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Design thinking meets enterprise software: in pictures

Design thinking, an innovation process that revolves around having empathy for a user, has been touted by enterprise software vendors. Here's a look at some of the moving parts.

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1 of 5 Larry Dignan/ZDNet

Design thinking: What are software vendors thinking?

Design thinking is a process that was cooked up by Stanford University's Institute of Design. In a nutshell, the process revolves around having empathy for your users and caring about their lives.

For enterprise software, design thinking means better user experiences and finding ways to solve problems easily. The modes of design thinking break down into empathize with the user, defining the right problem, coming up with multiple possibilities or ideate, prototype and test.

Design thinking has been a term popping up frequently in enterprise software briefings. Why? Everyone is looking for a better user friendly way to bring big data and analytics to the masses.

Here's a look at some areas where design thinking have come into play.

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2 of 5 Larry Dignan/ZDNet

Workday uses design thinking for integration, user experience

Workday recently made its Workday Recruiting software generally available. The  and the company iterated with its customers to integrate recruiting into Workday's human capital management tools.

Workday has facilitators and programs so its user experience teams can learn the pain points of HR managers and customers. Workday sent product leaders and strategists to observe pain points first hand.

This move was to develop empathy, says Leighanne Levensaler, Workday’s vice president of HCM products. 

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3 of 5 Larry Dignan/ZDNet

How Intuit uses design thinking

Workday's course in design thinking actually came from a customer — Intuit.

Intuit allowed Workday to work with its innovation lab to learn how to move people through an organization and allow managers to skip complexity and HR-ese. According to Michael McCreary, leader for HR technology and services at Intuit, the company started to design for delight and aim to get an emotional response from customers. The company trained 100 innovation catalysts, who spend 10 percent of their time outside of their core area to help other groups with problem solving. Intuit tracks eye movements, heat maps and observes managers doing their jobs with a design.

The Intuit teams also build mockups and iterate over a span of days. "One important element is to know the customer so well that the designers have person in mind," says McCreary. For instance, Designers should know Omar has 30 seconds to get in and out of a tool.

QuickBooks online is an example of the design thinking process and the new version of TurboTax, which eliminates electronic forms, is another.

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Accenture: Visual literacy matters

Why is design thinking so talked about? For starters, tech vendors have to figure out how to present information via visualization and in an easy-to-consume manner.

John Miller, who leads research and development for data insights at Accenture's tech lab, said a lot of his time is spent on themes like visual literacy and working with data. "A lot of that overlaps with design thinking," says Miller. Companies need to develop a common language and visual literacy across the organization.

Pictured is one of Accenture Labs' demonstrations using U.S. disaster data. 

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5 of 5 Larry Dignan/ZDNet

The design thinking bandwagon

SAP, Salesforce, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all use some element of design thinking.

Ultimately, every software vendor is going to talk about design thinking or at least delighting the customer and eliciting an emotional response. The catch is that many won't deliver simply based on the laws of large numbers.

"Design thinking isn't a skill set the global 1,000 has," says Accenture's Miller. "If you say design thinking to a large engineering organization they look at you funny."

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