A human-centric approach is key to unlocking digital transformation success

digital transformation

The information age has gone through many phases, but one thing has always remained true — the constant acceleration of evolution. This acceleration hasn’t always been consistent, but we’ve seen another leap in the already high urgency for businesses to adopt new tools, services, and technologies boom again with the growth of hybrid working.

Enterprises have become laser-focused on what will help hybrid workers be as productive as they were in the traditional office space — wherever they choose to work. But knowing what technology and software are best to invest in to maintain — or even boost — productivity is not always a simple task.

The first step to creating a modern workforce

Technology vendors are constantly rolling out new platforms or updates to existing applications. Navigating the available options to make the best choice for the organization can be an overwhelming task for business leaders, and have a profound effect on their employees. Without thorough consideration, the wrong investment can negatively impact workflows and business operations. Even if organizations select exactly the right technology for their needs, they still need employees to actually use it. 

For instance, according to McKinsey research, 70 percent of all digital transformation initiatives don’t reach their initial goals. In fact, of the $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation in 2018, it’s estimated that more than $900 billion was squandered because of uneducated and spontaneous decision-making. For comparison, this is more than the GDP of Saudi Arabia, and would pay for the USA’s 2020 COVID stimulus package entirely. Therefore, making well-thought and strategic investments is crucial in helping to extract maximum value from technology solutions and software, as well as the people it’ll be supporting. 

Assessing the impact and ROI of digital transformation investments is critical for giving executives confidence that they are making the right decisions. But this means understanding their human impact. If organizations want confidence that they really are boosting business operations and improving employee productivity, they need to understand the people using the technology.

Human-centric success

Taking a human-centric approach to technology is critical. As mentioned, the most impressive applications in the world won’t produce results if people can’t or won’t use them. This approach needs to be in place at the very beginning — part of the planning for any digital transformation project should be how it will impact end users. But it’s most pronounced when technology is in place.

With so many tools in place in the modern enterprise, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds when understanding how employees are actually using them. This was already the case when everyone worked in a central location and some might argue that remote and hybrid work has led to a lack of visibility into how employees are working day to day. But a human-centric approach places the highest value on understanding employees, whether they are at the next desk or in the next county. 

So how can organizations succeed with a human-centric approach to technology investment? As with so much in modern business, part of the answer lies in analytics. Many organizations now use customer journey mapping to understand how and where to improve customer experiences, but exactly the same applies in-house.  Understanding how employees are using applications, when, and for what purposes — as well as where they are struggling to complete tasks, or abandoning them altogether — will allow enterprises to create a map, identifying pain points and where employees need support in order to fully adopt applications and harness technology tools for success. 

For this approach to work, it needs to be comprehensive — covering every application used by every business unit. Not only to identify where employees need support, but also where applications or licenses might be redundant. It also needs to inform real action. Ideally, organizations should be able to create smart help functions that can use this analysis to identify ongoing issues and give end users the support they need, when they need it — right on the screen. But at the very least analysis should inform training and other methods of increasing adoption and showing employees how to get the most out of technology. After all, technology should be a tool to help each and every employee do their job better.

Getting what you paid for

As a CFO, I’m well aware of the need to demonstrate how every decision will benefit the organization’s bottom line. By taking a human-centric approach to digital transformation, and most importantly digital adoption, organizations will be better able to turn their technology investments into real benefits. ROI isn’t just in what can be saved in the current business model as software helps to transform the business model and underlying processes. This results in a more efficient business model and the avoidance of future expenses. Digital businesses often avoid costs with business cycle fluctuations as they are more able to adapt. Many of these benefits start with the understanding and analysis of human interaction with technology. 

Photo Credit: Sashkin/Shutterstock

Simon Blunn is Senior Vice President and Global Manager EMEA at WalkMe

Author: Martha Meyer