ISSUE #63 – For businesses looking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve, agility will be an important characteristic. Tanguy Fournier Le Ray, Managing Director of Palo IT explains agile design and what businesses should take note of to be effective.
Businesses across different sectors (and even public sector actors) strive to be more innovative, more digital, more customer-centric. What are the important requisites in IT innovation?
Businesses have to create new capabilities to innovate and deliver more value to their customers. To achieve this, among other things, they need to empathise with their customers, uncover their needs and frame meaningful problems. Innovative businesses drive their strategy and innovation efforts using customers’ perspectives as a beacon. Customer feedback should be collected early and frequently to evaluate if a product is worth launching. Failing allows us to learn from experiences, and experimenting helps us to eventually design a breakthrough experience that can be widely adopted. Just designing the right products will not be sufficient. It is imperative that you execute them faster than your competitors, have cutting-edge infrastructure and the right practices, and an empowering culture that supports your delivery team. Businesses also need to invest in R&D to understand how the latest technology, such as blockchain, VR, IoT, AI and chatbot, can improve their business in creating new value propositions and new customer experiences.
What is agile design?
In agile design, designers and developers need to work closely together and form a single unified agile delivery team. Delivering awesomeness to customers must remain the primary objective to define requirements and drive the development process. Both human-centred design and agile development, by defining requirements as user stories, are key enablers to achieving user-centricity. There is a lot of value in combining both approaches. User research, rapid prototyping and iterative development contribute to better design decisions and meaningful products. Finally, agile principles should be applied across all levels of an organisation as they can help define the way entire organisations operate, from recruiting talents to budgeting projects and marketing products.
In agile design, designers and developers need to work closely together and form a single unified agile delivery team.
In your experience, what are the key challenges in adopting an agile model?
Challenges for organisations in adopting an agile approach include disseminating the new agile values, principles and mindset across the organisation, getting genuine engagement from teams and eventually influencing the culture of the company. Changing the culture is of paramount importance, as managers who embrace a servant leadership approach and step away from a command-and-control mindset yield rapid and tangible results.
Another challenge is to get IT and business to work more closely together to define and align objectives they have in common and support each other in meaningful ways. This can be achieved by designing interactions between functions, essentially removing structural silos that tend to be very robust in large organisations. Strong buy-in is needed from executive leaders; ideally, such transformative changes should be driven by the CEO. The standard approach is to start with training and awareness sessions, run pilot projects, communicate heavily on the pilot achievements, roll-out the new model to the entire organisation, and finally redesign processes to embrace the new approach.
Changing the culture is of paramount importance!
PALO IT works with many market leaders and start-ups, local and international. Are there particular trends in IT innovation you observe in Singapore and Asia?
We have seen a lot of innovation labs being set up in the past few years in Singapore. Even though they have the same labels, their scope of work are different. There are three main areas of focus:
- Marketing: The Lab is there to change the image of the company and is a very strong PR tool. It will help to attract young talents to join the firm, which will induce innovation and change the brand identity;
- Culture: The Lab is mainly focused on changing the culture of employees, who will be able to fail and gain a customer-centric and innovative mindset across all levels of the organisation;
- Delivery: The Lab is purely focused on solving business problems and delivering prototypes to validate new concepts.
From our experience, the best outcome comes from a mix of the three above areas.
Another key trend is for market leaders to co-design products with their clients in order to be 100% aligned with them and guarantee ROI.
Current market leaders are also under tremendous pressure to evolve and the financial industry is a good example. Banks are facing major disruption threats from FinTech start-ups and technology giants, and only companies who successfully manage to adapt, become more agile, more tech-savvy and truly customer-centric will be able to maintain their leadership.
Palo IT is a software development and consulting firm, with a strong focus on digital and technology innovation. Our approach takes the best of Design Thinking, Agile and DevOps to help our clients disrupt their industries, reduce time to market and successfully run digital transformations. In Singapore, we have a team of 110 consultants, with some of them being the best design & technology experts in Asia. We invest in FinTech start-ups and have a strong track record working with Innovation Labs.
Interview with Tanguy Fournier Le Ray, Managing Director of Palo IT
Published in FOCUS Magazine — Issue #2 2017 “Future Economy”