Why POCs Win Over Design Thinking in Creating Digital-First Outcomes

Design Thinking and other problem space tools promise answers, but the ultimate answers need to come from the customer and from the market.

Reading time: 4 minutes
Date published
April 29, 2020

Speed, coupled with rapid learning, wins in today’s digital-first economy.

Design Thinking and other problem space tools promise answers, but the ultimate answers need to come from the customer and from the market.

You need to ship real software to figure out the customer, the market, and, as importantly, your internal organization.

The Limitations of Design Thinking

Put another way - where Design Thinking provides a lot of excellent structured tools, it is ultimately thinking, not doing. I’m advocating for a more outcome-focused POC process that measures real outcomes in an entrepreneurial test-first manner.

The other challenge with Design Thinking is the very nature of its facilitation processes. All the structural reasons why something can’t be done seep into the plan and the plan becomes either trivial (a POC that doesn’t really challenge the real world) or overly complex. It leaves too much space for the enterprise value system to intercede, even though it’s built to avoid that.

In this blog, I’ll talk about how to leverage a Proof of Concept (POC) for rapid value creation and to light the way for your CX-led digital transformation. Think of it as a ‘Design Doing’ framework.

Agile processes invariably sit within a waterfall organizational structure where responsibilities for key factors sit far removed from the team. It’s a given in any non-trivial organization, and we companies evolve to practices that overcome handoffs and organizational complexity and shift focus to create innovation and client value.

Most companies in today’s world are in various stages of agile and digital transformation, and most of them are struggling.

The main reason is that the organizational complexity of almost any company equals the technological, customer-experience, and market complexity we are dealing with. Whether for brand, security, risk, operational efficiency, capacity management, or simply budgeting- there are lots of factors that impact teams.

And your organization on paper isn’t how things actually get done. Some groups will place your requests as their 10th priority, and others as their 2nd. Guess which team you respect, and which you don’t. And it’s not their fault.

So you are agile, and you are still stuck, and now you are looking at a “2023” transformation roadmap that offers a future world where the high value customer-centric innovations or problem solving needed is actually doable on a consistent basis.

That doesn’t help today. POCs can.

POCs, with the right team, provide the ability to create an “instant transformation”

Look closely, and you can see that POCs solve the same challenges as a digital transformation:

1. Solve an organizational, technological, or market problem.
2. Create a cross-functional, fully-committed team working against a goal.
3. Create the norms and support to succeed.
4. Remove blockers.
5. Measure success by value outcomes on a short time frame, not output.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that POCs are the most under-utilized tool for organizational change because they capture both the soul of agile, and the cultural foundations of organizational change demanded by a digital economy.

A POC is like a flashlight on the implicit organizational factors that get in the way of customer-centricity and effective delivery of the right high-value priorities in a meaningful timeframe.

5 Reasons POCs are transformative

1. They generate the insights to do the right planning or the technology to unblock the right features.

2. They identify the key processes that slow down the generation of value.

3. They are small enough to be understood and communicated broadly- both the purpose and the learnings.

4. They remove opinion and departmental territory from the conversation and shift to a cross-functional process one.

5. They are the customer-centric bias-for-action that your 5 year transformation plan is hoping for… now.

Are you six weeks into a design process for curbside pickup during COVID-19? That could have shipped already.

Are you able to easily get payments online?

Is your online customer acquisition process only acceptable for people who are already a customer?

POCs take a high value goal and manage it clearly to time-to-value, and time-to-customer feedback measures. Sit the team together, brainstorm how to get in market in 4 weeks. Engage everyone's creativity, and start designing and building your solution.

Regardless of when you need to get to market, you do need:

1. Your organization collaborating more effectively. This will find the implicit blockers, cross-cutting blockers that don’t show in meetings or escalations.

2. The data on your technology and your clients to prioritize other decisions

3. The organizational insights and priorities to do it faster and better next time.

4. The organizational initiatives and platforms to remove the enterprise blockers from the team:

a. A design system to allow POC teams to consume brand-ready components.
b. An application-centric cloud strategy that gives POC and innovation teams access to AWS without your enterprise security and infrastructure teams.

We buy Design Thinking because digital transformation is hard. The complexity of our organizations, our technology, our markets, and our customers make more strategy and design work the easier but the wrong path.

The market is won by those who are in market, and pivot quickly. Everyone else is simply monetizing their existing customer base.

However, POC/MVP teams often struggle in organizations because teams don’t know what old rules no longer apply. If you want something done in 6 weeks, and you don’t have teams with the DNA or experience to do it, consider partnering.

Check out Rangle GO to learn a little more about how Rangle can partner to drive both your near-term and long-term outcomes through a bias-for-action and a partnership model that gets you moving quickly and effectively.


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