How Design Thinking Will Change the Face of the IT industry?
Information technology service providers are increasingly working on technologies which offer immersive experiences for their end customers. In the process, they are faced with challenges such as increasing competitive pressures
The design thinking process demystifies innovation and expands its scope beyond the lone inventor paradigm. It places innovative ideas within the reach of multidisciplinary groups, based on the premise that true innovation happens with a common culture, and then builds upon the interface between different opinions and perspectives. Tim Brown describes design thinking as a discipline that uses a designer’s sensibility and methods to match user needs with feasible technologies, while also making sound business considerations. The definition has expanded to go beyond existing problems to anticipating future scenarios over several years.
However, the definition of design thinking has often been expressed in multiple ways. What’s common amongst all definitions is the intense focus on the end user’s explicit and implicit needs, and how they can be met. Design thinking is nothing but an end user
focused collaborative approach to solving problems and creating practical solutions. Design thinking brings together varied elements of end users, disparate teams, and business and technology experts, to combine them with a collaborative methodology to build solutions and explore opportunities. The design thinking cycle involves intertwined states such as Understand, Observe, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test (See Fig. 1) so the system building processes unfold as a dynamic interplay of these activities in a non-linear fashion.
The Indian IT services industry is currently undergoing large- scale disruptions driven by advances in Artificial Intelligence ( AI). These disruptions are moving technologies a step closer to natural human behavior. Meanwhile, we also need a process that helps innovative concepts to be more humanized. Streaming data from machines, human logs from devices, search queries, social interactions, multi- media exchanges, shopping sites, location data and more, presents opportunities to analyze them and engage with end users in innovative ways.
This involves connecting and engaging end customers while they access products and services via multitude of devices such as mobile, TV, sensors, appliances as well as via delivery and interaction channels. It requires embedding sensors into the ecosystem and supply chain for enhanced insights with regards to humans, goods, products and machines across their life-cycle and offering location-based experiences, services and payment processing by leveraging bionic sensors and hand-held devices.
However, most new digital technologies have been created by people more fascinated with the technology itself rather than finding a concept that is based on human needs. The traditional models of software development teams in the IT industry have focused on functionality comprehensiveness while the user experience has been largely neglected. Design thinking adopts a different approach by placing human behaviour and needs as the starting point for developing a business or technology solution.
THE DESIGN THINKING METHODOLOGY
Based on design thinking experiments, we find that most emerging technologies work best when mixed with complementary technologies and not solely on their own. For example, while building solutions for end user profiling, we found the need to combine immersive user experiences with location data, natural language processing, as well as streaming log analytics. This is possible across multiple customer touch points by using techniques such as text analytics, natural language processing and social network analysis.
While this presents IT providers with the opportunity to extend the scope and impact of immersive user experience technologies across multiple interfaces such as PC, TV, mobile devices, head mounted devices and retail kiosks, It also presents opportunities to extend, replicate and reuse such experiences across multiple user screens. Solution developers also need to extend activity analysis to other industry user scenarios by exploring the applicability of the design thinking approach. This can be combined with alternative forms of research design and data collection such as ethnography based approaches, for instance.
In the IT industry, key stakeholders in the process are – the requirements team, the development team, the design team, as well as sample respondents who
are potential end users of the solution. Design and development teams in the IT industry need to engage in physical and digital ethnographic studies which may involve design thinking workshops, or ground work such as visiting retail stores, shopping malls, supermarkets, bank branches, hospitals etc. End user interviews and observations of people across varying age, gender, education level and socio-economic status are also critical inputs for the next steps. This often involves accompanying end users and watching them perform tasks such as shopping for a new phone at the mall, or interacting with them in immersive experience platforms such as virtual worlds.
The objective here is to learn as much as possible about how they performed routine tasks, interacted with others and their environments, and to devise alternative ways in which they might wish to accomplish these tasks. The sample selection needs to be as random as possible to observe end users without them being aware. In case of exceptions, the end users can even be observed upon a request to ignore the observer. Such scenarios also give the design thinking team a chance to ask questions about what they felt during each transaction to record personal insights. This exercise helps the solution building teams to arrive at the user’s point of view and follow it up with in-depth exercises around ideation, prototyping and testing.
WHEN TO CHOOSE DESIGN THINKING
In many cases, decision makers are faced with the choice of going with design thinking or not. The choice of design thinking method arises from several considerations, key amongst which are the following:
The need to create a new solution for existing user needs, rather than improving upon existing solutions to enhance user experiences. This needs a unique starting point that is free from any bias.
Given the diversity of skills and experiences, the need for a process that would guarantee the maximum harnessing of a team’s capabilities. Participatory design approaches in the past have not lent themselves to any single theory or approach.
Advances in technology, fast access to information, people and places, as well as the nature of challenges and opportunities that arise from this changing global environment, all hint at solutions that may transcend any single area of technical or professional specialization.
While it has become necessary to combine the entire spectrum of experience from novices to experts drawn from diverse backgrounds such as engineering, anthropology, business and design in creating solutions for the next product, city or even work environment, we are challenged with creating an environment that supports such diversity and fosters creativity. The design thinking process provides just the right scheme.
Given the nature of design thinking where teams opt for numbers, deferring judgment, building on other’s ideas, sharing and voting, iteration and learning from the user during the entire process, better solutions than those currently employed are likely to emerge.
For experimental purposes, to try a new process as an alternative to previously used methods.
Information technology service providers are increasingly working on technologies which offer immersive experiences for their end customers. In the process, they are faced with challenges such as increasing competitive pressures, the need to differentiate, expand consumer reach, improve conversion and sustain customer loyalty. The future of end user experiences involves combining the physical world with an interactive, three-dimensional digital and virtual world. The need is for solutions that blur the line between what’s real and what’s computergenerated by enhancing what we see, hear and feel.
User experiences are predicted to grow exponentially with an increasing focus on location-based services across several industries such as banking, insurance, retail, education, hospitality, healthcare etc. Widespread adoption of mobiles and the increasing adoption of wearables and sensors also increases the availability of devices with camera, GPS, digital compass and gyroscopes, as well as tilt sensors and mobile broadband connectivity.
Since immersive technologies interconnect the real and virtual worlds, they present new challenges with regards to conventional user interaction design methods. Going beyond the technological complexity of building immersive systems, there is a larger challenge of involving various system stakeholders during the system design process, and this is where the design thinking approach has a key role to play.
Figure 1. The Design Thinking Cycle (Courtesy Hasso Plattner Institute)