5 Lessons Designers should learn from project failures

Project Failure

Projects fail; failures are an inevitable part of a project and can be instrumental in providing insights to improve products, services, and organizations. Here are the five critical lessons for designers in making the journey through the project a more constructive & reflective process.

Use it and abuse it. Then, go out, create unique products, and build excellent designs that speak to the user. Let’s go.

Lesson 1: Bring in outside-in perspectives
Many organizations default to an inside-out focus. Leading organizations understandably overvalue their assets (systems, intellectual property, data, knowledge, expertise, and insights) and significantly undervalued external experiences, trends, and user insights.

This trend causes them to lose the perspective of their customers, technology shifts, societal trends, and competitive threats. All that to say, they have a hard time maintaining an “outside-in” perspective on their business and on the way they’re approaching design thinking. It is not sufficient to imagine a problem sitting inside offices, but practically interacting with users and reaching out to them to gain insights on the key challenges and significantly reduce chances of failure.

Lesson 2: Focus on outcomes and not only outputs
Many organizations see outputs and outcomes as interchangeable, but outputs are essentially checked-off tasks. Output is an indication of transaction completion, whereas outcome drives impact.

Since outputs are easy to measure, we end up focusing on outputs rather than outcomes. Ideally, look at the overall outcome of how the product would affect business while delighting users (e.g., how to onboard new customers more seamlessly). This outcome could have worked towards a real, measurable business benefit, ensuring that all product development steps aim for the same goal.

For example, the design leaders concerned about subscriptions might ask this question: If we do a fantastic job getting users to subscribe to our newsletter, how will we improve those users’ lives? It focuses them on completing the transaction yet doing so to make a positive difference for their customers.

Lesson 3: Continuous Execution and Innovation
Organizations constantly face the challenge of balancing product release vs. bringing innovation for lasting impact. As mentioned earlier, this scenario is especially true when a more significant focus is on outputs over outcomes.

Truly innovative products are not born out of pure-play design execution. It results from continuous discovery, research into new trends, technologies, user motivations, and iterative product improvement.

Lesson 4: Define project scope from the beginning
Many projects fail due to unclear requirements. One of the primary reasons for failure is ambiguity in the project brief. To avoid such shortcomings, decide what success and failures would look like before launching the initiative. Make sure there is a clear vision document prepared by capturing the voice of customers, the voice of business, and the voice of the market.

Lesson 5: Test often with users and stakeholders
Project failures are directly linked with the rejection of the product by the target audience or execution failure by the execution team. To avoid this, don’t wait till the product is fully designed. Have periodic reviews with all stakeholders such as the business team, execution team, and target end-users, and course correct on the go.

A well-tested product that gets launched will result in no unwanted surprises, satisfied business owners, elegant execution, and happy customers.

How Cubyts avoids project failures
Cubyts as a DesignOps platform allows management, collaboration, strategizing, scale, demystifying, and measuring design by connecting people, data, resources, and activities under one umbrella.

Cubyts improve the efficiency of the design function by 20%, thus improving the chances of building a successful product.

Cubyts tracks and measures various activities and provides insights resulting in a substantial reduction in project failures. It also keeps the entire team aligned to shared goals and focuses on outcomes over outputs. The platform provides visibility, manages end deliverables, and measures outcomes of the design function resulting in design-led user-centric culture in an organization.