Businesses today continue to seek strategic value from design. And while it seems like every major management consultancy has acquired a design agency as part of their portfolio, the reality is that attrition is high for the design talent in those acquired firms, and some have even shuttered within a year or two. For some, this trend points to the gaps between the promise and the reality of the business value of design–and how to truly harness that value. Forward-thinking internal enterprise design teams are redefining their capabilities in order to help bridge these gaps to deliver real value for their organizations.
Enterprise design today
As a design research lead at American Express, and an organizational design strategist at frog, we have experienced significant shifts in how enterprises are approaching design. At American Express, we are focused on becoming a more essential part of our customers’ digital lives by enhancing the functionality of our mobile and online platforms, and deepening their relationship with us by surfacing contextual, personalized value. One of the key ways of ensuring that our design and product teams are integrated is to lead with a customer mindset. The next step is taking that approach with our internal stakeholders.
Having design capability is no longer a strategic differentiator in many enterprises. We have passed the “late majority” on the change curve, meaning those organizations who have not stood up a design function already are late to the game. Unlike the old agency model, designers are now rightly an inherent part of the business itself. This means, however, that designers need to understand market and business realities in addition to posessing great craft. This is because great design alone does not solve problems. Each of the roles involved in digital product development and user experience have become their own specialized disciplines, and they have to work together effectively to fulfill the product vision. This requires designers to empathize with the human needs and constraints of their clients and internal partners, as well as those of the end user—following a design thinking process at scale, bringing “the business” with them.
You can’t outsource belief
Before reaching this level of maturity, it’s not uncommon to see designers cycle through enterprise teams regularly. In the same way that structured DesignOps is helping organizations ensure a clear path to execution at the “bottom of the funnel,” new enterprise design strategies and capabilities are needed at the “top of the funnel” to ensure that design functions have a clear connection to business objectives.