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10 simple ways to apply design thinking to your business application projects

If you are like me, you want to be creating business applications that are not only functional but also truly resonate with our users. Design thinking is a great way to achieve this, but if you don't currently practice design thinking it can be incredibly difficult to introduce new ways of working into our existing practices. Especially if you have spent years developing your own project methodology.


I'm here to share a secret with you: integrating design thinking into your business application projects doesn't have to be a daunting overhaul. It's possible to add this powerful approach into your existing project methodology without stretching your budget.

In this post, we'll explore 10 ideas for integrating design thinking into your business application projects without overhauling your existing processes or blowing the budget. You'll discover how to enrich your projects with creativity and innovation while staying grounded in practicality.


1. Involve the End Users

This is the first and most important thing to do. If you don't include end users in your design workshops, prototype demonstrations, testing and every part of your project lifecycle then none of the items below will work. End users refer to the people who will eventually be using the app to help them do their work. It's not the managers, team leaders, business analysts, senior leaders, or anyone else. These people also have important roles to play but they will never be as close to the needs of the people who are at the centre of the problems you are trying to solve with your application. If you don't include end user then the project team are working with second hand information, which increases the risk of building the wrong thing and poor user adoption. Some of the easiest ways to get started including end users is to simply speak with them or observe them doing their work.


2. Empathy Mapping

Get your team thinking about understanding your users better. As a team, create empathy maps to visualise user needs, experiences, and pain points. This can be done with simple tools like whiteboards or online collaboration platforms. If you’ve done step 1 then you will likely have had a number of interactions with your users during the start of the project, use the insights gained from these interactions so document an empathy map.

3. Problem Reframing

Take the problems you're trying to solve and reframe them from the user's perspective. For example, if you are trying to make a process more efficient to deliver cost savings for the business. From the user's point of view, the problem might be reframed as "How might we improve the user experience while completing this process?" or "How might we reduce the time and effort required by the user to complete this process?". By reframing the problem in this way, the focus shifts from cost savings for the business to improving the experience for the user, which can lead to more innovative and user-focused solutions.


4. Idea Brainstorming Sessions

Organise quick, time boxed brainstorming sessions with your team to generate a wide range of ideas. Use tools like sticky notes or digital whiteboards to capture everyone’s ideas. Draw pictures and diagrams. When you work as a team like this, you will be amazed at what ideas you come up with compared to going it alone.


5. Prototype with What You Have

Use existing tools and resources to create low-fidelity prototypes. This could be as simple as sketching out ideas or using PowerPoint to simulate app flows. You can even use what you have built so far on the Power Platform as a prototype, it doesn't have to be complete to start testing ideas and concepts to validate that you are on the right path.


6. User Feedback Loops

Implement short, iterative cycles of user feedback. Present your prototypes to a small group of users and gather their insights without extensive testing. Do this for 1 hr every week and you’ll quickly generate engagement and trust with your users, and gain invaluable insights.


7. Leverage Free Design Thinking Resources

There are many free resources and templates available online that can guide you through the design thinking process. Here is a list of my favourites.


8. Virtual Collaboration

Use virtual collaboration tools to conduct design thinking sessions and workshops remotely. If run effectively, virtual collaboration can be just as good and in person and saves on costs associated with physical workshops. Read about how to run collaborative workshops here.


9. Focus on Key Features

Prioritize the most impactful features based on user needs. This helps to avoid scope creep and keeps the project within budget. I like to use the simple and visual Impact Effort matrix exercise. Learn more about it here.


Design thinking - prioritise
Impact Effort Matrix


10. Utilize Power Platform's Low-Code Capabilities

Take advantage of the Power Platform's low-code environment to quickly build and iterate on solutions without needing extensive pro-code developer resources. Sometimes, the best way to design a solution is to just get building and learn by building.


Conclusion

This blog post outlined 10 ideas for integrating design thinking into business application projects without overhauling your process or blowing the budget. The key is to be creative and resourceful, using the tools and skills you already have to bring design thinking into your projects in a cost-effective way. Each of these ideas can be tailored to fit within your current processes, helping you to create more user-focused and innovative solutions for Dynamics 365 & Power Platform without a significant investment.

Start small and introduce new things one at a time to your team members and clients. Think of these introductions as prototypes. Test them out and see how your team members or clients react. If they don't work, that's fine. Try another approach or something else.

Which of the 10 ideas will you start with?

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