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How ThoughtWorks Applied User Centered Design to Drive Digital Transformations

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At Agile India 2019, Sneha Prabhu and Saptorsi Hore from ThoughtWorks presented how design thinking practices support technology and business innovation and identified new cross-functional skills needed to thrive in the face of complex digital transformations.

Industries are in the midst of what Prabhu and Hore call a big and messy complexity characterized by the introduction of new industry players, connections, technologies, business models, and systems. Through several real case studies based on their past clients' engagements, Prabhu and Hore presented how some industries reinvented themselves by disrupting their business models and by putting user centric design at the heart of each step of their end-to-end product ideation and development process:

  • The Empathize step focuses on understanding customers pain points and motivations, which in turns leads to solving real problems
  • In Define the problem, Prabhu and Hore encourage to articulate the problem from the end users’ perspective and pain points, not from the perspective of what the available technology can do
  • In the Ideate process, teams brainstorm all possible solutions, which can be business, process, and technology. They explore anything that can work and that can be something that doesn’t exist. They don’t limit themselves to what they know
  • As they Prototype, teams develop an MVP that can be quickly tested and validated to get prompt feedback from the end users
  • Feedback consists of collecting continuous feedback from end users

Because technology is no longer the starting point, Prabhu and Hore believe that the various roles and teams across product and technology must interact differently to influence organizational change and digital disruption. Teams can no longer operate in silos, therefore companies are looking for individuals that can work well with product as well as technology groups. There is a growing need for people who are not afraid to cross silos, who are not afraid to engage people across departments when it’s needed and who are willing to break down walls.

Design thinking becomes part of a teams' culture, less about process or technology, and more about how people apply themselves. Prabhu and Hore identified critical skills that employees need to gain to be successful as individuals and teams in transforming their organization, such as user-centricity, role resourcefulness, foresight, empathy, deliberativeness, etc.

Based on how user centricity is changing business models and organizations, Prabhu and Hore proposed a new version of the Agile Manifesto:

Creation and measurement of value over following a release plan

Dynamic role over single responsibilities

Enabling tech-teams to be business-focused over executing a solution based on specs

Big picture thinking over focusing on the details

Meaningful conversations over requirement elicitation

Application of technology over technology awareness

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