Expectations are high. Speed to market is a priority. Companies know that modernizing or introducing new digital services and products is crucial to the growth and sustainability. Because of this, many bring design in-house.
An internal creative team's benefit is that they can run the internal design and development process within their company culture, knowing how to manage the budget and the process for decision making. They can help create a knowledge base around clients and become smart brand administrators. Their flow helps companies become better product developers.
This strength can become a weakness over time. If clients change or an industry is disrupted, in-house expertise can result in blind spots. Plus, inefficiencies in design and development processes can become inherent and exaggerated when teams work together for a long time. As a result, you might want to seek an outside design team's expertise, especially one using a human-centered design framework. Here are some reasons why:
1. A Very Competitive Landscape
Agile start-ups and leapfrogging rivals are upsetting companies that once had industry-leading business models or digital applications.
In-house teams often are unable to imagine a new future for their product or services, because they're used to what they do and how they work. As a result, they may overlook signs and signals that they need to improve them.
Stitch Fix is an outstanding model of this type of disruption. They produced a new way for customers to discover and acquire the latest fashions curated for their specific style, budget and occasion. It's no surprise retailers like Macy's and Saks are struggling.
Bringing in an outside design team can interpret not only what is happening in the market, but also on what users and clients want and need, right now. The human-centered design process allows accelerated data collection, ideation, prototyping, and testing to find the right innovative route for a product and business.
2. The Struggle With Development Priorities
As soon as a digital product or service hits the market, teams are thinking about what the next release will include.
Product managers often are overwhelmed with the next user stories from the different departments within their organizations. Usually, whoever has the most leverage in the company, gets their asks met first. Alternatively, the technical team will be lost between meeting those demands and how much time they have left after entertaining everybody from across the organization.
Either way, your customers and their needs are not driving development, which can cause a product or service to fail to prosper.
An outside human-centered design firm can help set priorities using insights gathered from customer to draft a product roadmap that meets user needs and expectations. Creating this roadmap from real customer insight gives the next release a higher chance of meeting its revenue and adoption goals.
3. Service Alignment Needs
A digital product or application is typically part of a more extensive service and company ecosystem that supports the entire customer journey. They don't just function in a void.
That journey needs to be seamless from device to device or channel to channel to match customers' expectations for connectivity and service no matter where they are without creating friction in their experience. However, most companies still run in operational silos. Often a product manager or product team doesn't have the chance to see the full customer experience from the outside in.
A human-centered design team, especially one with a service-design specialty and cross-industry expertise, can help plan and create the full customer journey's specifications. They can create service design tools such as stakeholder maps, expectation maps, and broader journey maps to assist product teams in understanding where products and services come together.
Starting with a service evaluation can help set the right priorities for next-generation development of a digital product. The best product experiences have the service experience built-in.
4. Providing a New Perspective to challenges
Bringing a fresh set of eyes every once and a while can be cost-effective. For real!
A creative team that's well-grounded in the design thinking process can work on those nagging product challenges that don't seem to get solved over time while helping with a broader strategy. For example, Modes was recently hired by a client to look at the onboarding flow for one of their products and why they had high dropout within the process.
By seeking an outside team to engage in these micro-projects, or design sprints, can help clarify precise areas of friction or generate new ideas around an aspect of the product or service experience. What might take months to unravel with an internal team can be improved in a couple of design sprints of time by an outside group.
Product managers and their teams know their products better than anyone and can take on many challenges. But there are times when it makes sense to bring in outside help. If you decide to, consider hiring an external design team that uses a human-centered approach and has experience integrating the service experience with the product design.
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