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Digital transformation is a hyped topic currently. But actually it is far more than a buzzword. Technology trends like hyper-connectivity, big data, cloud, Internet of Things and security provide new opportunities for companies to reimagine their business and how they engage with their customers and users. But what happens if you develop an amazing technical solution that people cannot use?

Let me tell you a story.

On a business trip recently, I made an experience that some of you might also have encountered from time to time. I wanted to enter the parking garage of a hotel and had to get a parking ticket to get in - sounds simple. The machine looked pretty modern. It had an integrated monitor and several buttons on the side. First, I touched the screen, but nothing happened - it was not a touch screen - then I pressed some buttons on the side, again nothing happened. The rounded button at the bottom finally got me a ticket. Great technical solution … but not usable.

Endurance testing experiences like this one are actually easily preventable when taking into consideration the human needs (desirability). This makes very clear that we need to connect the three elements viability, feasibility, and desirability to be successful and remain competitive in the digital era.

Wikipedia defines Digital Transformation as “application of digital technology in all aspects of human society.” This is why companies that went through a successful transformation focus on people and applied a design-led approach.

A company that has excelled at creating a pleasant experience is Uber. Their app does not only tell you how long it takes until the car arrives, you can also watch the arrival on your mobile device. I like the user interface. But, do you know what I personally like most about the Uber experience? You get out of the car, keep your mobile phone in your pocket, do nothing, pay automatically without thinking about how much tip you need to give to the driver, and get the receipt via e-mail. This is the difference between just focusing on the user interface and providing a great customer and user experience. To design and develop such a solution you need to know what people really desire. For sure, technology plays a very important role to make this experience a reality and you have to be clear about the business model.

Design-led digital transformation means leveraging breakthrough technology trends, re-imaging business processes and business models and re-imaging the customer and user experience to achieve design-led innovations.

In today’s digital economy, companies are focusing more and more on the experience their customers and users will have as the core focus of its brand and survival. Customers and users drive the current and future state of any business. Products and services, whether they are delivered to internal or external customers, must create a value for them and the company. Therefore, customers and users need to be an integral part of the entire product development process – not an afterthought.

Design Thinking to focus on human needs

In understanding what that experience can be, companies are using Design Thinking – a human-centered approach to innovation – and put the customer and user into the center of all activities. Design Thinking focuses on the human needs, problem finding, working in inter-disciplinary teams across the innovation lifecycle, and a fail fast, fail early approach.

My observation from about 500 customer projects is that more and more IT organizations are starting to apply design and design thinking within their organization. They are hiring designers to better understand the needs of their customers and users and translate these needs into an experience design. In the past they were just collecting requirements from the business and implemented functions, features and business processes. This was sufficient in enterprises the last decades, but consumerization of IT requires re-thinking of this approach.

Create business value with human-centered design

The goal is to create business value by engaging with customers and users throughout the end-to-end process from discover to design to deliver and apply design thinking combined with agile methodologies. It is not about creating just a cool design, it is all about creating business value and outcomes.

In order to do this, business and IT need to be working hand in hand in taking the company towards that single consumer’s experience as their north star.

Let’s have a look at an example.

As part of its business strategy, Mercedes-AMG, the sports car brand of Mercedes-Benz, aimed to increase its production drastically while keeping the excellent quality standards that have always characterized its products. In a co-innovation project, we have engaged on an intensive research plan and applied the principles of design thinking and agile software development to bring the Mercedes-AMG vision to life: a customizable collaborative planning solution that supports cross-functional competence teams and increases efficiency during the three-year production process. The solution based on SAP HANA provides access to relevant data in a holistic way and enables a seamless team collaboration in the remodeled process. One of the key success factors was engaging with users throughout the entire process, by observing how they work and iterating on solutions together with them.

Check out this
video to see how a design-led approach was applied at Mercedes-AMG, which has paved Mercedes-AMG’s way to a sustainable digital transformation.

Digital Transformation is a journey and more than a one-time project. Ultimately, enterprises want to prepare their organization for a sustainable design-led digital transformation.

So how can you embrace the human aspect of design in your digital transformation? This is our credo: Apply Design Thinking and engage with your customers and, most importantly, with the users right from the beginning, in an iterative, user-centric design process.

If you are interested in more customer stories, check out the UX Design Services web-page. You can also find more information in this presentation or check out this video recording.

My next blog is talking about how to establish a sustainable design-led innovation culture.