The idea of digital technologies disrupting the entrepreneurial world is now a cliche. However, to make a real difference in business, just the integration of technologies isn’t enough. A digital transformation roadmap helps you reevaluate the value you’re providing to the customers and accelerate the growth of the organization. Here, we share how design thinking can bring about this revolution in the business world.

The widespread use of technology in recent years has led to a paradigm shift in the business world. Technologies have changed how businesses operate, generate value, and interact with their consumers. Technology-driven startups and businesses are continually driving innovation and achieving great success. Therefore, it has become imperative for established firms to focus on successful technology integration. These firms focus on creating a digital transformation roadmap that will help businesses adapt to the digital age as well as transform their businesses from the inside out.

Design thinking may enable businesses to create a digital transformation framework with a strategic approach and an appropriate mindset. A human-centered approach known as “design thinking” has gained popularity as more businesses use it to spur innovation. Let’s dive deeper into how design thinking can help you create a digital transformation roadmap for your business.

“Think of digital transformation less as a technology project to be finished than as a state of perpetual agility, always ready to evolve for whatever customers want next, and you’ll be pointed down the right path.” 

—Amit Zavery, VP and Head of Platform, Google Cloud

How Can Design Thinking Create a Digital Transformation Roadmap?


The invention that connects the world, technology, has now become a component of everyday life for consumers. With each advancement in technology, consumers expect personalized solutions. They want services to be delivered on any device from all value-adding suppliers, including businesses and the government. This has also altered how consumers and businesses use goods and services. To keep up with the digital world, businesses must evolve the way they create and develop their services.

However, organizations highly misunderstand the term “digital transformation” as a process of using recent technology. As per researchers and authors, the concept of digital transformation isn’t about using recent technologies; it is about adapting to new strategies and new ways of thinking that can add value to customer’s life. Creating a digital transformation roadmap is not just about changing your IT infrastructure. It requires you to upgrade your business by upgrading its strategic mindset. 

A digital transformation framework can transform your business by enhancing your customer knowledge to provide value to customers with your services. This is where design thinking comes into the picture. One of the core principles of design thinking is human centricity. It allows businesses to understand their customers better in out-of-the-box ways. 

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a non-linear problem-solving approach that is used to find solutions to complex problems. It emphasizes understanding the user’s emotions towards the problem, redefining problems, and creating innovative solutions.

As mentioned before, it’s a human-centric approach, meaning its focus remains on prioritizing customers’ needs before everything else. With design thinking, you can even identify their true needs, of which they are not aware. All forms of design thinking share the same fundamental, human-centered principles and the phases of progress.  These phases include empathetically observing users, idea development based on consumer data, prototype generation, and implementation. Due to its holistic approach, design thinking can be implemented for various objectives and vision of the company.

Creating a Digital Transformation Framework With Design Thinking


The complexity that businesses have to face to create a digital transformation roadmap often leads them to make wrong decisions. These decisions can also turn into great losses and failure in the long run. The route to digital transformation is not simple. With the digital world always changing, it needs proper understanding and planning. Most conventional businesses are now prioritizing analytical thinking and linear problem-solving.

One of the greatest advantages of design thinking is that it brings out solutions to complex problems. Organizations can benefit from its extensive implementations and holistic approach by creating a digital transformation framework. Design thinking has a great focus on consumer mindset, prototyping, testing, failing, learning, and evolving. This can allow companies  to reduce the uncertainty and risk of innovation.

The following design thinking tools help create a great digital transformation roadmap for your business: 

  • Empathizing With the Customers to Understand Their Needs 

One of the most important principles of design thinking is empathy. Organizations engage with users with empathy to get a deeper understanding of their problems and needs. The key here for enterprises is to be able to put themselves in their customers’ place and try to gauge what they think and feel. They should be able to comprehend their pain points and create a solution for the users.  

Understanding people is just as important as improving productivity. Traditional research tactics like focus groups and surveys only ask people what they want. These research tactics might help point towards little advancements, resulting in major innovations. 

One of the best examples of integrating empathy to create a digital transformation roadmap is how Netflix revolutionized the world of movie-watching. Blockbuster was one of the top movie rental businesses in the US in 2004. With an established business model of renting movies and collecting late fees from consumers, Blockbuster generated enormous income. But for users, the late fees were a genuine pain point. Netflix, being a small startup back then, wanted to eradicate this problem. 

The business model of Netflix was a new DVD online service model that utilized digital service subscriptions for ordering movies online. The startup had approached Blockbuster with an offer of partnership for running Blockbuster’s brand online in exchange for a promotion for Netflix services in Blockbuster’s stores but the latter turned down Netflix’s offer. Moving on, Netflix took their new and fresh idea that brought a digital revolution in the world of show business and grew into a 28 billion dollar company by 2018, ultimately leading to Blockbuster’s impending collapse. This shows how important it is to understand the underlying needs of the customers while creating a digital transformation roadmap.   

  • Ideating Best Solutions As Per Customer Needs and Creating Small Prototypes

After the company has finished identifying the users’ pain points, it is important to identify problem statements and ideate to provide potential solutions. The ideation process culminates in the crystallization of the best solutions, and the ideas that need to be implemented. This is where the digital transformation roadmap begins. At this stage, companies must consider these two important points: 

1. Thinking of radical ideas and converting them into nimble experiments

In 2017, McDonald’s started an extensive digital transformation initiative that involved making home delivery a significant customer channel. In just two years, this project helped McDonald’s grow to a $4 billion business annually. To make the deliveries happen, the company had to deploy eCommerce capabilities to over 21,000 outlets.

By providing a variety of options to order and pick up meals from numerous restaurants, these projects profoundly altered the customer engagement model. Although customers today greatly value it for the simplicity and convenience it adds to their McDonald’s experience, this subtle change created a major cultural shift. However, it wasn’t a short-term tweak for the organization but rather a thorough examination of the core principles and values underlying its culture. This small tweak paved the way for the brand’s digital transformation. 

For digital transformation to happen, companies need to encourage bringing radical ideas. We are not denying that radical ideas can bring many changes on fundamental levels, which can even question your existing business model and can be intimidating. You don’t have to change your business upside down to make a digital transformation framework. However, the key here is to implement the radical ideas with experiments that can be done at a rather smaller scale. 

2. Bring agility through Prototyping and testing 

Once you figure out radical ideas and small ways to adapt those ideas into business, it is time to implement changes into the desired change. Design thinking promotes the idea of creating prototypes and testing it on a sample of the target audience before putting it out to the world. 

At the core of the implementation process lies incremental and iterative prototyping, meaning turning ideas into real goods and services that are subsequently evaluated, iterated, and improved. When using the iterative method, a variation of the agile development process, businesses first perform “just enough” planning to get started on developing the minimal feature set, officially known as the “minimal viable product feature set,” which they then go on to create into an improved version. The prototypes are then tested, reviewed, and given to users so that they can use them. 

With real feedback from the users, the prototype can be further revised until you create a product with which your users are completely satisfied. The bottom line is: don’t try to make big changes in one go but rather keep evolving your prototypes to make the digital transformation happen. 

In context with the digital transformation roadmap, companies can use the above-explained principles of design thinking to keep their business relevant. The idea is to keep creating services that hit the right chord and keep moving ahead with innovations by repeating the same cycle of empathizing and innovating. 

The Bottom Line: Collaboration is the Key

One of the biggest barriers that organizations face in their journey of Digital Transformation is what we call ‘working in kingdom’ syndrome. Where each business leader likes to see their team and work as their kingdom and feels threatened if there is anyone who approaches them to collaborate. Breaking this syndrome and making the entire organization focus on customer value is extremely important to drive digital transformation. Digital transformation roadmap designers must be creative to provide each organization with a distinct digital transformation framework. The “collaborative approach,” promoted by design thinking, is therefore crucial. In contrast to cooperation, which focuses only on interaction-based goal-oriented issue solving, collaboration is a philosophy of interaction-based, process-oriented problem solving that places emphasis on a group problem-solving process. 

Understanding the innovations needed for each company’s digital transformation roadmap, collaboration becomes an imperative tool. The collaboration between internal departments, technology suppliers, the client organization, and the client’s end users, becomes crucial to attain a digital transformation framework for the entire organization. When a group of people works creatively together, marshaling their expertise and insights into the process, transformations happen.

Also Read: 5 Sure-Fire Ways to Build An Innovation Culture Using Design Thinking

About the author

A Haryanvi by origin, an entrepreneur at heart, and a consultant by choice, that’s how Ajay likes to introduce himself! Ajay is the Founding Partner at Humane Design and Innovation Consulting (HDI). Before embarking on HDI, Ajay established the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG India, laying the foundation for his later venture. His 16+ years of professional career spans various roles in product and service design, conducting strategy workshops, storytelling, and enabling an innovation culture. He has coached 50+ organizations and 2000+ professionals in institutionalizing design and innovation practices. He loves to blog and speak on topics related to Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity, Storytelling, Customer Experience, and Entrepreneurship. Ajay is passionate about learning, writing poems, and visualizing future trends!

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