Impact of Design Thinking on Digital Transformation



In today’s world, digital transformation is a necessity. According to the Harvard Business Review study, $1.3 trillion was invested in digital transformation in 2018. Digital transformation is more important than ever because the COVID-19 pandemic drastically changed the rules of the markets. Meeting the business demands in today’s landscape means re-developing an enterprise’s entire digital landscape. 

With that said, the transition of organizations to digital-first is no mean feat. The digital world is volatile and it shifts rapidly. It is unpredictable and the changes are quick and sudden. Not to mention the technological advances that have a significant impact on the digital world. As a result, keeping up can be intimidating and leave many businesses unsure of how to go forward.

This is where design thinking for digital transformation comes in. 

Defining Design Thinking

According to IDEO’s Tim Brown, “Design can help to improve our lives in the present. Design thinking can help us chart a path into the future.”

Design thinking isn’t about which color palettes go together or your knowledge of design concepts. It is a methodology designers use to solve complicated problems. In turn, they find a solution for the users.

Design thinkers use creativity, logic, and reason to discover possibilities to create desired outcomes that benefit the users. Simply put, design thinking is about designing processes and tools with the user in mind.

It is primarily suited to service design scenarios where assessment and research are combined with industry knowledge. However, it can be implemented in any field and not only in design problems.

Design thinking is user-centric and focuses on humans first. It seeks to understand the needs of the end-user and find appropriate solutions to cater to those needs. This encourages businesses and brands to create meaningful user experiences.

Benefits of Design Thinking

Design Thinking on Digital Transformation

Applying design thinking to your business and process adds tremendous value. It ensures the designed products are both enticing to the end-user and viable regarding company resources and budget.

The major advantages of using design thinking are:

  • Design thinking has been proven to deliver an ROI of 85% or higher
  • The primary purpose of design thinking is to help find problems and develop viable solutions. This results in reducing the time spent during the design & development stages.
  • Design thinking challenges assumptions encourages stakeholders to think outside the box. It fosters a culture of innovation that goes beyond the design team.
  • It encourages cross-team collaborations and leverage group thinking no matter what industry or team.
  • Design thinking puts users first, leading to increased engagement and enhancing customer retention.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation rethinks how a company utilizes technology, processes, and people to pursue new revenue streams and business models. It is a result of changes in user expectations. A recent report by the World Economic Forum states that digital transformation has the potential to add $100 trillion by 2025 to the world economy.

For enterprises that build traditional goods, it means making digital products like an eCommerce platform or mobile applications. Take DBS Bank, for instance. The bank is considered one of the world’s most innovative banks as it refined the experience for Southeast Asians. In 2010, DBS realized that the digital revolution would impact the banking sector, and the company’s leadership embraced the challenge. As a result, DBS was transformed from end-to-end, including consumer experience, internal systems, and data use. From journey mapping to co-creation and design spaces, the company has integrated design toolkits across its value chain and transformed customer interaction.

How can design thinking enhance digital transformation for businesses?

Design thinking plays a crucial role in digital transformation, helping businesses adapt to evolving market dynamics. By empathizing with users, defining problems, ideating creative solutions, prototyping, and continuous testing, design thinking ensures a user-centric approach. This approach enhances customer experience, encourages collaboration, boosts innovation, and empowers people, making it a valuable tool in navigating the digital landscape.

Importance of Digital Transformation

1. Enriched customer experience:

Like design thinking, digital transformation focuses on improving the consumer experience. Brands using user reviews in their designs to drive growth are being rewarded in service and product-based industries. Being at the forefront of digital transformation is helping businesses earn trust, authority, and respect from the end-user.

2. Encourage collaboration across the organization:

Digital transformation is a daunting process and impacts the entire workforce, including junior employees and leadership. As a result, all strategies and procedures and the organization’s core structure need rearrangement. This fosters open communication and presents an excellent opportunity to learn and work together.

3. Increased innovation and agility:

In today’s digital world, organizations work efficiently in environments that encourage constant learning, iteration, and testing. The process decreases the risk of costly and huge mistakes while allowing exploration into various avenues.

4. Empowered people:

Digital transformation means setting clear goals and responsibilities for people. The staff is empowered to make a difference, and this has proven to result in outstanding performances.

Role of Design Thinking in Digital Transformation

It is a challenge to pursue a digital transformation strategy to position your organization as a market leader. Both external and internal factors might hinder the progress. Obstacles might include lack of a clear vision, resistance to change, data overload, and stringent development processes.

In the context of digital transformation, design thinking can be a game-changer for your company. With design thinking, you can enhance your user experience by incorporating disruptive technologies into your business processes and practices.

Designing thinking is highly reliant on prototyping, as well as testing. A primary advantage of digital technology is the small tests and experiments carried out throughout the design and development process of a product. This ensures that the product launch is fuss-free and successful. Furthermore, the results can be assessed by you. Thus, you can make appropriate changes by taking into consideration the collected data and customer feedback.

Steps to Boost Digital Transformation With Design Thinking

1. Empathize

A vital element to digital transformation is creating a superior user experience for the consumers. You can do so by empathizing with the audience to comprehend their needs, motivations, and pain points. The problems that companies are trying to solve are not their own, and therefore, one shouldn’t assume how consumers will act. Brands need to be observant of how consumers interact with their products or services and take note. They can study what consumers are searching for on Google or how they’re using their app. Finally, businesses can interview customers by conducting surveys to know what kind of digital experience they’re looking for. Companies can genuinely solve customer problems by gathering an in-depth understanding of customers’ friction points on their digital journey.

2. Define the problems

The next step is about defining the issues of customers. This brings clarity so you can clearly understand what problems you’re trying to solve. The empathize stage will help you gain insight into this, and you will know where to focus your energy and time. Once the information has been assessed, it is time to formulate the problem statement. However, the define stage can be intimidating, and you may face numerous problems. But, the ultimate goal is to find the appropriate solutions and not overwhelm them.

3. Ideate

As the define stage brings transparency and clarity to the issues you’re trying to solve, you can move onto the ideating stage. Here, you’ll be brainstorming and generating ideas to find solutions to the problems you want to resolve. During this brainstorming stage, everyone comes together to develop creative and practical ideas. This stage should be innovative, quick, and efficient.

4. Prototype 

At this stage, you’ll experiment with several inexpensive and simple models. This is aimed to swiftly test and validate the solution ideas that you’ve come up with in the previous stage. Typically, prototypes are tested on a limited set of users to assess their viability. Be vigilant when it comes to observing the way people interact with the prototype. Don’t forget to collect feedback. Use all the information collected to optimize and adjust the next model.

Talking of prototypes, you can check out Aqua App. Whilst the actual farming activities cannot be shifted to the digital world, the app aims to enhance the yield and quality of the farmers engaged in aquaculture. Farmers can reach out to manufacturers of medicine, feed, and supplies directly via the app, eliminating the need to rely on intermediaries. The platform also allows users to keep track of the weather condition and make sure that the health of their fish is optimal.

5. Test

There’s no end to improving one’s product because the needs and wants of the customers are changing rapidly. That’s why it is crucial to invest in continuous testing to check your prototypes and improve them per your target audience’s needs. Every interaction with a user is an opportunity to learn and enhance the customer experience. During the testing stage, you’ll get the information you need and decide if you need to revisit the previous stages in design thinking.

Introducing Design Thinking into Business

A very successful implementation of design thinking for digital transformation is Transworld Avana. For over 40 years, the Transworld Group has been a global leader in the shipping sector. The development of the app helped create their customer-facing portal so that customers can get the solutions they need, including refrigerated logistics, coastal shipping, warehousing, etc.

The development of the Transworld Avana application helped the company scale up its operations and give digital transformation a boost. Here’s how you can introduce the design thinking process into your business.

1. Barrier-free collaboration

Design thinking focuses on the process, and you can significantly benefit if the collaboration is made free of any barrier. It would be great to have a facilitator along the way, but the role shouldn’t be to restrict. The facilitator can simply guide.

2. Everyone is invited to participate

Digital transformation is about giving everyone equal opportunities to share their opinions and voice. This may lead to long meetings, but it is crucial to hear the perspectives of everyone in your organization. You never know from where the best ideas might come. It may so happen that your newest staff ends up surprising you with avant-garde ideas.

3. No judgment

When considering a digital overhaul of your organization, make sure that there’s a safety net. This will help people share their ideas without the fear of judgement. Encourage your entire team to brainstorm and come up with ideas.

4. Accepting differences

Everyone is not going to be highly creative and productive. However, it would help if you worked together despite your strengths and weaknesses. It might be that some members of your staff need more encouragement than others to fully embrace the transformation to the digital world.

5. The focus is to be better, not perfect

Designing thinking and digital transformation shouldn’t be about delivering a perfect product. The focus should be on creating something better. Design thinking is about prototyping, testing, and being able to improve and optimize constantly. As you go along, you’ll need to improve your product as per the customer expectations consistently.

It’s time to embrace design thinking for digital transformation into your organization to leverage the trending disruptive technologies for your business advantage. This will help serve your customers better and provide them with an excellent user experience.

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