Sidewalk: Business Design Principles

Sometime back, I was invited to participate in a Round-Table discussion by Welingkar Institute @ Matunga, Mumbai. The theme of the roundtable was Empowering India. At the end of the round-table, participant’s views were sought on new breed of MBAs – Business Designers & Business Design.

Business Design was very aptly defined by one of the participants as design of Strategy, Product, and Process. Organisations have specific functions which take care of Strategy, Product and sometimes even process design. Process design though is largely addressed through quality initiatives like ISO, Six Sigma and TQM. Now when an MBA is packaged as a Business Designer, the package indeed looks attractive. Very raraly though MBA would get an opportunity to work on all the 3 aspects of Business Design simultaneously with the exception of Consulting.

I have had an opportunity to go through Business Design, when we launched IndiaFirst Life Insurance, the latest entrant in life insurance sector india. My work largely focussed on operations and process design, and here are my inputs:

1. Focus on the customer and end user

May sound a bit cliched, but remember that the product and process & systems you are designing are for customers and users respectively. Understand the pain areas & challenges of your customer / user, while carrying out your business design. A solution or design that addresses end user’s challenges automatically improves the acceptability of the solution.

2. Business Design has to be contextual

While designing process or product, you needs to see the context in which they are applied. When IndiaFirst project team was formed, most of us came to the table with strong agency driven life insurance company background. Whereas IndiaFirst is largely a bancassurance company. When we were made to see our business in the context of bancassurance, we realised that agency driven life insurance operational processes could be improved upon significantly to establish low cost n faster TAT operations. What works in one environment may not work in another. What works for an old organisation may not work for new organisation, and vice-versa. So, understands the context before designing business.

3. Design the blueprint & establish a roadmap

In case of operation or system design, make sure that the blue-print of the design is ready in sync with long term business goals. Business designers tend to typically trade short objectives for long term goals due to cost and time constraints. Any operations or systems built keeping in mind short term goals involve rework and waste. Make sure that you understand long term business objectives, draw a blue-print identifying all the components of the solution and define implementation roadmap in case you have to opt for an incremental approach to implementation.

4. KISS – Keep it Simple n Stupid, stick to basics

Innovation is a buzz word today. If you do not innovate you are out of the game. Designers, as a result, are always under tremendous stress to innovate n come up with completely radical n new ideas. As a result, most of the time, business designers over-engineer & over-complicate processes and products. Avoid over-use or emphasis on technology.


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