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 Chuck SchaefferHow Design Thinking Works for CRM

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How Design Thinking Identifies the Most Important CRM Objectives and More

Most people who have been through a sophisticated or complex CRM implementation recognize that getting the CRM software successfully installed and configured does not equate to a successful project; but instead successfully satisfying the users leads to a successful project.

You can successfully get the CRM software to run, but if you don't deliver user experiences that make the users' lives easier, more productive and more rewarding, it's like saying the operation was successful but the patient died.

CRM projects are most successful when project objectives are designed to satisfy both company and user goals. Design Thinking is an ideal method to bridge these goals and clearly identify what's truly most important to the most important constituents.

Design thinking is an iterative, people-focused design and problem solving method that applies deep empathy for users and collaboration among multi-disciplinary teams — in order to firmly identify the highest impact and most important success criteria, measured in user, customer and business outcomes, and according to the people who will most use or benefit from the solution. It's also used as an alternative method of problem solving that considers how to achieve a behavioral or emotional goal, often expressed in the form of a better future situation. What makes this approach different and better is that it shifts project objectives from being measured in software features and functions (which frankly most users and managers don't care about) to being measured in user and customer business outcomes (which users and managers care deeply about).

That's a very significant change, and here's how it's done.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking Persona

We start by making the user our North Star, and identifying our users with personas.

You may have many personas, so limit your analysis to the top 3 or so that are most influential in achieving your project objectives. For each persona, identify their traits, characteristics and what makes them unique.

We can only design meaningful user outcomes with a solid understanding of our users, their real problems and how they achieve satisfaction.

Design Thinking Empathy Map Design isn't just utility, usability or the streamlining of a user interface. Good design solves a problem with a result that achieves an emotional reaction. This is powerful in business as we all know that people – including users and customers – are emotional and make decisions based on emotions.

We use empathy maps to expand upon Persona traits and characteristics, and connect with users (or customers) at an emotional level. This workshop activity captures what users say, think, feel and do, in the context of their daily job activities, so we can better understand their concerns, frustrations, problems and what is important to them.

Design Thinking As Is As Is process reviews take each persona through a day in the life of their current As-Is experiences. Expert designers don't begin searching for solutions until they have defined the real problems.

This workshop activity maps the As-Is processes with the 4 swim lanes of Steps, Doing, Thinking & Feeling, and reveals user feedback and sentiment. You'll hear comments such as, "I've never really understood why we do this business process this way", or "This activity or step doesn't make sense", or "is stupid because …", or "I do this task because another department uses the data but I've talked to them and they don't really use the data". This type of feedback provides strong input for several downstream process improvement actions, including the next step of ideation.

Design Thinking Ideation The Ideation activity brainstorms new ideas based on what we learned in the prior workshops and our team collaborations, groups the ideas into clusters, and plots them on a two dimensional curve positioned according to Impact and Feasibility. This then displays the ideas into categories of unwise ideas that should be avoided, utility ideas that are table stakes, no-brainer ideas that should be adopted, and big bet ideas that can be considered now or in the future.

Design thinkers use both divergent and convergent thinking to expand ideation and creative solutions. Divergent thinking creates a more expansive solution set of ideas and alternatives to be explored. Convergent thinking focuses on getting to the optimal or correct solution. A benefit of this approach is that it encourages nonconformist thinking, defers judgment and is more likely to uncover an "a-ha moment" that delivers a powerful advantage or benefit that would otherwise not have surfaced.

Design Thinking Hills

Hills clarify our ideas into mission statements that are written in a form that includes a Who, What and Wow. Hills are objectives and statements of intent that the entire team can rally around so that we're all pulling in the same direction. A Hill should deliver a measurable order of magnitude change; not just an incremental improvement.

Hills are statements which excite. Users may respond to Hills by saying, "if you do that, I’m on board." Executives may brag about Hills. Some HIlls are so powerful that you could put them in an advertisement.

Design Thinking To Be

To-Be processes reference the Hills, and refine user experiences to make them better.

They show how to remove friction from processes, eliminate non-value added steps or activities and deliver Wow moments.

There's no longer any real distinction between CRM software success and the design of the user experience. The last best experience that anyone has anywhere, becomes the minimum expectation for the experience they want everywhere. This must be reflected in your proposed To Be processes.

Design Thinking Playbacks

Playbacks are stories with visual illustrations (sketches, storyboards) directed to stakeholders and sponsor users to show how the new experiences will be delivered.

They bring experiences to life by making them visual or tangible and they solicit collaboration, feedback and alignment to refine and improve the proposed experiences. Playbacks are reviewed periodically in order to demonstrate progress.

Design Thinking Prototype

Prototypes then drill down on the Playback stories to show how they will work in the CRM software. They start with low fidelity designs, wire frames or actual CRM screen mock-ups, that demonstrate how ideas and experiences become actionable in the CRM application.

The MIT Media Lab formalizes this step of the process in its motto, "Demo or die," which recognizes that only the act of prototyping can transform an idea into something truly valuable—because on their own, ideas are a dime a dozen.

Each of these steps in the framework are relatively short workshops, often an hour or less, performed by multi-disciplinary groups that include users, subject matter experts (SMEs), IT and stakeholders. The steps are not always sequential, we sometimes combine two steps into a single workshop and not all steps are needed to resolve a particular issue, or capitalize on a business opportunity.

When Design Thinking is applied to a single objective, such as firmly identifying a CRM project’s most important objectives according to the people who will most use or benefit from the application, the entire process normally takes 1 or 2 days, and thereafter plots a much straighter and shorter path to deliver what the team has determined to be the most significant user, customer and company outcomes. End

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What makes design thinking a different and better approach is that it shifts project objectives from being measured in software features and functions (which frankly most users and managers don't care about) to being measured in user and customer business outcomes (which users and managers care deeply about).

 

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