May 15, 2022

Mastering Orchestration: 8 Ways to Drive Business Outcomes as a Design Leader 

Connecting competitive advantage and value to customer and business impact.

As a Chief Design Officer (SVP/VP Design, Head of Design, etc.), you’re responsible for connecting the value and competitive advantage that design creates to customer and business impact. Here are eight ways to drive business outcomes no matter what scale you’re operating.

  1. Decode corporate strategy and connect the threads. Translate the corporate mission, vision, and strategic intent into the differentiating design capabilities that will provide competitive advantage. Develop a clear thread that ties the strategies together — from corporate strategy all the way down through to experience strategy. Illuminate the alignment and connection. Translate corporate objectives into design objectives.
  2. Define an inspiring design vision and clear execution path. Create the design vision, and the three-year strategic plan, principles, roadmap, and operating plan to get there. Define goals that lead to the clear outcomes and milestones defined in the strategic plan. Develop an inspiring vision of the future. Make strategy tangible through narrative and prototypes. Socialize, get feedback, and communicate far and wide.
  3. Drive a dual operating system. Deliver for today while making strategic investments in the future. Orient towards experience maps and roadmaps that paint a clear North Star and define the progress signposts on the way there. Make sure you’re executing short-term responsibilities while also shaping the future. Align your best talent to the most critical work for the company, while making space for exploration to go after what’s next.
  4. Identify beacon programs. Use beacons as the light that guides the organization to new ways of working. These become your case studies and examples of how being experience-led yields better outcomes. Leverage these programs as catalysts to embed human-centered design into the fabric of the organization.
  5. Make teaming a priority and build organizational leadership muscle. The larger and more matrixed the company, the more important this will become. This is a requirement if you want to reinvent any experience at scale. Teaming across the organization will pull together diverse, cross-functional perspectives, forge strong working relationships, increase collaboration, and accelerate the work needed to achieve the business outcomes you’ve defined.
  6. Create quality and coherence mechanisms. Leverage orchestration and governance to create experience cohesion. There’s an interesting dichotomy that happens as you elevate as a leader and your organization scales. You can no longer be close to every program, and yet, you need to be able to hold the quality bar and ensure cohesion.
  7. Show don’t tell. Measure what matters, and align to shared outcomes and metrics wherever possible. Define leading and lagging metrics for all of your priorities/objectives. Benchmark current state and get moving.
  8. Connect design outcomes to customer and business impact. As a [design] leader, there’s a critical difference between stating and demonstrating business impact. How you measure progress and the effectiveness of your plan is where the rubber meets the road. Develop a scorecard, impact reports, narrative artifacts, and ongoing communication. Continuously communicate progress across and up.

March 10, 2022

How Design Thinking and Emerging Technology Will Enhance Travel Experiences

Customer experience has become a significant competitive advantage in the travel industry, magnified by shifts in what travelers value. We’re on the cusp of an evolution in how emerging technology will enhance the travel experience from start to finish, moving from reactive to anticipatory and proactive customer experiences. 

Evolving expectations 

With more ways to spend their time and money than ever before, people expect more from their customer experiences. Today’s experiences are benchmarked against the best across all industries, which means companies compete with experiences completely outside their category for mindshare and wallet. So, when a company disrupts an industry or makes their service incredibly easy or more delightful, consumers wonder why everything can’t be that simple. Turns out, travel and technology are good companions. 

In the past, when a flight was canceled, it was enough for a travel company to supply travelers with the connection points and contact information to fix the issues themselves. We’re no longer in that era. Now, travelers will compare the self-service experience of dealing with a flight cancellation with the ease and simplicity of their favorite app — regardless of industry. The end-to-end service travelers receive is considered part of the product experience itself. 

The shift of customer focus from products to services to experiences has been happening for years, and the pandemic has only amplified the need for meaningful connection. Travelers are placing greater value on the trips they’re taking and the memories they are making. A recent report from Expedia Group found that 50% of travelers plan to spend more on trips than they did prior to the pandemic. 

Higher consumer expectations, coupled with an increased emphasis on the role of travel in our lives, has raised the bar considerably for travel providers who want to deliver great experiences.  

Human-Centered Design 

To become a traveler-centric company, we must put our deep understanding of traveler needs, preferences, and behaviors at the core of our work. Human-Centered Design allows our cross-functional teams to activate our expertise and innovate in real time: connecting travelers with inspiring ideas to explore their world, streamlining the planning process, and keeping relevant information at their fingertips throughout their trip. 

While historically, travel providers have viewed the transaction as the end of a traveler’s experience, Human-Centered Design enables an experience-led product and service design process that maps the traveler’s journey end-to-end and informs every touchpoint they have along the way. 

A shift to holistic thinking and personalized experiences 

The travel industry has a history of optimizing experiences for search and transactions. Instead of focusing on the transaction, travel providers need to focus on the relationship travelers have with their brand and use that to build more intuitive, personalized, and proactive experiences. Taking a more holistic view of the experience frees us from thinking in transactional silos and highlights how all the pieces interconnect. From discovery and planning, to booking, in-trip, and post-trip — it helps connect the journey across all channels and time. 

Travelers don’t see parts of the experience or features in isolation, to them it’s all one experience — and that’s exactly how companies need to see it too. 

Making technology human 

Technology is an enabler of great experiences. Leveraging artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and predictive analytics, companies can create hyper-personalized interactions that adapt to a traveler’s context and work across every aspect of their journey. At their core, experiences need to be humanized, starting with a cohesive design and conversational tone, removing jargon, reducing complexity, and streamlining interactions.  

Once that foundation is ready, companies can deliver real-time, personalized experiences that meet travelers where they are and provide the right information, at the right time, in the right context. Personalization unlocks a new level of experience quality. It moves us from a ‘one-to-many’ to a ‘one-to-one’ conversation with customers. Reflecting people’s needs and preferences while providing value at every interaction also builds trust. Companies can use data to anticipate issues and solve them using customer preferences and light touch interactions. 

Natural language processing allows for multimodal interaction, so travelers can interact in the most natural way for them — whether that’s through typing, tapping, or voice. Voice interaction will become increasingly prevalent over time, enabling a new generation of experiences that deliver actionable insights and real-time personalized interfaces. 

What’s next – hyper-personalization and prediction 

What’s considered bleeding-edge now will become table stakes in the future as customers’ expectations evolve. Where we’re heading is hyper-personalized interactions that adapt to context, work across the entire journey, and solve problems before travelers even know they have them — the future is predictive and proactive.  

This shifts us from a place where flight cancellations cause additional time and stress, to a world where issues are solved before travelers even know there’s a problem. A world where flights are rebooked and itineraries updated before travelers even know their flight was canceled, with orchestration happening behind the scenes, reducing the complexity and stress when things change. Systems that get better the more you interact with them, increasing value to travelers by anticipating their needs. 

This is where the power of journey orchestration and proactive experiences really come into view. Travel providers that take advantage of this trend can create better customer experiences, achieve higher conversion rates, and increase the value of each trip. They also can build long-term relationships with travelers instead of just transactions.

Originally posted at MyCustomer

January 31, 2020

The Tech Movement into Financial Services

Last August, I mentioned that people are concerned about fintechs/techfins getting into banking, but the real ones to watch are tech companies moving into financial services out of a necessity to remove friction in their process, improve their customer experience, and enable increased sales. As this signal gets louder, the interesting thing to note is how some are moving from the fringe and closer to core FS experiences.

  • Uber started by enabling more drivers to work on their platform by providing car loans and bank accounts, and is now looking to keep riders [and cash] in the ecosystem through Uber Money/credit card.
  • Amazon started providing small business loans to enable more sales on their platform, partnered on a credit card, and now also provides Amazon Cash for the unbanked and Amazon Pay to reduce online purchasing friction with more to come.
  • Apple started with Apple Pay and then moved to partnering on a credit card to keep money in the ecosystem, turn PFM into a lifestyle choice, and leverage the power of the default.
  • Microsoft is working on a retirement platform.
  • Google started with Android [Google] Pay and now announced a partnership to launch consumer checking accounts.

As we look to solve client needs across our companies, it’s critical to use a first principles approach vs. design by analogy. It’s not enough to digitize current processes — we need to innovate by deeply understanding our clients and solving problems that set the experience bar across industries. Experiences that meet clients where they are and integrate into their lifestyle, are relevant and timely, and align to their mental models of how things should work.

January 17, 2020

From Products to Experiences

The move from consumer products to consumer experiences is upon us. Customers see their interactions with brands as one continuous experience, and we need to design them accordingly. Understanding and designing for the end-to-end customer journey is now a requirement, not a nice-to-have. So what are the best ways to connect the dots? How do you orchestrate a seamless experience in siloed organizations? And what needs to change about the way we work to make that a reality?

Envisioning Products as Holistic Experiences
Give Your Customers an Experience, Not Just a Product
You Sell Experiences Whether You Realize It or Not
Customer Experience Is The New Brand
Building a design-driven culture

October 11, 2019

Human-Centered Design Drives Transformation

Human-centered design and innovation drives transformation. It’s based on the observation that the usefulness and desirability of a product or service isn’t determined by its technological sophistication, but whether people experience it as a valuable addition to their lives. It doesn’t just embrace customer-centricity, but puts designing for people at the heart of the entire process. It goes beyond designing for form and function, and extends the potential by designing for experience (e.g. meaning). Design becomes a key competitive advantage.

One of the challenging aspects of becoming design-driven is that it requires seamlessly streamlining people, processes, technology, and funding. It requires fundamentally transforming the way an organization is structured and how it works, but also demands a cultural mindset shift. A transformation that yields measurable positive impact to both customers and the business.

Competing on customer experience: How the value proposition of design is changing
The forgotten step in leading large-scale change
The Digital Transformation is a Design Transformation
Building a design-driven culture
6 Ways to Build a Customer-Centric Culture
The Right Way to Lead Design Thinking
5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Design Team

August 30, 2019

Explicit Value Exchange Creates the Flywheel

When customers understand a clear value exchange, they are willing to pay for it. Amazon Prime started with 2-day free shipping that has evolved into something so much more. It’s really about changing customer behavior through reduced friction, in turn making Amazon the default choice. How can banks create their version of Amazon Prime that can deliver distinct value to customers while remaining simple? And how does that enable them to win the emerging battle to be the default?

Disruptive Interfaces & The Emerging Battle To Be The Default
Digital Banking Creates ‘Amazon Prime’ Opportunity
Banking Needs An ‘Amazon Prime’ Marketing Strategy
Amazon Virtuous Cycle
The making of Amazon Prime, the internet’s most successful and devastating membership program

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