A national electricity supplier with more than 100 years of history elevated their purpose and positioning from “keeping the lights on” to “leading the nation to a sustainable and smart energy future”. One of the first digital products to herald the company’s new strategy was a smart energy mobile app that used hourly data from new smart energy meters installed at residential and commercial properties.
The design of the new app meant that we had to bring together the different departments that were traditionally used to working in silos. We also had to deal with conflicting norms, standards and belief systems to ensure that everyone was aligned and contributed to meeting the business objectives.
They now see the benefits in adopting a customer-centric approach, in challenging the status quo where necessary, in working together across departments and in celebrating quick wins.
We used the common double-diamond design framework. However, we modified the stages to Discover and Frame in the first diamond (instead of Discover and Define) to Prototype and Build in the second diamond (instead of Develop and Deliver) to emphasise the Framing and Prototyping. We knew as this was a new app, we had to get the first diamond right. However, the double-diamond framework does not prepare one to understand and navigate an organisation’s immune system.
An organisation’s immune system protects the working culture of an organisation. Having a strong immune system is a good thing—it protects against external intervention and change and it is exactly what you would want if your organisation is mature, stable and has a guaranteed commanding position in the market (does such a thing exist these days?). However, a strong immune system becomes a barrier if your organisation is desperate for innovation and change.
A strong immune system becomes a barrier if your organisation is desperate for innovation and change.
In this project, we experienced the full wrath of the immune system in the first few weeks. People saw us as troublemakers; as outsiders who “did not get it”. But a month later, everything changed for the better. Here’s how we managed to achieve this rapid turnaround:
We managed to design a complex app on schedule and helped the development team with a full design system that they could build upon, rather than starting from scratch.
More than the product, the engagement was a win in terms of a mindset shift for the team and stakeholders. They now see the benefits in adopting a customer-centric approach, in challenging the status quo where necessary, in working together across departments and in celebrating quick wins. More than just designing an app, this project was successful in honouring the past and present of the company and allowing its immune system to welcome and embrace change.