KEYNOTE @ Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019
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What are your biggest Design Thinking/Human Centered Design related priorities?
To address this last question, I would like to start with a quick recap a panel discussion, which I was involved in a recent engineering conference.
We should first run a sanity check and ask ourselves and those who we work and collaborate with: if we are not prioritizing Human Factors in design… who are we ultimately designing for?
If the immediate answer is not about optimizing for the human experience, then let’s think through our other options: robot overlords? the zombie uprising? an alien invasion? Admittedly, it took the audience just a little while to process the underlying humor. I must confess that being thought-provoking by playing the contrarian card can be a challenging exercise in a public setting.
In any case, there is a need for identifying unnecessary risks behind the so-called “if you build it, they will come” approach, which can promote technical prowess alone at the expense of human-centered design considerations, and compromise the overall project.
The negative impact of a techno-centric only strategy can manifest itself as: (a) mounting technical debt due to unforeseen usability impairments, (b) re-work, latency and hidden costs, and (c) the sort of opportunity costs in project financials and resource allocation that can deny the implementation of alternative user-friendly options.
Stage-setting and rhetorical questions aside… the business value of design is directly correlated to how we diligently design Quality considerations into any offerings.
This is not just about “left-shifting” practices and procedures to prevent “back-end loaded” issues. It does require institutionalizing Design at the front-end… and throughout the process.
Back in the early 1990s, J.M. Juran’s classic, Quality by Design, discussed two angles: a product’s better value and freedom from deficiencies, as well as the degree to which “fitness for use” could be the quality principle connecting them both.
He also made the point about misalignment between product design and the underlying operations & business processes over the product’s lifecycle.
Three decades have gone by and Design-to-Value and Operational Excellence go hand by hand. Most importantly, Design Thinking places the emphasis on “empathy,” which is how we, on the business side, learn and also “experience” what matters to users and stakholders.
In Nokia’s context, Quality Experiences are enabled by capable technologies (e.g. Design Thinking’s technical feasibility) and business model viability.
One of my priorities is to further the scope of Nokia’s QXbD, Quality Experiences by Design. That goal specifically addresses “UseCaseAbility” in a collaborative fashion to craft optimal superior offerings, OSO.
QXbD embraces the qualitative and quantitative nature of the following four dimensions applied to the front and back-end environment continuum over the lifecycle:
- usefulness and effectiveness
- utility, consumability and efficiency
- usability, adaptability and lifelong accessibility
- affectivity (desirability, adoption, delight, loyalty)
Settling for good-enough and table-stakes customer satisfaction is deemed sub-optimal. And, therefore, design efforts are sized, adequately equipped and optimized to succeed.
Design Thinking 2019 #DesignThinking2019
Digital Transformation drives today’s Workforce Automation and Business Intelligence (BI) initiatives where nimbler agile teams undertake tasks and jobs of unprecedented scale, scope and speed.
Digitalization also involves “Self-Service” business models which are based on the direct involvement of end-users and a frictionless customer journey, all relaying on seemingly instantaneous and automated mass-personalization.
Given that digitalization has become pervasive and that ‘making tech human’ has become a critical success factor, the new field of Genuine Intelligence (GI,) addresses holistic Human-Machine-Systems (HMS) leveraging collaborative environments comprised of networked insights, tools and processes. GI’s signature deliverable is Digital Decision Support Systems involving Integrated Workspaces.
This construct adheres to LeanOps and Quality by Design (QbD) principles for emerging technologies and, therefore, optimizes for (a) quality outcomes as gauged by consumer and operational experiences performed under (b) highly efficient operations and (c) advantageous resource utilization and effort levels.
Both value generation and productivity gains are constantly audited and iteratively improved throughout event lifecycles and over the lifespan of the system.
Jose de Francisco is a Senior Design Director at Nokia Software Group. His 20+ year experience encompasses multi-disciplinary leadership responsibilities in strategy, product & portfolio management, research & development, marketing, partnerships and project & program management. Jose is a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff (DMTS) and has worked with Bell Labs on next generation platforms. He is a Member of the Advisory Board at MIT’s Institute for Data Systems and Society (IDSS) and is the recipient of an MBA in International Marketing and Finance (MBA/IMF) from Chicago’s DePaul University as a Honeywell Europe Be Brilliant Scholar. Jose also holds a postgraduate degree in Human Factors Engineering from BarcelonaTech (UPC) and can be followed on innovarista.org.
“[They] lost their quality leadership to new, aggressive competition. The most obvious consequence was lost of market share (…) [due to] quality features that were perceived as better meeting customer needs [and] they did not fail in service as often.”
“Loss of market share is not the only reason behind [it] (…) a second major force has been the phenomenon of life behind the quality dikes. We have learned that living in a technological society puts us at the mercy of the continuing operation of the goods and services that make a society possible (…) without such quality we have failure of all sorts (…) at the least these failures involve annoyances and minor costs. At their worst they are terrifying.”
“A third major force has been the gathering awareness by companies that they have been enduring excessive costs due to chronic quality-related wastes (…) about a third of what we do consists of redoing work previously done (…) lacking expertise in the quality disciplines, they are amateurs in the best sense of that word.”
J.M. Juran’s assessment on Quality issues in the 1960s-70s.
What follows are some of the insights driving the work that I’m doing on reviewing, leveraging and updating QbD (Quality by Design) in the context of today’s fast growing and all-encompassing digitalization.
I am dusting off my research from 2010 on the 3Q Model. Back then I was a senior manager at Alcatel-Lucent’s Solutions & Technology Introduction Department. My current role is Senior Studio Director at Nokia Software’s Solutions Engineering. Note that the scope is End-to-End Solutions. These are holistic system-wide (cross-sectional and longitudinal) undertakings intersecting different domains to deliver the higher value of the whole. I have discussed QbD for Digital Transformation projects at the Design Thinking 2018 event and at the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) conference on CQR (Communications Quality and Reliability) back in April and May of this year. Interestingly enough, both events were held in Austin, Texas.
QbD was first coined by Juran, a renown pioneer of quality practices, whose work on that specific topic started in the mid 80s. He linked Quality to customer satisfaction and reliability as the two dimensions to focus on:
“Features” were defined as “quality characteristics,” which meant properties intended to satisfy specific customer needs. That would also include “promptness of delivery,” “ease of maintenance,” and “courtesy of service” to name some examples. “The better the features, the higher the quality in the eyes of customers.”
As far as reliability and, therefore, replicability and consistent performance, “freedom from deficiencies” conveyed the fact that “the fewer the deficiencies the better the quality in the eyes of customers.” A “deficiency” is a failure that triggers dissatisfaction, which calls for incurring higher costs to redo prior work.
“Fitness for use” was mentioned as an attempt to capture the above two together. The so-called Juran Trilogy entails Quality Planning, Quality Control, and Quality Improvement.
More than three decades have passed since Juran started to work on “New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services.” Let’s decompose QbD’s acronym at face value and distill its essence.
As a designer, my belief & practice system focuses on “serial innovation” consistently delivering superior value. This is achieved by means of purposeful and elegant solutions equipped with capability models and optimal functionality leading to Quality Experiences.
Customer Delight, rather than just satisfaction, being the sought after outcome. This applies to both small and large undertakings, and as A. Kay, a pioneer in graphical user interfaces, best put it, “simple things should be simple, complex should be possible.”
Following that train of thought, “Designing Quality into Solutions” should become center stage to: (a) collaborative and iterative ideation, (b) agile development, (c) continuous delivery and (d) the dynamic diffusion of (e) new and mass-customizable digital services for consumer and enterprise markets, as well as no-for-profit. Overall, QoB is key to Operational Excellence.
In a world where “Continuous Improvement” leads to incremental and breakthrough innovations, Quality’s critical KPI, Key Performance Indicator, can be expressed in terms of measurable advances in QoUX, the Quality of the Users’ Experiences. These are lagging (outcome) metrics that are far from static because they evolve within and over lifecycles. Therefore, reliability is not just applied to production operations, but also to the solution’s consistent performance and serviceability over time and under changing scenarios and events.
Given Quality’s unequivocal narrative around the “experiential” paradigm and, therefore, human-centric-optics, QbD’s best work should optimize for user “delight,” which is defined as superior “satisfaction,” rather than just aiming for requirements compliance.
It is very tempting to rally around core competencies within comfort zones that exist, and then settling on just aiming for “customer satisfaction” around “must-meet” baseline requirements. Though, that might not suffice given the necessity to innovate and better compete by leveraging unique sources of sustainable differentiation.
Let’s now state the obvious: “designing” Quality Experiences into digital solutions is best addressed by means of Human-Centered methodologies that optimize for (f) users’ “acceptance criteria” and (g) the kind of “adoption levels” that foster user base growth.
The opposite approach would risk the adverse effects (and hidden costs) that can be incurred when technical myopia leads the way. A. Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum” captures that very well. His book is referenced below.
Just for the record, the year is 2018 and we are gearing for a pervasive digital world dominated by software defined systems. The 4th Industrial Revolution’s floodgates are set wide-open.
Low and high tech perform best when playing a supporting role. Technology enables “Services” which justify it, otherwise the so-called Chasm and Valley of Death wait around the corner. It pays to emphasize that “Services” are defined by “Use Cases.” So, it shouldn’t take much effort to see that “Use(case)ability” (“usability” being the proper term) is a CSF, Critical Success Factor. “Fitness for use” in other words.
Let’s take that further and couple “usability” with designing for usefulness,” “utility,” “consumability & serviceablity” as well as “affectivity” because perception and human affects orient satisfaction and dissatisfaction levels.
QbD cannot be put to work without adequately addressing Human Dynamics, which entails psychological (e.g. cognitive models, information architecture) physiological (e.g. device form factor, workstation ergonomics) and social dimensions (e.g. network effects increasing value for users.) That happens to be the SoW (Scope of Work) of HFE’s (Human Factors Engineering) interdisciplinary teams in Design Studios… and the topic of my next post on QbD’s Intellectual Capital.
A few more thoughts…
In spite of one’s day-to-day work and/or belief system being either closer to or removed from the kinds of jobs and tasks that make tech human, it makes sense to engage in meaningful outcome oriented and goal driven practices by applying HCD, Human-Centered-Design. The purpose is delivering quality and achieving customer acceptance and delight, given that customers are human beings. That is the reason why Design Thinking has outgrown the field of industry design and is applied to a wide variety of domains and disciplines nowadays.
Tech’s roller-coaster industry is packed with well intended technologies that fail. We all know that this is a fiercely competitive environment in constant change. Though, it is also true that, in many of those cases, UX, User Experience, professionals were not engaged at any part of the process, or were purposely involved at the back-end, or were called to come to the rescue in the eleventh hour. That leaves no room for Design to make a difference. Superficial changes just amount to bells-and-whistles and shiny-objects to disguise the underlying quality issues that are likely to re-surface at some point.
QbD’s top objective should be excelling at effectively & efficiently addressing our customers’ acceptance and adoption criteria. That remains true even in the context of full automation. Humans still get promoted and demoted (or fired) based on those system’s performance. D. Newman’s recent article on Forbes magazine rightly states that “you cannot run your business without people (…) you cannot operate technology without people (…) research have shown that people are a critical component for digital transformation.”
Today’s best practice calls for “reverse engineering” solutions by working from that human-centered understanding around Human Machine Systems (HMS.) That is substantially different from only relying on a far riskier “if you build it, they will come” model and its costlier brute-force mindset.
When dealing with challenging, intractable and complex projects, overlooking that fact typically results in exponential project risk and plenty of the, otherwise, avoidable zig-zagging course corrections ahead (e.g. opportunity costs in financial analysis and hidden and latency costs in systems engineering.)
Agile’s iterative development and ability to pivot shouldn’t be a refuge for either subpar or no design effort, but a vehicle to best implement QbD and augment development capacity while minimizing technical debt. This is why this revision of QbD for today’s tech industry calls for Design Sprints to lead the way.
Last but not least, before dismissing this QbD revision as a philanthropic and humanistic only endeavor, I suggest deep thinking around its (1) business criticality and (2) contribution to risk mitigation.
J. de Francisco
Bell Labs, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff
Nokia Software, Senior Studio Director @ Solutions Engineering
A. Cooper. The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, Sams Publishing, 2004.
D. Newman. 3 Reasons People are Critical for Digital Transformation Success. Forbes, June 2018.
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies Reliablity Roundtable – Human Factors Session (2). Innovarista: Innovation at Work, July 2018 innovarista.org
J. de Francisco. IEEE ETR 2018, Emerging Technologies – Human Factors Session. Innovarista: Innovation at Work. May 2018 innovarista.org
J.M. Juran. Juran on Quality by Design: the New Steps for Planning Quality into Goods and Services, The Free Press, 1992.