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How design thinking can transform IT outsourcing

Stephanie Overby | April 28, 2017
In the era of digital transformation, design thinking can enable a new way of working between IT outsourcing customers and providers.

"It's a human-centered, empathetic approach to innovation that involved thinking about what the needs of the people you are trying to address and what their pain points are," McGann explained in a recent webinar on the topic of design thinking. "You don't start with the technology, you find out how to use technology to get [users/customers] further along in their journey.

But because it is a new way of working, it takes both the willingness to experiment and the time to integrate new design thinking methodologies into the engagement, says McGann. IT outsourcing customers and providers have to rethink roles, governance, budgets, and contracts. Both parties have to be committed to making the new approach work.

The IT services industry has hit the point of diminishing returns with the "your mess for less" propositions of old. While operational excellence and repeatable process will remain important, the more creative, flexible - and questioning - approaches of design thinking firms can complement that. The resulting systems or solutions can be engaging and simple while still standardized and efficient. Sometimes the answer may not be a technology solution at all, but a much simpler fix. In other cases, the design thinking digging will yield a whole new way of working.

Design thinking integrates "the needs of people, the possibility of technologies, and the requirements for business success," says McGann. "And at the center of it all is empathy." And although it's designed to increase innovation and creativity, it is ultimately an outcome-driven approach. "There is a bias toward action. If you think there's a change to be made, start working toward that. Ask a question. Try something. Give people something to work about and talk about," McGann says. "But it's also about being mindful of process. It's not about abandoning process, but stepping outside of that process to think about what results you're looking for and what experiences you're trying to create and moving along that journey to results. "

In the digital area, there are so many levers companies can pull to try to drive result s -robotics and automation, cognitive computing, mobile platforms, big data analytics. Design thinking can give outsourcing customers and providers a place to start. "It gives service buyer and service provider something to focus on - [the user/customer experience]--that's shared and recognized by both parties," McGann says. "Design thinking is not always the right approach, but if you're looking to change outcomes or change relationships, it's worth considering."



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