My Design Thinking Experience
The design thinking approach shows you the right direction and saves you from making mistakes from the start.
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Do you know about design thinking? If your answer is no, you should at least Google and learn about this approach to development. In this article, I want to share my experience with it and my ideas about it.
I have been developing new products as a business analyst for about five years and have created different products. Some of them were suitable for the design thinking approach, but some not.
My last product was to automate the import of various goods from various countries to our stores in Russia. The old school team managed the process of import, and they did not want any new system to help. They think that the process is already enough optimized and automated. But when I started to research it, I found that people spend most of their time copy-pasting from one Excel document to another, sending emails, and processing many offers. Also, they make many mistakes, and management doesn't see a clear picture.
I worked with my developing team as a business analyst/product manager, and we decided to put it in order by creating a new system. Top management told us they know all about the process and what we need to do. After listening to their perspective, we were a little doubtful and asked to try the design thinking approach. They said it was OK, so we started.
First, we arranged about 10 meetings with future users and their local management. We learn current tasks and problems of people and features they want to have in the new system. It was not so easy because some people told us the opposite information and we spent enough time to understand the whole process and people's problems.
After that, we gathered together with my team and defined particular problems that should resolve our new system. We found a lot of major and minor problems, but for a start, we highlighted the main issues:
- Every week, people send requests for every product to every supplier regardless of whether our stores need this product now or no, so suppliers spend time making offers that we probably will not accept. After that, our people spend time processing these offers and it with the needs of stores.
- Communication between our people and suppliers takes place by Excel documents sent by email, and it is very slow. As a result, suppliers often sell products before we can process their offers or negotiate suitable prices or other terms.
- Calculation of the final price of a product in our store in Russia was a manual operation. It is a difficult one and generates a lot of mistakes.
At that moment, we noticed that top management did not notice some of the really important problems of users that we found from their high point of view.
The third stage was a generation of ideas to solve our main problems. We try to brainstorm it and find a lot of cool and mediocre ideas. Then, we collected it all and chose the most suitable for now, and other good ones collect for the future. We chose:
- Collect product needs of stores before start trading week and show to suppliers only requests we need this week.
- Make interfaces for managers and suppliers to communicate and negotiate offers online without sending letters with Excel documents.
- Automate the product's final price calculation and give an opportunity to reverse calculation (final price -> supplier price).
At the fourth stage, we made simple prototypes of new interfaces in which we tried to show future users the way of work they will follow. We used the Pencil Project to start but later changed it to Figma because it seemed more suitable for making interactive prototypes and change them after getting feedback.
Finally, we show our prototypes to future users and ask them to understand what is it, what they need to do here to make an offer, negotiate the price of the offer, etc. And it was really interesting! Some people were excited about the new features. Some of them mentioned significant drawbacks (for example, we did not consider that offers from suppliers can be in different currencies independent of contract). But it was real feedback, and we were able to understand what we do right and what wrong by spending just a couple of weeks and without writing a single line of code! This showed us the direction for development.
So, I think sometimes you should try to use the design thinking approach. It shows you the right direction and saves you from making mistakes from the start, even if someone thinks that he knows future users enough and can speak on their behalf.
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