Getting your Comms budget wish list in order

Budgeting comes but once a year and now is the time to build arguments that pull your Communications team full-force into the age of design thinking, Agile, and DesignOps. Let’s look at each of these practices for how they can add value to your organization and understand the types of activities you should be funding while you develop next year’s budget.

Design thinking supported through new organizational structures

Global design company IDEO views design thinking as “a process for creative problem solving.” To support design thinking, employees need to be in the right roles and groups to build creative approaches to problems. We’re working with several communications branches to transform their organizational structures. These projects need lots of collaborative work to define the value proposition for communication services to internal partners, and an in-depth look at the change management impacts resulting from the transition to new models. This effort needs the complete and ongoing attention from senior leadership. A reorganization design project also needs an internal team to carry on the project comms and training needed to support staff as they move into new roles and teams. Lastly, these types of projects can require some process redesign (which itself can use design thinking).

An excellent resource to read before considering a reorganization is aptly titled “Reorg: How to Get it Right”, by Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood.

Agile is not just for tech

Agile is a term that gets thrown around often in government. Though Agile practices at first were used only in IT environments, they can help any team get more done, make audiences happier, and make their teams more collaborative. The best implementations I’ve seen have a project manager well versed in Agile concepts, committed leadership, and a mission based on three conditions:

  • minimal deliverables, many iterations
  • regularly scheduled user research and testing
  • work released to the public in planned cycles

More and more, our prototyping work is going beyond the proof of concept to beta versions that make their way to production, with multiple iterations throughout the process. Comms teams need the requisite skills to handle this type of workflow, including learning Agile work processes and having the proper tools to do the work in any location. Teams also need to build solid governance for who is accountable for managing releases and making UX decisions.

DesignOps is a thing

Emily Stevens on Medium describes DesignOps as “a carefully thought-out approach which, when implemented properly, has the power to put design and user experience at the core of the business.” Workflows are at the centre of this approach, as they address the question of “how does the design team currently work — within the design team itself, with other internal teams, and with external teams and stakeholders?” Finding “bottlenecks and other productivity-killers” says Emily, means workflows are resource-intensive exercises, so planning for this effort is necessary. Emily’s article is well worth the read.

DesignOps has matured to the point that there’s now an annual DesignOps Summit and a DesignOps Handbook. To see some good examples of DesignOps within different organizations, take a look at this column on UXmatters. GOV.UK also is embarking on this path, through standards, support and service assessments.

Finalizing your list

Aside from the mention of the right Agile tools, most of these budget wish list items involve people and processes. Consider how these investments would not only increase efficiencies, but show the value that employees bring to the organization.  Tie the proposed activities to your performance measurement framework so that they align with the organization’s key performance indicators. Doing this analysis will strengthen a budget ask and demonstrate your commitment to the organization’s goals.


Denise Eisner is a senior-level content/UX strategist with a passion for creating enhanced user experiences. As a senior consultant at Systemscope, Denise’s experience and specializations include content strategy and design, writing/editing, prototyping, usability testing, web analytics, project management and change management.


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