by Olof Schybergson

The delivery of world class digital product

 

Across the world, digital services are by now integral to most aspects of our lives, and this is raising expectations of what digital can do for us. As organisations work hard to meet these rising expectations, customer experience has eclipsed platform or tech to become the guiding star. And to effectively respond in this fast-moving landscape, design consultancies must constantly adapt how they work.

I believe this new era of customer expectations brings not only opportunities, but many challenges for the organisations providing the digital products and services we use. In a world where people are used to digital products that are intuitive, responsive, engaging, and powered by real-time data, it’s easy to disappoint. The wrong platform choice can lead to an experience that’s sluggish and slow. An experience that’s complete and comprehensive might unfortunately feel like a chore to customers who are used to instant gratification. The approach to content that’s worked on websites for years might feel outdated on a mobile where we’re used to visually driven communication and interactive conversations.

With this backdrop, only those with a forward-thinking, constantly evolving approach to digital design and product creation will succeed. Design and strategy are as important as ever, but in today’s marketplace the delivery of magical products and experiences enabled by digital technology, or Digital Product Creation, has become a critical additional component to these core strengths.

Focus must now be on how best to harness rapidly evolving new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, voice interfaces and so on. But it is also essential to have an experience-led approach to Digital Product Creation rather than one that is technology- or platform-led. This is why at Fjord we think the success of powerful, innovative and high quality digital products and services depends on them being designed and built together.

Cross-functional teams working from start to finish – with technologists and developers involved from Day One of the design process, instead of handing on a design to technology specialists only for its final execution – ensure better and more innovative ideas are brought to market faster and with higher quality. Which is why, over the past two years, we have been working hard to evolve our capabilities beyond the core strengths we have primarily been known for: excellence in strategy, design and enabling innovation.

All design consultancies are grappling with how to deliver excellent digital products and services for the clients they work with. While some remain content to hand over execution, others have struck development partnerships. At Fjord, however, our aim has been to build our own Digital Product Creation capability that’s not just fit for purpose but world class. This enables us not only to deliver end-to-end on signature products, but also to learn how best to do this when we engage in development partnerships as we will continue to do on many of our projects.

We have achieved this through organic hires, acquisitions and partnerships. And the incorporation of Chaotic Moon, the world class digital product creation firm bought by Accenture Interactive in 2015 and now known as Fjord Austin, has been – to date – the most significant demonstration of this. It has been an evolutionary process, and one that has led to our design and innovation team and the work we do becoming more sophisticated and diverse.

Consider our work with ConocoPhillips, the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas production company: using a gaming engine and our expertise in 3-D modelling and animation, we created a revolutionary system for visualizing data while drilling, resulting in an intuitive experience that monitored what was happening up to 5,000 feet below the surface. By designing a solution that’s visual, dynamic and intuitive, we created a digital product that enabled less experienced drillers to work safely and efficiently, and that became the envy of other companies in the industry.

Or, indeed, our work with leading Swedish supermarket Hemköp, whose reputation for what they call matglädje – the joy of food – was an essential component of their new e-Commerce venture. Informed by a deep understanding of customers’ needs before, during and after grocery shopping, we designed an experience that was about the entire customer journey and that brought the joy of Hemköp’s physical stores to their digital touchpoints.

Hemköp and ConocoPhillips

 

Fjord’s investment in building our Digital Product Creation muscle sets out to fix a core issue with the creation of digital experiences. Rarely acknowledged publicly, the biggest hurdle to creating excellence is the hand-off between design and delivery. Ironically, this in itself is partly a result of the silo-based thinking (designers and developers are often part of different teams) that design seeks to break down, and partly because independent agencies have typically focused on either design or development. Furthermore, there is usually a natural break between the vision and design phases, and actual delivery, as organisations seek approval, budget or teams to deliver the next phase.

Our view at Fjord is that this has to change, and clients are seeking fluid creation of products and services from start to finish. Also, with the help of Accenture Interactive, we can  drive marketing engagement, scale these products and services, and operate them for our clients. This is a unique strength to bring to a market that is actively asking for it.

By evolving our culture and changing our systems and processes to accommodate the invention, design and delivery of world class digital products, we are able to turn concepts into magical experiences straightaway.

Digital Product Creation is a natural extension for any design consultancy. Indeed at Fjord, deploying cross-functional agile teams to satisfy users’ increasingly liquid expectations does not feel like a big leap. But make no mistake, in coming years, digital creation capability will become an increasingly important strategic topic that all organisations – clients and consultancies alike – will need to aim to master. As John Maeda said in the 2016 edition of his KPCB report Design in Tech, ‘Experience matters a lot, because we experience digital products a lot’.

 

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