smooth process for bringing users on board. When it comes to our people, we look at how newbies are settling in, how we’re sharing knowledge, and how we’re getting along with outside teams. We regularly check in on our designs to make sure everything’s looking good, and we organize fun activities to help the team bond and create a cool culture. All these measures help us see how we’re doing and where we can up our game. This way, we make sure our DesignOps framework keeps growing and getting better all the time.

Work plan timeline

The project began with a cross-functional design process aimed at integrating insights from various departments into the design strategy. This was followed by refining and enhancing existing design frameworks in the maturity phase to ensure consistency and scalability. An experience observatory gathered continuous user feedback, which is crucial for aligning design outputs with user expectations.

Simultaneously, the research lab conducted experimental tasks to uncover insights influencing future design decisions. A robust task and time-tracking tool supported project management, ensuring transparency and accountability. Effective document management, including a shared repository and standardized templates, provided easy access to information.

The project migrated to Figma to consolidate design assets, streamlining collaboration. Work metrics and business impact were defined in later stages, setting measurable goals for design effectiveness. Internalization of roles and processes enhanced team self-sufficiency and reduced external dependency.

Regular design reviews ensured adherence to standards while knowledge-sharing activities promoted continuous improvement. Engagement with external teams enriched project outcomes with fresh perspectives. A structured team onboarding process facilitated the integration of new members, sustaining project momentum through organizational changes.

This project demonstrated that implementing DesignOps can be a powerful catalyst for digital transformation in traditional financial institutions. By aligning our design efforts with the bank’s strategic objectives, we not only improved the customer experience but also positioned design as a key differentiator in a highly competitive market.

Looking to the future, this DesignOps framework provides us with a solid foundation for continuous innovation and improvement of the user experience. We are now better equipped to face future challenges and continue delivering user-centered solutions that drive growth and customer satisfaction in the banking sector.