Provide customer-centric service with a strategic design phase

In today’s digital age, understanding and delivering a large, complex digital program as per customer needs has become the top priority for every business alongside achieving set goals. When a customer-centric design process is integrated into the routine work of the team to provide the best experience for end customers, this is the primary goal of a complex digital program. To deliver a successful complex digital program, following a scaled agile framework (SAFe) has become imperative, where customer focus and design thinking are key pillars of a continuous delivery pipeline. An approach based on Design Thinking, Lean UX and SAFe, allows teams managing complex programs to instill a customer-centric mindset. This framework serves the short and long term goals of the complex digital agenda.

For any complex digital program, it is essential to include strategic design from the start to ensure that the design understands the scale of the service, the multiple products and the wide variety of customers and users. Strategic design phase is the application of future-oriented design principles, which involves applying design activities to systemic challenges from the “big picture”. It plays an essential role in increasing the qualities of innovation and competitiveness of an organization.

The design follows the iterative cycles of the Learn-Design-Test stages in the strategic design phase to meet many complex program demands:

In this phase, the designers set out to find out the current state of the services and products involved in the digital program. The objective of this phase is to collect useful information about customers and businesses, as well as to identify the types of users involved in consuming and providing the service. This paves the way for creating effective and accessible solutions that are best suited to the company and its customers. They achieve this by involving key activities:

  • Preparation for research: it sets up the design team to plan the discovery of the broader ecosystem of services and products that the digital program addresses.
  • Research activities: research involves collecting data about the domain, company, customers, touchpoints, users, and the environment in which everything operates.
  • Analysis and report: analysis generates ideas and opportunities once information is gathered during the research phase. The team begins to map the experience, make groupings by affinity, create clusters, find patterns by organizing analysis workshops and report the results.
  • Deliverables: learning phase deliverables create a shared understanding across multiple program workflows. These clearly demonstrate the customer’s and user’s point of view of the service and all digital products. It also makes it possible to agree on issues to be resolved or possible areas of innovation between internal teams and customers.
  1. Conception phase:

The design phase identifies and prioritizes the many opportunities, plans, facilitates ideation workshops and creates the prototypes to test them with end users. The customer, SMB, and other members of the workflow team contribute ideas and suggestions throughout this phase. The objectives are achieved by:

  • Opportunity Activities/Workshop: Opportunity activities involve seizing and creating new opportunities to improve services and products.
  • Ideation workshop: The overall goal of the ideation workshop is to generate a plethora of ideas and narrow them down to 3 or 4 themes that can be prototyped for user testing.
  • Development of prototypes: The outcome of the ideation workshop should be transformed into rapid prototypes which could be behavioral, behavioral or digital. Based on their initial successes/failures, more detailed prototypes can be built to collect the running feedback loop, leading to refinement of the prototype with usability testing in subsequent phases.
  • Design system: it is a set of reusable components, guided by clear standards that can be assembled to create an unlimited number of digital products.
  • Deliverables: The deliverables of the design phase describe the evolution of the solution in terms of digital platform.
  1. Trial phase:

The testing phase focuses on testing different prototypes, finalizing a theme and progressing it. This not only involves sharing prototypes with participants to assess the viability, desirability and usefulness of a design concept, but also some key activities such as:

  • Planning: with a concrete plan developed for testing, planning, scripts and prototypes are then prepared. Things like scope, objective, attendees, metrics, session details, and more. are considered and documented during planning.
  • Running prototype tests: Once the planning and recruitment of test participants is complete, it is time to proceed with the test. It is always recommended and important to run the pilot test a day or two before the first test session, in order to identify and align with the changes required.
  • Analysis, iteration and refinements: The research team will share their observations, ideas and make recommendations. Based on the test results, the prototypes are refined. This is an important aspect of the iterative design process where each test(s) leads to more refinement in the previously designed solution. This is a point where a concrete solution is finalized.
  • Deliverables: The only deliverables for this stage are the results of the prototype tests and the information gathered, which are included in the research report created for the next phase of work. The exit from the iterative cycles of the Learn-Design-Test stages in the strategic design phase launches the tactical work.

Good ideas are always available, just look around and think in the right direction. What is not easy is to implement the good ones. The focus on a complex digital program clearly demonstrated the importance of employing creativity and the right tools to meet customer needs and succeed.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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Abdul J. Gaspar