3 May 2013

“Intersection”: A comprehensive look at enterprise design

Milan Guenther’s recently-published “Intersection: How Enterprise Design Bridges the Gap Between Business, Technology and People” takes an in-depth look at the broad set of disciplines and techniques that fall under the term “enterprise design” – a subject close to our heart.

Calling on his experiences as both an interaction designer and as an MBA-educated consultant, he has put together a detailed and expansive book which tackles the complex inter-relationship of the three domains mentioned in the title, and looks at how design strategy can bring them together.

And in our opinion, it not only serves as recommended reading for those engaged in the types of projects Informaat frequently undertakes – it bolsters our very philosophy. A successful enterprise today needs to manage a very tricky balancing act. They must stay a step ahead of continuously-evolving technology, deliver real value to stakeholders whilst remaining differentiated in markets that tend towards commoditization, and build long-lasting relationships with customers.

Business-led strategy too often leaves out the value of design in achieving success (although initiatives like Stanford’s d.school are working to rectify this). Technology-led strategy risks developing costly ‘white elephants’ that build neither profits nor customers. And while a purely people-led initiative would be commendable, it might end up too Utopian to meet the functional demands of a modern business.

“The challenges enterprises face in a hyper-connected, highly dynamic and technology-pervaded world require them to think holistically about their relationships to people. The design competency can help enterprises to consciously shape the way they are experienced our time, to provide a face visible and approachable to everyone interacting with them. To tackle problems on this level, the practice of design needs to become more strategic and relevant to the problem settings typical in the enterprise.”

So where does design-led, strategic advice come from to unify these three areas? Guenther proposes the answer in the form of a framework for enterprise design, which comprises the middle third of the book.

But before doing so, he lays out the thinking behind the proposition, and lays out the challenges that an enterprise aiming to implement the framework (or, at least, be inspired by it) can expect to face.

In presenting the framework (which consists of twenty grouped elements, represented through colored icons appearing throughout the book), he delves into the broad selection of disciplines that are engaged. With only the rare exception, they mirror many of the activities that we engage with in our enterprise-level projects: “Branding, Enterprise Architecture, Experience Design, Role Management, Touchpoint Orchestration, Service Design, Content Strategy, Business Design, Human-Centered Design, Requirements Engineering, Domain-Driven Design, Communication Design, Information Architecture, Interaction Design, Business Architecture, Organizational Design, Technology Design, Media Design, Industrial Design, Architecture and Design Management”.

While each discipline is only touched upon in brief detail, it is the effort that Guenther makes in synthesizing each one into an overarching framework that makes it very interesting reading.

The remainder of the book focuses on the framework itself, in a practical, applicable manner. Using the experience of projects drawn from his own agency’s portfolio (presented throughout in case studies), the twenty-part framework is shown being applied in a series of project phases familiar to those already working in many design fields: “Prepare, Discover, Define, Ideate, Validate, Implement and Deliver”.

So it is the way the book pulls together sometimes-disparate design disciplines into something both cohesive and business-oriented that makes it especially valuable. And it’s neither a jargon-heavy business tome, nor an academic treatise with little application to the real world; it’s clear and accessible (and well-designed).

And perhaps it’s this very “bridge-making” aspect across disciplines that will make it appeal to a wide audience. Someone better tell Amazon however, because the discipline-bridging subject has confused the bookselling giant; it’s currently categorized in: “Books > Professional & Technical > Professional Science > Biological Sciences > Bioinformatics”!

Source: “Intersection: How Enterprise Design Bridges the Gap Between Business, Technology and People” (Morgan Kaufmann/Elsevier, 2013) by Milan Guenther

Business processes (14), Design thinking (15), Methodologies (11), User-centered design (12)

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