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2016, design and the bottom line

Maybe it’s where I’m sitting but this feels like a time of great change in the software design and test arenas. Designers are in short supply, everywhere, but at the same time companies are looking for more from them — more customer-facing, more business experience, more specific industry expertise. Oh, and if designers can test too, that’s an added bonus. On the testing side, there’s certainly a push to either automate or eliminate the function entirely. And if they’re to remain a viable part of the development process, employers would like to see them do more coding.

Throw the wild and unpredictable Internet of Things in to that mix and everything just feels, well, uncertain. Where do we go from here? We know design and test are important but are they important enough in an organization to make a difference?

Perhaps a look back at some research in the recent past can give us all a bit of New Year encouragement. In the early 2000’s, the Danish Design Center created the Design Ladder as a way to measure the relationship between a company’s investment in design and its productivity or financial success. The Design Ladder has four stages: Stage one is zero design; stage two is design as styling; stage three is design as process and stage four is design as strategy. Companies that operated on stage three — design is integral — and stage four, where design is actually used to encourage innovation, reported 22% higher revenues than those at stage one or with no design.

While this survey is dated, the idea of tying profits to design and actually tracking the results is probably even more important today than it was in the mid-2000s. There need to be more efforts to track the financial impact of design (and test!)

Does your company have an innovative way to look at this problem? Let me know.