In a time when sustainable competitive advantage is harder to maintain, customer experience expectations are on the rise. With technology and innovation happening in shorter cycles, the overall ability of organisations to change operationally remains elusive.
Data cited in a recent article highlight this challenge:
- 83% of companies have appointed a chief data officer or chief data and analytics officer, which is good given that inserting AI/analytics/data into every business process and decision is a stated goal for many.
- However, the same survey revealed that for 80% of companies, the principal challenges of becoming more data-driven are human: culture, people, process, organisation. In fact, only 24% characterise their companies as data-driven.
- Given this, where are data executives putting their priorities? In this survey, most are focusing on technology-oriented issues, such as data modernisation, data products and data architecture. While 94% of companies plan to continue increasing their investments in data, a key question becomes: Is our approach to becoming more data-driven holistic enough to drive real impact in our organisation?
A real-world example – new tech doesn’t always drive enthusiastic adoption
Here’s an example that illustrates how the best intentions may not always deliver the projected or hoped-for value: Our team was called in to meet with the chief data officer (CDO) of a large organisation. They wanted us to review the organisation’s current data infrastructure, with the goal of supporting a new era of data-driven business decision-making, fueled by a new platform.
As a consultant, after repeatedly seeing similar issues related to less-than-perfect technology and/or implementations, you expect to encounter them again sometimes in an exercise like this. But guess what? The data infrastructure that had been put together was amazing – a single source of truth for data (or close to it), best-of-breed tooling from data ingestion to reporting, and a modern data governance plan.
After conducting a full review, we asked the obvious question: What is the problem? The initial answer led to a deeper dive. Bottom line, the business needed help creating a suite of use cases to leverage the new data platform.
So off to work we went. And contrary to the CDO’s initial thoughts, the business leaders were more than happy to discuss their needs and had some interesting ideas. They shared numerous views on how different areas of the business could leverage the new platform.
The only problem was when we checked in with them a few months later: They weren’t using the new platform. Worse, almost everyone was still using the older data infrastructure the new platform had replaced. This created a conflict – plus, the organisation was stuck paying for both the old and new infrastructure or risk a “cold turkey” shutdown of the old platform and the resulting business disruption.
We had reviewed the older infrastructure – there was nothing special about it. In fact, it was clunky and hard to use, and users experienced frequent issues. The CDO was right to make a major upgrade. But why was the older system still being utilised more than the new one?
A hard truth about human behavior is that when faced with two choices, both of which are difficult, many people choose the path with which they have greater familiarity and comfort. In this case, while the legacy infrastructure was hard to drive value from, the hypothesis of the business leaders was that the new system would also struggle to drive value. Plus, and more important, although the old system was clunky, the users could make it work, meaning less disruption in their already busy days of learning something new.
Would more education on the value of the new use cases leveraged on the new platform help? Yes, but that wasn’t the only hurdle to adoption. We discovered the primary issue was that no one considered prioritising the interaction between a business user and the technology.
What is the experience that a user will have interacting with the technology? Why is this perspective missed consistently? Why are the statistics shared at the top of this article still occurring across the business landscape today? There are several reasons. Practical business processes are a combination of many areas of the firm and harder to get a broader view on. There also is the ever-popular “We have to get the data right first” approach. But in our experience, lackluster adoption of new technology and processes boils down to these issues being considered “softer” in many cases and thus more difficult to grasp.
Understanding how to overcome the biggest obstacles to becoming a data-driven organisation – culture, people, process and organisation – has been a remarkably resilient challenge. In fact, a “Build it and they will come” approach has become the norm, as, frankly, it is easier to address and quantify completion. However, what’s left on the cutting room floor are the “What’s in it for me?” considerations that connect the user, their day-to-day workflow and the new platform in an impactful way that drives efficiency, scale and growth.
What’s next in order to drive change
Experience can be the unifying factor to drive the business transformation organisations want. When you mention a focus on experience, most companies immediately home in on the customer experience. This focus has merit, as a recent study showed that consumers are now prioritising experience over brand and even price. We spend a lot of time working with clients to equip them to compete on customer experience, so that’s a valid priority.
You may also think of experience in the context of the employee experience – a “What is it like to work here?” perspective. Even in an uncertain economic climate, the war for talent continues. In this context, I’ll pose a question: How many organisations do you know that prioritise or have initiatives tied to the user experience or how employees interact with their technology platforms? A consistent, focused, measurable approach or set of initiatives? I bet that if honesty prevails, the answer is low.
In our view, experience can be a unifying factor to move data and digital transformation forward in a major way, in part due to the following reasons:
Experience is easy to understand and rally around
Guess what? All employees, regardless of their function or whether they are in a business or technology role, are consumers. They know what “good” looks like. Whether you want to call it the consumerisation of IT or fall back on the quote “The last best experience anyone has anywhere becomes their expectation for experience everywhere,” people fundamentally understand a good experience.
Experience should be led by the user, not the engineer
Saying that experience should be led by the user is a bit deceptive – users are not developing the strategy or requirements. If they did, the work would never get done. Rather, when thinking about transformation, the desired end state should align with how the technology will make the user more productive and effective. Incorporating a well-crafted enablement strategy is often the missing ingredient that takes technology from “So what?” to a game changer. It has little to do with how the technology is built and everything to do with how the user is exposed to the technology and enticed to engage with it.
Experience can be a silo buster
In order to be successful in an experience-led transformation, you have to bring together multidisciplinary teams in new ways. Cross-functional teams are needed to execute and implement a truly cohesive approach that enables users to interact with technology in the easiest and shortest path to delivering value.
Experience can be a lever for transformation by driving continuous improvement
As we noted earlier, consumer expectations are always increasing, as is the technology emerging to infuse data, analytics, AI and automation into every business process and decision. Given this, cross-functional teams need to improve continually, building a backlog of how employees can further improve their relationships with the organisation’s technology, platforms and applications. A big reason why agile is being adopted as the go-to approach for digital transformation is the opportunity to achieve continuous improvement. Agile for the sake of being agile isn’t going to work, but a focus on overall business agility – one that is not applied solely to the IT department – can work and is starting to emerge as organisations seek the agility and adaptability required to compete.
Considering our original hypothesis that culture, people, process and organisation are the keys to becoming more data-driven, a unified focus on total experience can address these areas effectively. Experience can become a huge cultural driver and lead to major improvements and adoption of new technology, as well as strengthen the focus on experience for an organisation’s customer. People are also considered in this approach, as a “human-centric” ethos permeates an experience-focused organisation. In addition, under this approach, business processes are viewed in a new light – not only how technology could impact them but also how the human-technology interaction could optimally work to drive value in the process.
Finally, major organisation changes are not necessarily required to elevate user experience with a new technology or process. It starts with a willingness to form cross-functional teams, develop metrics to measure progress, and create communication and enablement programmes consistent in messaging until the culture aspect of a focus on experience truly takes hold. While organisations may not be looking to add a new C-suite role, a chief experience officer may indeed become the unifying factor to accelerate the long-awaited transformation that is possible with today’s technology potential.
If you are struggling with the speed of your organisation’s data and/or digital transformation, adoption of new platforms, applications or technology, or resistance or rapid turnover in parts of your organisation, give an experience focus a try. It’s a strategy that, at least from an employee interaction perspective, is underleveraged and thus can create a competitive advantage. It may also unlock greater potential in your most important resource – the talent that powers your business.
Learn more about our customer experience and digital transformation solutions here.