Digital Transformation without People is Legacy IT delivery

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Many organisations are undertaking digital transformation programs to “put digital at the heart of their businesses”. This isn’t a new thing. In a way, by replacing legacy systems, upgrading IT infrastructure, and putting in CRM and distribution systems, we’ve been on this path for the better part of the last decade. In parallel to this, User Experience and in a larger sense, Customer Experience, have been gaining traction at putting the People closer to the centre of our designs and our organisations. So if at the same time we talk about putting digital at the centre of our organisations, what does that mean for People using digital systems?

These two things – People and Digital aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. But we live in a time of transition. An increasing percentage of People are channel shifting to digital, but there is a percentage that are infrequent digital users, or intractable non-digital users. Where we are placing digital at the heart of our organisations, what happens to the People who do not wish – for many different reasons – to channel shift?

If we are not careful, we could perpetuate the legacy IT approach of focusing on digital systems, features, functionality and implementation methodology – and forgetting that how People interact with these digital systems is still the most important factor to their success. Importantly, colleagues in our organisations will need to use these systems to perform their jobs, or Customers will need to interact directly with them.

While channel shift has important cost and delivery implications for the mid to long-term for organisations, sometimes in the race through a program of transformation – or due to the overwhelming scope of the transformation, it has immediate implications for organisations whose colleagues, and some percentage of Customers aren’t prepared, or feel able to channel shift to digital systems.

And worse, what happens when programs of work aren’t aligned and we deliver Customer-facing systems and their Colleague counterpart systems at a different pace, where Customer-facing systems land first and colleagues aren’t prepared to handle Customer enquiries?

Are we creating systems that our colleagues might be unable to use to service our Customers – jeopardising our entire end-to-end service mechanism?

Digital transformation cannot proceed like predecessor IT systems where the focus is on the technology and not on the People using it – whether those People are colleagues of our organisations or our Customers.

We cannot implement digital systems and develop functionality and features without paying attention to how People interact with those systems – without understanding how the User Interface (UI) meets the needs and desires of the People using it.

It’s easy to believe that in 2015 we have learned the lessons of over 20 years of digital development, and longer where IT systems are concerned. But sometimes we still forget the “Human” in Human-computer interaction (HCI). It’s still too easy to focus on the technology, the project scope and schedule, the budget and the race to deliver – and under pressure, forget about the People we are designing for.

Even though it seems a simple premise, let’s remember to keep People at the heart of our design, not just at a point in the process, but throughout the entire process.

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