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.

Convenience is King

The future of payments is all about convenience for the end users. The end users like merchants and banks, but most importantly ordinary people (usually identified as the consumers).

The most important message from a conference on FinTech by Nets Denmark indicated that the perspective of the consumer is key when identifying new technologies for exchanging money and products. You can read more about the conference by following this URL:

This blog will among other things present various methods that can be applied when working with the end user perspectives while working with the future of payments.