23 May 2013

Design as a discipline

Establishing the value of design in today’s large-scale enterprises is a difficult challenge. Inflexible IT structures, a change-resistant organizational culture, or perceived cost might all be to blame. An external player with clout and authority is one way to get it done, and a new approach promoted by Deloitte is doing just that.

Each year, Deloitte’s Technology Services division creates a report entitled “Tech Trends”, and within it, they identify future trends that they feel will impact the world of big business. In the 2013 report – with the theme of “Elements of post-digital” – they identify one theme in particular that meshes nicely with our thinking: “Design as a Discipline”.

In introducing this theme, Deloitte recognizes that despite its long standing as a department or activity in businesses, “design” as a pursuit has largely been fractured. It exists as discrete activities (such as functional design or testing design), yet rarely plays a strategic role in which it underpins an entire business.

“Throughout its history… design has generally remained a discrete set of deliverables or project phases, completed by specialized teams at distinct points during a project’s lifecycle. Individual facets of design have reflected little understanding of other related project activities, much less the broader context of the business vision and expected outcomes… What’s missing may be a commitment to design as a business discipline, a commitment that takes shape by asking: What benefits would we gain if design were a pervasive and persistent aspect of each part of the enterprise?”

The whitepaper itself, which is downloadable as a PDF, from amongst other sections of the entire Tech Trends report, is clearly aimed at Deloitte’s typical client for this line of their business: Someone within IT management in a large organization. And it is this that makes it interesting reading. The benefits of this holistic, enterprise-wide role for design are presented in terms familiar to a CIO.

The technological implications for “Design as a Discipline” are stated for each of several areas: “Digital backbone”, “Integration/orchestration”, “User experience”, “Agile development” and “Prototyping”.

And to drive home the point, three case studies are given, for companies where embedded design has led to demonstrable success: Virgin Atlantic, Apple and the groundbreaking home thermostat named Nest.

In short, the white paper has one recommendation about design: “It’s not an ‘IT thing’ or a ‘marketing thing’ or a ‘product engineering thing.’ It’s an ‘enterprise thing.'”

Source: “Design as a Discipline” (PDF available as download, from “Tech Trends 2013“, Deloitte).


Business processes (14), Design thinking (15), Digital strategy (22), Service design (41), User experience (39)

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