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The Design Role in Digital Transformation

December 2, 2020

As the world keeps evolving and digital becomes more crucial to our everyday life, companies are feeling pressured to keep up and level up their game.

Although digital transformation has been on the spotlight for some time now, there are still a lot of organisations that need to plan for this type of initiative if they want to keep their competitive advantage towards their competitors and don’t lose market share.

With the pandemic, a lot of organisations had to completely change their way of working, in order to be able to stay open and have everyone working from home.

This unexpected life changing event pushed organisations into a forced digital transformation initiative. Some even say, that Covid-19 made companies flash forward 10 years when it comes to adapting to new ways of working.

But although these companies have already started to get on track and upgrading their way of working, specially moving to online tools to help with collaboration and working from home, let’s not forget that a proper initiative may take longer than a year to analyse, set strategies and consolidate the new processes.

Remember, switching your document management system to digital is not enough for a company to consider they were successful in an initiative of this kind, it only means you digitised your company.

What is Digital Transformation?

Before going further inside the theme, let’s define what is digital transformation. Different enterprises have slightly different ways to define it but I really enjoy this one from Salesforce:

“Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new — or modify existing — business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet changing business and market requirements.”


There is a set of drivers that push companies into a digital transformation. Those are: customers, competition, data, innovation and value.

  • Continuing to be relevant for the existing customers, making sure you are still the best option in the market and no competitor has surpassed you in innovation.
  • Collecting more data about your clients’ needs and information on your enterprise from different departments, thanks to IoT, or other relevant technologies for your field, will increase the amount of information you have and allow you to improve your judgement when it comes to decision making, improving your company value in the end.
  • Reducing your organisation costs through some changes, specially by switching legacy systems with new improved systems and cut on maintenance licensing, will allow your company to be more efficient and flexible to new opportunities in the market.

What will you gain with a Digital Transformation initiative?

In case your company is still not convinced on why they should undertake this initiative, this is the section you should send your boss.

Increased Process Efficiency

An increased efficiency can be achieved in 3 steps: hierarchy reorganisation, improved processes and system reformulation.

One of the biggest changes that may come with digital transformation is a hierarchical reorganisation. In order to maximise the results, your organisation will have to make sure in-house talents are in the right position, if not they should switch positions.

With the technological structure changes, fresh talent may come along to close the gap in key specialised positions.

After having set a new hierarchical disposition it’s time to move on to the processes. It is critical that the existing processes are rethought and, when needed, create new ones.

Last but definitely not least, by combining the previous steps with a new technological structure that allows your employees to collaborate in real time as well as to have access to critical information at all times, you will increase the efficiency of the company.

More accurate & faster decision making (data supported)

Continuing with the previous theme, as you improve the processes you will also be able to provide much more real time information to the top tiers of your company allowing them to have a more accurate and fast decision supported on data.

Customer centricity (higher conversion)

Digital transformation initiatives have your customer as a focal point. In case this is still not your modus operandi, it will be from now on. Why should your customer be at the centre of your strategy? Well, your customer will define your success or your failure, so it’s important for you to make sure you stay relevant to them and try to anticipate their needs through time as well as adapt when new opportunities arise. If you don’t pay attention to their needs, and try to provide personalised services, some other company may be on to this and surpass you.

Improved financial performance

Undertaking a digital transformation plan will improve your company’s financial performance in two different stages: system reformulation and profits increase.

By reducing costs with old licensing plans and several legacy systems that may no longer be required as you switched to improved systems. You will also cut on maintenance licensing regarding servers that you’ll no longer need as you will move some of your systems to the cloud.

This will increase your margin, that combined with better conversions from customers will globally improve your annual profit.

Design as a key point for Digital Transformation success

Now that we spoke about the digital transformation process, let’s move on to why design should be taken in consideration from day 1. It’s time the design team gets a place in the big players table as it can provide enriched know how on user experience that ultimately will enrich the full experience.

Why is design essential in a Digital Transformation initiative?

Design can unlock the full potential of a product or a service through different subjects within design. As we established above, the users need to become the centre of the companies, if we want to unlock the full potential and be sure to have a competitive advantage. User experience is by thus, one of the most important subjects to start using in these types of initiative as the researchers are specialised in understanding the users in their “natural habitat” when using the platforms, and are able to identify known and unknown pain points as well as identify opportunities through users wishes.

We live in a time where people expect to have personalised experiences with their loyal brands and to have their needs solutioned, sometimes even before they knew they needed something. Personalisation and forward thoughts are mandatory to maintain relevance at all times. By putting your customer first and study their behaviours, you will have the ability to anticipate their needs and, continually evolve your products without extra efforts, being open to undertake whatever new opportunities that may arise.

Design thinking may seem as a “cliché keyword” for the companies, but other than fitting nicely in your process description it actually provides valuable insights. Specially if you bring to a workshop different stakeholders, from different levels and departments. The most diverse the group, the more enriched insights you get.

After a few rounds of ideation, you’ll be able to define which are the issues to tackle and start thinking about solutions and testing them. You will be surprised on how some issues exist that you didn’t knew about! This is teamwork at its best. Do this a few cycles and you’ll find the best solutions for each of them.

If your company provides services it will also be really interesting to evaluate the state of your service flow in all its channels and understand which pain points exist and how you can resolve them, as well as what new opportunities exist that you can tackle. This is where service design can be key for your structure. Never underestimate your service flow as a whole, as its strength is as strong as the weakest channel you have. Users expect a seamless experience through traditional and digital channels, and they should complement themselves, not create confusion for their users.

Where it enriches the initiative

We’ve talked about what design can bring to the table in a generic way. It’s also important to talk about the improvements that design can bring to specific steps in a digital transformation initiative.

Strategy definition

Design can be an important tool from day one of the strategy definition. By applying different design fields in different stages of the process, you’ll have a stronger final product.

With user experience it’s possible to better understand the needs of your clients as well as your employees. By doing a heuristic evaluation and functionality analysis there is room to better understand your company value and competitive advantage that will be key throughout the process. You will be able to define journeys for each type of actor and used channel and have fresh insights about pain points and opportunities to improve your processes. It will definitely show you the bigger picture that normally isn’t that obvious for the majority of the C-level, helping to make the best decisions in this transformation process.

By applying Service Design methods, you guarantee that when your company processes are reorganised, it’s done in the most efficient way and optimises your service in all its channels equally, making it a seamless experience for the end user.

With process reorganisation it’s important to think about each team value and if needed, redefine teams by making sure that specific specialties are being dealt by the most indicated employee. These changes will also help break silos between departments, improving interdepartmental communication and duplicating the different feedback given in each project.

To end this process reformulation, it’s key to understand which technological partners still makes sense to maintain and which to change for new, more optimised and updated partners with different models of licensing. It will be fundamental so that the reformulated processes are fully efficient as designed.

How do you communicate this process to your employees and clients?

Great question! You thought I wasn’t going to mention graphic design? Well, think again.

When everything else is set, you still need to think about a way to continually communicate all the changes to everyone and you should do it by starting with a Visual restructuration that is aligned with your new vision.

You should also design user friendly portals that your employees and clients (if needed) can visit to keep track of news, such as an Initiative Portal. Also, a Training portal is going to be key to reduce the learning curve for the employees. It will be a safe space where they can see tutorials on using the new tools and study new processes, all at their own pace.

You see? Design is fundamental for a digital transformation initiative. The companies that already understood this and are bringing design to the “big league” table are getting ahead of their competitors.

Hope you are ready to embark in a digital transformation journey championing that a design team is mandatory for the success of your initiative!

By Rita Gomes da Silva

Need help with an initiative of this kind?

At Xperienz we have a specialised team in UX and UI as well as Digital Transformation initiatives. We can help you bridge the business unit requirements with our design team production to create exactly what your company needs.

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