Posts Taged design-thinking

Design Thinking Reincarnated (but better)

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What if Design Thinking was a human and it dies tomorrow? We presume the obituary would look something like this:

Design Thinking, the concept/mindset that has organisations and individuals hyper-ventilating and built on observation, empathy and prototyping is not without flaws.Skeptics are now assessing the viability of the model with the same level of scrutiny and spirit that it recommends us to aim at all customer problems. And we can’t agree more.

Are you doing A/B Testing for your Hypothesis Validation?

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As promised earlier, this post talks about how A/B can significantly help in increasing your app’s conversion/sign up rate.

Let’s see how we can leverage A/B testing for increasing Mobile App downloads:

What is A/B testing?

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“Take the guess work out of the equation” – Mahuya 

What is A/B Testing?

It’s a powerful technique that allows one to test and experiment with simple UI changes or complex flows and features.  The end goal of this exercise is to determine which version is best or ‘works’ with clear and actionable insights. In short, it is the thin line between “we think” to “we know”.

It is one of the user research technique that is applicable for late stage projects, where you have fair amount of knowledge on the problem but you need more objective & quantitative data to base your decision.  

Here’s a visual representation of the various User Research techniques & where A/B testing falls:

Overwhelmed? Well, the good news is you don’t necessarily have to use all of these techniques in one go.  Depending on the maturity of the product & the kind of insight(s) you are looking for, you would need to decide on the relevant technique(s).

Wondering, how can you benefit from A/B Testing?

  • If driven by analytics, it can accurately measure actual human behavior under real situations
  • If the sample size is good, it can measure very small performance differences with high statistical significance
  • It helps to resolve product capability trade-offs with factual data
  • And oh! Did we mention that it’s cheap? It is actually!

So, how do you do it?

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” – Leonardo da Vinci

If we had to put it simply, A/B testing starts with 2 versions of a prototype. Then you find real users to take the test. This obviously results in sample split and the behavior is recorded. The real time findings are then used to proceed to the next step in the product funnel. Ideally, the process should have the following basic plan of action:

  • Form a testable hypothesis with clear goals which can be analytically measured
  • Identify the testable variables
  • Test by user segment
  • Test visitor flow with a goal of measuring which screen drives the greatest impact on retention (i.e., less drop off)
  • Look for patterns and quick wins

Here’s an A/B Variations for a non-software product to determine which variation of the jacket will be more relevant for dogs to use during winter:

If you are curious to know how A/B testing can significantly increase software product usage, sales with real world examples & tools that experts swear by, then stay tuned for the next edition!

Re-Imagining Innovation Through Design Thinking

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The pressure to innovate and grow for companies is becoming relentless but the battle to tackle it is most often uninspired. A certain level of predictability and efficiency may be good for today’s bottom-line but is bad for tomorrow’s but thankfully there is a shift under-way in large corporations. This shift puts design at the center of the enterprise. More than aesthetics, this design-centric approach is for innovation, brand-building, service design, and the creation of meaningful customer experiences.

Big organisations across the globe are using ‘Design Thinking’ principles to innovate & build user-centric applications/services to ‘wow’ customers & stay competitive in the market.  Here are few examples of changing organizational mindset.

In comes, Design Thinking approach, built on a foundation that addresses user empathy, prototyping discipline, quick failures and iteration. We Conducted a Design Thinking Workshop to address the digital innovation mandate most people/organizations face today. The workshop provided an overview of the growing importance of “Design Thinking”, and presented the “UX Imperative” for creative problem solving.

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Design Thinking + Customer Community = Social Innovation

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When competition tries to decimate companies, the only thing that stands between them and annihilation is customers. We mean loyal customers! It costs roughly 5X more to acquire a new customer than it does to generate recurring and new revenues from an existing happy and loyal customer. Not only do these happy customers give more business but they also are responsible for referring others. A recent survey corroborated the fact when 75% of the respondents admitted that 20% of their new business came from current customers (Source: Loyalty360.) Customers are important. Listening to them is very important. Making customers engage and talk is of utmost importance. Period!

When customers have the option of switching between any of the B2B SaaS product, it is important to engage them by opening channels of communication. And what better way to open up the dialogue than Customer Communities. Did you know that support costs can be significantly reduced by having a customer community? And that’s just a start.

It’s given that the more active your community members are, the more actively they would be using your products. B2B SaaS products companies can just build a customer community and forget about it. But would it work?

Nothing works by itself. Community engagement can be encouraged through regular blog posts, videos, webinars and sharing product tips and this will allow customers to engage and discuss how the application is being used differently but efficiently. It is this sense of being engaged that brings ownership and customers take pride to invest in the discussion. Needless to say, it leads to churn reduction & higher NPS score.

We are not going to lay down the guidelines on how to create a customer community, as it’s a tried and tested formula. But there’s more to these communities than brand building and customer service. What we shall be focusing on would be using design thinking to nurture a culture of innovation in a customer community.

With lightning fast product cycles, widening market and access to smart people, it doesn’t take much time to either jump into the B2B SaaS product foray or lose an existing competitive advantage. What really can stand the test of time are product innovations.

Accidental or strategic innovation may or may not come from inside and that’s why product companies should look beyond the traditional and tribal knowledge fountain head and make it an open and collaborative process. Customer communities are one of the ways to integrate customer insights and feedback into a continuous innovation loop. B2B SaaS products companies can de-risk their product value hypothesis by:

  • Exploration of the current situation and framing the challenge (the “What is)
  • Generating new possibilities for growth and innovation (the “What if)
  • Testing assumptions and refining and prototyping the concept (the “What wows)
  • Enrolling customers to shape it into something that can be executed (the “What works)

This approach makes product companies to shift from exploration mode (the “unknown unknowns”) to collaborative problem solving mode (the “known unknowns”). When a design thinking approach is applied strategically in a customer community, it can definitely foster a “way of life” of innovation. These phased approach of running with an idea; validating and prototyping it; failing and trying again can help product companies get demand insights, design insights and system insights and these insights are the ones that lead to the discovery and co-creation of a path breaking innovation. To give credence to this fact, there are myriad case studies on how Tableau and TriNet innovates together with its customer community or how Starbucks reinvented itself based on innovative ideas from its customer community.

Given the level of ambiguity and uncertainty associated with certain innovations, it requires utmost care to incorporate design-thinking approach to see patterns in creativity in the customer communities. Like in most cases, some of the innovations can be serendipitous and some may come through a managed innovation process. Nurturing a customer community facilitates interplay between external (i.e. customer) perspectives and the product company’s capabilities. We need to put in a caveat that not all ideas generated by a customer community can pass muster on the grinding wheels of strategic innovation.

Henry Ford, Steve Jobs and Clayton Christensen would surely disagree with the above hypotheses but their polarizing statements cannot discount the importance of customer communities and how they can be used to break the four walls by solving problems with an emphasis on need identification (through ethnography for instance), visualization (through storytelling), prototyping, validation and iteration.

From Lame-storming to Design-storming

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We’ve got a lot of offline requests after we wrote “Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation” asking us to elaborate more on the Design Thinking Approach – so, here you go!

The concepts of Design Thinking are extremely useful in creating new products or enhancing an existing offering. It is equipped to provide a multidimensional solution by considering human-centric experiences that add and provide value.

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The first step of the process involves discovering the particular problem and associating it to relevant and concrete experiences. This leads to the research phase wherein we try to analyze and understand the underlying issues and complexities of the problem. The idea is to start with in-depth research with special emphasis on understanding the nature of the problem and studying human behavior. This helps us build out our observations.

After the observations have been collated, the next important phase of synthesis kicks in. This is the phase wherein; we start converging on different ideas and start to develop them further. This process transforms the ideas from abstract world and then synthesizes them to identify insights and areas of opportunity in the real world. This results in a vision that would ultimately serve as a platform for the final concept generation.

The vision based ideas from synthesis phase needs to be bounced off others. This is what the reflection phase is all about.  As the stakeholders reflect on the ideas, contradictions emerge and help in discovering new elements that were not seen or observed before.

The penultimate phase is Launch 1.0. This involves placing small bets having short feedback loops. This is in line with the last phase of evolution wherein heavy iterations take place. We start listening to users, prototype, fail early and then pick up the pieces and launch again.

Design thinking based Product Management involves executing a combination of design, development and content creation to bring a product to the market. It is an on-going process of testing, refining, creating an optimized plan to analyze performance and fine-tuning, till the final product hits the market. Having reached the final product launch, the product manager would have sufficiently tried, tested, failed and re-tried to make the product or solution in line with what the actual users needs (not what buyers’ just want)

Design Thinking: The Continuum of Innovation

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Some would vouch that left is more important; others would swear by the right. But which one is more important? We are referring to our brain if you didn’t get the drift. When it comes to creating a product or an innovative solution, what should we be relying on? The left analytical side or the right creative side? There is no definitive answer. What is definitive is “Design Thinking!” Design thinking is a mindset and set of principles that engages both analytical and creative thinking for solving a customer problem. Till now Product Managers have been heavily relying on number crunching to find a solution to a customer problem. But in the current technology landscape, innovation and winning can only come from design thinking- but only if applied appropriately.

Before we delve intoBuyer’s Journey in SaaS Ecosystem’ in our next article, we would like to set the stage for design thinking. And “Why?” you ask?For the simple reason that it is going to push the frontiers of Product Management to deliver breakthrough innovations and competitive advantage.

So what is Design Thinking?

In this age of innovation-hungry and competitive-advantage driven companies, design thinking is an approach to solve customer problems by combining right-brain creative thinking with left-brain analytical thinking. But more than that; it is all about the journey and not the destination.

The customer problem might manifest itself in multiple, unknown and non-linear ways. In the same way, the understanding of the solution would always fall in the realm of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ and that should be the starting point of innovation.

New age Product Managers should comprehend the core concept of starting with the unknown and learning as they go into the process by playing small but fast bets. The focus of Product Managers should be to start small but with genuine intent on focusing on meeting human needs. The idea is to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket and be willing to explore multiple options.

It has always been traditionally perceived that Product Management is supposed to be an analytical role. Product Managers were expected to rely on statistics and numbers to decide on the product they are creating. Product Managers love ‘big’ ideas but they always have been obsessed with analysis. That is the reason why they get trapped in ‘growth gridlock’. If the time to market is to be shortened and the process has to become lean, then just analytical thinking will never work. In this age of SaaS products where time to market is paramount, it’s not just numbers that you can rely on; there is need for empathy-based thinking as well. This is also known as human-centric or design thinking approach. This is true for both enhancing an existing product and creating entirely a new solution/product for customers.

Historically, designers have always focused on improving the look/feel and functionality of products but it was not enough and we know that it’s much more than that. Simply put, it’s non-linear and allows interactive and iterative understanding of a problem or a solution that is both analytical and experiential. The germ of design thinking starts with discovery of the customer’s problem. Since design thinking is option focused, the next step is about researching and understanding of the actual people or users involved. The next step is to ideate on how clearly we understand the problem itself and what are the options to solve it. Once the options are in place, we start experimenting with them and quickly discard any option that doesn’t work or ‘wows’. This takes us to synthesis. We should understand that when creating a product from scratch or adding new features, the option that we choose from experimentation has to be given time to grow, adapt and evolve before it becomes usable. It is an iterative process based on feedback and reflection, as the underlying concept of design thinking is that of being human-centric. Finally the solution needs to evolve and not be stagnant. Otherwise it runs the risk of becoming obsolete.

Competitive advantage doesn’t come overnight as it is a continuous process of adhering to principles ranging from mindset to process which can be aligned and applied to solve complex problems of customers. Competitive advantage through innovation most often occurs within a set of constraints, such as viability, profitability and desirability and that a traditional business-minded rational/analytic approach should be complemented with design thinking.

B2B SaaS Landscape- The Changing Story

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When was the last time you bought an on-premise enterprise software product? We are sure you or your organization still buys them but look at the number of such instances? It has gone down as years have gone by. B2B enterprise software can never be done away with but it has metamorphosed into something else now.

Earlier when Agile Methodology for product development came into the scene, people used spreadsheets to track sprints and velocity. Now, products from companies like Rally have taken over. Do you get our drift? Yes, we are talking about SaaS.

Earlier due to lack of options or the innovation gap, deployment model was never a consideration when choosing a software product. Now we have come to a point wherein even for a business-centric product like ERP, the selection process heavily depends on the deployment model.

The positive perception of organizations on the overall effectiveness of SaaS ERP is the outcome of several technology shifts and mindset re-orientation. Few of the deciding factors that affect SaaS ERP selection are the usual suspects:

  1. Lower Total Cost of Ownership
  2. Lower Up-Front Costs
  3. Ease of Implementation
  4. Reduced Cost and Effort of Upgrades

Never have traditional B2B software business models faced irrelevance in their faces as they are doing now and all because of the rapid transition to the cloud. Some business models are extinct while new ones are rising to replace them. Neither did this change happen overnight nor was it driven by providers. It is in large parts driven by customer demand for this class of enterprise applications, the platform and headache-free infrastructure.

All that we said above is just a prelude to our main point of this discussion: Customer Journey Mapping for SaaS products. If we look closely at the persona of the enterprise customer, they engage with products and solutions across multiple channels and devices in what has become a true Omni-channel environment. Today customers have access to more than one channel through which they are now able to interact with a brand in multiple ways. This also means that the customers’ purchasing paths have become increasingly non-linear. And what better way to walk a mile in the customers’ shoes to experience your product and brand than to use Customer Journey Map? But more on that in our subsequent posts. For starters, let’s focus on the marketing effort that needs to be tailored depending on what stage of the sales-cycle the potential buyer is in. Needless to say, regardless of the type of service your SaaS product offers, customers will come to you through the marketing life-cycle (Awareness > Learn > Try > Buy).

Documented research shows that interactive & personalized content in SaaS product selling is very critical to drawing and converting potential buyers during their purchasing journey. And why is interactive content important, you ask? It cuts through the increasingly disjoint and copious content that the marketing landscape is infamous for. Be it Social Media, Blogs, Videos, Articles, White Papers, Case Studies, Newsletters, Webinar/Webcast or In-person Events, interactive content is much more useful and personal leading to personalized brand engagement and relevant experience delivery. And needless to say, each prospect wants to be treated in a very special manner. And that’s why marketing should focus significantly on ‘personalized’ content. So next time, you send that lead an impassioned email – focus on what the prospect has been using during the trial and how those features can help them rather than a generic email for all prospects.

Stay tuned to know how the marketing life-cycle is undergoing a metamorphosis in the SaaS product environment!