Most B2B technology companies recognise that building products and services that customers need, understand how to use and will pay for is complex, requiring collaboration from all areas of the business. Yet, working outside the safe zone of departments and reaching across the aisle to different areas of the organisation is easier said than done.
Co-design is a catalyst to bridge this gap.
What is co-design?
Co-design, often referred to as participatory design, brings the concept of multidisciplinary collaboration into practical application. It’s a form of value-based co-creation that requires honest knowledge sharing, a genuine curiosity about how to solve problems, and a willingness to explore untested ideas.
When executed with the right mindset and mix of participants, co-design not only debunks the myth that more perspectives is synonymous with less productivity, it unlocks latent insights that lead to new ideas.
Participants of a co-design session can include a combination of designers, engineers, marketers, analysts, business stakeholders, users and influencers, depending on the problem you’re tackling.
Aim for diversity in perspective
A basic co-design scenario might include a designer, engineer, and product manager sketching a potential solution together, perhaps on the whiteboard or sketching on paper— working through a feature, experience flow or UI issue, for example.
Each participant brings a different set of expertise and constraints to apply to the discussion. This is where the magic happens! No single perspective trumps another, and each participant approaches the problem with a different set of customer data and experience.
It’s important that co-designs bring together diverse roles and perspectives to get the most value. The common thread needed across participants is a genuine desire to do what’s best for customers while balancing the needs of the business.
A co-design for a healthcare application might bring together a designer, healthcare provider, customer service rep, and a patient. A co-design for an engineering product company might include a solution integrator, business strategist, engineer and quality analyst. A retailer that’s re-imagining its e-commerce experience might include a marketing expert, business analyst and UX designer into a co-design session.
Ideally, users of the system or product are also brought into the co-design process, since users are the experts of their own experience and bring invaluable journey context to the table. When this isn’t possible or appropriate, participants should bring user research notes, analytics data and qualitative insights from talking with customers.
When tapping participants for a co-design, consider the following questions:
• Which people bring a different lens of the customer journey?
• Will this participant be open to new ideas and challenging views?
• Who are the primary parties accountable for ensuring customers success?
• Is the problem we’re solving part of a larger ecosystem; who are those players?
Three key benefits of co-design and tips to overcome common challenges
1. Co-design reveals blindspots
Co-design creates a more unified view of the customer experience by bringing disparate insights about the customer journey into a more cohesive view.
Equally as important, co-design prevents corporate organisational structure from defining the how a solution is implemented. Sales, marketing, product, engineering, customer service: these sound like departments to us, each with its own hierarchy, metrics, and role impacting the customer. But customers shouldn’t feel a gap or friction in their experience because internal teams don’t talk to each other or integrate one another’s knowledge and expertise.
If marketing has insights about customer sentiment, can the product team capitalize on this knowledge before planning a next release? Can customer service use this knowledge to help communicate a new feature?
>See also: AI’s impact on customer experience
TIP: Co-design requires an openness to new ideas and perspectives, and a desire to learn from one another, not be the “most right.” Participants need to be willing to adopt a learner’s mindset and speak openly about their own biases and assumptions.
2. Co-design speeds decision making
The quickest path to success means gaining the most relevant information about customers the fastest way possible. This doesn’t come in quarterly presentation meetings; it happens in the moment, rallying around a tough problem and leveraging insights from peers across the company and experts in the industry.
It also means surfacing limitations (technical, brand, business) early, which helps increase team velocity. Getting those big ideas and constraints out early saves time, money and headache.
Co-design is a breeding ground for new ideas, and these ideas can be quickly vetted and prioritised when the right players are working together, focused on achieving the same goal.
TIP: Ensure all participants in the co-design understand what problem they’re collectively trying to solve. Kick off the co-design by re-stating the problem statement, which will help sharpen the focus of the conversation.
3. Co-design empowers and aligns teams
The lone wolf designer sketching ideas in a silo is a thing of the past. So is the engineer who sits back and waits for someone to tell her what to build and why. Time moves too quickly and there’s too much customer data to consume and react to in the product development lifecycle.
Teams need better ways to work together. Prioritising CX problems and generating solutions together creates alignment and empowers teams to take action.
Co-design not only creates a safe space for cross-disciplinary teams to build on one another’s perspectives, it creates more buy-in into the overall direction and priority of a project. Each party knows the logic and rationale behind a priority or design decision, and can move forward with confidence knowing how they plan to positively impact the customer experience.
TIP: Encourage participants to sketch their ideas, whether it be a flow, diagram, outline or rough UI. Give every participant a pencil, and when someone is explaining something, encourage them to communicate visually. No artistic skills necessary.
>See also: 3 ways to transform the customer experience
The hard stuff is worth doing
There’s no sugar coating it, transforming how you work and solve problems for customers is immensely difficult, because it involves humans, and humans are difficult, fickle creatures.
Co-design is not a magic bullet to solve all problems, but it is a powerful tool to jumpstart your organisation’s ability to better plan for and react to customer experience challenges. The most important trait of organisations who are exploring this new way of working need a learner’s mindset, and this example starts at the top.
Customer needs and expectations will always change, and will continue to change faster, so it’s critical for teams to work seamlessly across roles and departments.
As seen every day in the media, your brand is only as strong as your weakest touchpoint.
Sourced by Caitlin Vlastakis Smith, director of Digital Strategy at PointSource, A Globant Company
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