The 3 pillars of a Design System, the holy grail of every digital product

There’s no doubt, Design System is the expression on everyone’s lips right now. For some it’s a library of components, for others it’s a style guide, or even a website… For many more still, it’s a total mystery! Nobody designing digital products can do without this kind of approach if they want to compete with their rivals.  

 

Venn diagram to the rescue!

What better than a Venn diagram to illustrate three major interconnected principles. It makes things easier to understand, and if we manage to attribute a tangible role to the ties that bind them, our evangelisation work is done. There’s sometimes a touch of post-purchase rationalisation visible in Venn diagrams. After all, a Venn diagram without any post-purchase rationalisation at all is verging on boring! 

Pillars of design system

The three major disciplines involved in a Design System. We’ll see the ties that bind them a little later.

Pillar 1: graphical hardware

This is the easiest part to understand. Like in any style guide, we describe the visual form that the components will have. In addition to components (described in detail below), we include the ranges of colours and typographies to be used, but also iconographical resources and a library of visuals, if any.

Pillar 2: code

In order to accelerate development and production, reusing code is key. So a code library must be included in a Design System for it to be effective. Depending on the structure of the technical platform, it may at least include HTML and CSS code. It can also include page templates, JavaScript, particularly React or Angular components, etc. The only prerequisite is for it to enable the development of all the media needed for the product and its versions.

Pillar 3: guidelines

This is certainly the pillar that makes a Design System really worthwhile! Like with LEGO, you need a building plan that gives you all the keys to designing an interface that will meet user needs, reflect brand values, and comply with good design practice.

Guidelines can also go beyond a simple building plan. They could also include:

  • Design guidelines (described in detail below)
  • Brand values
  • Good UX design practice
  • Social media, and more generally communications guidelines
  • Editorial guide (or tone of voice)
  • Iconographical guidelines (what type of visual for what message)

 

So what are the ties between these 3 pillars?

Design system 2

In addition to being highly educational, you’ve got to admit that a Venn diagram always has quite an impact during a presentation!

Graphics + code = components

One definition of a component is “A building block of a more complex whole, which is an assembly of often different components”.

Applied to our Design System, a component is any reusable graphical component that can be integrated into a graphical interface. The organisation and ranking of components is often inspired by the atomic design method developed by the web design master Brad Frost. But some prefer choosing models more closely connected to their business line and categorising components according to their use rather than their form.

With this way of organising components, we can easily imagine that it will be easy to integrate an HTML/CSS version of each of these components. This is even truer with the growth in use of component-based libraries such as React or Angular.

Graphics + guidelines = design guidelines

This part focuses on visual design instructions. Issues addressed include using a colour in a given context, typographical use rules, instructions for the creation of new components, and use of grid lines. In short, anything visual-related but not “visible”.

Guidelines + code = technical specifications

Like design guidelines, technical specifications describe everything that has to be arranged “around” the code. Development, test and production environments, accessibility standards, coding conventions, data models, etc. There’s really no limit. The aim is for absolutely any developer to be operational after studying these specifications, and for any coder to be able to work on someone else’s code without tearing their hair out!

The invisible pillar (or “the divine“): THE HUMAN ELEMENT

This is present in each of the three other pillars and is even more key because a Design System involves a high number of business lines (design, technical, communications, branding, etc.), which are often divided into clearly-distinct units and sometimes could be shared better. A Design System can only be a success if all these business lines work together and follow instructions. Before even starting a Design System, you have to make sure that all the stakeholders have fully understood the point and challenges of this kind of approach. And to do that, you have to COMMUNICATE!

In conclusion…

This way of presenting a Design System is a good initial approach for anyone who’s a stranger to this concept. There are many ways of organising a Design System; first and foremost, it has to be organised in the interests of the project. The aim of the game is to save time during production!

Social media and e-commerce: a winning pair to enhance performance

The performance of an e-commerce website should not be based on technical aspects alone. It should also be driven by a global ecosystem, which the website is designed for from the outset. As rich sources of data and input, social networks have a role to play. They provide a solution that meets user expectations while helping to secure the profitability of your project. A new El Dorado!  

First step: Tell me who you are and I’ll tell you what you put in your basket!  

Social media is a goldmine of social, commercial and behavioural data for all segments of your current and potential customers. It offers a means of identifying opportunities, analysing behaviours and predicting expectations for your future website. You can use social media to enrich your benchmark and anticipate needs and features. A large number of followers in Spain, for example, can represent a business opportunity in this market, allowing you to plan for the integration of a store locator or a multilingual version for subsequent iterations.  

Take the time to get to know your audiences, in order to identify social personae and their journeys. What is the aim in the scoping stage? To develop and refine your e-commerce objectives. This makes it possible to more accurately identify the opportunities offered by the various social networks and their activations, such as visibility, loyalty, after-sales, additional sales and visits. For each objective, there are relevant actions and social media solutions.  

This approach does not apply only to B2C e-commerce websites: according to the 2018 survey ‘Impact des réseaux sociaux sur l’acte d’achat en B2B’ (Impact of social networks on B2B purchasing) performed by Intuiti and La Poste Solutions Business, 55% of professionals surveyed have been influenced by a social network post1 for a B2B purchase. While this figure may seem surprising at first sight, it makes sense given that 56% of professionals surveyed use social networks as monitoring tools. With this in mind, social, networks are a significant means of influence prior to contact/purchase, and inbound marketing should be done to amplify content strategies.  

Second step: Looking at design  

When designing the future e-commerce website, several questions arise, to which social media can provide answers:  

  • Authentication. Often considered to be a ‘pain point’, this process can be made smoother by deploying a social login, using the social media connector of your choice, which facilitates user memorisation. BUT stores in France, for example, have opted for Facebook, Google and PayPal connectors. Result: 10% of customer accounts have been created via social login, 75% of which via a mobile. The 3.5% of customers who use a social login account for 6% of transactions, which represents a two- to threefold improvement of the authentication-conversion rate.
  • The product pageOne of the most important elements of your e-commerce website, product pages must answer questions, reassure and build the trust of consumers. Social networks are very complementary in this respect.  The lingerie brand Undiz, for example, allows Internet users to share photos of their products to enhance product pages. Result: existing customers are flattered and potential customers are reassured. Social networks also contribute to the visibility of your brand, both when searching for inspiration and generating traffic, as well as when closing and performing SEO. 
  • Sharing. Social sharing is an acquisition and conversion tool that generates much more qualified traffic. People tend to trust their peers more than brands. 
  • The Facebook pixel. This pixel records the behaviour of users of your website and collects information that allows you to re-target these potential customers in a more qualified manner. It is an excellent tool for conversion and to measure the ROI of your future campaigns!  

Third step: Day-to-day management  

Having a functional website is good, but having qualified traffic is even better! Work put into your customer journeys comes into play once again here: whatever the level of maturity of the customer, or persona typology, the aim is to activate the relevant social media tool to meet the following:   

Visibility challenges

Social networks offer additional showcases for your website, but you should not try to be present everywhere. There are appropriate networks and relevant strategies for each brand. For a B2B company, LinkedIn is often an effective tool for prospecting: the 2018 survey conducted by Intuiti and La Poste Solutions Business highlights that 57% of professionals surveyed say that they accept contact requests from suppliers and service providers, and 74% consider that communication on social networks is less “commercial” than via other channels. Social networks can be used to give a new tone to your brand communications, while providing other information that promotes engagement with and visibility for your brand. Making the most of the various publication formats specific to each network is also essential to serve your various objectives.  

Another very popular tool in recent times has been influencer marketing, which still has a good few years ahead of it. According to a survey performed by Keyrus in 2019, 25% of people in France have already discovered a new product via an influencer; a trend which holds even more true in young segments, since 50% of 18 to 24-year-olds say they have discovered a product through an influencer. Micro-influencers or a superstar? Once again, it is essential to make sure your strategy is in phase with the target audience.  

Conversion challenges:

At this stage, your efforts should be focussed on your buyer personae. Taking the time to identify and understand them will enable you to adopt the correct behaviours. You will then need to provide content that addresses their obstacles to conversion, such as demonstrations, sharing of opinions, testimonials and promotional codes. Quality content promotes conversion. However, in order to ensure you provide the right answers for the right people, media purchasing is essential. The media platforms of social networks, particularly in the Facebook group (Facebook and Instagram), offer very accurate targeting criteria. According to a study of consumers’ relationships with social networks carried out by  Wavestone, 30% of consumers have made a purchase after clicking on an online ad, and 41% of them bought another product or service sold on the website. These advertising campaigns on social networks complement your Adwords campaigns. While the latter provide a solution when searching for potential customers, social media campaigns will help attract consumers throughout their journey. An Oxatis study conducted in 2018 reveals that 55% of e-commerce websites use Facebook Ads (twice as many as in 2017) and 82% of them were profitable in 2018.  

Finally, the diversification of sales outlets continues and is part of this approach. Major social networks are turning to social selling: Marketplace for Facebook, Shopping for Instagram, Shop the Look for Pinterest, and a partnership with Amazon for Snapchat… More rapid and simpler solutions, which can be envisaged to deploy a much wider sales ecosystem.   

Loyalty-building challenges:

All of the activations mentioned above will enable you to gather information and enhance your knowledge of your current and potential customers. However, bear in mind that your current customers are your best potential customers. It is therefore essential to nurture your relationship with existing customers. Thanks to social networks, it is easy to communicate with them: you must be able to respond to their questions and opinions, all the more given that this represents a goldmine of information that you ignore at your peril.  

After-sales service is a key part of this. According to the research firm Access Development, 79% of consumers will change brands within a week following a negative experience. It is therefore essential to be clear and responsive. Once again, social networks can offer a solution: for example, SFR responds to its customers’ need for instant interaction with its dedicated Twitter account: @SFR_SAV.  

As we have seen, social networks can influence all of the stages of building and running your e-commerce website.  However, with all of the functions offered by social media, it is important to gauge the relevance of each one and establish a clear and sustainable strategy.  Whatever you do, the test-and-learn approach is a must in order to keep on offering the best possible experience for your customers, while building a lasting relationship with them!  

How to meet the challenge of circular design?

In my previous article, we looked at the use of circular design, an economic and social model that is bringing about a quiet revolution in the way we see products and services. Producing in a responsible way is a challenge that must be met, including in the digital field. 

Circular thought before design

Setting about changing the system means adopting a circular way of thinking. Circular thinking is important and must be present at managerial level in order to be effective. It makes the manager an actor in the decision-making process, rather than the master of the process. It is a form of management that gives and takes. It means developing an ability to interact, where energy comes from each person and flows between everybody: it must be meaningful, trust-based and exemplary.  

Of course, all actors (shareholders, clients, suppliers, employees and civil society) are integrated into this form of management, where openness, doubt and engaged communication are virtues. Together, we must search for common sense and links, allow ourselves the freedom to express doubts, and avoid self-censorship when analysing risks. 

The four seasons of circular design

Isabelle Kocher, CEO of ENGIE, identifies a key quartet with a strong influence on the corporate ecosystem. This quartet decides whether the sun will shine or the rain will fall on a collaborative project, so its roles must be understood and taken into account to best integrate the circular method into the creation process: 

 

The comsumer

Perso 1

“The impact a company has on the environment is increasingly important for me. I will not hesitate to communicate directly with the company on Twitter to point out any deviations and make it take action. 

 

The employee

Perso-2 v2

“I like to be stimulated by my work environment and in agreement with the company’s identity. If I do not agree with the company’s purpose, it may be a cause for me to leave. 

The regulator

Perso 3

“I make sure the social and environmental consequences of business activities are properly reported. 

The investor

Perso 4

“I appreciate companies that demonstrate transparency regarding their global impact. 

 

These are the key players who must begin and carry out the circular method on a daily basis. If each one of them plays their role with recurrent actions, the company’s entire ecosystem can change. 

 

Faced with users who are now more aware of their consumption of digital services and products than ever, it is up to us (as user experience designers) to consider these new behaviours in order to review our design methods with a more responsible approach.    

 

So how do we go about doing it?

As digital players, adopting a circular vision in our working methods, right up to the services we sell, brings concrete benefits:  

  • Belief in a sustainable economy with a strong and differentiating position. Today, digital creation agencies are positioning themselves in the environmentally responsible niche and talking about eco-web design in order to respond to the new challenges of companies with a strong CSR commitment. 
  • Optimisation of our working methods by facilitating accessibility, communication and decision-making. 
  • Avoiding projects that are energy-consuming for teams and products/services that are time-consuming for users.  

 

On our end, we could meet this challenge by applying circular thinking as early as the brainstorming stage. When searching for a concept, here are the questions that should help us get started: 

  • How can we make our product or service more modular and adaptable? 
  • How can our product be inspired by living systems? 
  • How can we transform our product offering into a service? 
  • How can our product be reconditioned over time? 

 

Methodologies specific to design are also part of this circular approach. The design system is a case of regeneration, through which design and tech teams will be able to find information during a collaborative project. It can be described as a graphical charter to which we have added rules regarding usage, behaviour, positioning, etc. The design system defines the design, from the smallest elements (text, titles, forms) up to grids, colour palettes, blocks and components. 

 

Design sprints are an excellent way to speed up innovation, making it possible to come up with and test new products in five days, by adopting a multi-disciplinary (integrating designers and developers) and human-centred approach. At WAX Interactive’s Experience Design division, this Design Thinking method is offered to clients looking to speed up their creation process in order to produce a product/service in a very short space of time. 

Design circulaire schéma

 

We should bear in mind that, beyond doing circular design, we must first raise awareness among all actors in the company about a circular approach that can be integrated in their daily work. This way of doing things involves a significant change in the way we produce and consume. This approach also offers an opportunity to satisfy the expectations of users/consumers through an engaged position, while promoting the transition to a circular economy.  

To sum up, designing for circular systems involves examining the way in which natural, industrial and social systems operate, and then finding ways to modify them to bring about circular and regenerative results. In some cases, this is extremely complicated (such as with nuclear energy), whereas in others, it is more straightforward (such as changing our collective dependency on disposable objects). However, all of the system changes we must design include the same factors: people, products/services, places and processes. They can all be rethought in order to maximise advantages and minimise negative effects. 

So, do we have all the conditions required to apply these principles and promote circular design within our companies?  

Using circular design: let's start going round in circles

Taking an interest in the environment when you work in digital technology may seem like an amusing idea, but a quiet revolution is taking place with the concept of circular design. More than ever before, we need to see environmental responsibility as more than just a trend and overcome indifference and marginalisation. Protecting the environment should be an integral part of our society and we must all get involved for the situation to improve.

The genesis of circular design

As early as 2010, supported by her foundation, former British sailor Ellen MacArthur spoke of the circular economy as a response to the obsolescence of our economic system.

Remember that we overshot the Earth’s “annual natural resource budget” with five months still to go in 2018. Ellen MacArthur has continued to sound the alarm about the very linear “Produce-Consume-Dispose” model of production and consumption, stating that the solution is not to slow down the machine and rein in our lifestyles, but to rethink the model as a whole. She presented the idea of rebuilding our economic system and business models at each stage of production, with the following illustration:

 

“Do we buy a car, or do we buy road miles?

Should the first line on a manufacturer’s design brief be ‘we need to design this car for disassembly; we need to be able to recover all the materials, so we can make the next car out of it’?

Do you buy a washing machine or do you buy 3000 washes?

If you buy 3000 washes, you’ll have a machine which is more reliable, better built, can be repaired and you have a relationship with the manufacturer. It works for everyone; it’s a different way of looking at things.

Then the business model changes, you end up with millions of different options for innovation, for young people, through economics, through design, through materials science: it changes the whole paradigm.”

 

The company IDEO used this manifesto as a basis to establish a Circular Design Guide. Its originality lies in the taking into account of the entire design and production process: materials used, business models and the future of the product or service, designed with a renewable and responsible approach.

 

Circular Design shows us that another way of thinking is possible, based on a design method that incorporates five main principles of the circular economy:

  1. Regenerative thinking: this term describes a process that restores, renews or revitalises its own material and energy sources by creating sustainable systems in harmony with nature.
  2. Service flip: our ability to adapt and redirect our thinking from products to services, by looking at underlying needs. Have you ever asked yourself why vacant offices couldn’t be used by freelance workers, through immediate rental of temporary office spaces? Or why clothing and furniture shops didn’t adopt rental, adjustment, repair or recovery services?
  1. Insides out: can materials and components be retrieved or reused? Is it economically viable to dismantle a product? What could be improved?
  2. Inspiration: this is where we draw from Agile methods – iteration, sprint, feedback, evolution, etc. – in order to apply them to the development of circular products or services.
  3. Learn from nature: ask yourself how nature would meet a design challenge. Drawing inspiration from biological systems to create new circular and holistic solutions is known as biomimicry.
    Taking a look outside of our usual fields of activity is an excellent way to inspire the development of new ideas, so why not “hack” nature? As Idriss Aberkane, French teacher, conference speaker and essay writer, said, “nature is the best model of economic prosperity on Earth”.

This method asks us to forget all stereotypes and prejudices, as well as everything we learnt at school or university, where binary and linear approaches were favoured.

 

IDEAS & ACTIONS

Awareness has come late but is here nonetheless

Over the past decade or so, there has been an evolution in the way we consume. The Uberisation of society is encouraging people to abandon the idea of ownership and instead rent products and services. People feel less guilty about renting an object or service in the knowledge that it is occasional or temporary.

According to The Economist, millennials are more likely to be willing to invest in renewable energy funds (even if they underperform). This reflects a will to perpetuate these energies, even if they do not yield as much as fossil fuel investment funds for example. It shows the emergence of a new vision of the future, which is no longer based on individual interests, but the common interest.

Individuals have a role to play too

Mobile apps have been designed to raise awareness about environmental impacts. By combining digital and mobility, these companies help users meet the challenge of environmental responsibility through small actions:

  • Astuces Ecolo: promotes ecological ideas and a multitude of economical and ecological tips to save the planet while helping to save or even make money
  • Eat4Good: raises awareness and helps users eat in a more ecological and fair way
  • Breathe Up: this app is connected to a digital ecosystem and shows pollutants contained in the air we breathe in real-time
  • 90 days: this ecological transition personal assistantsuggests a series of 20 challenges to change habits at your own pace

 

 

usage design circulaire

 

So, how can we meet the challenge of circular design? Come back soon to find out!

Empathy – a successful methodology for digital projects

Using a mixture of methodologies is the key to success for any digital project, together with a strong capacity for adaptation. Whether you work for a large, medium-sized or small organisation, you will most likely manage your digital projects by following the latest trends. Today it’s all about Agility (@Scale or ‘light’). But it’s important not to forget the basics. 

Life before the Agile age

Before the era of Agility, organisational structures existed within companies offering real added value. Therefore, it would be a shame to destroy this added value today by trying to implement a whole lot of new methodologies just because they are fashionable. 

 

The Agile Era 

Organisations and digital factories (teams that use digital technology for a new industrial model), often try to adopt a methodology such as Agility, or the Waterfall model, as they believe it is the key to their project’s success and essential to their company’s digital transformation. However, it is crucial to remember the following: 

  • There’s not just one methodology for handling a digital project 
  • Trends are trends… Waterfall/Agility@Scale/etc…. Pragmatism is the only judge 

The path to success involves taking a look at your internal IT organisation. Find its added value and structure your own project methodology around this. This means you will be able to engage the rest of your enterprise and ensure they adopt your chosen methodology. 

Everything is Digital today as it was yesterday

It is therefore important to explain that a digital project is sometimes just a reinterpretation of what people already know (their current skills). For example, if we look back over the past decade at the newspaper industry, the first digital transformation projects often failed or partially succeeded because of the haste with which they were implemented and the belief that these digital projects should be treated with new methodologies (the Digital Paradise). The often-monolithic approach of IT service providers did not help either. By thinking too much in technological and methodological terms, the IT service providers often forgot the heart of the subject – the importance of the content (the articles) and the layout (the very specific format for highlighting this information) which represented the real added value of the press. As a result, many consumers felt lost when reading their “new” newspaper, because they could no longer find the editorial quality and layout they were expecting. Consequently, many digital press projects had to be completely redone. 

 

What was right before Digital is still right today

One of the major European banking players recently decided to manage all of its digital projects in Agile @ Scale mode. Although this strategic option had been taken by them years ago, they forgot that what had worked in the past, within in their organisation, was still valuable today. The added value that had been created by their “old” IT team in terms of organisation, communication, project methodologies and more … was partially destroyed by their determination to implement the Agility @ Scale processes. Here, innovation had clearly been destructive and not disruptive. 

Empathy is the key

There is no single dedicated methodology for digital projects, as these assignments are just like any other projects; they need a smart methodology mix to fit with the organisation in question and a strong human capacity from the project team (Project Directors, Customer Management team and top Management), to understand what real added value pre-existed within the organisation and how to protect and maximise this. 

Therefore, understanding organisations, their people and how everything and everyone work together is crucial when it comes to choosing the methodologies that will work for your digital project.  This is nothing new; it’s all about empathy. 

Bank adviser + AI = Augmented Adviser!

With the digital boom and customers that are more connected than ever, customer service teams are now turning to artificial intelligence (AI) solutions. On the one hand, the aim is to improve service quality. On the other, it is to meet the requirements of customers, who demand instant services and information, 24/7.  

 

What is an augmented adviser?

The idea of an ‘augmented adviser’ is related to the growing use of technological tools to assist advisers. The aims are to:  

  • Optimise the customer relationship 
  • Optimise the sales process 
  • Free up advisers from simple requests and low-added-value tasks, in order to allow them to concentrate on more complex conversations  

Augmented advisers are already operational in France’s banking sector. Banking providers that have deployed them include Orange Bank, Crédit Mutuel and Société Générale. For example, in 2017, Orange Bank deployed the solution Djingo, which responds to customers 24/7 and performs actions such as blocking and unblocking bank cards.  

 

Which technologies are used?

There are several augmented adviser technologies on the market: IBM Watson, Séreneo, Eloquant, Alcméon, etc.  

These solutions generally include chatbots, which answer customers, and processing robots in the back office. Most of these solutions are based on: 

  • NLP (Natural Language Processing), to better understand the tone and content of customer interactions, implement response templates displayed according to the question asked, and detect fraud.  
  • RPA (Robotic Process Automation), to automate certain tasks, such as completing forms, extracting content, and even blocking and unblocking bank cards.  

In 2019, augmented advisers are not considered to be a threat to the profession of customer adviser. On the contrary, they make it possible to create added value by making the customer relationship more productive. 

A night at the museum: Airbnb offers a completely new experience once again

“Airbnb – Belong Anywhere”. This sets the tone. Airbnb – the online accommodation rental and booking market leader – has once again amazed us by launching a co-branding campaign with a museum we know well… the Louvre! How can a co-branding partnership between a pure play company and a museum work? Read on to find out more. 

Airbnb – the co-branding leader

Over the years, Airbnb has become something of a benchmark when it comes to original co-branding.  

The aim of this strategy is to highlight its positioning, which is to make people feel like they belong anywhere. The idea is to make any place comfortable and unique, to create an extraordinary customer experience.  

In France, Airbnb joined up with Galeries Lafayette for the Sales in 2015. Recently, the online accommodation rental leader decided to work with the Louvre, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the museum’s famous glass pyramid.  

Their interest in art and culture is nothing new, since in 2016, Airbnb recreated Vincent van Gogh’s paintingBedroom in Arles, offering a lucky few the chance to stay there. Given its immediate success, they decided to try something totally new in the world’s biggest museum.  

 

Airbnb le louvre

Source: www.airbnb.fr/b/louvre  

 

 

What are the benefits of this co-branding campaign?

For the Louvre.

Above all, it offers a way to arouse the interest of a target segment that is becoming increasingly disinterested in art and culture venues: in a word, youth!  

As Adel Ziane, Deputy Director of Communications, explains, the Louvre is pursuing this approach through a number of digital projects. For example, it ordered the creation of a YouTube campaign to raise its profile on this platform, which is very popular among its target audience.  Statistics tell us that 50% of visitors to the Louvre are aged under 30. YouTube’s audience is mainly formed of 18 to 34-year-olds, making it a medium that suits our target. The aim was to address young viewers and make them want to return to the Louvre. ”  

Beyoncé and Jay-Z also filmed their music video Apeshit among works in the Louvre. Given the huge influence of these musicians in the world of art, it was an excellent opportunity for the Parisian museum to increase visitor numbers and reach out to target audiences that hardly ever go to museums these days. Elsewhere, the video led to the creation of a visitor trail named after them, which can be seen on the museum’s website 

This co-branding partnership also creates value of another kind, by modernising the image of the museum, which is able to work with a pure e-player while remaining true to its image. Furthermore, it is an opportunity for the museum to develop its digital strategy and presence, an objective in line with the need to arouse the interest of a younger audience.  

 

For Airbnb.

Opération airbnb le louvre

Opération airbnb le louvre

This brand has become a specialist in creating original customer experiences. Above all, Airbnb attracts a huge number of young people from around the world. 

This leader in online accommodation rental has once again demonstrated its ability to adapt and partner with a brick-and-mortar establishment, to create an experience in line with its positioning. It left its comfort zone to come face to face with the general public and the world. It also created visibility among a target segment that may not be used to renting accommodation to private individuals.  

 

There is clearly a growing trend towards co-branding partnerships between 100% digital players and brick-and-mortar establishments (and vice versa). In order to further highlight their promise and positioning, the creation of original and memorable experiences is the way to go.  

Developing innovation through a lab

I recently provided feedback on the construction of a lab at the bank Crédit du Nord, which was an opportunity to share our expertise in the area of innovation. Innovation is now a core part of all corporate strategies. AGary Shapiro said at the last CES in Las Vegas, “every company today is, or needs to be a tech company”, where innovation is a powerful performance driver in an increasingly competitive market. 

What is innovation exactly?

Innovation has many definitions, concepts and approaches… I found one which speaks to me (I would encourage you to do the same and find your own definition) and, above all, helps me structure my thoughts.  

 

Innovation lab eng

 

Innovation is organised according to 4 types:

  • Incremental: pressure on projects/tasks/activities is so strong that the company turns to innovation as a priority to improve its teams’ processes and productivity.
  • Adjacent: the company looks to save time and, therefore, directly integrates an existing product, service or technology into its offering via a buyout, partnership or recruitment.
  • Disruptive: this type of innovation destabilises the competition through the deployment of new technologies (very often produced by R&D) or new uses. It disrupts the market and makes the initiator the new standard setter.
  • Radical: this involves marketing a totally new product or service and, in doing so, creating a new market that does not address any existing problems or needs.

This division is of course very subjective and there are no clear boundaries between the different types of innovation. In terms of planning and impact in the field, the time required for these different types of innovation ranges from 1 to 5 years.

In terms of the scope, the first two types (incremental and adjacent) are generally related to product or service innovation. Regarding disruptive innovation (the most sought after), the focus is more on technological innovation. Regarding the most radical and open type, the scope is extended to cover the global market (no more sector boundaries), and we speak of market innovation.

Now that we’ve looked at some of the definitions of innovation, the question we need to ask ourselves is: What are we aiming to achieve through innovation?

In order to be successful and create value, all innovation must contribute to the company’s strategic objectives. This must be the starting point to build your innovation approach. It will guide you when choosing the type of innovation to pursue and the means to employ.

In terms of means, you should identify or anticipate user needs, experiment with new technologies, uses and tools, in order to better understand them, and align everything to validate your innovation on a target market as early on as possible.

 

Innovation lab 2

 

This is where the three pillars of Design Thinking come in. This approach puts users at the centre of concerns, while making it possible to improve understanding of the usage context, expand the range of possibilities and rapidly test in real conditions. All of this contributes to the creation of a desirable, feasible and viable product!

A lab to give shape to your innovation approach!

Finally, to identify, experiment and validate, a lab is an excellent way to concretise your innovation approach. It promotes the development of ideas and concepts by providing the tools needed to put them into practice. It also encourages you to study the behaviours of users or consumers and find new solutions to get them to evolve. This naturally leads to the emergence of new markets to exploit. Finally, it makes it possible to jointly create innovations that are experimented directly with users.

There are several types of lab available to you: This list is not exhaustive, but here are some of the labs I have had a chance to observe:

 

R&D LABTest and validate emerging technologies

E.g.: ‘Le Lab by Cdiscount’

FAB LABCreation of physical prototypes

E.g.: The Leroy Merlin workshops

 

AGITATOR LABInternal facilitator, raising awareness of and acculturation to the innovation, and improving company processes

E.g.: ‘LeChaudron.io’ (Crédit du Nord)

DATA LABDevelop new products or services based on data collected and analysed

E.g.: Airbus Skywise

 

MONITORING

LABTechnology & uses monitoring unit

E.g.: ‘L’Échangeur’ (BNP Paribas)

FORWARD-LOOKING LABFrom technology monitoring to prototyping to test uses

E.g.: The SQLI Lab

 

 

The scope of these labs also varies:

  • Internal: a unit that brings together internal resources to stimulate innovation through synergy between the company’s departments
  • External: integration of external skills/solutions (startups, partners, schools, etc.) to develop new products or services that will contribute to the company’s objectives
  • Hybrid: a mix of internal and external profiles to both develop internal projects (entrepreneurship) and bring business skills to external stakeholders

 

However, the same cross-cutting missions can be found in all of these various labs:

  • Give shape to an idea and turn it into a product
  • Speed up the maturation of an idea (often too cautiously for my taste)
  • Connect internal and external stakeholders
  • Acculturate employees to the innovation

 

And now, how do we build our lab?

There are no off-the-shelf solutions for this, but we should ask ourselves a few questions.

  • Design the lab’s missions
    • What are the aims and target customers?
    • What is the right balance between technologies, uses and tools?
    • Which areas need to be researched?

Research areas are very important in order to scope activities related to monitoring and prototyping. This also affects budget and HR-related aspects when defining the skills and resources to be mobilised.

  • Define the organisational model
    • Which skills, work methods and governance approach to adopt?
    • How to mobilise the right resources?
    • How to ensure that the lab is integrated in the existing organisation?

Favour Agile & Lean-type work methods (Lean Startup, Design Sprint, etc.), which promote employee autonomy, learning through experimentation with users (Test & Learn), etc. Care should be taken when bringing the innovation into the existing organisation. The famous industrialisation phase should be integrated into the governance model very early on, as the full value of an innovation is realised only when it is deployed and activated.

  • Manage the investment
    • What kind of operational budget and roadmap?
    • Which management indicators?

Management indicators are essential in order to ensure that the clients trust the innovation and therefore adopt a long-term view in order to deliver the full potential value (2-3 years)

By asking these questions, we can avoid some of the pitfalls and build on solid foundations, but should always remain vigilant. While they are set up in order to come up with disruptive solutions, labs often lose their essence because of hasty implementation, unclear objectives and the use of traditional management methods.

To conclude, I would argue that a lab should be both an operational accelerator, for the construction of strategic roadmaps, and a means of stimulating innovative ideas and revealing their feasibility. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to discuss your Innovation Lab plans.

 

I would like to thank Virginie Lacroix (Crédit du Nord) for giving us the opportunity (during the ‘innovation meetings’) to present our expertise and feedback on the construction of a lab. Thank you also to Julien Giraud (SQLI Managing Consultant) for organising this talk.

Knowing how to work remotely: a way to increase efficiency and create value

Many organisations still carry out their projects with the requirement of co-location (a team working at a single location). They are gradually realising that this involves significant risk. Let us look at how to avoid this risk and make geographical distance an asset.

Co-location: the traditional working method 

There is no denying that it is easy to find good reasons to ask teams to work at the same geographical location, such as system complexity, data security and control. However, in most cases, these reasons are rather excuses used to avoid leaving a comfort zone established by the company’s working habits. 

Even certain agile practices, such as visual management, are used as arguments to avoid change and justify the need for a co-located team. 

Today, performance requirements affect both business teams and IT departments. They are such that we need to understand the pitfalls we face by imposing this working method and begin the necessary transformation. 

 

What are the challenges of a co-located team? 

The main risk is related to the skills involved in digital projects. These projects require people with talents, working methods and expectations that are varied and sometimes rare, making sourcing tricky. Even at a single location, remote working, at least partial, is becoming increasingly common. Elsewhere, certain studies demonstrate the productivity of remote working.  

As a result, organisations that are unable to orchestrate geographically distributed skills quite simply run the risk of limiting themselves to an average skills level because they are restricted by location, and seeing themselves outdone in terms of efficiency and value creation. 

A second challenge is related to the requirement for communication between the team and stakeholders throughout the project life cycle, particularly in agile methods. Stakeholders are, however, frequently based in different geographical locations. Knowing how to continuously maintain a link between the business teams and project team, regardless of distance, is a key success factor. Once again, companies that know how to operate in this way do not hesitate to mobilise employees with dispersed skills. 

This point is all the more important in view of the fact that international growth is a key strategic aim for many organisations. Therefore, the inability of a team in Europe to integrate stakeholders based in Asia, the USA or South America in its project will be an obstacle to the company’s strategy. 

 

How to remove barriers to projects conducted remotely? 

Once organisations are aware, the switch to a performance-oriented model can be done with various approaches, such as: 

  • Fully outsourcing the project to a remote team that offers the required expertise; 
  • Integrating remote resources into a local team. 

Whatever the model chosen, running projects with remote teams involves expertise that is important to acquire. Let us take two key success factors as examples: 

  • Bringing teams together 

It may seem paradoxical that one of the key success factors is ensuring face time. However, working remotely does not mean avoiding all contact. On the contrary, trips at certain key moments make it possible to create the proximity needed to ensure smooth communication throughout the project. For example, at the project launch, the launch of a release, or debriefing. It also provides opportunities to turn occasional trips into fun occasions and strengthen cohesion. 

Particularly in tense situations, which are likely to occur in any project, solutions will be found more readily by teams that regularly meet up.  

  • Continuously improving the team formed 

The success of transitioning to remote teams depends on an ability to maintain an improvement-focussed frame of mind at all times. Difficulties are a part of any project, but they are amplified by distance. Each obstacle encountered can be an occasion to decide that the model does not work. The prerequisite for success is therefore knowing how to continuously adapt and adjust the team formed.  

One way to maximise the leverage created by teams formed, while combining them with the benefits of co-location, is to put together feature teams: small teams that focus on a specific aspect of the project. By using the location of the best resources (in terms of the cost-skills-proximity balance) as a basis, and bringing together people with complementary skills, efficiency and value creation are amplified. 

Physical presence of the client is also an asset. If the client is located near part of the team, it will be in their interest to get involved in the project, therefore promoting direct communication, instead of communicating only via collaboration or incident reporting tools. With a structure that is spread out but organised into feature teams, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too. 

[EBOOK] 6 TIPS TO GUARANTEE YOUR INTRANET SUCCESS

As with any digital system, user experience must be at the heart of your intranet implementation project. You must take account of the tools that your staff use on a day-to-day basis and the information that they need to find but also the format best-suited to them.

But in practical terms, how do you guarantee your intranet success? Are there examples of good practice that means that each staff member feels that the tool they use on a day-to-day basis was designed especially for them?

Jointly develop the tool with your staff

Involving your staff from the design stage will enable you to get them involved and focus on real needs.

Follow the stages of the Design Thinking methodology: empathise (understand customs and context), define (determine possible areas for innovation), ideate (create scenarios for possible solutions), prototype (develop prototype of service or product) and test (test with users).

 

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Encourage innovation

Forums, corporate social networks, corporate crowdfunding tools and even online brainstorming platforms: more and more companies are adopting turnkey solutions to give their staff the chance to speak and provide them with effective tools.

In the vast majority of cases, they choose SaaS platforms independent from each other. Consequently, the continuity of the experience can quickly be sacrificed.

To limit this deterioration of the experience, the “digital hub” approach then appears as a simple and effective means to aggregate and unify the use of these numerous tools.

 

Offer seamless navigation

For this intranet site to genuinely become an everyday work tool, your staff must have access to it under any conditions, without any difference in experience between the different devices used.

This obviously requires “responsive web design”, but that’s not all: the identification and authentication phases must be smooth, without any complex forms, such as applications integrating the Facebook Connect or Amazon Single Sign On functions.

 

To discover our other top tips , download our ebook.

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