Complications of Digital Transformation

While the ultimate goal of digital transformation (DX) is often to simplify processes, the actual DX process is not simple at all. It’s complex. It’s uncertain. It’s multifaceted. And yes, it can be very, very messy. Your objectives for digitally transforming your organization can seem easy and straightforward at the start – improve customer experiences, make staff more efficient, modernize technologies – but the journey to get there might make things more difficult before it gets better.

Consider, for instance, Apple, a company that has revolutionized the way we interact with technology. In 2017, Apple decided to launch its newest iPhone without a 3.5 mm audio port, with the goal of improving user experience. Without the port, the smartphone industry could create truly waterproof phones, offer full-phone displays, and an alternative to corded headphones with the launch of AirPods and other cordless headphones to reduce the mess of tangled cords. Yet, the opportunity for innovation and improved user experience didn’t come without pushback or frustration from users. 

The Impact of Technology and Digital Innovation  

At the time, most people had multiple pairs of headphones that worked in the audio port, that were now useless. Apple’s lightning port was not widely adopted, so there were few alternatives to the corded apple headphones (that now were connected through the lightning port) or Bluetooth headphones (such as AirPods) that needed to be charged and often cost more money. If you didn’t have or couldn’t afford AirPods, you now had to deal with the fact that you couldn’t charge your phone and listen to music at the same time, forcing you to choose between the two or to get a splitter so that you could do both at the same time. The result, more tangled cords than before.

Retrospectively, Apple’s decision to remove the audio port allowed for improved features and a more holistic digital experience, yet the digital experience complicated processes for many customers who did not know, understand or care about the companies transformation goals. Apple, one of the largest technology companies in the world, can afford to force change on their customers and the industry, and we are often better off for it. Unfortunately for many other organizations, they must be more communicative and careful when it comes to digital transformation initiatives to ensure they will succeed.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation refers to the use of digital technologies, software, or services to fundamentally change business models and strategies—beyond simply enhancing an aspect of capital projects or operations. This means that for a business process to be digitally transforming, the technology (or software or services) must impact the organization across various cross-sections (e.g., maintenance, production, safety, human resources) to facilitate change.

In fact, digital transformation requires companies to be more adaptive overall, essentially making change a core competency of their growth strategy (i.e., becoming more acceptive of change within the context of business growth). This allows companies to facilitate ongoing digitalization initiatives, although such initiatives should not be confused with the overall transformation.

3 Steps to Simplify DX Initiatives

If you want your transformation to succeed, you need to take the appropriate steps with the proper guidance and planning so that you don’t lose sight of the end goal of simplicity. Here are three things you can do:

  1. Invest in Change Management
  2. Embrace Agile Development and Deliver
  3. Apply an experience design (XD) mindset

Invest in change management

Your users, employees, and stakeholders are the most important parts of the DX equation, so to keep them from experiencing the pain of your transformation initiatives, you need to provide them the right knowledge and tools for successfully navigating the DX journey. By using organizational change management practices, you can make sure there are alternative processes or workarounds in place to help people adjust to the changes while maintaining a productive workplace throughout the transformation. Engage your employees in training simulations for new processes or team-building exercises to help them prepare for the impending changes. Above all, take time to communicate with them throughout the entire process to let them know what to expect, how to adjust, and how the transformation will positively impact their work activities. 

Embrace Agile development and delivery  

Sometimes, DX projects can benefit from development and delivery over several concurrent stages instead of one linear process – i.e., using Agile principles to facilitate the transformation process. This might involve creating a new system for one line of business before building it out for the entire company or developing the foundation of a new system with enough functionality to address an immediate need. Doing this not only provides a level of transparency throughout the transformation but also serves to provide iterative checkpoints to keep you on track and within sight of your ultimate vision of simplifying processes. 

Apply an experience design (XD) mindset

The most effective digital transformations are initiated from a user-centric approach in which the entire user experience – from complexity to simplicity – is considered from start to finish. This could involve designing for interaction-level tasks and focusing on how a user’s experience accomplishes a specific goal in the DX journey. It is also important to evaluate their relationship-level experience with your brand and processes over time to ensure the DX activities are in fact streamlining your business. Far too often, transformations can be narrow in focus and might miss significant areas of scope, which is why it’s important to consider the entire XD picture for optimal design and continuous improvement. 

A Strategic Approach to Digital Transformation

Throughout your digital transformation, it’s important not to get pulled into the weeds of technology without an opportunity to come up for air and see what the end results should be. It’s also not just doing the user research and design thinking upfront, but also doing it as an iterative checkpoint along the way to ensure you are building to the simple outcome the customer wants and not getting lost in the process of change. By taking a strategic approach and partnering with a guide to help you through it, you’ll be able to effectively manage your DX initiatives while driving simple outcomes.

Still curious about the proper steps you need to take in managing effective digital transformation? Sense Corp powers insight-driven organizations and we welcome you to connect further with us on simplifying your business transformation

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