Design deviations can reveal opportunities for growth
Enterprise-level design is often incredibly poor. Just ask anyone who has ever tried to transact online with the DMV. The reason is simple: enterprise design often focuses on extending the life of legacy systems. But when extending the life of legacy systems comes at the expense of the end-user experience (as it almost always does), everyone suffers. Bad business design has a way of making itself felt at a societal level, whether we realize it or not.
In contrast, the last two decades have seen a revolution in the consumer market. Companies like Lyft, Square, and Venmo have changed some of our customers’ most fundamental behaviors. They have transformed the way we hail a car, pay for a meal or transfer money. And they did it through a design-driven approach to product development.
This revolution in the consumer market only makes design failures at the enterprise level more apparent. There are still major issues in critical areas of enterprise design, including:
• Cumbersome and inefficient workflows and processes.
• Back-office teams suffering from outdated and unproductive procedural work.
• Practice areas whose operational procedures are still governed by legacy systems that are not optimized or outdated.
While at Block (formerly Square), I helped design and build the company’s first merchant dashboard. The process made me realize the incredible utility value of the product. It also helped me to make a critical realization: good design cannot be limited to “front-end” or “back-end” environments. Merchants needed a dashboard that was as intuitive as the one used by their customers. Good product design cannot afford to be limited to consumer-facing touchpoints. It should be applied to all industries and all workflows.
Several years ago, I started looking at the world of regulatory technology through the lens of good product design. Discussions with friends led us to the same conclusion. Regulatory compliance professionals (a heroic but misunderstood area of practice) suffered from poor tools and inefficient workflows. So together my co-founders and I built Hummingbird, a compliance CRM and anti-money laundering investigations tool designed to bring user experience and product design to compliance and risk teams.
Creating enterprise-level design-driven solutions comes with a unique set of challenges. But these challenges reveal unique opportunities for companies looking to create design-driven solutions.
We’ve turned those learnings into some key insights into enterprise product design.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR INDUSTRY AND ITS ECOSYSTEMS
We all have direct experience of ordering takeout or hailing a taxi, but not everyone knows the ins and outs of regulatory compliance or corporate taxation. Understanding your industry is the first step in creating enterprise-level high-utility product design. Strive to know the industry at least as well as the people doing the work itself. A similar concern is making sure you understand the ecosystem that surrounds your industry. These processes and workflows directly influence how your practice area operates. A thorough understanding of the industry and ecosystem will help you get an idea of key pain points, as well as opportunities for innovation.
KNOW THAT CHANGING INHERITANCE SYSTEMS REQUIRES MORE THAN A NEW IDEA
It is well known that large companies often rely on legacy systems, which leads to rigid and not agile products. But more than a company’s size determines whether a legacy system can be updated effectively. External factors are often responsible for rigidity and resistance to change. Examine your industry for work flow elements that are beyond the company’s control. (In the compliance world, federal law is a good example.) Keep in mind that these factors are just as important to a company’s decision-making as its existing systems. Product design innovation in these practice areas must provide a solution that solves both internal and external problems.
THINK TO COMPLEMENT, AS WELL AS REINVENT, EXISTING SYSTEMS
Many areas of business practice view sudden and widespread change as a threat to the safety and security of core competencies. Therefore, product innovation in these areas benefits from a modular approach to product design. Solutions that allow for incremental improvements to existing infrastructure are more effective than trying to convince a potential customer to completely replace their status quo. Remember that for many businesses, reinventing the wheel isn’t always an option. Suggestions on how to make an existing wheel less squeaky are always welcome, however.
CREATE A STRONG PRODUCT DESIGN/CUSTOMER FEEDBACK LOOP
Everyone knows the value of a strong product design feedback loop, but companies entering traditionally overlooked practice areas should take special note. Professionals in these fields often to know their tools are outdated and cumbersome and hungry for change. As a result, they make a great first stop when it comes to conducting product research. And don’t let the feedback loop stop once you’ve launched your product. Continuous monitoring and constant improvement are essential to the development of version 2.0.
A word that gets thrown around a lot in the world of technology and startups is “visionary”. But what is a visionary really looking for? It’s tempting to think that visionaries are looking for the next big idea. But groundbreaking design changes aren’t limited to paradigm-shifting industry reinvention. Excellence in product design can benefit any industry and deserves to be applied democratically. After all, what’s behind the scenes for some is on the front lines for others. And as design thinkers, we need to take note of every area that needs positive change.
Joe Robinson is CEO and co-founder of Hummingbird, a compliance CRM and anti-money laundering investigation tool.