Design Starts from the Top

This blog post deals with the need for designing products and services that enables the business to stay relevant for customers in the payments industry.


FinTechs and Finance companies can apply design thinking to produce better products and services and this can enable a competitive advantage for the FinTechs and FInance companies, if design thinking is implemented correctly.  Therefore, the directors of the company have to think in terms of the value propositions the company provides for its customers. In order to realize the potential of designing the products, services and the organization’s value proposition the top-managers have to stay committed to the approach. For enterprises they have to have middle-managers who can implement the vision on a tactical and operational level. The design thinking approach includes:

  • Applying an outside in approach to the company.
  • Creating a clarification of roles and responsibilities.
  • Envisioning the customers’ usage of the products & services.
  • Creating an end-to-end view of the processes for delivering the value proposition for the customers.
  • Methods for delivering products and services for the customers. E.g., program methods, project methods and operating models.

Design thinking

The concept of design thinking is about the designer who takes control of a process of designing a product, service or organization in mind. The designer works as a facilitator in order to engage the stakeholders e.g., customers, employees, the managers, the owners and the suppliers.

The designer can have many different roles and titles in the organization e.g.:

  • A manager.
  • A project manager.
  • An enterprise architect.
  • An engineer.
  • A product designer.
  • A change manager.

One of the original thinkers within the design thinking paradigme is Tim Brown (of IDEO). Tim came to the conclusion that design thinking is about:

“Edison’s approach was an early example of what is now called “design thinking”—a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design

ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.” – Brown (2008, p. 1).

Brown adds to the definition of the concept of design thinking with the quote below:

“Design thinking is a lineal descendant of that tradition. Put simply, it is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity. Like Edison’s painstaking innovation process, it often entails a great deal of perspiration. ” – Brown (2008, p. 2)

Hereto Brown identifies that the executions (or top managers) have to take part of the process, and they have to enable the prioritization of working with design thinking through out the company’s processes:

“Leaders now look to innovation as a principal source of differentiation and competitive advantage; they would do well to incorporate design thinking into all phases of the process.” – Brown (2008, p. 2).

In other words, design starts from the top of the organization and the approach to designing the organization, its products, and services it has to be done through a value proposition approach, which includes:

  • An outside in approach.
  • A clarification of roles and responsibilities in the organization for how to deal with the value proposition and customer development.
  • Envisioning the customers usage of the products and being customer centric.
  • An end-to-end view of the processes for delivering the value proposition for the customers.
  • A method to deliver the products and services e.g., a program management approach or a project management approach and an operating model.


The role of management is to envision the future of the products and services and to uphold the needed systems in the company to deliver the value proposition for its customers. The managers have to ensure that the vision of products, services and design of the company is anchored at the middle manager layer in the company in order to ensure that the oversight and prioritization of the tasks needed to deliver the products and services with the proper value adding.


Design thinking is a methodology that applies design not for the business itself, but for its customers. The designer (regardless of role) has to apply a view of the business from the outside in, in other words on how the customers interact with the company and how they achieve the value proposition. This means that the designer has to engage the stakeholders and collect data from the stakeholders. From this point of view the Value Proposition Canvas and the Business Model Canvas can be applicable and create value for the designer and the businesses.

Roles and responsibilities

In order to give the customers the best possible level of value proposition it is a necessity to have mapped and embedded the responsibilities for different tasks that have to be taken care of by the company. For startups it is easier to map the responsibilities due to the relatively less complex business, whereas enterprises with different business units, business divisions and different geographic markets have a much more complex task at hand. In relation to this startups and small- medium sized companies can have an advantage through time to market.

The top management of the company has to make it clear who:

  • Are in charge of customer service.
  • Are in charge of innovation and development.
  • Are in charge of sales.
  • Are in charge of production.
  • Are in charge of market scanning.
  • Are in charge of strategy and coherence.

The designer can help facilitate the process of whom should be responsible for what.

Envisioning the customers’ usage of the product

The top management of the company has to engage in activities that enables them to envision, how the products and services of the company are used by its customers in a context within a timeframe of five, ten or 15 years. For this, it is possible for, the company’s top management to apply scenario planning where it is described how the concept of operations will be like by the proposed point in time. From this the designer can design the needed changes of the business in order to achieve the intended concept of operations.

E2E view of the processes for the value proposition

The end-to-end process overview of customer engagement, development of products and production of products and services are key in order to ensure optimization.

The processes should be available for instructions, learning and for digitalisation. The processes have to be facilitated and documented before they can be ratified and exposed to the various stakeholders. When the designer facilitates the processes he or she can facilitate an improved design of the processes.

Method for delivering products and services

The company has to be able to deliver the value proposition through products and services that are needed by the customers.  In enterprises this would usually happen through a program or project methodology that enables the company to deliver the designs, products or services and a subsequent operating model that enables the employees of the company to collaborate and deliver the products needed. An example of this is SAFe, Prince 2/Waterfall model and scrum and further on an operating model.


Design thinking is a method for companies to achieve competitive advantages, which includes the FinTechs and finance companies. Design thinking has to be embedded in the organization through the managerial approach of the organization’s top-management. The top management has to ensure the ability of delivering the value proposition to the company’s customers e.g., by program management, project management and by an operating model that ensures products can be developed and produced for the customers.


Bown, T. (2008). Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review.

The Business Model Canvas

The business model canvas is an excellent model for designing better businesses. The model can be used by a variety of roles but also for a multitude of purposes.

The primary purpose though is to align the processes of the organization to create the right value propositions for the customers (in case of a business) or clients (in case of a public organization or NGO).

The business model canvas can be used in combination with the value proposition canvas to create an overview of how the organization can produce products or service (if not both) for current as well as new customers.

The model is particularly relevant for new FinTech companies and for incumbent financial companies that have to adapt to new market conditions. The business model canvas can be used for an as-is analysis and for a to-be analysis. The scope of the model is to identify how the business is working and how it creates value.

The business model canvas can be applied actively in workshops and as a model for validation of the information collected in interviews or at the workshops.

Nine Building Blocks

The business model canvas consists of building blocks. Each building block can be explored in detail and their relationships can be explored in order to identify ways to optimize.

Key Partners

The key are suppliers and collaborators that are needed for the organisation to produce the products and services that it sells or provides for its customers and clients.

Key Activities

The key activities are about the tasks that have to be conducted in order for the company to produce the value adding products and activities.

Key Resources

The key resources are needed for the company to produce the services or the products that are sold to its customers.

Value Proposition

The value proposition is key for the customers. What value does the company’s customers receive. Do the customers agree to the value proposition?

The value proposition canvas can be used together with the business model canvas in order to explore the possibilities of the value proposition and it fits with this building block.

Customer Relations

This building block is about what kind of customer relations the company has and should try to create. There are several forms of customer relations and how these have to be handled in order to achieve the best possible strategy.


The channels component deals with how the company (or organization) can deliver its products or services (or in combination) to its customers. If an analysis of the cash flow of the company identifies that the customers do not pay on time, then this block might be worth investigating in detail with parallel with the  block on value proposition.

Customer Segments

The customer segment block is about what customers segments that the company has as-is. During the analysis the customer segments can be subject for granularity, and it can be combined with the value proposition block. The customer segments and the value proposition blocks can in combination be a part of the value proposition canvas.

Cost Structure

The building block on cost structure is essentially dealing with what elements that impact the production of products and services including:

  • Marketing,
  • Human resources,
  • Capital expenditure,
  • Transport of goods,
  • Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Salaries,
  • Licenses for software and patents (and other intellectual property).

This building block can be investigated in detail by applying techniques like management accounting, advanced management account and managerial economics.

Revenue Streams

This building block in the business model is about the revenue that the company creates by selling its products and/or services. Like the cost structure building block the revenue stream can be analysed by activity based costing, managerial economics and advanced management accounting.

Other Forms of Usage

The approach to business design and value proposition design has been added and to some extent modified by other communities for different purposes. An example of this is the SAFe community where the community has modified and adapted the business model canvas, and renamed it Portfolio Canvas (SAFe 2018), for program management and it appears as an artefact for the PI stage, where the program does its incremental planning.

The other ways to approach the business model canvas are indicators of the model’s viability and the model’s universal applicability. The model has been associated with design thinking, enterprise architecture and LEAN-approaches.


The business model canvas is a relevant approach for FinTechs and more traditional financial companies in the sense that it can be used for the design for new products, services and for a new business organization in order to achieve a competitive advantage. It is relevant for the new FinTechs in order to define how the product should be designed in order to compete against the traditional financial institutions, whereas the financial institutions have interest in staying relevant for their customers and by applying the business model canvas for business transformations, new products/services or projects that can enable competitive development.

Applying the business model canvas can be a bottom-up process, but in order to gain the best possible impact for the organization it is necessary for the enterprise architect, designer or project manager to get the top of the business to support the development of the organization’s business model.


Osterwalder, A., & Pigneur, Y. (2010). Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers (1st edition). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons.SAFe. (2018). Portfolio Canvas. URL: . Accessed: 19th of April 2019.

The Value Proposition Canvas

There are many ways to identify value propositions for customers. One of the approaches is the Business Model Canvas, and the Value Proposition Canvas which is closely linked by scope of the value proposition design.

Both models are theoretically within the realm of design thinking. The point of view is that the designer (or architect) designs the interactions, business, products, processes, data and IT-systems needed to deliver the value for the customers. In this particular context the designer will be dealing with the design of a value proposition for a product or a service. While designing the product or service it is possible for the designer to engage the various potential customers. In this regard the usage of the value proposition canvas can help the designer in his quest to identify pains, gains and the jobs the customers need to have done. To the left side of the value proposition canvas it is possible to setup the information on the product specifications such as pain relievers, gain creators and the products and services.

The Value Proposition Canvas.


The model enables communication with stakeholders in the various business departments and units. The model is very intuitive to use and as such it can be filled out in workshops and as such by persons who interact with stakeholders and later fill out the models to validate hypotheses and ideas.


The model can lead the designer towards suboptimization of the product in relation to what the business might be able to produce and deliver.

The model is a tool and it can only make an impact for the businesses and organizations if the culture is open for change and if the analyst who applies the model is capable of translating the model into a plan.


The value proposition canvas can be used for many types of businesses to identify opportunities for designing winning products. The value proposition canvas is hereto an easy model to model to apply when it comes to design of products and it’s integration to the business model canvas makes it possible to optimize the company’s value stream and overall design. Like most models the value proposition canvas can be applied in workshops and as a backoffice analysis tool.


Osterwalder, A. & Pigneur, Y. (2014), Value Proposition Design.