Driving Operational Excellence Through Design Thinking
By Minoo Dastur
The search for improvement, growth, and advancement is instinctive as it is at the heart of the evolutionary process. Businesses must engage in a relentless quest to make things better for their successes, either as a response to external factors or due to internal search for betterment. Failure to do so leads to inevitable decline and eventual extinction.
THE DIGITAL DISRUPTION
It is a given fact that operational excellence must be the guiding principle of all leaders. In the product-centric age, the leadership focused on creating and evolving processes to support the product delivery and win business, retain customers, handle issues and support the operations. This pursuit built-in costs of doing business that continually evolved and grew in complexity as battles for markets and share of the wallet were fought. CXO’s in most corporates continually looked for an edge and thus evolved further refinements to the product and therefore to the myriad processes created to support the product. Management theory evolved along these lines and fields of business engineering, such as BPR, and measurement, such as the Balanced Scorecard, were born to support this process as it was complex and expensive.
The advent of digital transformation is disruptive because it empowers users and buyers like never before and the customer has begun to be seen rather differently. Once companies start to become customer centric they must rethink all the paradigms of the past. The greatest transformation is brought by Design Thinking. Design Thinking is leveraged to rethink the business, user engagement, and customer experience. It has become a key element of strategic thought. A targeted marketing paradigm challenges the very understanding of the Conventional ‘P’s of Marketing as the customer is not one of them and yet dictates everything else.
The key to being truly customer-centric lies in gaining an understanding into the mind of the customer, proactively, designing products and services around these insights, and constantly validating and testing these with real customers. This outward-in approach is radical and is something that traditionally neither process specialists nor analysts nor engineers have been good at or trained to do. This is a profound transition that lends itself to adopting Design Thinking as the new path to customer-centric transformation.
In the new age of customer-driven digital transformation, it becomes apparent that the myriad systems developed to support the processes of the older paradigm are a drag and represent a huge suite of costs. It has to be dispensed quickly as the business must swiftly evolve into the new customer-centric world of experience where the customer aggressively exerts choice. The capabilities required for doing this and the measurements used to assess success has changed dramatically.
This has now become the driving force for ‘Operational Excellence’ in a digitally-driven, increasingly customer-centric paradigm, where the user engagement and experience have become the central theme. In this paradigm, Operational Excellence changes to monitoring every aspect of the process simultaneously.
Concurrent engineering is at the heart of Agility. It lends itself as the ideal means by which companies have begun to transform themselves. It has enabled them to adapt to a changing world such as customers’ role, the working of business processes, the way revenue, profit, and investments are perceived measured and calibrated.
Besides, enterprises need to incorporate active listening and continuous learning into the product and service delivery processes. This is a direct consequence of the monetization of data and the ever-increasing role of Analytics, coupled with AI, deep learning and big data – this trend allows for continuous change to match the evolution of the market.
Emergence of Cloud Computing, Software as a Service (SaaS), Managed Services and Application Economy are becoming critical to the Design Thinking led approach.
It is important to understand that, in time, even the best processes will start slacking. To ensure that processes remain efficient and up-to-date, it is essential that people are regularly re-skilled and empowered with tools and technologies to enable them to experiment and innovate. The need of the hour is to continuously measure customer satisfaction to create repeated business. The effectiveness of servicing the customers, thus becomes the real measure of efficiency.
To achieve sustained improvement seeking operational excellence one can use methodologies such as MC3 ®, a patented framework, that looks at the people, process, technology and data, holistically. Then validate the findings by comparing the voice of the customer using patented methodologies like 14Signals. 14Signals is a framework that creates an index from experiential feelings over stimulation feelings to calculate and predict customer delight. To ensure that the transformed digital experience meets the customers’ expectations and is powerfully positive one can validate the heuristics using a patented framework such as Prolicy-D. It develops high acceptance through fine tuning of the user experience during the verification process.
An excellent example of a brand that has taken a hyper-personalisation approach to customer experience is Stitch-Fix, a retailer that offers customers access to personal stylists. The stylists hand-pick pieces that are shipped to customers who can keep – and pay for – only what they want and send back the rest. Customers get a completely personalised experience that is simple and efficient, while the retailer continuously learns about their preferences and improves the recommendations over time.
Such a transformation can be achieved only by a Design Thinking led approach that enables digital transformation to address the businesses evolution.
( The author is President & CEO of Nihilent )