Staying ahead of the competition is not just a desire, but a necessity. This explains why the concept of digital transformation has gained widespread popularity in recent years, as organisations strive to embrace new technologies and processes to keep up with the rapid pace of change.
However, despite the prevalence of digital initiatives, research indicates that a staggering 70% of such projects fall short of delivering the expected results, leaving companies puzzled about the underlying causes of these failures. The key to overcoming these challenges lies in adopting a human-centric approach that revolves around truly understanding and addressing stakeholders’ authentic needs – even if, at first, they are unknown.
What is human-centred design?
This approach prioritises the needs and experiences of people throughout the process of implementing change. Just as a house needs strong foundations and essential features like windows and doors, successful digital transformation requires a deep understanding of the human factors involved.
Rather than solely focusing on technology, human-centred design seeks to improve user engagement, speed to market and process efficiency. It recognises that the ultimate goal of technology-enabled change should be to enhance the experience and outcomes for all stakeholders involved, both internally and externally.
There are four stages to consider for this approach. The first stage focuses on learning — organisations need to ask themselves what exactly needs to change and gather contextual information to inform understanding of the intended outcomes. The second ‘design’ phase involves looking at how it should change and what that change will look like. The third step includes the implementation of technology-enabled solutions to meet the needs of all stakeholders. Lastly, the final ‘optimise’ stage ensures that businesses constantly return to outcomes and results by measuring success and thinking about what needs to change next.
With this human-centric strategy, organisations can ensure stakeholders are at the heart of every change made. But first, who are the stakeholders that businesses need to consider?
Identifying the stakeholders: who truly matters?
Stakeholders encompass a broad range of individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the outcomes of a business or project. They can include employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, regulators, and the broader community. Each stakeholder group has a unique set of needs and expectations, which must be carefully considered before a digital transformation journey even begins.
The crucial role of stakeholder understanding
It is common for companies to simply assume they know precisely what their stakeholders need. This assumption often leads to a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to address the specific requirements of different stakeholder groups – ultimately risking alienation and dissatisfaction.
To tackle this challenge, organisations must embrace the diversity among individuals, acknowledging their distinct backgrounds, capabilities, and levels of digital literacy. Inclusivity and accessibility must be at the core of any digital solution.
To ensure digital transformation success, early and comprehensive engagement with stakeholders is essential. This involves actively listening to their concerns, empathising with their pain points, and gathering feedback regarding their expectations for the change. Leveraging this invaluable information, organisations can shape the design and development of any future transformation initiatives, to ensure they meet the genuine needs of all stakeholders involved.
Harnessing the power of research and transparent leadership
Informed decision-making and risk mitigation rely heavily on thorough research. Organisations should conduct in-depth analysis and pose critical questions to understand the current state of their services, gain insights into stakeholder and user perspectives, anticipate future needs, and establish meaningful metrics to measure the impact of change.
Transparent and effective leadership is also paramount. Too often, change directives are issued without proper explanation, leading to employee disengagement and resistance across the organisation. Open communication serves as the linchpin. Regular progress updates, addressing concerns in a timely manner, and actively seeking continuous feedback are crucial components of successful implementation. By fostering transparency and involvement, organisations can build trust and keep their transformation initiatives on track.
Balancing competing priorities
Recognising the divergent priorities among stakeholder groups is essential. Employees may prioritise a digital solution that simplifies their work processes, while shareholders might naturally focus primarily on increasing profitability. Striking a delicate balance between sometimes competing priorities requires careful consideration and perhaps even a willingness to compromise on occasion.
This requires close collaboration across different departments. Organisations should tap into differing expertise, insights and learned experiences to break down silos and foster a culture of innovation and collaboration, whilst empowering and engaging all employees in the transformation process.
Embracing a long-term perspective
Digital transformation is not a one-off event, but an ongoing process that requires continuous improvement and adaptation. When it comes to understanding stakeholder needs, a long-term perspective is therefore beneficial. Organisations must remain committed to gathering feedback, maintaining open communication channels with stakeholders, and evolving their programs over time, to ensure sustained success – not to mention the best chance of ROI.
Embracing the stakeholder-centric future of digital transformation
The success of digital transformation lies in the ability to truly understand and address the genuine needs of stakeholders. By actively engaging stakeholders from the outset, gathering their feedback, promoting transparent communication throughout, striking a balance between competing priorities, and adopting a forward-looking perspective, business leaders can ensure that their initiatives deliver the desired value.
In an ever-evolving digital landscape, organisations that prioritise stakeholder needs will emerge as the frontrunners poised for success in the years to come. And the benefits stand to be plentiful, including improved customer experiences, enhanced operational efficiency, and newfound growth opportunities.