The secret to successful IT management isn’t so much a focus on technology but rather on the people who will use that technology — and the products, services and insights that it makes possible. That was the message of Jesse Wilbur, an interaction design director at the global design and innovation consultancy IA Collaborative, speaking at the CDW IT Leadership SummIT, running from Oct. 10–11 in Chicago. CDW CEO Christine Leahy echoed that message in her opening remarks: “Technology has always been and will continue to be at its essence a human endeavor … a means to achieving human ends.”
How to align technology with human needs and desires was the focus of Wilbur’s talk, “Leveraging Human-Centered Design to Prototype and Launch Innovative Digital Experiences.”
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IT Leaders Can Push for a Design Mindset and Holistic Problem-Solving
The process starts, Wilbur said, by looking at the big picture: not only which competitors may be gearing up to disrupt or take over your industry but also why they are successful.
Usually, that comes down to finding a better way to meet people’s needs and solve their problems. The key is to do so in a way that reflects their real-world experiences, said Wilbur, and that’s where human-centered design offers an advantage. By improving their ability to understand the experiences of users, companies can tap those insights to deliver better solutions.
“You want to have a holistic view of all the things together to really understand what you’re looking at,” Wilbur said.
For example, every organization has three key focus areas: user experience, profit models, and process and capabilities (the latter encompassing the IT space). One way to enhance human-centered design is to examine the points where these areas meet, Wilbur said.
“Look at overlaps to understand the places you can ask critical questions and act on,” he said.
The user experience, for instance, intersects with brand considerations. A company might ask: What relationship will users want to have with us? In analyzing the processes and capabilities that support those relationships, the question might be: What systems and internal capabilities will we leverage or evolve to elevate that experience?
IT leaders can move these conversations forward — leading a push for innovation rather than limiting themselves to conversations about efficiencies — by championing a design mindset, Wilbur said. That elevates the impact of technology inside and outside the organization.
Forward-Looking Strategies Help Companies Ward Off Disruption
IA Collaborative helps companies reimagine their products and services from the user point of view, often with the aim of warding off potential disruptions.
As part of this process, IA prototypes new businesses for its clients to inform new innovations and de-risk investments. Business prototypes include standing up the end-to-end service experience, complete with real employees and customers; developing and testing real digital interactions; producing branded collateral; and iterating on various profit model scenarios to figure out what parts of the experience users value most — and what they’re most willing to pay for.
This type of design thinking yields insights that help companies provide better service, he said, but it also helps make the case for long-term investments.
“We use methods that look at the comprehensive system: not just the customers or the technology, but both of them together,” said Wilbur.
All of IA’s projects started with the human need, Wilbur emphasized: identifying users’ pain points and reframing a business problem as a business opportunity.
Without a significant focus on people, businesses risk creating outcomes that are not at all what they intend or desire. Wilbur pointed to the words of urban planner Fred Kent: “If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic.”
The antidote, according to human-centered design experts? Plan for people.
Read articles and check out videos from BizTech’s coverage of the CDW IT Leadership SummIT here.