Let’s talk about Strategic Product Design rather than Digital Transformation

As a strategic product design studio, we frequently receive enquiries on whether we provide digital transformation tracks. But don’t talk about digital transformation, focus on strategic product design instead. There are good reasons for doing so.

Digital transformations can be loosely explained as integrating digital technology into all aspects of a business’ processes, culture and customer experiences. The term “digital transformation” has become a buzzword amongst companies seeking to innovate and transform in the digital age. What they fail to recognize is that, more often than not, digital transformations are a means to an end instead of a tool for problem-solving, advancement and innovation.

A large percentage of digital transformations flunk because the process simply digitalizes and digitally transforms a working offline or hybrid business form. This creates fragmentations and systemic gaps in business operations, and companies often lose sight of what matters most in the process: their customers (internal and/or external).

With a strategic product design approach, a solution is designed around the problems and needs of a business’ customers, users, employees, stakeholders, etc. By approaching the issue from this point of view, all sorts of different courses of action are considered to find the best solution (whether the best solution is a digital one or not remains circumstantial). This way, human needs and problems remain the central focus and the resulting solution is specifically designed to solve and improve.

Digital transformation tracks tend to fail because they simply transform an offline or hybrid business model or solution directly into a digital one. But digital functions don’t work the same way that offline or hybrid ones do. Such direct translation fails to consider the different resources, dimensions, and challenges that different formats require, creating fragments and disconnected initiatives that won’t achieve intended goals. For example, ordering pizza through an app requires a completely different approach than placing an order with a waiter in restaurant. Every touchpoint that a digital customer experiences and engages with is different than an in-person (offline) experience. Only by honing in on the intended solution and building from it, can you look at capability, change and transformation.

Finally, digital transformations often forget that at the end of the day, it’s all about humans. Humans are irrational, emotional creatures. They make mistakes and (re)act unintentionally. Digital transformations lack in recognising that it’s more often about human behaviour rather than technology. In contrast, our strategic product design approach builds in behavioural design, looking deeply into user needs, behaviour and why they do what they do. In other words, strategic product design is a human-centred design.

Builder, designer, innovator, entrepreneur, husband and father.