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Want great digital experiences? Start with design thinking and low code

Human-centered design and low-code app development can benefit both employees and customers

  • Human-centered design focuses on empathy and identifying the right problems to solve
  • Low-code app development can vastly shorten software development lifecycles
  • Customers can fully participate in the co-creation of new apps and solutions

The concept of human-centered design—putting people’s needs at the center of creating new products or services—has been around for decades. Until recently, however, putting it into practice in the enterprise required big-budget assistance from design firms like IDEO to conduct user research and lead design and development.

Today, the tables have been flipped. Gone are the days of lengthy requirement gathering and waterfall software development cycles. Low-code app development, paired with human centered design and digital workflow platforms, are helping CIOs reimagine and accelerate the entire spectrum of service delivery.

Traditional software development has historically focused on system owners. By contrast, human-centered design is about using empathy to address the specific pain points of end users. This is critical in delivering great customer and employee experiences.

People spend twice as much on painkillers than on vitamins; if you want to provide meaningful digital solutions, start by reducing users’ pain! This requires ideating and co-creating solutions directly with end users in an interactive manner. Low-code application development platforms now allow for the rapid design, development, and delivery of new digital experiences that address user pain points.

By combining human-centered design with low-code development, organizations can produce better, more innovative experiences for their employees and customers, and they can work much faster. Projects that once took months and years are now being completed in hours and days.

Below are three examples of organizations that are successfully leveraging human-centered design methods and low code dev platforms to create innovative digital experiences on the fly. ServiceNow teams worked with each of these companies. All were motivated by the need to achieve new business outcomes by delivering great experiences for employees and customers—quickly and at scale.

1. Real-time employee engagement and feedback

When one global retailer got its start in the 1950s, it created an “open door” policy for worker feedback. Any employee could approach senior managers directly with a problem or concern.

That was a manageable policy through several decades of growth, but it’s become untenable today with more than two million employees worldwide who rely heavily on digital technology. Until recently, 18,000 employee emails would pile up in the CEO’s inbox each month. Mountains of ideas and concerns went unaddressed. Employee engagement and satisfaction were low and turnover high.

To address these problems, the retailer ran a series of design-thinking sprints with corporate and retail employees. The challenge was to figure out how to deliver on the original “open door” promise using digital experiences that would resonate with employees.

The sprints yielded the idea of a new online portal, through which all employees could enter ideas or concerns on any device at any time, from anywhere. Retail employees who lacked corporate email accounts and computers could use tablets on which they could draw out their ideas in the breakroom.

Low-code automated digital workflows routed requests to the appropriate manager, and employees were guaranteed a response within 36 hours. As with many consumer apps that many employees used on their personal devices, they could track the progress of their work ideas and concerns.

The new service went from ideation to development and launch within three weeks. Results were employee satisfaction and engagement increased and turnover declined.

2. Mobile fitness exams

For years, one branch of the U.S. military held fast to its manual, paper-and-clipboard process for fitness evaluations of all service personnel who had to be evaluated every six months in order to be deployed to combat theaters.

It was an inefficient process. Personnel would schedule fitness exams through phone calls and emails. Examiners would record the data by hand and then transfer it to a spreadsheet at their desks. Personnel made periodic phone calls to check on the status of results.

During a two-day design thinking exercise with senior officers and personnel, the organization reimagined every aspect of the fitness examination experience.

Using low-code development, the team built a mobile app that personnel could use to both schedule exams and view results. The project yielded multiple payoffs: Examiners used iPad apps to record live test results; officers benefited from data insights about the health and readiness of personnel; military commanders got a clearer view into resourcing needs for exams at different locations. The new app was delivered in three weeks.

3. Rapid COVID-19 testing

In March 2020, at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Los Angeles officials were in dire need of a digital platform that city residents could use to schedule drive-up COVID tests. The mayor mandated that the new platform be rolled out within days. The solution needed to prioritize at-risk groups and scheduling capacity at specific locations. The process needed to be as painless and friendly as possible for citizens.

Over the course of a weekend, officials completed a human-centered design sprint, and a development team used a low-code platform to build a COVID-19 test-scheduling app. Within 36 hours, it was available to millions of LA residents.

These examples illustrate how design thinking and low-code development are helping organizations deliver high-quality experiences faster than ever before. This powerful combination is accelerating digital transformation in profound new ways. That’s good news for CIOs, who must increasingly deliver intuitive, consumer-grade experiences to stay in the game.