Design thinking:

How it helps us build better software for our clients

A lot was said about Design thinking, a methodology first articulated in the world of graphic design, and later adopted by other industries. Large companies use it to identify their customer’s problems and work out how to best solve them. With its 5 steps - empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test - it guides teams in the delivery of outstanding creative work, software and other types of products.

At Infosit, Design thinking is fundamental to our project work. It underlies our capability to build software that supports business value creation.

1. It keeps us in our customers' shoes

As Infosit’s project manager Marko Glavas says, Design thinking is an attitude and a mindset, rather than a list of prescribed tasks. It is about empathy and a human-centered approach. It is based on the recognition that things we build are used by people, and that we should shape them with people in mind. Understanding who, how and why will use our software is key to developing outstanding solutions and user experiences.

In our 18 years in the software business, we have come to believe that there is always room to understand your customer better, and to empathise with them more. In fact, understanding our customers’ business goals is fundamental to starting projects off on the right foot.

- Design thinking keeps us on track, it helps us guide things and make sure we don’t skip any of the important steps. Empathy is important with new clients, but also with the existing ones. Their business needs are constantly evolving, and so must our understanding, Marko explains.

2. It helps us frame technical requirements

By taking our projects through the Design thinking cycles, several times if needed, we are able to frame technical requirements with greater accuracy. As we empathise, ideate and develop prototypes, oftentimes in workshops with clients, we get closer and closer to understanding the gist of what they need. As a result, we are better able to translate those needs into software features, performance specs, and things to be coded.

- Our clients are usually not in the software business. They turn to Infosit to help them specify the characteristics that software should have, in order to fulfill their business needs. This is where Design thinking methods and procedures are of great value, he said.

3. It helps us build better software

Software development is complex. It is done in stages, and extends over a period of time. It can be scattered with uncertainty, and tied with deadlines. We rely on the Design thinking framework as we conduct individual meetings, question the needs from different angles, and jot down ideas.

This is usually followed by a focused workshop in which we engage with people from different departments and with different perspectives. It helps us examine the needs further and shape ideas. At this point, the goal is to better understand the client's (and user's) perspective and collect ideas that will later be profiled. Ultimately, this will lead us to ideating and developing a product that solves real problems and generates genuine business value.

The process is often not linear. You may have started with questioning and defining a need or a problem, and you may have come up with ideas how to solve them. But, a round of feedback can make you go a step or two back, reframe the problem or come up with an entirely different solution. It is through such a process - and several iterations - that outstanding software is prototyped.

4. It is a lifestyle pervading our organisation

Design thinking is in our DNA, it is the lifestyle and the mindset of our organization. It pervades our customer-facing structures. Being in client shoes and seeing their business from their angle requires constant effort and practice. We nourish this capability carefully, as it is at the heart of our ability to deliver great software.

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