When working on a digital strategy it often becomes very complicated, very fast.
I like to use two simple metrics when building a product strategy.
Sales Clear goals. Measurable in conversion, sales or whatever metric you like to use. Very tangible and easy to track. Short term.
Satisfaction How do people value the experience they have. Do they like it, is it a reason to return. Measurable based on how people rate a certain product or experience or how often they return. Often less tangible, a bit more difficult to track. Long term.
As a designer you need to be able to merge both.
Long term thinking, building a relation while not forgetting what keeps the boat afloat.
In 2018 I read, discussed and talked a lot about Product Design roadmaps and Design teams. On building career paths and scaling the capability of designers within companies that are more and more driven by technology in every domain.
I believe digital design is moving through some of it break through years and how we organise as a design community, share and learn will deeply influence the future of our jobs. It’s so exciting to just look at the challenges ahead.
How the role of the designers changes/d
Agile: The agile movement pushed design towards Product Teams within companies, not just tech, but all companies dependent on tech. Let’s call it the ‘incremental movement’, which is not only for software, but also for hardware and life styles. Everything as a service, long time goals, short term plans.
Back to technology, by decentralising design it created space for centralised support functions as design system teams, design research and designOps. Moving teams in house, even for companies that exist despite of technology, not because of.
Marketing: The disconnect of Product Design from agencies and marketing departments continued. This is both good and bad.
It’s good because it helps Product Design to grow up, be independent, close to product and customers and a driver for making a better product and experience.
Agencies found new ways of operating and adding value delivering teams as a service, joint-ventures, training or some other hybrid form. It only works when you work together.
What’s bad about this disconnect is that a company is a collection of people, who all deliver value on a certain level. For a customer, product, sales and services are becoming a single thing, the experience.
What’s the difference between web and social? When is it service, marketing or sales? And who cares? The customer doesn’t, only departments do.
The companies that do well are companies that connect or integrate verticals best and are in some sense led by a clear vision or goal. Where they use customer feedback to steer. A learning system.
Integration: Marketing is becoming product, product is becoming marketing, service is product and product is service. The digital split between touch points is evaporating.
Online stores are opening retail stores, why? Because once you start integrating both online (web, app, social, smart sensors) and offline (location, experience, people) there is a lot of additional value you can deliver.
We’re moving towards a system (brand) that delivers an experience. How you organise this behind the curtains makes all the difference.
Back to design
As a result design is getting out of control of a single group. There is no single experience anymore. It’s the a collection of interactions. Beyond the control of a person or department.
A lot of people get involved in the process of design. Through design sprints, business model design or some sort of a proposition canvas. It’s based on design values.
This is why this is such an interesting time for Design. We can be the glue, between people, business and technology and contribute on a different more strategic level in companies.
That’s why it’s about the scaling of principles. Look at the overall experience and see how something small can have a big impact.
For me it’s most like a city. What makes a great city? It’s not control. It’s culture, rules or lack of rules, opportunities, safety. No single person or organisation controls the city, everyone contributes.
The big question is. How do you build a great city?
Didn’t reach my goal, yet, 10k at a 4.00/km pace. Next year. Overall 2018 was an awesome running year, running over 800 km, alone, with family, friends, colleagues, in the rain, snow, sun and in different countries.
It was an interesting discussion. There is this moment where data either scares or enables. What is surely does is that it changes the role of the designer.
Data, machine learning, Ai, is something that has some form of autonomy. It’s either too big to control or it doesn’t tell us how it did what it did.
From architect to planner
Designers are used to be completely in control. In my view we’re making a shift from operating as an architect, who has a lot of control on the outcome, to the role of a city planner, who has limit control of the outcome, but more control of the playing field.
This also changes the capabilities a designer needs. (Digital) design is still growing up, we’re talking to different stakeholders on different levels than we did 10 years ago. Some of the worlds most valuable companies are design driven. Design is seen.
We’re being offered a seat at the table to drive from a persons view and advocate User Centred Design. To do this we must feel comfortable in new domains.
10 years ago you needed to know how a computer operates.
Now you need to know what data can do, how to read it and how to leverage it.
Technology has become a fundamental part of the fabric of our lives. It’s taking over our house, cities and cars. It defines how we travel, date and connect to friends and family.
The always connected smartphone was as a firestarter. It created the fabric for a lot of services to build upon. It’s the device you take to the bathroom and bedroom. It’s the screen between you and your partner.
While smartphones brought us here, they won’t take us to the next step.
The future is this magic symbioses of smart devices and services all around you.
It’s your car remembering who you are. It’s the friendly voice reminding you not to forget to bring the gym clothes for your kids, again.
It’s technology as a layer that is omnipresent, device independent.
Finally everything becomes smart… right?
Unfortunately we all know this isn’t happening. The open view that brought us the web is gone. Closed systems and vertical integration won. They succeeded in bringing us the best user experience. Think about Amazon, Apple or Tesla. Total control is awesome, right?
But this doesn’t really scale, does it?
Apple can’t build all the technology you want to use in your life, even if you would like it to. The reality of a lot of connected devices and services that surround you all day is much more complex be controlled by just one company.
The next level is open-closed relations. Where you design a great singular experience while offering services from partners, integrated while separated.
And since you will need each other at different moments the relationship is not a winner defines all.
To make it worse, the experience is moving from a single private device to a range of different interfaces being used at different moments in time, some will have screens, some will be public, others will just use voice, or sensors and can be private.
The main question is. How do we design for these open-closed relations?
I don’t know the answer, but I do want to find out.
I believe that design for these complex ecosystems of closed companies is one of the most challenging design problems we will face in the next years.
Towards SXSW I will interview designers on how they are approaching this problem. At SXSW I will present the findings and a framework how we can design for these situations.
If you like this idea, please vote on it when voting opens.