Embedding experience design in your organisation

This article explores how to embed experience design into your business.

There is an increasing global focus on design as a strategic discipline but in Asia thought-leaders in this field are still struggling to convince business stakeholders of the importance and significance of design.

I recalled reading an article published by McKinsey & Co. which discussed creating design culture within business. This is a popular topic. Many of the world’s biggest advisory and technology firms are talking about the need for design leadership within business. I resonate and support the idea of having a design-driven culture that grounds creativity in customer-centricity. But how do you align business stakeholders and inspire organisational change? And how can we make it happen faster in Asia?

Design as commitment rather than campaign

Too many, design thinking refers to applying empathy towards end-users in designing a product or service through an iterative process of prototyping and testing. That’s a good start, but around good process we also need to develop mindset and organisational culture that embraces it. This process may involve significant change both top-down and bottom-up.

Having a leadership mindset that perceives design as a long-term commitment rather than a campaign is very important. Some companies will invest in setting up internal design teams while others turn to external consultants (or have a mixture of both). However they are put together, design teams need to generate high-quality insight about customers and then engage with business stakeholders over the implications for product and service design. Proposing and implementing design solutions in complex business situations often means encountering resistance from stakeholders: it challenges existing process and business logic. Design teams have to show leadership in this, not just in design execution.

Changing culture

OCBC Bank in Singapore, for example, is a doing a great job driving design innovation within a traditionally bureaucratic environment. Having a design group helped the bank transform themselves from being traditional and legacy-oriented, to a bank that appreciates user experience and challenges some conventions of retail banking. The concept of Frank by OCBC is a refreshing strategy to attract new millennial customers. Their newly revamped website and 360 retail banking concept seem to be right in many aspects.

Having seen and worked with a variety of clients, I think that design-led change only happens when senior leaders focus on making positive change to customers and have the willingness to invest time and resources. These are some of the traits that suggest a client is ready to embrace and champion organisational change:

The win/win

Recently, we worked with Dell’s Singapore-based Experience Design Group (EDG) on a study in Denmark to look into digital tools in education. We established a good working relationship and I think that Dell’s customer-centric culture was an integral factor to this success. The alignment of design strategy and business strategy is clearly visible. Dell believes in empowering customers by responding to customers’ needs and their collaborative approach to finding new ways to make technology work with their customers makes a great difference.

For this project, we delivered a set of insights and tools (like journey maps and videos about user scenarios) that Dell EDG can use in internal communications to engage different departments in discussion and focus on the emerging needs of the education vertical. Having the right tools and evidence are important in driving change.

OCBC and Dell are two local examples of organisations that have made a cultural commitment as well as a financial commitment to design centricity. They have embraced design as a means of creating value for their customers and in doing so are capturing a share of that value themselves.

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