Digital transformation: shift happens

Shift happens and it's often difficult to navigate - this event write-up could steer you in the right direction.

Illustration of a row of mobile phones from an old 1990s handset to a modern smartphone, with a blue background studded with white fluffy clouds

Recently, we held a sharing session on the topic of digital transformation with clients and partners in Singapore.

What did we learn? Digital transformation is not “digital lipstick”, you can’t just make things look, operate or seem better by applying it.

The session we ran included attendees from industries including healthcare, banking, engineering and national agencies from cross-functional teams – directors, UX leads, product managers, designers and researchers.

Everyone was there for the same reason – they were working hard to push forward digital transformation within their organisations. We wanted to unpack their experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly – and think through the topic together as well as sharing some of our own views as frequent partners on digital transformation journeys.

Breaking down siloes – one team, one vision

Organisations still break up their business into teams that each own a different set of KPIs and goals, without a shared strategic understanding of what the organisation is working towards. The culture this creates lacks unity and trust –people begrudge sharing resources; teams feel like they are competing against one another, internal politics run rife.

Internal culture reflects externally onto branded touch-points, meaning end-users encounter a disjointed user experience. The promise of a seamless and efficient digital experience is lost. 

For digital transformation to succeed, it’s critical to create a top-down vision for alignment across the organisation. Organisations need to form multi-disciplinary teams,  and an experience vision that the products and services are aligned to, which has reference to an overarching business strategy.

While teams can have a different set of KPIs, they should point towards a larger shared goal that’s clearly articulated and visible across the system. Materials like a customer experience vision, design principles, vision and measurement frameworks are helpful when creating alignment.

Teams also need to come together regularly to see the bigger picture they are working towards. Stakeholder workshops are useful to gather requirements from each team, and to discuss how resources can be more effectively utilised to achieve a common goal. Customer journey maps that capture the end-to-end experience of products and services help teams form a shared understanding of existing pain points and opportunities. This will support teams in creating connected and consistent experiences for end users.

Insight-driven design, not technology-driven design

We used to hear requests from companies asking us to build them an app, a chatbot, AI etc. Why? Mostly because other industry players were doing so, and they needed to follow suit.

However, organisations are slowly realising that it’s a fallacy to think that design is driven by technology. The pursuit of the latest trends in technology isn’t delivering the promised results. Users won’t download yet another app if it doesn’t bring any value to them; a chatbot won’t serve any purpose if a phone call helps troubleshoot problems faster, or easier. 

It’s reassuring to know that organisations today are placing greater importance on humans rather than technology. There is rising awareness that insight and data driven design is what helps companies to transform and remain competitive. That requires listening to your users with intent through conducting design research (both qualitative and quantitative) to make sure we solve the right problems for users when we work on digital transformation programmes.

Taking care of your people, from the bottom-up

Fear that comes with change is one of the biggest challenges with digital transformation programmes. Fear of the unknown and fear of failing were some of the toughest barriers that our partners had to overcome for successful digital transformation.

While having a top-down vision and strategy is integral, it’s crucial to address fears and resistance that surface along the journey from the bottom up, at the same time. Organisations need to recognise that their people are their greatest asset and can become the catalyst for successful digital transformation – if the right culture and mindsets are established and supported. This means there’s an increasing need to build an environment rooted in psychological safety with frameworks and forums which support people, allowing them to share, be heard and taken seriously. 

Summing up

Digital transformation requires changing your business strategy and significantly restructuring your organisation with customer centricity as your mandate – from processes, KPIs, skillsets to culture and mindsets. Transformation will require cross-functional teams to come together, to align amidst differences in roles and responsibilities, to achieve a shared goal and vision. 

At the heart of transformation is not technology, but people. And in human transformation, shift happens. If we change the way we work from the bottom up, we will change the organisational culture meaning the top down vision can be realised.

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