Successful Digital Transformation Depends on a Solid UX

Any digital transformation initiative that doesn’t take the user experience (UX) into account is setting itself up for failure.

Without a clear user workflow, there is no way to achieve even modest efficiency and productivity goals. A purely tools-based approach will never reach its true potential. And an “improved process” is only good if it is followed consistently.

That’s because there is more to success than productivity metrics. The user experience is a core component of what makes a product or service great, and it plays an enormous role in how employees approach their responsibilities in providing those products or services to customers.

Any business that is planning to go fully digital needs to take the UX into account before creating, developing, or deploying any application or workflow. Taking the time to do so can generate compounding positive returns down the line.

Why Is UX So Important During Digital Transformation Design?

Many IT professionals will argue that UX design is important across the board – not just during digital transformation – and they’re right. But the moment an organization decides to develop and implement new digital workflows is a critical one. That moment is when the greatest gains are to be had.

Each department within your company may be chartered to identify ways to digitize their specific workflows, tools and processes to improve productivity and create efficiency. They want to make things better for their team and for the company, AND they want to do it as quickly as possible.

In many cases, departments can become frustrated by how long it takes for corporate IT to go through the process of gathering requirements, evaluating solutions, making a selection, designing and deploying the new digital process.

In these situations, one of three things can happen:

  1. business units take it upon themselves to find a point-solution that can be implemented for their specific department and make that recommendation to corporate IT
  2. they take a “shadow IT” approach and implement their own solution often veiled as a “proof of concept”, or
  3. they get in line and wait for the organizational change to be chosen, approved and executed.

Instead of working cross-functionally and looking holistically to break down silos, new digital silos are inadvertently created. The departments focus on their specific needs to achieve their own objectives, and big opportunities to digitally transform the business may be missed.

Here are some examples of inadvertent digital silos:

  • A sales team sets up their own CRM, sales training and enablement tools, outside of what the rest of the sales organization is using – so they can “move faster”.
  • A product team that wants to modernize their Member Portal and chooses a packaged platform solution because it will help them to “launch sooner”, and is “easy to maintain”.
  • A customer support team that purchases an enterprise CRM solution using their current workflows as the “MVP requirement” for the consultant to implement.

In each case, the desire to move faster, launch sooner, have a solution that is easy for the business to maintain, or implement an enterprise productivity tool that is stood up as an MVP, resulted in gains that were short lived and didn’t end up being transformative.

You’re still able to move quickly during digital transformation, but your organization has to look at the problem from different perspectives – the perspective of the end user, the business and the technology. If you think of it as a Venn diagram, with each perspective being one of the circles, the intersection where all three perspectives overlap is where UX design resides. The power of leveraging UX design is that as you create a closer alignment between the end user, the business and the technology, the circles draw closer together and the impact of UX grows. This is transformational.

Venn Diagram

Executives who can establish a seamless UX for their employees from the start are better able to leverage their resulting successes. Business leaders and CIOs who recognize this fact make building simple, easy-to-use systems a priority from the start. Moving from painstaking manual processes to lightning-fast digital ones is a demanding process.

Design Tools For Employees, Not the Other Way Around

From the Industrial Revolution until now, most organizations focused on training employees to use increasingly complicated tools to perform tasks. Once an employee role was specified, the organization would “design” a willing participant to fulfill that role.

This scenario is changing, and digital transformation is one of the forces causing it to change. Employers who understand how to design tools for their employees are going to see much higher rates of user adoption than those who don’t.

Three Ways to Improve Digital Transformation With UX

Organizations that take a leadership-oriented approach to digital transformation have a much easier time getting employees on-board with change. The most successful businesses typically use an approach that combines the following strategic principles:

1. Demonstrate Company Values Throughout the Organization

Digital transformation is a critical time for executives to ask themselves what the company stands for. Your customized IT infrastructure is going to represent your company’s mission and values, whether you are consciously aware of it or not.
For instance, a customer-oriented company that prides itself on support service may invest heavily in its customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRMs focus on the workflows for customer service agents to access customer records and help their customers on the phone or via email. But over time, as the company finds that more and more customers want to self-serve via the member portal, support portal, mobile app or via chat, they decide that self-service is a high-priority digital initiative to undertake.

A great source of field research to understand the top pain points and top issues that customers are looking for support on can be found through customer service call logs. If employees aren’t sure about the mission, vision, and their role in the digital transformation, they could see self-service as a threat to their job and be resistant to that change.

Leaders who take the time to identify their company values and align them with the digital transformation initiative, are able to impact the UX in ways that reinforce those values.

2. Break Digital Transformation Into Small, Manageable Steps

It might be tempting to simply throw away your old system and replace it with a brand-new, high-functioning alternative in one day. But that’s just not realistic.

Taking on a grand transformation when your company is not organizationally or culturally ready can create fatigue for your employees. Change is difficult, and can be frustrating for employees – especially if they don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your employees need to build confidence and momentum by accomplishing quick wins and seeing progress.

Many organizations establish a tiered adoption structure that gradually replaces key functionalities over time. As employees get used to the new processes, their leaders add additional features that seamlessly integrate with initial workflows – this slows down the transformation to a manageable pace.

3. Integrate User Feedback Into UX Design

Don’t assume all users are the same. In order for UX design to mean anything, it must be informed with clear data from a cross-section of real users. IT leaders need to design their user-oriented systems around actual user feedback, gathered from willing employees and customers over time.

By incorporating input and feedback from the employees that use the tools and systems that you are creating, you increase the likelihood of adoption and engagement with these new tools and systems. Using lean UX research methods such as R.I.T.E. Testing can help to quickly iterate and improve upon the concept and user flows, and to get buy-in from the end users by engaging them in the process.

This key step can prevent costly mistakes and help ensure that the company’s cultural values are actually aligned with what employees feel on the ground floor. We’d love to talk.

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