How Charles River Labs is Re-imagining Digital Transformation with Design Thinking
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How Charles River Labs is Re-imagining Digital Transformation with Design Thinking

Mark Mintz, Corporate Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer at Charles River Labs and Erin Howard, Executive Director of Product, Service, and Experience Design at Charles River Labs
Mark Mintz, Corporate Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer at Charles River Labs

Mark Mintz, Corporate Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer at Charles River Labs

The idea of a digital transformation isn’t new. While companies across industries are in varying phases of implementing these digital strategies, they have all recognized the value this transformation plays in the business’ future – it’s a necessary component to meeting business needs and goals. But transitioning an organization to a digital-first framework isn’t an easy task. Technology is constantly changing and can be intimidating for many, leaving organizations unsure of how to move forward.

Over the past decade, there have been many approaches and key learnings shared that can help companies get to the heart of an effective, holistic digital transformation. To reimagine and enable digital transformation however, companies must lead with an approach that ensures the people, the process and the technology all work together–design thinking.

Design thinking is not a process, but a methodology that when applied to businesses challenges and focus areas helps to ensure the needs of people, process, and technology work together in solving the problem. Instead of presenting a solution upfront, this approach examines both present and future details of a problem, explores alternate solutions through wide and divergent ideation, and examines the needs of the people using and implementing the solution in partnership with the needs of technology and business.In the pharma and lifesciences industry the digital revolution is not only helping streamline processes and operations, but the effects of this digitization directly impacts patients. For example, at Charles River Labs our goal is to take a year off the drug development timeline. To make this happen we must adapt to understand the true challenges that can slow drug research and development and re-imagine the way we work and collaborate to create digitally native solutions that improve efficiency, speed up processes and enable automated, data driven outcomes.Below are three ways to champion design thinking in your company:

● Start small, show value.

Design thinking can be used to solve any size problem. As the reach of design thinking is expanded, companies often partner with a business or segment and start on a small piece of their overall business strategy. By honing in on the problem, ideating with a team, stakeholders, customers, and users, mapping out potential solutions across people, process and technology to test and learn, companies can then deliver a minimum valuable product (MVP) that dramatically improves business outcomes.

● Embed design thinking.Erin Howard, Executive Director of Product, Service, and Experience Design at Charles River Labs

Designers are not the only strong design thinkers. Design thinkers come in the form of anyone who asks questions, challenges assumptions, tests ideas, and ultimately is driven by the goal of true reimagination. Some of the strongest design thinkers beyond the design team are Business Analysts, Product Owners, Data Engineers, Software Engineers, and anyone willing to step into the problem space, get a little messy with the problem, and ultimately consider multiple solutions before proceeding.

● Put the customer at the center of any problem.

Design thinking involves stepping into the shoes of the customer and understanding how they do things, how they feel, and how they think. Understanding and empathizing with our customers is important because the problem is not ours and how we would solve it for us differs widely from how we might solve it for them. When doing this it’s important to not limit the solution to just technology.  We need to completely re-imagine how we work, leveraging all the capabilities modern technology enables while enabling frictionless digitally native processes.

 In the pharma and lifesciences industry the digital revolution is not only helping streamline processes and operations, but the effects of this digitization directly impacts patients 

Charles River has embedded design thinking across the business and focuses on building deep understanding of the people we’re designing products and services for. Alongside that, we’ve also built a team with the necessary skills and deep expertise in Design Thinking to ensure the ‘people’ part of the digital transformation journey is right at the heart of the decision-making process.

Design thinking has proven to be a powerful catalyst for change across our business; it has helped stakeholders build collaboration with multi-disciplinary teams from the inception stage. It encourages divergent thought, reimagination, and commitment to understanding the problem before finding a solution across cross-functional working teams, and has enabled us to keep customers—and ultimately patients—at the center of the way our organization looks at problems. Embedding aspects of design thinking across the business allows our teams to fearlessly run at agile and MVP, fail fast and test solutions – a crucial component for achievingour digital transformation vision.

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