Design Operations

HCD Center of Excellence logo

The Brief

The Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) Information Systems Group (ISG), within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is pursuing a strategic goal to improve both the user and the employee's experiences by designing, aligning, and optimizing operations to improve customer experiences. Because this community involves so many stakeholders, the client affirmed our proposal to establish an enterprise-wide DesignOps or Center of Excellence capability.

DesignOps refers to the orchestration and optimization of people, processes, and craft in order to amplify design’s value and impact at scale. --NN/g

What I did

The Center of Excellence (CoE) I established meant to embody some capabilities of an organization that embraces DesignOps and ResearchOps. That is, how can we amplify the value of design in an organization comprised of many contractors supporting many contracts?

Early on, I built a team meant to focus on building the capabilities of the CoE, so 90%+ of our work was strategic in nature. Some of the pillars of our focus included:

  • Standards - This includes measuring organizational maturity and establishing customer feedback loops, to ensure that business OKRs not only satify business goals but reflect the customer voice in their experience with CMS.
  • Services - How can we nurture the community and support initiatives? This has been accomplished a variety of ways, including but not limited to facilitating a monthly Community of Practice, providing Lean UX coaching to product teams, establishing research capabilities to support end user recruitement, and providing user experience research and design tactical support for specific initiatives.
  • Advocacy - Organizational culture change cannot just happen without intentional efforts to spread the word. This Human-Centered Design Center of Excellence must teach the community about this continuous improvement philosophy so that stakeholders understand the value proposition. This has been accomplished by providing regular monthly training to hundreds of learners as part of their onboarding, advanced training for specialized topics, workshops to help teams solve real-world problems with design-thinking methods, HCD-events to raise visibility on the value of being customer-centered, and through thought leadership by way of blogging, presentations, and videos promoted throughout the community.
  • Resources - I've also served the community by creating and curating an online resource to provide a wealth of content for people. This includes both curated content that exists elsewhere and content the team has created to serve its customers.


There are a variety of measures with which to work from. For example, since 2018 we have delivered training to over 400 customers, with a Net Promoter Score of 63 and a Confidence score of 83. We have also averaged a monthly attendance of 63 people attending the HCD Community of Practice. Only recently have we opened up our online site to truly be publicly accessed, so we will look at page views as a measure of success.

But ultimately, the value is in the increased client and community demand for the CoE offerings.