What is digital design? Why it’s essential to define digital ambition

Every day, businesses are working toward becoming a ‘digital’ enterprise — but what does it mean to become digital? 

Digital design is far more than simply putting your business online; it is changing the people, process, and technology operations of an organization. Thus the term ‘digital transformation’ was coined to show that this is a change in company strategy and not just a simple project. Organizations completely transform the way they operate. It’s a strategy-driven approach that sees customers as valuable co-creators in the business process.

What is digital design?

Digital design starts with a clear roadmap for your digital transformation that uses your user experience as the driving force. It’s important that you understand what your digital ambition is and visualize your ideal state to achieve this outcome. Once that is established, there are various digital design methods that your organization could employ — such as, design-thinking, service design, and customer journey analysis. 

But what is it you are designing? What are you aiming to achieve? Many digital transformations fail due to a lack of clarity in the intended end goal. Many organizations believe that using out-of-the-box software and delivering in an ‘agile methodology’ means that there is no need to spend time outlining the detailed end vision — “we can shortcut this phase and get delivering immediately to realise value faster!”

The truth is this simply doesn’t work — sometimes we have to start slow to speed up as you go. Taking the time to plot your course and gain consensus and agreement before you set off is a critical success factor you simply don’t want to miss.

Why go digital?

What are the frequently desired outcomes for companies wanting to become digital:

  • Drive growth: Increase channels, introduce new products, deepen customer relationships.
  • Increase agility: React to the latest market trends, reduce project timelines, react to changing customer expectations.
  • Reduce costs: promote self-service, reduce project costs, reduce the cost of operation.

These are reasonable objectives for an organization. However, they can’t be directly executed and measured. Instead, each of these points, can be turned into a question:

  • How will you drive growth?
  • What digital channels should you have?
  • What new products should you introduce?
  • How can you deepen our customer relationships?
  • How can you be more agile?
  • What are the latest market trends you need to react to, and how can you be more proactive?
  • How can you reduce project timelines?
  • How can you understand customer expectations and quickly pivot to meet them?
  • How can you drive self-service? What processes should you enable for self-service?
  • How can you reduce project costs?
  • How can you reduce the cost of operation?

If you don’t develop answers to these questions — the goals and outcomes that come along with being a digital business will never be realized. 

Becoming a disruptor is not something that can happen overnight. It needs to be driven from the top-down into the organization. The business needs to change the way it operates and have the right sponsorship to drive change. Is your strategy defined and documented? Do you know what your digital ambitions are and how to achieve them? This is where digital design is needed.

Defining and executing a digital design vision

Digital design is not a technical role. It is a job-driven by senior business leaders, involving a new way of operating rather than being a one-off activity. This is a process that evolves over time, rather than a big-bang organizational change. It starts with putting ourselves in the position of the customer and driving out experiences and propositions that the ‘digital customer’ wants. 

Organizations need to make bold decisions to change. For example: “We want to be the best car insurance company in the UK with the highest customer experience score in the industry.”

Once this vision is established, it’s time to access the current state. Understand what your customers think of your products and services now, what you could do better, and see how improvements could be made in a lean and quick way. Develop a leading hypothesis on how to move the needle. If we take car insurance as an example — how could you reinvent this?

When people insure their cars, it’s typically for accidents, and customers are asked for personal details and how many miles they drive in a year. There is then a simple model run to produce a quote. However, do we all drive the average number of miles? I may do fewer miles than I initially say. I may be a safer driver than my average age, and I may drive routes with much less traffic than the average. What if we could integrate real-time data to drive dynamic insurance policy pricing?

This enhances the customer experience and provides them with value-driving benefits. The ambition then enables the organization to gather around a common goal and develop customer journeys, data models, interaction diagrams, APIs, system designs, etc. to focus around this goal. This should be neatly aligned to the company’s strategic objectives.

Is there an end-goal?

Your digital transformation is not a single project; it is a new way of thinking, organizing, and operating. The initial ambition is there to help everyone focus on what they are doing and why. We then need to break this apart into deliverable units before going into iterative test and learn cycles. This approach is shifting the organization into an experimental mindset:

  • Ability to quickly validate the concept with customers. 
  • Break the vision apart into consumable chunks. 
  • Think about the team which is needed to deliver the ambition. 
  • What technical capabilities need to be purchased. 
  • Identify the MVP to deliver and test this idea.

Be ready to invest and learn — but try and do so quickly. The main point here is that you have a constant pipe of ideas, are set up to take feedback from your customers, and look at what your competitors are doing. You will have a digital delivery team and a flexible and agile architecture, but you will have set it up and drive this initiative with intent and reason. If you have nothing to deliver and are simply reacting to the market — there is no point in going digital

The MuleSoft approach to driving transformation revolves around focusing on the definition of, or understanding of the digital ambition of the organization. Enabling us to decompose this into the key APIs and data exchanges needed to bring them to life. This upfront work allows us to maximize the delivery structure of the APIs to drive business value and reuse and speed of delivery. On top of this, we aim to set out the correct operating model you need to deliver this successfully.

Our advisory services team are here to work with your senior leaders to help drive out and shape your digital ambition. Please get in touch if you would like to talk to us about how we could help. For more information on how to develop your API strategy, see our API strategy best practices resources.



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