Future Technology Roadmap

About this Client
Our client’s platform division is builds the hardware platforms for consumer and business technology customers.  Traditionally, consumers would buy one less costly platform and businesses would buy another more expensive platform but these lines were blurring as the technology capabilities became closer to on-par.  To add to the confusion, the consumer technology group develops platforms for multiple product lines, starting with higher end business customers.

Executive Summary
The consumer group’s job was to stay ahead of the market, ensuring the competitiveness of their solutions far into the future.  Technology changes were happening faster and faster, making it challenging for the team to properly invest in new platforms yet stay ahead of customer demand.  They needed to become extremely nimble and deeply customer centered.  Many of the executives had gone through Stanford’s d-school, but they needed help to get the organization to integrate the design thinking approach into their day to day activities.  Inceodia led the team through a design challenge to demonstrate the d-school approach and at the same time, address the immediate need for customer insight on the future of the platform.

The Challenge
Chris is the strategy manager for the advanced technology division in the consumer group.  They had an excellent team of engineers working on some great technology advancements that could really change the solution experience in the future.  However, these technologies were still 5 years out and Chris wondered whether with the rapidly changing consumer landscape and use of mobile platforms, his customers would still be using their platform in 5 years.  Would everyone just use their tablets in the future?

Although Chris could look at the reports by industry analysts who were predicting the demise of his technology, he did not have a good view of what his customers needed.  He saw confirming evidence of their prediction but he also saw outliers that defied the trend.  He also saw wide variations in understanding and opinions from key stakeholders, serving to only to perpetuate the analysis paralysis that the organization was struggling beneath.  He really need facts and common customer stories that would allow a cohesive strategy for technology investment to form.

The Solution
Inceodia’s human-centered design experts started by interviewing stakeholders across the business.  What did they see happening with their customers and the industry?  The purpose of this was twofold – to share knowledge and develop a common understanding of the market, and to tease out gaps in their understanding that we could use to guide our discovery process with their customers.  We shared this with the team and developed a customer research plan for developing a deep understanding and empathy for business customers.  And we created a “how might we …” statement that formulated the design challenge we were investigating.

Next we took the team in the field to observe customers in their environment.  We focused on small to medium businesses as these were the biggest drivers of demand for new technology features, and yet were the customers that the company knew the least about.  We used a journey mapping approach to observe various users at customer sites, asking them to perform their daily tasks and querying why they did things the way they did.  We captured how they measured their success, both from a functional and an emotional perspective.

Inceodia then took all this data and led a 1-day design workshop with key stakeholders.  The goal of the workshop was to immerse the team in their customers’ lives, developing empathy and a deep understanding of their drivers for the technology.  We created point-of-view statements for different user personas and highlighted outliers that could challenge the status quo.  We captured their insights in report that could be widely disseminated by everyone on the team and presented our findings to the executives we had interviewed at the beginning of the process.

Results
Traditionally, this client would use market data to formulate their technology investment strategy and wait until they had prototypes to share at focus groups to understand whether their customers felt they were on the right path.  This old approach did not work well in the new fast moving environment.  They risked spending a lot of time and resources on building the wrong thing or at the very least, something that was the same as their competitors and did not capture their customer’s loyalty.

The human-centered design approach allowed the client to connect their early development efforts directly to their customer’s most pressing needs and create solutions that would uniquely meet those needs.  The focus it brought to the team on real needs instead of market “guesses” was evident in the acceleration of their development efforts.  And by making engineers comfortable with observing customers in their environment, Inceodia opened the door to real co-creation efforts going forward.