Why IoT deployments need design thinking


470283497Design thinking is, broadly speaking, allowing user experience, or even users, to drive design. It’s a profoundly human-centered process, with commentators using words like ‘collaborate’, ‘experience’, and even ‘empathy’ in their descriptions. Steve Jobs is said to have used it in creating the iPod and iPhone, because it brings together product design and human behavior.

So, what does this have to do with Internet of Things (IoT) deployments? The connection is big data and, perhaps more importantly, how to get the right insights from it.

Big data advocates still chasing golden use cases

Big data is (still) big. Gartner reported in 2014 that almost three quarters of companies had either already invested in big data or planned to do so within two years. This was a big increase on the previous year, and it seems likely that the picture has moved on again since then. Nevertheless, the big issue is not so much big data itself as how it is used.

Most companies want to use insights from big data in real time. Why? Because they want to be able to use it immediately to take action. They need to be able to personalize user experience on websites and advertising based on user profiles. Users now expect it.

Big data requires a fundamental rethink. Traditional approaches don’t work. Gaining valuable insights from big data requires a new approach and new thought process that asks different questions. But there’s so much data available that it’s hard to know where to start.

Design thinking resolves that dilemma immediately. You start with the user. The key questions focus on what the user needs or wants to know. In other words, design thinking gives you a way of prioritizing and zeroing in on what really matters: the customer’s needs.

IoT for customer intimacy

Design thinking may be particularly important for IoT deployments because it could mitigate some of the risk. It’s hard to know when IoT deployment will pay off because it’s not always clear whether the data generated will be useful for customers or the company.

Design thinking changes that because by looking at customer or user experience, or even going as far as co-creation, when customers are involved in creating their own value, that risk is largely mitigated. This is especially true when the approach is coupled with agile working, because that makes it easier to identify opportunities that are likely to be successful and then exploit them faster.

Although this seems odd for an approach that's also been called fail fast, the combination of agile working and design thinking seems to make failure less likely overall.

It also requires a huge shift in mindset, because it puts customers at the heart of everything that companies do. It requires an ongoing relationship with users and customers, which in turn changes the way that you interact with them.

Game theory teaches that an ongoing game has a very different result from a one-off. In a one-off game, you can push for the best outcome for you without trying to find a win-win. Your customer could well end up losing out badly. In an ongoing game, you can’t do that. If you try it, you’ll be punished in future, repeatedly, because your customers will not trust you and will go elsewhere.

So the rise of the IoT may lead to huge changes in every element of interaction with customers, from warranties to service contracts to what you can learn for predictive selling. Customer relationship management could eventually become a fully customer-focused model, drawing on every aspect of the customer’s life cycle with the company, from initial contact, through sales, to post-sales service and hopefully recommendations to others. We call this Customer Intelligence 360.

Placing design thinking at the heart of IoT deployment

Seeing the whole customer is not necessarily new. But perhaps it is new to see it coupled with the rise of IoT. My colleague Colin Gray has made the argument for design thinking in prototyping. I’d like to go further and suggest design thinking should be an organizational philosophy. What are your experiences and thoughts on the subject?

Take a look at the IndustryWeek research report, The Internet of Things: Finding the Path to Value, and find out how to respond to the business challenges and opportunities being unleashed by the IoT and advanced analytics.


About Author

Thomas Keil

Director Marketing

Dr. Thomas Keil is a specialist for the impact of technology on business models and on society in general. He covers topics like Digital transformation, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence & Ethics. Besides his work as Regional Marketing Director at SAS in Germany, Austria and Switzerland he regularly is invited to conferences, workshops and seminars. He serves as advisor to B2B marketing magazines and in program committees of AI-related conferences. Dr. Thomas Keil 2011 came to SAS. Previously, he worked for eight years for the software vendor zetVisions, most recently as Head of Marketing and Head of Channel Sales.

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