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Community Insights Design Innovation

Want Innovation? Elevate Design and Engineering

Steve Jobs said it best: “Design is how it works.” 

We live in an exciting time, when digital products and services are transforming industries, business models and jobs. There’s the uber-ization of everything from home automation to personalized medicine, and the blurring boundaries of digital and physical channels. Numerous industries are going through a period of mass disruption.

At the center of all this disruption and innovation are two central, closely connected disciplines–design and engineering. Traditionally considered separate activities, engineering and design have long played a central role in the development of new ideas and in creating project plans, each in its own silo.

It’s time to shift to an evolved, technology-empowered design mindset. As technology informs design, and good design arms technology to become most effective by engaging with users, the design and engineering now sit at the top of the product development pyramid. Together, they can, in effect, create success and help generate meaningful growth and business outcomes.

At the highest level, “outcomes” are how success in digital engineering gets measured.  As we seek to engineer for outcomes, we must define what the business is looking for, what needs to change or improve–for example, experience, engagement, functions, connections, or velocity–to attain a specific business goal–revenue, productivity, profitability, valuation, etc. Whether or not we realize these target outcomes– or fail to meet them–is what will drive a business’s sustainability as an innovator. If you aren’t hitting your targets, then your competitors are ready to take the lead. 

For example, let’s consider improved “consumer experience” as a key business outcome. Despite growing investments by companies in personalization technologies—such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation—the majority of consumers still report underwhelming digital experiences. Yet 81% of market leaders in a Gartner survey expect their customer experience to provide a competitive edge in 2019.

When results don’t align with initiative–often because a company started a project without design and engineering aligned–businesses end up with lackluster customer response. 

To generate positive results, companies should embrace “outcome engineering.” In outcome engineering, technologists work with designers to create solutions that match end-user needs. This requires significant technology-informed empathy – a new kind of design thinking – where clearly defined outcomes are the goal. This collaborative approach is the starting point. 

Companies that master the outcome engineering approach reduce the risks of innovation by building solutions with the best results-oriented technology available—informed by design. These companies will not reject ideas for improving the customer journey solely because they require new infrastructure or processes. On the contrary, such companies readily explore new technologies if the business case demonstrates a return on investment. 

Uber and Uber Eats are good examples of outcome engineering, and how companies are leveraging a core competency to not just grow their businesses, but also to build their reputation and demand among core customers. While Uber helped create the era of car sharing, it’s now aggregating its services to build a more robust bridge to its customer.

Now, instead of just a ride from Uber, you can get meals or groceries delivered to your door. Uber has leveraged, aggregated and engineered its design to explore new outcomes and revenue streams, while continuing to deliver on customer service and experience across all channels.

Companies that invest in outcome engineering do more than just deliver goods and services for what customers want: they understand and uncover the rationale. It’s just as important to them to understand why customers want this particular outcome. Getting to the why isn’t always easy, and data alone isn’t the answer because it doesn’t often reveal the necessary sentiment. 

Gaining a competitive edge through outcome engineering requires a new mindset. Instead of relying on customers to tell you what they want, you anticipate new needs by scrutinizing every step of their journey (and having the data you need to do that). 

Instead of letting design be an afterthought to technology, or retrofitting technology to design’s vision, let’s elevate both to build the best product possible. Instead of building a fully formed product over months or years, build a minimum-viable product in weeks and continually refine it. 

Outcome engineering jumpstarts a culture of innovation and leads to successful products. Knowing that an innovation’s market potential has already been vetted, even conservative leaders are likely to be more receptive to technology investments. Working in rapid cycles of ideation, prototyping and testing creates an innovation habit. New ideas flourish, and the company succeeds.

Andres Angelani is CEO of Cognizant Softvision, and the author of Transforming While Performing, published in mid-September.

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