Consulting

How to Use Design as a Driver of Digital Transformation

Wizeline Director of User Experience, David Fore, was recently invited to participate as a keynote speaker at Enterprise UX Day, an event organized by Software Guru in historic downtown Mexico City. Designers and executives from large Mexican enterprises attended the event, eager to share and learn experiences regarding challenges and opportunities in the design landscape.

David and Wizeline Senior UX Designer Arturo Rios decided to break the mold with their keynote. As innovators tasked with designing engaging people experiences, they knew that having one person speak to an audience for 30 minutes is tired and uninspired. They decided to engage in an organic conversation, discussing topics relevant to the community in Mexico, such as the role design plays in digital transformation, the business value of design, as well as opportunities for companies to involve executive leadership and leverage design as a strategic tool to envision a better future for their organizations.

Here is a synthesis of the conversation:

Arturo: David, you’ve been working as a design leader and practitioner for 15 years, and now here you are in Mexico. What opportunities do you see?

David: Thanks Arturo, Pedro, Victor. And thanks to the organizers of this conference. Happy to be here in Mexico City speaking with a room full of technologists. I’m here to help people and organizations find new ways to create value by design. And UX brings it all together to supply the right information and tools to the right eyes at the right time. In addition to business strategy and technical capability, design helps people realize their goals. Nobody forces humans to use these gadgets. Our species has been living for this moment. We will never stop using them… until the power runs out.

My point is this: the genie is out of the bottle. Mexico has a wealth of talent and resources, it is in close proximity to partners and markets, and it has a good value profile. That makes Mexico look like the next big thing.

The genie is out of the bottle. Mexico has a wealth of talent and resources, it is in close proximity to partners and markets, and it has a good value profile. That makes Mexico look like the next big thing.

David Fore

Wizeline UX Director

Arturo: Most of the people moved to Silicon Valley, but you actually grew up in the Bay Area. How did this influence your outlook?

David: I grew up in Silicon Valley before it got that name, when I rode my bike with my friends through orchards. Those friends had parents who worked in the industry. I got glimpses at the crazy fast evolution created by software. 

I was curious, so after college, I became a journalist and focussed on how technologies are made and how they impacted our world. The most interesting thing I discovered was that everybody knew what business people do and what engineers do. But nobody had a name for who shaped the product for people to use. The term “designer” just wasn’t used in that context.

Fast-forward to 2019 in Mexico, and you can see a continuation of that evolution. In Mexico, academic, government, and business communities work together to make this an attractive place to make technology. And so you see double-digit increases in demand for digital transformations and the value of design jobs.  

Now, everybody in Mexico knows about design. So the question is: how do business leaders make the best use of this valuable resource?

Arturo: We’ve seen a lot of reports released by organizations such as McKinsey that articulate the value of design in business for design-centric companies, such as better ROI, improving time to market, to mention a few. What’s the magic of design behind these companies?

David: The executives who run companies that outperform by design depend upon the designers’ ability to fabricate alternative futures. Ideating services around human needs help companies choose a direction, measure the impact, and pivot when new information comes to light.

Ideating services around human needs help companies choose a direction, measure the impact, and pivot when new information comes to light.

David Fore

Wizeline UX Director

Arturo: You’re talking about the methods I love to use most – user journey maps, service blueprints, and ethnographic research. These help companies understand the killer app of any software system: the human.

David: That’s right. You cannot get more strategic than anticipating human behavior and serving human needs. Designers spot new opportunities and shape products and services that fit into human lives and further human goals. We focus organizations on the dynamics that can make or break a value proposition.

Arturo: But it’s still not easy, is it? People in the industry complain about siloed organizations. People observe that the old ways of doing business stop design innovation in its tracks. When it comes to making tradeoffs, UX and design are sacrificed. How can we overcome these challenges?

David: Well it’s a journey. And every journey needs leaders that are committed to investing in design and focus on outcomes versus output. 

When I was working at Cooper, we had the opportunity to work with large software companies such as IBM, HP, Sony. One day in the early 2000s, we got a letter from SAP. At first, we thought it was a joke. But it wound up being a game changer.

Arturo: Why? Because it was a letter?

David: Well, yeah. That was weird, to get a paper letter in the mail. Even weirder was the request. SAP sent out this RFP to a dozen companies. They said that their user manuals were getting too big; tried more concise writing, reduce type, reduce margins, etc. But the real problem was not about the manual. 

We knew their software sucked because it was poorly designed at every level. So this put us in an awkward position. One familiar to any professional designer. We had the right answer to the wrong question. For us to win this work, we had to convince the client to choose a different problem to solve. A problem that we could solve as interaction designers.

Arturo: How did you convince them to choose a different problem?

David: We told them that we saw a future where manuals would be a thing of the past, by design. Soon we were flying back and forth to Europe, working with SAP’s CEO and Founder. Hasso Plattner. He introduced us to his fellow executives as well as their partner companies. We performed dozens of research and design projects. But more importantly, we taught them what we were doing and why we did it that way. We created a curriculum to teach in a classroom setting, then we taught their teachers to do the same. We helped them set up design centers in Europe and California. And this helped launch the Design Thinking revolution.

And that’s the other big lesson: executive leadership is critical. When the leader is committed to change, things get done.

Leah Buhley recently released a design maturity model report published by Invision that outlines five stages of growth for every design organization. What she found is that for the global companies she surveyed, the vast majority of design work done is instrumental. Surface level work. It’s valuable—people are happy with it—but it’s not going to make you the big money. 

As companies climb the maturity ladder, they start to pull ahead of the competition. They begin to see the value of designers acting as connectors to the marketplace and in the company. Then they start to realize that designers can collaborate on architecting business and systems. The companies that get the greatest value are those that use designers as visionaries who are directly influencing the strategic direction of their companies.

The companies that get the greatest value are those that use designers as visionaries who are directly influencing the strategic direction of their companies.

David Fore

Wizeline UX Director

Arturo: Can you give me an example of a case study embracing this mindset?

David: Sure. I am part of a Wizeline team that is building the experience for leasing and managing the luxury boxes for a new venue in the Bay Area, including a secondary market that makes it possible for suite owners to rent out their suites for the night. These one-night rental agreements can be $20,000 or $30,000.

Arturo: Sounds like service design.

David: Yes, we did service design, we created personas and scenarios. And from those stories, we created system requirements. Not just front-end requirements—full system requirements. Designers work with developers in a tight formation to ensure the handshake. In addition to the experience design and development, we are also doing brand and visual design work. And it’s all been deeply collaborative at every step. The great value of design is that we literally and figuratively help visualize what is going on, for everybody’s benefit. The point is this: it’s not enough for designers to do design with other designers. We succeed to the extent that everybody wants to join in on the fun—the executives and the developers, the data analytics folks, and the marketing people. Everyone.

Arturo: It is great that you facilitated sessions and conversations to bring different points of view to the team while exploring the problem space. 

Good luck to you and the team and thank you, David. It looks like our time is up. I would like to thank the audience, and once again thank the organizers of this conference.

Contributed by David Fore and Arturo Rios
Contributed by David Fore and Arturo Rios

Nellie Luna

Posted by Nellie Luna on June 25, 2019