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How design became business’s best weapon in today’s digital economy



Small Business

By Ryan Burke

It’s no coincidence that McKinsey’ s latest industry research found a direct correlation between those ranking high in design index scores and superior business performance, with up to 32% higher revenue growth observed. The message is loud and clear: design is no longer a nice to have in business, it’s a must have.

As businesses begin to grasp the vital role that design can play in their organisation, the practice is rapidly climbing the ranks as one of the key investment priorities for the c-suite and board today. Those who haven’t woken up to this yet risk being left behind amid rapid, industry-wide digital transformation.

Design and the role of the designer have taken on a whole new meaning as companies increase their focus on customer experience. Today’s consumers are demanding functional, well-designed digital products and every company, regardless of whether they are a bank, a retailer or software company, must  be ready to embrace this shift.

Having spent the past few years working closely with businesses who are leading the way in design innovation here in Australia, I am increasingly aware of a common thread with those who are transforming business outcome through design. Those who start from the bottom up, ripping up org charts and giving their designers a strategic seat at the table are seeing the most impact. They’ve also changed the way they think design as a function at a fundamental level, recognizing their designers not as a layer of aesthetic polish but as the individuals in their organization with the greatest insight into end users.

One company who I am continually impressed with and were one of the first to recognise the powerful impact of design is MYOB.

Speaking recently to MYOB’s Head of Design, Phil Waters, I learned that the popular accounting SaaS company has doubled down on its R&D practices and has shaken up its its entire company structure to ensure a design-led approach on all projects. At least one designer now sits within every team in the business. The restructure has allowed MYOB designers to be involved at every stage of product development to address rapidly evolving customer needs.

In Australia, the accounting software market is notoriously competitive, which is why MYOB decided to double down with a structural overhaul and increased investment in R&D and the right design tools.

By growing their design team from eight to 40 people within four years, it is evident that MYOB is prioritising user experiences across all digital platforms. With designers at the lead, MYOB is now leading the charge to digitally transform the industry — moving away from pure desktop products to mobile products and cross-browser experiences.

By investing in collaborative design tools like InVision, MYOB has drastically reduced its time to get a new product to market. Designers and developers are able to cohesively work together which gives them a competitive edge and the ability to rapidly build and tweak tools in line with customer’s needs. InVision prototypes allow MYOB to get input from multiple stakeholders and to easily test their designs with customers before writing any code, all of which helps them ship products faster. And because InVision provides all the tools that designers need in one place, it negates the need for them to move back and forth between multiple platforms and allows them to focus on the craft of product design.

When I last spoke to Phil, his team had just released a feature for small businesses that integrates into the Australian Tax Office’s new single touch payroll requirements. Legislative changes like these can be nerve wracking for businesses. MYOB’s design-centric approach ensured the whole experience from the copy to the look and feel of its new tool not only instilled confidence in customers, but also eased the process of rolling out single touch payroll.

MYOB is the perfect example of a company that has embraced the role of a designer and leveraged their ability to deliver products that users love. With close to one million customers, it’s clear that their approach has paid off.

Ryan Burke, Head of International at InVision.