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Why do 70% of digital transformations miss the mark?

By Phill Bolland, co-founder, at YaYa

Covid-19 has accelerated the need for companies to embrace changing consumer and employee behaviour, which is why it’s essential for organisations to succeed with new digital technology to stay ahead.

But why do almost three-quarters of digital transformation fall short and what is the knock-on effect of this failure on businesses?

The impact on people

If your tools are for internal use, getting your digital strategy wrong can have a dire effect on your people. Yaya research found that half of employees surveyed would leave their current positions due to bad digital products, and a further 58% said the tools they’re provided at work were a poor second to the apps they use at home.

Failing to involve employees during the design process was a key reason for lack of adoption: only 10% of those surveyed said they or their fellow workers were consulted at this stage. Perhaps most surprising of all was that half of workers stated that the new tools they used at work made no difference or harmed their jobs.

It doesn’t matter whether employees are being paid to use technology as part of their job, or whether customers are paying a company to use a product, the same principles apply, and no business will thrive by disengaging one of its most vital assets: its users.

Building a house

So how can a business produce digital tools that will delight users? The answer is to take a people-centered approach. This kind of mindset is a bit like building a house. Housebuilders might ask how many bedrooms are required or what kind of material is needed. Alternatively, they might ask who will live in the house and where they see themselves in five years’ time. Taking such a people-centric approach will result in a home the owners love that facilitates and supports their goals.

The companies that succeed in developing digital tools aren’t obsessed with technology, they’re obsessed with human behaviour. It’s no great surprise that digital products miss the mark if we don’t seek to understand the behaviours, motivations and needs of our audiences.

Whether it’s empathy mapping, user testing or field studies, remember to walk a mile in your audience’s shoes and understand how a product can fit into their lives before attempting the solution.

Challenging your mindset

Although no one has a crystal ball that can predict the future, producing a product that’s slightly better than a previous version or a bit superior to competitors isn’t enough. This approach doesn’t move the business into a place where it has a differentiated or compelling enough offering to increase commercial advantage, it just means it’s scrapping away in a congested space.

But where should businesses start with a people-centric approach?

There are various research approaches that can help to build an empathetic picture of an audience, with the researchers immersing themselves to understand how audiences are shaped by their customs, habits or mutual differences. This approach, combined with other data we have available to reveal how an audience behaves, means companies can build a detailed view of the people it wants to engage from the offset.

For example, if you’re looking to develop a new sports app, putting on your trainers and sweating it out in fitness classes to understand what drives people will align your business strategy with the needs of users. From research to strategy, through to design and delivery, this kind of human-centered insight challenges any pre-conceptions and instead builds a product that people will love.

Aligning your business strategy

Crucially, starting with the needs and desires of your users means businesses avoid the expensive embarrassment of failed products created in isolation. Strategy isn’t delivered in a boardroom, so it’s vital to think about how to connect with the people who actually make it happen. In fact, companies enjoy 32% higher revenue[1] when taking this approach than traditional businesses.

Further still, fixing a problem in development costs 10 times as much as fixing it in design, and 100 times as much when the tool has been released[2]. With a people-centered approach, your business strategy is molded to your audience, lowering risk, and ensuring scalability.

So, the solution is clear: building successful digital tools starts with people – not technology.

To read the full report from YaYa: People centered design at work: how to design digital tools your employees love, click here.