Design thinking methods practice in agile software development:

The competitive advantage in modern software development

“Things are moving so fast and users are so much savvier these days that we need to nd ways of not only shortening the time to market, but also creating application that better t business needs…”— Paul Gather, Vice President, Software Engineering at National Geographic.

#1 The change of today digital business

Cloud Services and Mobile Apps have steadily risen to everywhere. The rise of the post Internet era and mobile Internet. We are entering the post mobile Internet era. From research, it shows around 1.91 billion mobile devices are currently active worldwide in 2015 (Emarketer, 2014) and a research firm — IDC, it predicts nearly 183 billion downloaded apps in 2015, nearly 3 times up from in 2012 (IDC, 2015).

According to PWC Annual Global CEO Survey, around 80% CEOs agree the mobile technologies and data analytics are the critical factors in their strategy (PWC, 2015). They believe the investments in digital technologies have created value for their business. Traditional software companies either embrace the change or being obsolete in the market. In order to being competitive in today competitive market, it requires the business managers to have deep understanding of the markets and users. By adopting Design Thinking and Agile development methods to respond the market change in faster and precise result without sacrificed the qualify of software.

“1.91 billion smartphones are currently in use worldwide & 183 billion apps are downloaded in 2015”

1.1 Business landscape is changed

In today’s competitive business environment, giant companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, Adobe, IBM and Uber have set up a new standard of customer expectation. Their product not only to provide useful features but also to deliver a great user experience that people would be delighted. They do it by viewing their products through the customer lens and discover the unearths opportunities. This design approach is required business leaders start to embrace Design Thinking methods into their product development. And enable companies to gain insight from the customer perspective and to build the products and services that customers actually want, which make their customers is delighted.

IBM design thinking
In March 2014, IBM announced to invest more than $100 million to expand its design business which to serve clients in the realm of experience design and engagement. IBM Design Thinking is a hybrid Design-Thinking Approach, which was developed to tactical the rapid advance of cloud computing. They were adopting the Design Thinking approach into their product development along with the Agile development methods.

Adobe reborn in cloud
In November 2011, Adobe announced to shift their old Creative Suite business (perpetual-licensing model) to the Create Cloud (SaaS model). This big move is because the Adobe top management notices its old perpetual-licensing model grown remained flat for a long time. And the product takes 18 to 24 months to delivery the updates. This limits Adobe to deliver new innovations and capabilities to their customers, who needs a quick software updates for their content-creation. Therefore, with the new business model, Adobe is able to delivery better experience to their customer. Not only because they are able to observe better on customers need with the new cloud service, but also able to respond rapidly by adopting the Agile development method to shorten the software updates period down to monthly. In fact, the Adobe revenues report of first half-year in 2015 shows the Creative Cloud has robust growth, which approximately twice of last year’s level — $2 billion.

Google experiences its Material Design principle on paper.

Google’s Material Design
In 2011, Google founder — Larry Page had been reinstalled as CEO and the same period, he proposes that Google is cared about the products beauty and user experiences as well as the speed. After 3 years, in 2014, Google announced Material Design principle for its products and services, which apply from its mobile platform — Android to branding materials. It is clear to understand that, during the ascendancy of Google in mid-2000s, the computer wasn’t fast enough to handle extra interface respond and appearance beauty. It is because of the additional requests would slow down the computing performance. If the user unable to get the respond instantly from the software, it is counted as bad design product. However, today’s computing power is becoming secondary concern of the user experience. Moreover, the paradigm shifted to the mobile computing era and Larry already foreseen that years before. Google products and services are being used by the general public. And everyone is learning about mobile, the Material Design principle just came in time for Google.

1.2 Traditional companies issue

Most traditional companies do not understand the true value of design and design thinking and what its can provided. As today customers are more focusing on delightful experience product design, these companies are failing to understand the value of User Experience (UX) in the products and services. As they are not able to understand the great UX on products and services is necessary for the solutions. As a matter of fact, traditional companies fail to know operational, innovation and design culture from the company are symbiotic. In general, they normally make business decisions by more focusing on short-term results. Therefore, without considering long-term impact or risk to build wrong product to the market. Ultimately, the development will result in higher costs of inefficient design and time consuming.

“In design thinking, you need to listen to the people doing the job, while in continuous delivery you don’t need to talk to users; you just monitor what they do on the web.”— Phil Gilbert, General Manager of IBM Design

The fallacy
Moreover, the traditional companies tend to believe their customers would love their product with many features (Thomke & Reinertsen, 2012). By reducing the features with any reasons could destroy the product value. This old approach is because of the traditional companies treat product development similar as manufacturing, but they are profoundly different. Product development has different tasks and each tasks are unique, which isn’t repetitive. And the requirements are constantly change based on the feedbacks and testing results, which isn’t predictable. It is a set of well coordinated complex activities and required attention to detail. As a result, traditional companies did not spend time to articulating the problem with their developers. Developers are not able to have a clear understanding of what goals of the product is try to achieve or solving what specific problems of the user. This traditional approach results a product failure on the market. On the contrary, to state a quality problem statement at the beginning of the product development with developers, it allows the development to focus on the features that really matter.

1.3 The value of design for business

Design ability becomes a critical factor for the company of today competitive digital market. A Boston-based nonprofit institute — DMI [Design Management Institute] released the DMI Design Value Index in 2013, which tracks selected public held companies — design-driven business — of their investment in design on stock value over 10 years. The index shows that by comparing with Standard & Poor’s 500 index, those design-driven companies outperformed by 228% (DMI, 2013).

Walt Disney’s product development
Walt Disney was primary focusing on how to provide a magical customer experience when he designed Disneyland instead of focusing on features. He envisioned how his customer will interact in the Disneyland and completely immerse in the magic moments. The magical customer experience required research, experiment and insight to find the answer, which do not come overnight but throughout the iterative development process.

1.4 The imperative needs of a new approach

The increase number of companies noticed their products and services business under threat. Many new wave of digital upstarted, such as Uber and Airbnb, who capitalize the changes in customer behavior, technology and the data (D’Emidio et al., 2015). And they are able to deliver customer-friendly solutions. Early in 1998, Thomke & Reinertsen mentioned 2 point that business leaders need to ditch the traditional development methods and embrace the change. First, is because of the complexity of product is dramatically increased, which is builded with many functions. Second, as the market changing rate is increasing, traditional approach is not efficient to respond the rapid change (Thomke & Reinertsen, 1998). Both will have increased the forecasting errors at the beginning of the product development and also increase the fail rate of the final product.

Unstable customer needs
A desirable product is able to delight the customer and satisfy their needs, and the product requirements are defined by this. As mentioned above, market is changing rapidly and customer needs too. This create the unstable product requirements for the development as the requirements are keep changing. In fact, customer is not able to accurately describe their needs generally. However, they are able to give many feedback and revise the requirements after they have used the products (Thomke & Reinertsen, 1998). The unstable customer needs may cause to redesign the product, which increase the development cost and time.

Forecasting errors
Thomke & Reinertsen suggested by shorten the development cycles — Agile method, is most obvious way to reduce the forecasting errors, cost and time. Added to this, the shorten development cycles can increase the development flexibility to embrace the requirement changes from customer. This is a huge benefit in today competitive digital market, the quality product is constant modify according to the customer needs in control of cost and time with the changes.

In order to being competitive in today’s market, traditional company needs to embrace the latest technology, align the business goal with focusing on customers and improve the customer experience. Kotler and Bes suggested a feasible, viable and desirable product should be developed by considering the creative process (Kotler & Bes, 2003). D’Emidio et al. suggest 3 elements of the winning approaches:

  1. Put focus on the products and services innovation through the customer lens — Design Thinking method;
  2. Refine the customer experience of the products and services that delight and empower the customer — Design Thinking method;
  3. Simplify the product development process and shorten the development cycle — Agile method.
    (D’Emidio et al., 2015)
“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do…People don’t know what why want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”— Steve Jobs (Isaacson, 2011)

#2 Agile development methods

As mentioned above, not many business leaders would disagree the software development speed, innovation and quality are the critical success factors in today’s competitive digital market. And software development is shifted to focusing on customer needs, which required to respond rapidly to their feedbacks. By doing so, the software development abilities of doing faster and cheaper, put it on field testing in the market and refine it quickly become the crucial advantage. Leading enterprises have been adopted the abilities in early period, such as Facebook releases their Apps update twice a week and daily push new line of code to their website — — with new features or bug fix without downtime (Rossi, 2012). Added to this, they can roll back the changes with ease. This continuous delivery — the method of Agile — shorten the delivery time to market with new features of the software.

A History of Agile manifesto — The agile manifesto is a movement of agile development. In 2001, a group of 17 leaders in the software industry came together to discuss a better development methods then traditional development methods — Waterfall. The group called themselves as The Agile Alliance, which gathered to fix traditional software development frameworks that were rooted in many organizations cultures and mindsets for a long time.

According to IDC, it estimated that in 2017 the market size for agile management tools will over $1 billion revenue in worldwide by 2017.

Agile development methods become a worldwide fame for its principles are emphasizing on more communication between team members, embrace more collaboration and interaction during the software development. It is light weight approach that put focus on customer needs and follow continual exploration to refine the requirements. As the new paradigm of digital market is changing rapidly, customer expectation becomes higher and demand more. They demand more involvement and customization from the products and services. Today software development is required to respond it with immediate results. Besides, software development is a knowledge intensive process, it is required deeply communicate, collaborate and knowledge share with the customers and the developers. Agile development methods is able to allow the business leaders to gain insights from their customers and deliver a quality software that fit customers desire in shorter timeframe.

“The typical life of a mobile app between updates is just 37 days, and there are some companies that update applications daily. This need for speed is reflected in an increasingly large gap between business expectations and the development team’s ability to deliver.” — Ray Wang, Constellation Research

2.1 Traditional product development

Before Agile, business leaders need to create a giant plan to predict what is required to build in the products. The plan is including everything in details, such as how to build it and how long does it take to build it. Those predications are based on assumptions about the potential customers, which primarily from sales figures. This traditional model is linear and is called Waterfall. And the concept is not bad, as it is help to make clear of what the business wanted by writing things down and to get the deliver product aligned to the requirements. However, It is inflexible and inefficient to respond to today’s digital market. This product development approach normally takes years from start to completion. The risk of the product failure is high, due to customer needs and market can change a lots in years — even in months. With Waterfall development approach, the success of the product requires high degree of prediction accuracy and not flexible to revise the product to fit the changed market needs.

Agile terminology

Persona: A character as a reference point for usability design in the product development. The character is listed with the needs, goals and habits.

Backlog: A list of the product requirements, which prioritised by the needs of customer. This guide the agile team to develop which features first.

Product owner: A representative of the customer and responsible to the product direction, business value and customer satisfaction.

Retrospective: A meeting to review each sprint with team members. It allows to improve the development process by the team member feedbacks.

Scrum: One of the Agile framework and widely adopted today. A series of sprints form scrum and the end of each sprint deliver an increment of working software.

Scrum Master: The key person to coordinate the development process, the team and product owner, which responsible to keep all parties updated of the progress and deal with any barriers.

Stand-Up Meeting: A short daily meeting to review and align team members progress. It should address three key question: What did you get done since the last stand-up? What will you do before the next stand-up? What impediments stand in your way?

Sprint: A short development cycle, which is also called iteration. It is an uninterrupted period of time to develop a workable software for customer to feedback.

User Story: A sentence of plain English to describe the user’s point of view and desire features.

Velocity: A metric to measure the team capacity and as a reference guide for team to plan future sprints.

2.2 Agile development methods

Agile builds and iterates the software to learn and refine incrementally rather than to follow the plan upfront. As early as 1957, the concept of Agile has been mentioned (Larman & Basili, 2003). The first draft of Agile development approach was developed in 1990s (Beck, 1999). In 2001, Beck and others development leaders — 17 in total — formulated the Agile Manifesto. (Beck et al., 2001). Agile development methods are lean and flexible, it builds software in small piece of block. Cross-functional teams come together at the beginning to define the specific problem statement or design challenge for the projects. And It is focusing to deliver tested software and continue delivery.

The 4 primary values of agile manifesto
• Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
• Working software over comprehensive documentation
• Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
• Responding to change over following a plan
(Beck et al., 2001)

The Agile development method principles are to build quality software by a series of small development block — Iteration. The adaptable development periods approach welcome changes, it is emphasizing the voice from customer and gain their involvement into the development. This process allows to control the unpredictable requirements change and customer feedback. The development is divided in several iterations; each iteration of the system is being tested as the software growth. At the end of each iteration, it will deliver a release to customer for feedback. As each iteration delivery a version of working product that respond to the customer to make sure the requirements are met (Abbas et al., 2008).

Automatic testing implementation
As the methods is emphasis on shorten development cycles and to deliver quality software to customer for feedback. The automated testing is required to be integrated in the methods. The agile team developed a new part of code into the software, and the new part goes through the automated testing and make sure the new part of code works fine with the software. If the new part of code does not pass the test, the agile team instantly be notified about the issue with detail information and apply the fix. This brings huge benefits to success the shorten development cycles and reduce the development cost and time.

The development of software is not a predictable activity, such as unstable user requirements and market changes. Agile methods is an adaptive process to allow business leader to control unpredictable activity, with its short iterative development cycles to reduce the cost and time and increase the development transparency.

#3 Design thinking methods

Design thinking gains a popular recognition in different fields not only in design profession but outside too. Its well known as a method to tackle true problems in different disciplines. Cross et al. early define design thinking is a study of cognitive processes of human brain (Cross, 2011). Design thinking is a thinking way of how designer tackle the problems and delivery the solution, it is a mental process of designer to design products or services, which is beyond the aesthetic or elegant solutions. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO, says design thinking is the innovation of human-centered approach. By using designer’s methods and sensibility to balance technologically feasible, viable business strategy and desirable of customer needs (Brown, 2008). Brown emphasize two vital point of design thinking approach. First, it is an approach to enhanced or created new feasible products or services that not only align with customer needs but also added value. Second, it is an approach for designing, which is essential part of design thinking. Clark and Smith model of design thinking has five elements, they are “Understand”, “Observe”, “Conceptualize”, “Validate” and “Implement” (Clark & Smith, R, 2008). Hunter’s, Chief Design Officer of UK Design Council, design thinking model has “Discover”, “Define”, “Develop” ad “Delivery” (Hunter, 2015). Different authors have slightly different model of design thinking, but they are all share the same core and principles. Most scholars and practitioners agrees a successful innovation must contain three components, Desirability — customer and user needs, Feasibility — product concept, Viability — business perspective. In short, design thinking is an approach of how designers’ design process to tackle problems with creative mind towards solutions and open new opportunity.

“Design thinking is an ideal framework for us to use because it focuses on developing deep empathy for customers and creating solutions that will match their needs — as opposed to just dreaming up and delivering technology for technology’s sake.”— Catherine Courage, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience of Citrix

3.1 Needs of design thinking approach

A typical issue in transitional software development is the product do not address the user problem, despite the functionality and technically are prefect (Lindberg et al., 2011). As the digital products and services become more part of people’s everyday life, a successful products and services are defined by the customer perspective but not only the functionality and technically perfection. Famous scholar in marketing — Kotler — also suggested that a useful, viable and innovative product should consider the creative process as the foundation during the development and this suggested development process is fundamental of today marketing (Kotler and Bes, 2003).

Innovation model by, Stanford

Failed fast and refine quickly
Study from Thomke and Reinertsen shows that teams used low-cost prototyping methods and follow short iterative development cycles are outperformed teams that attempted to make the first design right. Allow frequent tests and errors allow the teams can quickly learn from failure and refine the design (Thomke and Reinertsen, 1998). In fact, Thomas Alva Edison understood approach and he was using. From his “99% perspiration” famous quote, it illustrates Edison approach was mean to experiment and learn from failure instead of validate the hypotheses. Innovation is not easy to happened. Experiment in diversity of ideas is a vital process to innovation, many concepts would fail in early stage with the rapid prototyping. This allow teams to eliminate fail concept as soon as possible and put focus only on promising ideas.

Design thinking process by, Stanford

3.2 The process of design thinking

As mentioned above, various authors have slightly different model of design thinking but they are all share the same core and principles. Below figure shows the terminology of design thinking from Stanford D.School. It shows design thinking has six interdependent elements, the process follows consecutive phases. During the process, design thinker is required to jump back and forth in different phases when necessary.

The initial process of design thinking must start with the definition of problem — design brief. In the stage of the understand process is about to fully understand the problem and discover the root that cause of the problem — true problem. During this stage, it should only focus on exploration and inspiration but not to delivery a solution or make any judgment. The goal of understand of the problem is to become the expert and familiarize as quickly as possible. By doing this, team members can perform individual research, gather and share all together. Collect all the information that will helpful in later process. If possible have a trial on related products and services is good to build up the perspective of the problem, which allow team members to empathize with the users’ pains and gains.

Observation phase is aimed to understand and empathize the users’ pains and gains of the products and services. This is the key to develop a desirable products and services that delight users. Different surveys methods allow team members to perform user research. Quantitative methods, such as online surveys, allows to gain insight of large groups of people and mass data. Qualitative methods, such as interview, allows to have better understanding of users’ needs, preferences and etc. If doing it right, it would lead team members to the true problem. However, sometime user is not able to describe the true problem. Therefore, an observation is allowing the team members discover more detailed insights from the user, which unable to extract from the surveys. When team members are sharing the insights that collected from users, they should use a narrative method — Storytelling. This method allows to convey via verbal and non-verbal communication. As the goal is to get team members able to empathy users’ view, role-playing is a helpful method too. Once all information has been shared, the team can move to next process to synthesize all the information.

Point of view
From the information that gained from previous research phases, the team should able to have some point of view, which is able to capture the essence of previous information from observation. At this phase, the team is able to asking what true problem is required to be solved. This one sentence point of view must contain three elements: the user, the need and the insight. The personas are developed from previous two phases information, by developing personas allow team to make it as a reference point for later thinking process. Some other frameworks also can help to synthesize the information, such as user scenarios, storyboards and user journey maps etc. The team can pick suitable framework according to different point of view to synthesize the information.

In this phase, team members use the previous phase as a reference point for formulate brainstorming questions. It can help the team to be inspirited with new metaphors or visual description. During the brainstorming stage, all team members are able to present their suggestion of ideas and personal thought without being criticized. It is not important the suggested ideas are realistic or not, the goal is to encourage to generate as mush as possible. Added to this, the team is required to use visual to support the atmosphere and for easier discussion. After several team discussions, the team should come up some potential solutions to tackle the true problem. The team can invite external stakeholders to join the discussion who can bring in new suggestions and comments from outside.

Prototyping is curial process in design thinking. It is because even team members come up few potential solutions from previous phase, they may not have the same understanding of the solution idea. The prototype is aimed to help to convert intangible idea to tangible. Added to this, the prototype is produced rapidly in design thinking, the key is to help the team to test the idea and receive feedbacks as fast as possible. All details in the prototype are not required to discuss at this phase of process. In fact, the prototype should able to allow team members to empathize the user experience of the products and services. And the process of rapid prototyping, the team is able to refined and improved or changed the ideas.

Feedback from potential users is the purpose of the prototyping. The team is required to process the feedbacks with care, due to not all feedback is useful and some feedback can distract the team from the original problem. The team is required to go back to the previous prototype phase to revise according to the the gathered feedback from user. Moreover, the team may discover need aspect of idea or their potential solution is focusing on wrong problem or missed some curial areas during the initial research. The iterative approach of design thinking allows the team to go back to the phase that missed information and process again with a better understand and refine the solution.

#4 Intertwining design thinking and agile

Innovation is the key factor for today companies to being competitive in the digital market. The companies that primary focus on the technical development factors instead of focusing on ease-of-use solutions via customer lens do fail. Innovations are rare and it typically takes long time of process to refine initial idea to happen, which do not happen by accidents. Business leaders, in general, put their focusing on short-term methods that can reduce the cost and risk, which could lead to deliver a wrong products and services. Ultimately, it increases the high cost and time to redesign the products and services (Innes, 2011). By intertwining design thinking and agile two approaches together in the development process, it enables company to develop a quality products and services which is balance desirable, feasible and viable three different aspects and also in full control of cost and time.

“Agile development methods focus on incremental improvements, while design thinking explores entirely new solutions” (Innes, 2011)

4.1 Design thinking in software development

As mentioned above, design thinking methods are focusing on tackle the true problem and delivery a delighted potential solution to users. This distinct from traditional software development methods which is focusing on features as the top priority. Design thinking methods is using short iteration and constantly to gain feedback from users’ perspective and refine the potential solutions, which is more flexible than the traditional development methods — waterfall. The design thinking process is about to learn the problem and empathize the user pain. It involves user to provide feedback which agile methods also has similar practice with design thinking. Moreover, the design thinking encourages the team to diversify potential solutions, the atmosphere encourage the software developers to adopt out-of-the-box thinking and be creative. Because typical software developers only focus on coding the software about the feasible aspect, by bring in new aspect into the development is vital for software development. Design thinking is a important approach for today software development, it helps to clarity the vision via rapid prototypes with short iteration to reduce potential cost and risk. It can act as supplement of software development by enabling user-centered design in company (Lindberg et al. 2011).

4.2 Multidisciplinary teams

Products and services development is not left to development teams only for today competitive digital market. As design thinking methods encourage diversify of ideas, different background team members can bring new perspective and insight to the development teams. Kotler and Bes also suggested a feasible, viable and desirable product should be developed by considering the creative process (Kotler & Bes, 2003). The team members is involved product owners, marketers, designers and developers. And each team members must able to voice out their unique thinking and design thinking methods relies on this collaboration. Having multiple background team members can increase variations and fuel creativity.

“Agile development practices impact many business functions outside of software development, so organizations need to expand agile thinking beyond the programming team to be most effective.” (HBR, 2015)

4.3 The change of company culture

In order to make design thinking and agile methods success, company is required to incorporate both thinking into their daily business processes. By hiring a consultant for a individual projects is not an option. It has to blend within the existing culture. Traditional companies typically are structured in department by different areas, such as development team only focus on the product development, marketing team only responsible for company all products marketing etc. This cause of the company structures becoming too rigid and as the departments is too specific, the company cannot discover a important opportunities for innovation. As result, this traditional structure creates a barrier between departments communication and causes the deliver products and services failure on the market. This is opposed to design thinking and agile method principles. Design thinking and agile methods is required full support from top management. An ideal form of company structure is project-centered. Due to employee tends to more motivated and have higher self-identification with the products and services (Wölbling et al., 2012). This form typically can be found in start-up companies, as all employee work together and hold the same goal of the products and services. These start-up companies have strong communication and collaboration skills to work together across disciplines. Arons et al. state that to deliver total experience to customers, all employees in the company must share the share vision (Arons et al., 2014).

Curt Jacobsen, a principal at PwC in Los Angeles, said companies switch to agile requires a huge mind shift both from business leaders and developers, it is a signi cant process and change change. Agile emphasized on communicate and collaboration, it can start in the development department rst, but it should move beyond the development and be part of the business culture. Agility allows business leaders to respond changes e ciently, quickly and create meaningful brand experiences, it is a mixture of standardization strategies with exibility. Secure management support is the key of success to implement agile into company culture. Tom Paider, associate vice president at Nationwide Insurance, suggests management is required to change the way they do the work to support the agile, because they found out that the failure of a lot of agile is not because of agile team members not wiling to embrace this development methods, but the management is failed to coordinate (HBR, 2015). Added to this, as mentioned previous, automated testing is crucial part of the agile development methods. In order to adopted continuous delivery, it is not just about to use new tools and technologies. Business leaders must have committed to updated the company culture. Three ingredients are suggested by Bhens et al. as follow:

  1. Be clear about the change, and set high aspirations;
  2. Create incentives that are aligned with business outcomes;
  3. Create a ‘single team’ mind-set.
    (Bhens et al., 2015)

4.4 Best practice of design thinking and agile methods

Figure 1, The simple illustration of intertwining design thinking and agile development methods.

Design thinking and Agile methods shared some of their principles and goals, both methods emphasize to put focus on the feedback and revise incrementally. Despite they share some principles, design thinking methods allow the teams to explore entirely new solutions to tackle the true problem, which agile methods is about to put focus on incremental improvements on the solutions (Wölbling, 2012). Therefore, to apply both methods into the product development cycles can unleash the true value of the products and services for today digital market.

Several scholars, in different topics, discussed how to intertwine both methods in the development process. In extreme programming, Crawford suggested the initial preparation is defined by the creative process of the exploration and prototyping helps to establish the product functionality scope for later development (Crawford et al., 2008). Ferreira also discussed the topic in interaction design area, in the research shows that it is clear to see the advantages to do interaction design before implementation stage. This approach creates a positive impact on final delivery of products and services and result in high user satisfaction. Moreover, it is able to control cost and time with better estimation and prioritization as promised.

“Design Thinking focus on how the end users will work with the software; Agile development focus on how the software should be constructed.” (Wölbling, 2012)
Figure 2, The details illustration of intertwining design thinking and agile development methods.

Design thinking x agile
Figure 2 illustrates the complete process from the beginning with design thinking methods — left cycle and end with agile methods — right cycle. Both cycles are a short iteration to allow the process go back to previous phase to refine the solutions or the delivery of products and services after gain the feedback from users. After several iterations, the potential solutions or workable products and services can move to next phase. Different phase of the process is designed to tackle different stage of problems. The figure 2 is divided in 4 different sections, lower section is direction area, which has initial vision of the products and services or the problem statement. Upper section is concept area, which has potential solutions of the products and services or new insight gained from users’ feedback. Left section is problem area, in this area process is under discovery phase and no ideas generated. Right section is solution area, which can be prototypes or workable software depends on what phase of the process. Users can offer their feedback to the development team after they interaction with tangible items.

The practice
This proposed model is started from design thinking methods, reference chapter 2 for details. The product development team members must with different backgrounds, for instance, business leaders, marketers, designers and developers etc. Different background team members can deliver diversify insights at Point of View phase after the Understand and Observation phase. When entered Ideate phase, the team can synthesis into few potential solutions and move on to Prototype phase. Rapid prototyping allows to align all team members to have the same understand of the potential solutions. Added to this, Design thinking methods champion to offer quick, regular and disposable prototypes to deliver rapid results and generate valuable feedback. Prototype phase also is the interconnected point of two methods. According to design thinking principles, the process is required to produce several prototypes to gain users feedback and back to the previous phase to refine. Once the delivery of prototype of potential solutions is accepted from the users, the team can base of the passed prototype as the reference to enter Build the product phase. The Build phase is entered agile methods, reference chapter 3 for details, the software development team’s Scrum Master according to the prototype to divide it into the Product Backlog. According to the priority to formulate it into different Sprints. Each sprint normally is 2 weeks and when it reaches the end of sprint, the development team can deliver a workable products and services to users for feedback. At this phase the team members can learn and gain additional insights from the users’ perspective with the actual workable products but not prototypes for further iteration. By leveraging agile development methods fast feedback cycles, it can increase the accuracy to tackle the core issues. If the delivery of the workable product is discovered some missing area or insight that the team was overlooked in previous phases. The team can go back to design thinking cycle and repeat the process again.

#5 To move on

At the beginning of this report states that today competitive digital market is changing rapidly and giant leading companies are adopting design thinking and agile development methods into their product developments. The development of software is a set of complex activities, as the software itself is more complex by comparing few years ago. And today users are no longer only looking for functional software, but a usable and desirable that delight them and enhance their abilities. By intertwining design thinking and agile methods together is so promising and it can help business leaders to come up innovation products and services and being so competitive to drive into unknown area, such as Google, Uber and Airbnb.

Traditional development methods are fail to help companies to respond the rapid changing markets. As so many new comers — Startup ventures — founded to disrupt traditional companies. For instance, Kodak lm-based business failure is because of overlooked the opportunity from digital photography. Sony Walkman failure is due to unable to catch up the trend of digital music format. Both examples show that Traditional companies should be stay in the comfort zone with their stable growth of revenue. Clayton Christensen famous Disruptive Innovation states that the innovation Design thinking methods practice in agile software development can create a new market or needs and eventually can displace traditional business with emerged market (Christensen, 2011). According to design thinking, innovation is able happened by overlapping feasibility, viable and desirable. Due to it can help business leader to build the desirable and viable products or services based on customer existing problem in the rst place. And business leaders should champion this thinking methods in business strategic level. As a result, the business is sustainable and profitable.

Innovation do not happen by accident, but it can happen by a series of iteration. Both methods are champion incremental approach to adaptable to scope down uncertainties, such as unstable user needs, redesign cost and time. And discover potential solutions in unknown areas. Christensen’s Disruptive Innovation describe the innovation is able to improve the products or services in the existing market that does not expected. In fact, the innovation must required full support from top management of the company and change the culture. Sinek’s Golden Circle theory provide another view for business leader how to inspirit their employees to adopt the change to become innovation company like Apple but not Dell (Sinek, 2009). This report shows the development of products and services best practices for companies to being competitive in today digital market. Other aspects are required to build together to complete the whole plan.


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By Davis C.K. Yeung (13016092G), August 25, 2015

Mentor: Dr. Jörn Bühring

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, School of Design 
Master of Design (Design Strategies)

SD5302 A Proposition for Design Vision and Opportunity 
Date of Entry: September 01, 2012