The Limina Podcast - Episode 1

Unlocking the Power of Human-Centered Digital Transformation and Design Operations

By Jon Fukuda

True digital transformation requires a people-focused approach that puts employees and customers at the center of change. The Limina Podcast serves as a place for our community to learn together and focus on the process of human-centered digital transformation. In our first episode, we discuss this process and how companies must leverage digital technology to improve performance and enhance the employee experience.

The Benefits of Human-Centered Digital Transformation
Human-centered digital transformation is a strategic approach focusing on people as the driving force behind change. Companies benefit by putting people first, including improved employee engagement and retention. When employees are empowered with the right tools and technologies, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and productive. This leads to higher retention rates and positive work culture, enhancing customer experiences. Satisfied and engaged employees are more likely to deliver excellent customer service and create meaningful interactions, leading to increased customer loyalty and advocacy.

In addition to improving employee engagement and customer experiences, human-centered digital transformation also drives operational efficiency. Companies can optimize their operations, reduce costs, and improve overall performance by streamlining processes, automating tasks, and leveraging data and analytics. This allows organizations to stay agile and responsive to changing market conditions, which is crucial in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. Furthermore, human-centered digital transformation fosters a culture of innovation and continuous improvement, enabling companies to stay ahead of the competition and drive business growth.

Building a North Star for Human-Centered Digital Transformation
Organizations need a clear vision and strategy to achieve human-centered digital transformation that aligns all stakeholders around a shared mission. This requires combining diverse skill sets, including researchers, designers, business analysts, technologists, and other organizational experts. By creating a North Star, a guiding principle that outlines the purpose and direction of the transformation journey, companies can ensure that all efforts are aligned toward a common goal. The North Star serves as a compass that helps organizations navigate the complexities of digital transformation and make strategic decisions prioritizing people’s needs and experiences.

The Importance of Design Operations
Design operations, commonly called “DesignOps”, are critical to human-centered digital transformation. Design ops is a structure or role that emerged from the need to produce great design at scale. It provides tools, processes, information, and communication that enable organizations to codify their design processes, coordinate design teams, and manage design tools effectively. Design ops bring consistency, quality, and innovation to everything the company designs, ensuring that products and services meet customers’ changing needs in a competitive market.

Research ops, a subset of design ops, is equally important as it supports product and service designers with crucial information about customers, users, the market, and competitors. Research ops ensure that research is conducted to support the business, products, services, and design teams, providing valuable insights that inform design decisions and drive customer-centricity.

The Rising Demand for Design Services and the Growing Emphasis on Design Operations
The demand for designers and design services has risen in recent years as companies recognize the strategic value of design in achieving business success. Larger organizations increasingly emphasize design operations to streamline project management, ensure design consistency, and drive innovation. DesignOps have evolved from an ad-hoc practice to a structured approach that organizations of all sizes embrace to scale their design capacity and deliver exceptional user experiences. Human-centered digital transformation and design operations are essential strategies for companies seeking to remain competitive and relevant.

Be sure to listen to Episode 1 to learn more about Digital transformation work coupled with DesignOps can help organizations establish a human-centered culture for maximum, durable, and sustainable business impact.

 Jon Fukuda

 This is the Limina podcast. I’m your host, Jon Fukuda.   

Welcome to the first episode of our series, where we’ll be discussing various aspects of human-centered digital transformation. In this episode I’m gonna give you some background on what we plan to be talking about over the  series  and, just to introduce to you the premise of the show, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so I’m gonna just jump right in. But I thought I’d first start by defining what we believe human-centered digital transformation is, and then we can lean into how organizations are achieving this at scale.

Defining Human-Centered Digital Transformation
Human-centered digital transformation is an approach to organizational change. It prioritizes people’s needs, experiences, and value over the implementation of new technologies. It involves the digital tools and capabilities to improve performance, enhance employee experience, and achieve business goals while keeping the human concerns at the forefront of decision making.

The goal of human-centered digital transformation is not simply to become more digital, but to create a better company that delivers meaningful value to its stakeholders. And unlike technology, led digital transformation, which focuses on acquiring the latest tools and capabilities, human-centered digital transformation starts with defining the company’s goals and aspirations.

It considers how digital technology can help achieve these goals while addressing the needs of the employees, their customers, and other stakeholders. 

 To achieve human-centered digital transformation, organizations need a diverse range of skills and expertise. And this includes researchers, designers, business analysts, technologists , and various organizational experts.

 By bringing together these diverse skill sets, companies can create a North star that guides their transformation efforts and aligns all stakeholders around a shared mission. 

The benefits of human-centered digital transformation are numerous.

By putting people first, companies can improve employee engagement and retention. They can enhance customer experiences and increase operational efficiency, all while driving business growth. It also enables companies to remain agile and responsive to  changing market conditions while fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

In summary, human-centered digital transformation is a people-focused approach to organizational change that uses digital technology to improve performance and enhance the employee experience while achieving business objectives. It’s an essential strategy for companies seeking to remain competitive and relevant in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape.

In this podcast series, we’ll be talking about how human-centered approaches can help guide organizations to successful digital transformation. So let’s talk about human-centered design and the rising importance of design operations.

I think we can all acknowledge that good design influences customer’s perceptions when businesses are interacting with their products or services. The demand for high quality design is everywhere. Now. It’s raising the question of how a company can produce it at the pace and quality needed to succeed.  Design Ops is enabling organizations to scale their research and design capacity to ensure products and services meet the changing needs of the customers in an ever competitive market.

Defining DesignOps

So let’s talk about design ops for a minute. Design ops is short for design operations. It’s a relatively new structure, or role that’s come out of the need to produce great design at scale in-house design teams help. Deliver high quality design at the scale of the market demands, it codifies design processes.

With design ops, you can codify your design processes, coordinate teams, manage design tools, and grow the design culture within the company. The goal is to create a design language and a process that brings consistency, quality, and innovation to everything the company designs.

There’s various functions within design operations. Design ops ensures that the practice of human-centered design delivers the value of promises to the business by providing clear and consistent skills frameworks for anyone working in the experienced design. Design ops works across all design teams to provide tools, processes, information efficiency, communication, and more.

And design ops is at a high level and very cross-functional. Balancing the work from design at the ground level all the way through to design strategy, providing pipeline planning, and growing the design practice, all while figuring out how to do it while measuring its impact. The role of design ops allows Design directors and senior directors to interface with and get hooked into what the business is doing and how their teams can deliver value for the business.

There’s some differences between research and design ops and folks often ask, where does research operations fit in the scheme? Well, Research is fundamental to design supporting product and service designers with crucial information about their customers, the users, and the market as well as competitors.

Human-centered design is highly dependent on research, so while research ops is a part of design ops falling under the umbrella, it has its own subset of focal points, research ops ensures. Research is done to support the business, products, services and design teams. 

Research ops helps design teams become agile enough to shift  to accommodate the changing needs of the business. The role of research ops is to provide tools, processes information. Efficiency and insight communication to support research teams in service of the entire organization.

Origins of DesignOps

Let’s talk a little bit about the history and the importance of design ops. Design has a long history of streamlining project management, but the demand for designers  and design services,  which has continued to spike in the last decade, has led to large companies acquiring design agencies and. They didn’t have a way to fully operationalize their growing design teams.

The design ops role was  nothing new for agencies, but it had never been defined or put into practice in large scale organizations. 

Given their new focus of timely and high quality delivery of design,  larger organizations have been putting greater emphasis on design operations. Learning that design ops allows designers to design, while the ops people handle everything else, streamlining design by removing obstacles and inefficiencies. 

 How does design ops work  there’s three different operational pillars in design?

It’s people operations, business operations and workflow, or delivery operations. Depending on the organization, these areas might carry different weights  people operation focuses on building world-class design team. Business operations focus being on securing the proper budget and equipment for the design team and workflow operations focus, being on planning, prioritization, and creative production flow.

Each person or team in charge of design ops will be unique. It’s their job to solve for the entire team.

 Structuring the design ops team 

Generally, there are two models for design ops teams, operational and delivery support In the operational support model, design ops function is responsible for setting the standards, managing tooling systems, communication, hiring skills, and refining processes for the entire design team.

in the delivery support model. The design ops function supports product  and service design workflows  with research and design program managers to ensure the team can deliver efficiently with as little friction as possible.

 So in summary, design ops is scaling design capabilities within an organization. Any company with internal design function that lacks organization or suffers from.  bottlenecks or needs restructuring will benefit the most from design ops. 

Design Ops works to streamline design by removing obstacles and inefficiencies while enabling designers with the data processes and tools they need to succeed.  

Back to the premise

So the reason I  wanted to have this discussion today about both human-centered digital transformation and an organization’s capacity to scale their research and design is twofold essentially, what we’ve learned from the McKinsey report in 2018 is that roughly only 16% of all digital transformation initiatives have long-term sustainable success and that the amount of waste we’re looking at in terms of investment is somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 billion.  

 That’s an enormous loss. My goal in putting this podcast together is to change the paradigm so that organizations are driving successful digital transformation work. Now, the other aspect revealed by the McKinsey study is that two of the top five contributing factors to success in digital transformations were building capabilities for the workforce of the future.  and empowering people to work in new ways. Those two critical factors are extremely human centered.

It means empowering your organization to adjust and work in new ways , essentially building their skills and capabilities. For the workplace of the future, right? So if you’re going to start by throwing new tools and systems and new data and capacity, from a technological standpoint at your organization, and then you invite your employees to say, Hey, here’s the new stuff. Let’s get to work.  It doesn’t give the organization the cultural. Change, it needs to adapt to this new way of being. So the model of starting with the human-centered approach is to learn from your organization and the people who. Who are on the front lines of one, working together and collaborating with each other to make sure you’re operationally efficient.

But two, serving your customers, and understanding your customer’s needs and how those needs change and what those changes mean towards impacting different ways you should be. Serving them, especially if you’re talking about throwing new technologies in the mix, so that you have a full and very comprehensive way of looking at both the way that you’re operationally efficient, the needs of your customer and the marketplace.

And then you can build a story of what technologies are gonna better enable and drive efficiencies and higher performance and higher user satisfaction. , it gives all of the players in your organization a stake in how might we adapt together to drive better operational efficiency and new technologies within our organization.

And I think the failing that we’ve been seeing, especially in highlighted in that McKinsey report, is that not enough. Organizations are starting by looking at the culture and looking at how might we drive this from a human-centered perspective, over the next episodes, we’re gonna be inviting various speakers to talk about a variety of aspects on how you can take on digital transformation from different human-centered perspectives and our first guest, I’m very happy to say is Alla Weinberg, who is the author of a  culture of safety. In her book, a Culture of Safety, she talks about building a work environment where people can think, collaborate, and innovate. And, I think it’s probably one of the most fundamental pieces to unlocking your organization’s capacity to take an adaptive mindset.

Towards embracing change and new ways of working that would really unlock your capacity to drive successful digital transformation work. I’m really excited to have her on the show and I hope you enjoyed listening to this, episode. Stay tuned for the next one, which we’ll be releasing shortly.

Thank you.