It’s important to design technology solutions with users at the heart of the process.

This case has been made over and over again for the past decade or so. Yet very few companies succeed at doing it. With tales of physical products such as Jawbone UP being user-tested for three million hours or an infant warmer, Embrace, being inspired by observations in the field, we were wondering how this user-centered approach is applied in software design.

After studying at the Stanford and developing interfaces in Silicon Valley for over 15 years, Olga came to Citrix with a goal of trying out methods like design thinking to design tools that enable mobile workers to work anywhere, on any device. Adam stumbled across user empathy and experience design while previously working at Oracle. With a background in Marketing and Customer Service, he hadn’t had any previous “design” experience, but was struck by how approachable tools like empathy maps and journey maps were.

Why weren’t more organizations putting the user at the center of their design processes?

Historically, design thinking, as a process, has been utilized to design products and services with a bulk of examples coming from firms like IDEO. But what about the tech industry? A great example of this process applied in the tech sector is Google Design Sprints – “a five-day process for answering critical business questions through design, prototyping, and testing ideas with customers.”

It’s essentially a playlist of design thinking, business strategy, and user research practices, that enables design and development of usable, useful and delightful products.

Similarly, at Citrix we have developed our own unique set of practices for the enterprise. It has become increasingly important to offer a compelling customer experience as a key competitive advantage. Lately, however, “experience” has shifted from being seen as a differentiator to a “must have” – even in the enterprise. The expectation is to have a consumer-like experience with enterprise tools, since the switching costs are not high, especially when it comes to cloud services.

The rise of this design-driven culture is very much evident in the industry trends. AirBnB was co-founded by a designer. Kleiner Perkins hired John Maeda to spread design in the VC world. Even enterprises are acquiring design firms: CapitalOne bought AdaptivePath. And there are plenty of other examples.

Designers are getting a seat at the executive table bringing the best design practices and mindsets to help startups and large companies create a competitive advantage.

Citrix is no exception.

We have also embraced the culture of human-centered design and experimentation. Design thinking is as much about mindsets, as it is methods. One of our favorites – having a bias towards action – is perfectly summed up by a quote we once heard from Perry Klebahn at Stanford’s “Don’t get ready. Get started.”

It can sometimes be uncomfortable jumping into a situation wishing you had more time to prepare. But the sooner you get started, the sooner you start learning. Our team was asked to lead a design session for our GoTo product support team on very short notice. With just a hunch of which ideas and activities would resonate best for the team, we quickly designed an immersive, interactive day of workshops that had the support teams listening to live customer calls, using our products as real customers would, and learning methods such as journey mapping.

The result has been an inspired team, leading several new initiatives to reimagine our support services from the customer’s point of view.

We’re constantly looking for opportunities to experiment with these mindsets and methods.

Our Boulder, Colorado team recently ran a workshop at the ImpactHub Boulder co-working space. This interactive Taste of Design Thinking session ran participants through a full design challenge cycle in less than 90 minutes. This was a first-of-its kind event at the ImpactHub and attracted local entrepreneurs, small business owners, and innovators from Boulder’s vibrant start-up and tech community.

This event was very much an experiment in desirability: how well would the approach resonate with this audience, and would they want to learn more? Energy was high throughout the session, particularly during the early interviews where participants get to really know the needs of their activity partner.

ImpactHub ToDT sketch

There’s one question that inevitably comes up in most design workshops, which tells us the participants are really getting into the activity:  when do we get to build & show our new idea?

Many of us are great problem solvers, but are we solving the right problems? That’s why the first two phases of the design thinking process – building empathy for the user, and defining their need clearly – are so crucial. The teams did eventually get to build and present their prototypes, and the room really came to life with animated discussions. As part of the retrospective at the end of the session, 71% of participants indicated they’d be interested in follow-up discussions and workshops around design thinking topics. We’ll take that as a good sign!

You can get a taste of design thinking for mobile experiences by participating in or running an online version of this workshop (self-paced or guided). At the end, we’d love to see photos of your prototypes and any feedback you might have for us @CitrixCX @amiller72 @olga_t  #CitrixDesign.