03/07/2015

By Tom Evans, Head of User Experience and Design at Box UK

Are you starting at the right point on the journey of discovery?

The concept of digital transformation and the reasons companies and organisations must embrace it are now beyond doubt. Ultimately it is about how an organisation can capitalise on digital technologies to better serve and engage its audience. It is a case of evolve or die.

For many organisations, legacy systems and customer experiences are likely to be underperforming and/or not providing the right digital foundations upon which to innovate and build. In addition, companies are starting to recognise they are not just competing with their peers, but with all the digital experiences their audience is interacting with.

The good news is there is strategic buy-in at board level, as organisations realise that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity.

But while conceptualising and strategizing is fundamental to the business vision and achieving senior buy-in, many businesses often then take a shallow approach to transformation; just making a website mobile-friendly for example, is not typically the answer.

So where does a business begin its transformation? Is there a natural starting point or do most companies jump the gun?

Identifying the start of transformation Digital transformation programmes must start with the right type of discovery activities. Once upon a time it seemed many key decisions were made incredibly subjectively. It wasn’t quite website redesigns being led by the colour preferences of the MD’s wife, or a senior decision maker’s new phone paving the plunge into the mobile app market, but it wasn’t that far off. Similarly, the power of new and exciting technologies can be very seductive, but of course this doesn’t mean these investments are necessarily right for the business or its target audiences.

Thankfully, subjective design is a thing of the past – or is it? It may not be the MD’s wife, but the technology and marketing execs tend to think they know what the transformation should be. So does the head of web design. And the chairman. But rarely are any of these the end user. Those with a deeper understanding of digital know it’s only by taking the time to uncover their needs, expectations and constraints of target audiences across all customer touchpoints that you can truly understand (and refine) the direction the transformation needs to take. A ‘discovery’ phase is designed specifically for this purpose and will validate any subjective assumptions or opportunities along the way. Whether a business has an existing product, service, community or it’s a start-up; there must be a deep understanding of users if it’s to have competitive advantage.

Measure for measure

Not only is understanding the audience the absolute priority in the discovery phase, but so is gaining complete clarity around the company’s vision and its ‘Why’. The right transformation strategy couples both an objective understanding of the audience with where the organisation wants to be in future (and any associated measurable goals).

Ready to disrupt the market

The discovery phase is a key consideration for companies that are (for the time being) market leaders. New businesses may be looking to break into their market, and will have the ‘late adopter advantage’ of being able to leverage new technologies, thinking or best practice more easily to become market disruptors. Existing market leaders can’t afford to rest on their laurels, and similarly, the new generation of future market leaders or late adopters can similarly use a user-centred discovery exercise to better prioritise and target opportunities.

A digital revolution can only be successful with a unifying, insight-led understanding about its goals and the path organisations need to take to achieve them. Similarly, without such understanding there is no real possibility for innovation. True innovation only comes through a clear understanding of the problem that needs to be solved – and for whom.

Prioritising for and designing a digital platform or service which isn’t based on user-centred insights risks failing to resonate with users or achieve the desired business goals and vision. Are you prepared to gamble time, money, effort and even brand reputation on this? Understanding audiences, their nuances, environment, nuisances and usage is the starting block to a successful digital transformation. It’s time to discover.