Managing User needs with Empathy – A Design Thinking way to reduce project failures

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Few days back I have read that one of the projects has failed as users were not happy with the outcome of the project and the way they were managing their current processes. It is not just this example, almost some percentage of projects fail in IT as the users do not find the results relevance for the problem initially in their mind. There are challenges with adaptability, its relevance and ROI on IT spends as transformation projects are revolutionary in nature as existing business processes often perceived as company competitive advantage as they have evolved over years. Business sees moving away from these processes pose considerable risk and implementations often met with resistance to change the way the system is designed. In those of scenarios a series of discussions with a user group based on a validated methodology will help understand user perspective to come out with optimum design solution. Design thinking is one such approach, some of the related terms associated with design thinking are user centred design, UX etc.

working in a group
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Design Thinking talks about an approach to arrive at the right kind of the solution that will adjusts the problems correctly. Design thinking as per Ideo, can be defined as Human centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirement for business success. By doing detailed empathy session with the users to come out with user requirements understanding what the users want to see to help implementing better solutions.

The three quadrants of design thinking identify that for any initiative to be successful it requires to Human centred, Business centred and Technical feasible. The intersection of the three results in innovation. Most important feature among them is the Desirability (Human centred feature) The general methodology involves the four quadrants of Generate, Focus, act and ideate. During generate we investigate the aspect of challenge identification and approach to tackle it, during the focus stage we analyse sensing about the problem and during the act stage it assess on the aspect of trying the problem and working based on feedback and finally during the ideate identification of what needs to be created.

Some of the examples of Design thinking can be Piano Staircase, Doodle Jump Stairs, Drinko Fun Theory, The Recycling Wheel many more which can be watched in YouTube. 

The key elements of design thinking is people centred, highly creative, hands on and iterative solution. Empathy is the key about the way to understand and share the feelings of others. Hands of the session about how to organize empathy session is given be DSchool Video in YouTube. In this scenario you will have a series of discussions with the person and come out with gift giving experience of the what you understand about the issue and come out constant revalidation of the solution and try to demonstrate. Iterate on this approach to arrive at the solution which is user centric. Here the pick is to fail fast and fail cheap which do not meet user needs. Google Venture’s Sprint identifies the Design thinking to be carried out in a week time starting with understanding the problem on the Monday and testing the solution by Friday.  More details about the sprint can be found here.  

The Stanford dShool’s process aims at turning a brief requirement into a finished product or design solution. The design thinking involves stages like define, research, ideate, prototype, select, implement and learn. Each stage involves a series of detailed methods, during the define stage the design problem and target audience are identified, research stage reviews information such as history of the design problem and end user research, during ideate end user needs are identified and ideas are generated. Prototyping sees to resolve or working up of ideas, during selection stage, proposed solutions are reviewed against the design brief objective and during the implementation design development and final delivery is managed. Finally, during the learn stage performance is improved and audience feedback is determined.

Some of the issues which are resolved with these type of methodology around EHS include – Users problem around Material Safety Distribution and they needed to work extended hours in identifying the persons who do not receive report and needed to send them reports and other issue is around the vendor information for managing the uses information where a series mails and follows ups are needed to be done by team to complete the process. Details are many and depends on user group.

To conclude Design Thinking  when done on ERP applications like Understanding the customer processes, identification of business processes to be evaluated and conducting a detailed understanding sessions to prioritize the business processes to be used and identification of right team & stakeholders for the Sprint sessions or design thinking workshops and development of fast prototype and iterative analysis on this sequence will help companies to reduce if not completely eliminate the issues. A detailed design thinking must have been conducted for the IT failure company and there can be multiple other factors, but these types of studies will help reduce the issues.

If you want to explore more on this topic, I suggest you reading Design Thinking by Gavin Ambrose & Paul Harris, reading d. School Reading list from Stanford d School, OpenSAP courses on Design Led Courses and  IBM Enterprise Design Thinking which can be done (YourAccalim)and also many other workshop sessions available online, . Currently there is also a course being run on edx.org on Design Thinking. What do you feel are the major User issues you have encountered while working with your clients and what are the different ways you are trying to resolve such issues, do write me your feedback on this.

Thanks – Jak

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