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Accelerate Your Digital Transformation with Design Thinking [Step-by-Step]

This article was previously published on Forbes and is republished here with permission.

Digital transformation is reinventing business practices. In today’s world, technological capabilities are constantly improving—and in order to keep up, organizations must be agile and innovative as they integrate these digital technologies into their business practices. In order to stay competitive in any market, having a digital transformation strategy is a necessity.

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The shift from business-as-usual to digital first is no easy feat. Our digital world shifts rapidly and unpredictably. Keeping up can be a challenge, and the struggle to do so leaves many unsure of how to proceed. This is where design thinking comes in.

Design thinking is made up of five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

5 Steps for Digital Transformation

Design thinking is a user-centric design methodology that examines both present and future details of a problem and explores alternate solutions, rather than offering a solution up front. Digital transformation presents problems that are complex and undefined. Using design thinking to embrace your organization’s digital transformation helps you tackle these complex problems with a fluid, flexible, hands-on approach of interacting with consumers and coming up with solutions.

Design thinking is made up of five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Step 1: Empathize

A critical element of digital transformation is creating an excellent experience for the customer. In order to do this effectively, you must empathize with them. Doing so will help you understand their motivations, needs, and pain points. The problems we are solving are seldom our own, so we shouldn’t presume to know how the customer will act. Instead, observe as they interact with your product or service:

  • Take note of what your users search for in Google or on your site
  • Study click-stream data to see how they are engaging with your site or app
  • Mine chat logs to see what they are asking your customer service agents
  • Interview your customers to ask them questions about what they want their digital experience to be like
To create an intelligent CX, you must empathize with customers to understand their motivations, needs, and pain points.

Truly gaining a deep understanding of where customers’ friction points are along the digital journey is how you will get the information you need to successfully solve their issues.

Step 2: Define

The define stage brings clarity to the problems you are trying to solve. Insight gained from empathizing in step one will help you pinpoint where to focus your time and energy.

After analyzing this information, it’s time to formulate a problem statement. If users are consistently calling for help after reaching a specific step on your site, your problem statement would read something like: “To increase customer satisfaction on our site, we need to fix step 13 in the problem solving wizard.” The problem statement should be focused on a specific issue and geared toward the user. We are trying to help our customers because we truly want them to have a good experience.

The define stage brings clarity to the problems you are trying to solve. Pinpoint where to focus your time and energy by prioritizing manageable opportunities.

The define stage can be a little overwhelming. You will discover a multitude of problems that need attention. However, the aim of this phase is to make these problems digestible by prioritizing them into individual, manageable opportunities.

Step 3: Ideate

Now that you have defined the problem, it’s time to generate some ideas on how to fix it. In this phase, it is important to brainstorm by using the collective minds of a group in order to develop a variety of creative ideas.

Don’t just use your team—work cross-functionally in a highly collaborative setting. You shouldn’t be overthinking things in this phase or coming up with just one solution. The ideate phase is quick, creative, and, most importantly, collaborative.

Step 4: Prototype

Here, your team will experiment with a variety of simple and inexpensive models aimed to quickly test and validate your solution ideas. Test prototypes on a small set of users—either with usability testing or on a narrow selection of your site visitors. Observe the way people interact with the prototype, collect feedback, and use this information to adjust and optimize the next model.

This phase should be very fast-paced, with improvements made quickly and efficiently. Create a safe environment where it is okay to fail and learn from those failures to continually progress. At the end of this phase, you should have a good idea of what works and doesn’t work—and how real customers will think and feel when interacting with your service.

Step 5: Test

Continually testing your various prototypes is an opportunity to constantly improve. Every interaction with a customer is a learning opportunity to enhance the customer experience. In the testing phase, you capture the information needed to revisit previous stages in the design thinking process.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Our quest to better the customer experience is never complete. Above all, we should be continually testing and optimizing to come up with new ideas to improve.

In today’s world, adopting digital transformation for all business practices is a must. And design thinking methodology is an effective way to tackle the problems this transition presents. Whether you follow the proposed steps above or discover your own design thinking process, adopting this user-centric method will help as you incorporate digital technologies into your organization.

Our quest to better the customer experience is never complete. Above all, we should be continually testing and optimizing to come up with new ideas to improve.

Finally, to learn more about Clearlink’s approach to Intelligent Customer Experiences, check out our ICX integration solutions.

Jesse Himsworth

Jesse Himsworth is vice president of strategy and integrated solutions at Clearlink. A results-driven, dynamic marketing strategist, Jesse has demonstrated success in building and growing brands, driving qualified leads to sales teams, and providing training and sales support for complex marketing projects.


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