Recently I realised that the red thread in my career so far has always been the focus on the user, no matter what industry I’ve worked in. Putting people first has always been a pragmatic, yet fundamental framework for me.
With technical developments forcing organisations into scenarios of Digital Transformation, I would argue that this user-centric way of thinking is becoming increasingly appropriate. Let me explain.
The technology problem is real
It was this post called Two Thirds of Digital Transformation Projects Fail that got me thinking. Just consider the opening line.
Large companies are throwing away roughly $400 billion (£258 billion) a year on digital and analytic business transformations that fail to deliver what they promise.
Shocking numbers. It continues to claim that 70% of Digital Transformation projects are considered a failure. Yet, the problem is real. For the 4th year in a row, an IBM study has found that CEOs consider technology the greatest external force shaping their organisation, more than macro-economic factors. Organisations have valid questions and challenges: what’s the impact of ‘digital’ on the relationship between my organisation and the user?
Put People First, Tech Will Follow
I would argue that the Digital Transformation projects mentioned above have such a dismal success rate because they are focused on short-termism, they’re too expensive and they favour tech over people.
Let’s look at the question mark in the diagram above. A lot of the changes causing these uncertainties are triggered by People using and embracing New Technology.
If, as an organisation, you want to solve this puzzle, you could do 2 things.
Option 1 >> Focus on technology
Also known as: chase the technology. Because it’s difficult to keep up with the tech race. There are no real signs of technological development slowing down. Artificial Intelligence, VR, 3D-printing, even distributed systems like Blockchain,…: most of us have very little idea on how these things will develop.
Option 2 >> Dig a level deeper & understand people
Despite all the technological bonanza, there’s always people involved. And here’s the crucial part: people are the steady bit in this equation!
Our needs and motivations are pretty stable. So if you really , really, really understand users/people , their expectations and above all their needs, you’ll create a fundamental advantage for solving modern-day problems.
Let’s Flip the Perspective
Technology gets easier if you understand users. You can experiment with iBeacons and Adtech and VR and Robotics and what not, but if you’re not serving a real need, it’s going to be tough. Sounds obvious, right?
Yet, in my experience I’ve worked with fantastic professionals, who still managed to lose touch with their customers/users, as well as with their own empathic ability to think more like a person and less like a professional.
So flipping the perspective and putting the user central can have a fundamental impact on any part of the business that is being impacted by technology (i.e. all of it).
Long-term thinking, short-term doing
This way of working is also comfortably pragmatic. Digital Transformation is huge and can be abstract. It’s about company culture and tech and new business models and becoming agile etc. That’s all true and we do need long-term thinking. But a user-centric approach (or design thinking or…) can be a kickstarter for all of this.
I embrace Paul Adams’ 666-Roadmap approach. By identifying small aspects of our business that can be made more user-centric in the short term (within 6 days or even within 6 hours), we’ll create a user-centric organisation through actions.
In short, if you’re impacted by the internet and technology, you shouldn’t chase technology. You should relentlessly focus on users, their behaviours and their needs. Because that will create a more fundamental framework, which will allow organisations to apply (or ignore for that matter) the technological developments in the most beneficial way.
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