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LATEST POST | 16 Nov 2019
AUTHOR | Craig Parnham

Four Examples of how Design Thinking can Accelerate Digital Transformation

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Cognition co-founder, Craig Parnham, shares four examples of how Design Thinking can help organisations prioritise and realise their digital projects.

Everyone who works in the IT world knows how hard it can be to successfully plan and implement digital projects. The ever-changing technology landscape, changing customer demands, emerging opportunities and threats, as well as communication and project management challenges, can make it difficult to successfully realise even the most well-intended and promising IT projects.

At Cognition, we believe that Design Thinking can help organisations, small and large, overcome these challenges. Designing Thinking has been proven to be particularly useful when it comes to digital transformation. I want to share four examples with you of how we have been applying Design Thinking help accelerate digital transformation in a wide range of industries.

Design Thinking is often described as being founded in the art of the possible, as it draws on human capacities such as empathy, logic, imagination, curiosity and systems thinking. It minimises the risk of failure by testing ideas quickly and efficiently through prototyping – via paper or digital design tools and testing these with end-users.

The Design Thinking methodology we developed at Cognition is based on six core phases:

  1. Discovery of an organisation's needs and articulating the design challenge to solve
  2. Creating a deep Understanding of your end-user – whether it be a customer or employee
  3. Ideating concepts through a range of activities and tools
  4. Building out a minimum viable product through agile
  5. Delivering through pilot or into production
  6. And future proofing the solution

As you can see, Design Thinking requires deep end-user intimacy to identify unarticulated or unmet needs, which allows design thinking to be a compelling competitive differentiator.

My colleagues and I have applied our Design Thinking methodology to a wide range of projects and businesses, and have seen its value repeatedly. Here are four examples of how Design Thinking can help accelerate digital transformation.  

  1. Ecosystem Mapping

At its foundation, ecosystem mapping is a process to diagram the networks of stakeholders, and looks at the strength of their inter-relationships. 

Many businesses work within complex ecosystems. They have relationships with suppliers, customers, internal departments, partners and many other stakeholders. Often, there are numerous opportunities to unlock business value or create new service experiences, as well as threats, hidden in this ecosystem. Applying Design Thinking methodologies to map and analyse their ecosystems helps organisations identify more of these threats and opportunities earlier.

  1. Value Chain Analysis

Value chain analysis dates back to Michael Porter. It is about looking at the various ways in which value is derived within an organisation. Applying Design Thinking methodologies to value chain analysis helps identify the most valuable activities that an organisation can engage in, but also utilises ideation to explore new ways of creating value. 

For example, take an organisation that wants to optimise their eCommerce platform to create more value. We would look at things like revenue stimulation, creating cost efficiencies, extending their market reach and improving customer experience, and we would aim to quantify their potential impact. This process helps ensure that the capabilities that will deliver the most value are built first. As a result, organisations can be confident that their resources are focused on developing those aspects that will have the most significant positive impact, building confidence and trust in the digital project from the outset.

  1. Strategic Alignment Matrix

The Strategic Alignment Matrix is a tool I learnt about during my studies in the U.S. It helps ensure that initiatives are objectively scored across a consistent set of weighted criteria. The Strategic Alignment Matrix is an excellent tool for evaluating and comparing different strategic initiatives to identify those that will add the most value and align best with the overall business strategy.   

Applying Design Thinking methodologies to develop the matrix, collaboratively identifying and agreeing the scoring criteria and scoring each individual initiative together ensures that all initiatives are assessed and scored equally, and helps ensure the right scoring criteria are applied. These can then be mapped based on their relative value and colour coded based on a range of factors, such as technology or business function to ensure you have a balanced portfolio of initiatives. 

  1. Importance/Difficulty Matrix

Finally, Design Thinking is valuable when needing to prioritise new capabilities. Using a matrix that highlights both the importance of individual capabilities as well as their difficulty, organisations can make prioritisation decisions based on their overall goals, strategy and available resources.

This can then feed into other prioritisation methods, like the 4:2:1 strategy – which phases initiatives into themes and prioritises them based on business value and dependencies, or the value chain analysis to ensure you’re maximising business value. 

These are just four examples of how Design Thinking can help accelerate digital transformation. If you would like to learn more about Design Thinking and how it can help you overcome the challenges around digital transformation in your organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.



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