Developing a Design Operations Capability at Caterpillar


At Caterpillar, I was responsible for leading vision and strategy for a set of marketing technologies, which more than a 100+ websites were built on. With no internal design team or process, our team relied heavily on outside agencies to execute strategy and design projects. This model was expensive, required heavy coordination, and the team missed opportunities to learn from first-hand user research.

With limited internal design competencies and very few team members who understood UX principles, the company would struggle to continuously evolve their marketing technology platforms to address user and business needs. Moreover, the cost of evolving these platforms would become unsustainable as weak UX would result in unnecessary and expensive rework, extended development timelines, and excessive agency costs.

Key challenges:

  • There were no common UX standards or heuristics in place.
  • Strategy and design were sometimes outsourced to vendors.
  • At times, strategy and design were completed without adequate user testing, voice of business, and research into the competitive environment.
  • The company lacked a systematic way to collect research and data about users.
  • The company lacked a systematic way to design, prototype, and test.
  • Basic design tools and software necessary for completing design operations were not available.



I led the development of our team’s DesignOps capability. This involved operationalizing UX by creating new working models, systems, and tools that improved the company’s ability to conduct user research and develop data-driven design. Throughout this process, I maintained engagement with business and technology stakeholders.

Specifically, I:

  • Implemented design thinking process (research, design, and user testing), where none previously existed.
  • Planned and led global workshops to gather updated voice of business.
  • Lead the development of a multi-channel design system (in Sketch and HTML)
  • Helped to build a foundation for a new DesignOps infrastructure which included:
    • Common set of UX principles, heuristics, and best practices
    • Common set of tools and software for design, prototyping, and collaboration
    • Documented workflows and processes for discovery, strategy, design, and development phases
    • Product management processes including idea intake, backlog management, prioritization, and roadmapping
    • Training people, increasing UX IQ across non-designers, ensuring broader understanding of those involved in the design process
    • Clear UX metrics, linked to strategic goals
    • Research repository to organize all research and artifacts across all customer segments
    • Introduction of multiple user research and testing methods
    • Model for integrating business partners, technology groups, and external suppliers
  • Piloted design thinking process on large-scale, enterprise-wide program



An established approach to design operations enabled the team to do their best work. Overall, the department is able to work on multiple enterprise projects of varying scale with greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Key results included:

  • Better communication and collaboration across and within teams and departments
  • Reduced supplier costs, which were refocused on other key areas
  • Increased design-to-development velocity
  • Better quality design and prototypes; better integration of user and business feedback
  • Increased understanding of UX (and the design process) across the organization
  • Efficiencies and cost savings due to better workflow and reduced reliance on vendors
  • Increased adoption of designs by business unit partners; their needs reflected in final output
  • Increased UX IQ or organizational understanding of design thinking
  • Better communication and shared learning between all parties involved in the process—business teams, marketing teams, designers, strategists, analysts.




Find this information interesting?​

There is more where that came from!

Scroll to Top