Achieving Digital Business Transformation with Digital Design

ui design system
Barbara Zandvliet

Digital business transformation is a process of exploiting the latest digital technologies and practices to create a robust new digital business model.

Digital design is a process of identifying, analysing and solving people’s problems by using digital technology. Digital design is the capability that different businesses need to create digital solutions that will be valued and used by their intended stakeholders. The digital design process addresses the complex challenges of high uncertainty and greater risk.

Demand for digital design is growing. This is because businesses now need to:

  • ✓ Digitalize established product categories
  • ✓ Create new revenue opportunities through digital services
  • ✓ Create new digital communication channels and messages for customers
  • ✓ Transform the working environment for staff

Digital design is not emerging from within the IT department. Rather, CEOs or other executives who have been exposed to design thinking and other design approaches are asking CIOs to lead, or support, initiatives to create the enterprise’s own digital design capability. Executive leaders are best utilized in design digital business transformation by redefining the enterprise value proposition, and by addressing the dependencies between strategy, capabilities, financial, business and operating models.

When this occurs, CIOs have to accommodate a different approach to solution creation, requiring new processes, new skill sets, new integration points and a raft of culture change dynamics. For many CIOs, there isn’t a clear link to the impact that IT can have on the organization, such as DevOps, agile or lean practices. So, it’s not surprising to find many CIOs struggling to understand how to apply a digital design capability to information and technology, and business strategy. It’s also common to find CIOs who understand perfectly well the impact of digital design but work in an enterprise that doesn’t. What CEOs, CIOs and other C-level managers must realize is that digital design is a needed business capability to achieve the enterprise’s digital ambition.

Digital Design Creates Connected Revenue Opportunities by Reframing an Enterprise’s Perspective of a Customer

For most enterprises, the first step down the path of digital business transformation is the creation of net new revenue streams through innovative products and services. And the most common approaches used to achieve that goal include:

  • ✓ Expanding the features of a product/service based on the analysis of competitive products
  • ✓ Applying emerging technology into existing products/services
  • ✓ Productizing emerging technology into new products

The challenge with any of these approaches is one of context — how does an organization know what will best resonate with its intended audience? Digital design offers enterprises a different route to the creation of innovative new products/services by reversing the order of precedence. As a process to create solutions, digital design seeks first to understand an audience’s context to determine the products and services that create value. The question is shifted from “Who can use this product?” to “What products/services do this group of people need?”

The first step in achieving this goal (discovery phase) is to conduct a combination of exploratory, generative and evaluative user experience (UX) research methods. This should be a focused effort targeted at a deeper understanding of user needs and desires, and concept development through participatory design activities. The next step is to analyse and make sense of the data and insight generated through generative research activities using novel techniques such a persona creation and journey maps. Digital design really understands what customers are trying to achieve in their world — not how they fit within the company’s products or processes.

Moving forward, IT systems must be designed in ways that generate data for use in understanding how the system is being used. This provides an additional source of insight for generative research that can be used to differentiate an enterprise on the quality of its digital design work.

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