Dynamic duo: Big data and design thinking

Director for Watson and AI applications, IBM

Ever wonder what makes some brands world-class brands? Brands recognized as world-class brands share one common trait: design thinking. Design thinking enables leading brands to continually engage with customers in an emotional way and outmaneuver the competition. Across the globe, organizations are realizing the immense power of big data, thanks to the value it is generating for powerful use cases. 

What happens when big data technology is combined with design thinking? Trust me, it’s magic. Big data in combination with design thinking can be revolutionary by virtue of the value it creates for organizations. By embedding design thinking into big data use cases, organizations can unlock new opportunities, build empathy for users and pave the way to exceptional experiences—those experiences that are truly human-centered and create an emotional connection. 

Design thinking puts users and their needs at the center of applications and at the starting point for developing any new product or solution. Big data and design thinking draw on solution-focused, action-oriented processes, and people who are not necessarily designers apply them more broadly in the context of business.

Big data and design thinking at the core of business growth

Data is never rare in businesses, but the full usage of unstructured data, especially from the Internet, brings more innovation in product and marketing design as well as in risk control. Many common attributes of big data and design thinking exist. To start with, both begin with high-quality data. Data extracted in pure and uncontaminated form—unstructured, structured, in motion, at rest, real time and so on—is fed into cognitive applications. Big data use cases have huge impact on our businesses. They can transform the business with its abilities to increase profits, drive efficient processes and mitigate risks. 

Many large organizations, especially those in traditional industry sectors such as telecommunications, financial services and manufacturing, are beginning to realize the importance of design thinking combined with big data for true customer centricity. In this new paradigm shift across businesses, success lies in simplifying complex and disconnected digital customer experiences using big data–enabled insights and user-centric design thinking and methods. These logics run across the entire ecosystem of desktop, kiosk and automated teller machine (ATM), mobile and tablet devices to emerging channels such as wearable devices and augmented reality interactions.

Design thinking and big data use cases involve similar steps in creating world-class products, services and customer experiences. The process begins by empathizing with users and understanding their requirements in a very personal way. Solving problems with data necessitates a diversity of thought and an approach that balances number crunching with thoughtful design to solve targeted problems. 

With customer demographics evolving—for example, millennials becoming mainstream and more discerning, savvy and sophisticated—businesses need to be more committed to designing highly connected experiences supported by big data. Such products and services are expected to connect at a human level and experience high growth. Consider some key, common principles between big data and design thinking: 

  • User empathy: Empathy is a first step to creating a vital human-centered design process and a powerful big data use case for customer analytics. Designers have to immerse themselves in the physical environment of their customers to have a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved in the complete customer journey.
  • High-quality data: Big data and design thinking both start with high-impact data that is business focused. A user-centered, big data use-case design process starts with user data. Design artifacts can be created that address the needs of real users, and then tests those artifacts on real-user experiences.
  • Business outcome focus: Mutually, design thinking and big data have to be solution focused and action oriented for maximum impact on business. Together, they align with the strategic direction of business and opportunities. They emerge as a revenue generation engine for overall business.
  • Customer centricity: Improved big data and design thinking processes enable a customer journey that can bring customers and users to the forefront of everything business does—making the overall business compellingly customer centric.

A worldwide revolution in human-centric design

IBM is working with organizations across industries in the Asia Pacific geography by deploying IBM Design Studio Singapore combined with the IBM big data platform enabled by Apache Spark. The primary objective is to lead a revolution for creating a human-centric design focused on big data applications for customers.