Design thinking for project management
- Bill Rowan
- April 14, 2016
We’re no strangers to conversations about culture design or development methodologies here at DelCor. So when I spotted this CIO article calling design thinking a game changer, it caught my eye.
Author Dmitri Khanine examines design thinking with a ‘what’s going on?’ perspective and the goal of sharing repeatable processes. Let’s take a look at a few of his observations.
Design thinking encourages a more strategic approach to project management
Khanine’s first point is a fantastic one: humans first. He notes that “business requirements are created by humans” yet “different types of users, different roles and personalities may have completely different ways of interacting with your systems and very different requirements.” This is one reason DelCor encourages collaborative, cross-functional teams.
Don’t skimp on requirements
Secondly, Khanine reflects on the importance of requirements—a topic near and dear to our hearts. He observes:
One business analyst with a pen can save a problem faster than a dozen genius developers with latest computers. It's really is all about requirements.
We’re not promoting a pen versus computer battle here, but we agree that business analysts can help staff define, analyze, prioritize, and document requirements (and then some). Khanine keenly states, “Business users are called upon to do something that they have never signed up to do -- design solutions.” That’s why a strong requirements analysis process critical to your success.
Speaking of success, Khanine references a Project Management Institute study that found poor requirements management was the leading cause of failure in almost half of projects. Ouch. One outcome of poor requirements management is over-customization that still doesn’t meet your needs (and isn’t maintainable), something that both Khanine and we lament.
Scope creep is just, well, creepy. Khanine makes it his third obstacle that can be overcome with design thinking. I won’t say anything further on this sticky topic—just remember when to say ‘when.’
What are others saying?
Khanine’s post is certainly not the only voice on this topic, nor the last word.
Chirag Mehta, in a guest post for ZDNet, lays out 6 design thinking principles that contribute to a project team’s success. As he says, “Design thinking can play an important role in improving enterprise software development and implementation.”
In his SlideShare, Design Thinking & Project Management (I admit, I love the obvious title), Bruce Gay, PMP, declares, “Design Thinking encourages a more strategic approach to Project Management.” Furthermore, we’re happy to see he recognizes that “empathy is at the core” of Design Thinking.
What’s the takeaway?
Perhaps there isn’t just one—and I might even attribute that to associations’ and nonprofits’ conversations around design thinking itself. From digital experiences to donor interactions, we’re all thinking about how our organizations, touchpoints, and infrastructure are designed.
Khanine likens design thinking to the rebuttal of old-school ‘marching orders.’ Instead, designers search for greater understanding, reasoning, and goals.
It’s a holistic approach to requirements analysis and project management that reminds me of our IT Maturity Model—creating strategic alignment between who your organization is, what you stand for, what you’re trying to do, and how you’re going to do it. You may be in search of a technological fix, but don’t forget the humans!
Looking for more information? We have you covered. Check out our Requirements Analysis whitepaper for all the tools you need to take a strategic approach to project management.