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The IT department has for many decades been the unsung hero of business growth. But the post-pandemic strategic imperative of digital transformation promises to push the function centre stage for perhaps the first time. The truth is that flagship stores and luxurious offices are no longer the primary means through which companies attract and retain their customers and employees. Increasingly as we move through this new era, it will be digital experiences that separate the winners from the losers.
This will put tremendous pressure on IT leaders to deliver—especially in making their user-facing applications as simple, intuitive and accessible as possible. To drive successful digital transformation, organisations will have to centralise adoption—providing a single, consistent way to get users in-the-know and to analyse and fix what’s going wrong.
The age of digital
Digital transformation has been table stakes for some time. The pandemic accelerated some investments by years as organisations scrambled to support mass remote working, streamline business processes and reach locked-down customers in new and innovative ways. Companies are predicted to spend $2.3 trillion on digital transformations annually by 2023, according to IDC, equal to over half (53%) of all IT business spend. When done well, these investments will enhance productivity, drive operational efficiencies, trim costs and boost customer and employee loyalty.
It’s no surprise that, according to Harvard Business Review, 56% of corporate executives assign a “high priority” to digital adoption—that is, “the process by which users of digital technologies assimilate those technologies into everyday work and life activities and maximize the utility of those technologies.”
IT moves centre stage
These trends are going to have a major impact on IT’s role in the business. As hybrid and remote working become the norm, the lure of ball pits, juice bars and air hockey at company HQ have already diminished significantly. Expectations have changed. Many employees are now less interested in a head office they may never visit, and more concerned about whether they can easily use the applications and software necessary to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The digital world is already more important than the office environment. After all, at the end of the day people feel good about their jobs if they feel satisfied and fulfilled – and having the right technology in their corner can help them achieve that a lot better than table tennis.
In a similar way, consumers flooded online as the pandemic struck. And many of them have changed their behaviours for good. In the UK, e-commerce as a proportion of total retail sales hit a record high of 31% in April 2020, versus 19% before the pandemic. Other verticals like banking and healthcare have seen similar results. Customers are less likely to be wowed by the ground-breaking architecture of a city centre flagship store today. Instead, they want to access the services they need quickly and easily, with minimal fuss.
The problem with adoption
However, digital adoption is not just a case of buying or building, and expecting users to come. In fact, when organisations remove familiar legacy apps and replace them with new digital tools, it can actually slow productivity, breeding resentment.
Research shows that employees in over half of organisations are expected to master at least three new digital touchpoints each year, while in 82% of companies a typical employee interacts with four or more every day. Yet many are tough to master: over a third of users say their ERP platform is “fairly” or “very difficult” to use. And two-fifths (42%) say the same about multiple applications used together to perform cross-functional business processes.
When customers are faced with sub-par experiences, they vote with their feet. A third of global consumers claim they’d stop doing business with a brand they loved after one bad interaction. The same is increasingly true of employees. Over two-thirds (69%) of UK workers are said to be considering moving jobs, and a poor user experience could be enough to make up their minds. It’s estimated that half of staff would quit over poor workplace technology. And finding replacements will be increasingly expensive amidst the “Great Resignation”.
Not only that: if new employees are frustrated with the technologies they’re using, they may rapidly become disengaged, error prone, and ultimately more likely to quit. Or worse, stay onboard disgruntled and unproductive. Organisations that aren’t prepared to onboard new employees with seamless digital training risk seeing these new hires walk straight back out of the door, wasting time and resources.
Time to centralise digital adoption
Burying staff in a blizzard of different vendor tutorials and help tools will not make their lives any easier – it just takes more hours out of the working day. We need a strategic change: a centralised approach to digital adoption, with a consistent look and feel, can deliver timely support and make employees’ lives easier.
By using AI to analyse data from hundreds of different applications, businesses can identify who is struggling, why, and spot the wider trends – which aspects of which applications pose the most common issues? Some 80% of executives believe such capabilities are important to highlighting the progress of digital adoption in their organisation.
The power of AI and analytics means businesses can understand user behaviour and take proactive action, suggesting assistance on an area an employee is likely to make an error with, or find confusing. At a strategic level, the real-time insights gathered help businesses make much better-informed decisions about their IT stack, meaning applications can boost productivity, rather than posing a headache.
Ultimately, this improves application and software usage and process efficiency, reduces training and help desk overheads, boosts retention and reduces licensing costs. It’s time for IT to step out of the shadows. But to do so, it will need to give its undivided attention to the user experience.