Putting People at the Center of Digital Transformation

New Year, New You. Work smarter. Run faster. Be Better! Maybe it’s just the time of year, but as a society, as a culture – heck, as a species – we sure do seem to be obsessed with change.

Why the change obsession? Because change is how we find better ways to do things. Change is how we improve.

Hmmm. We may have just stumbled upon a one-sentence CIO job description: Find ways to improve what we do and how we do it.

Self-avowed “digital visionary” Pearl Zhu recently suggested the IT department might as well be called the Change Department because it “makes multidimensional change sustainable for the long term.”

The simple fact that technology is always evolving often casts IT in the role of principal change agent within a company. That can rub other departments the wrong way. People may perceive tech leaders as implementing change for the sake of change, or worse yet, change for the sake of technology.

Yes, IT is often tasked with leveraging technology to increase productivity. But as an IT professional, everything you do is in service to your users. Every change you make should help people work more efficiently. To be successful, every IT project must be human-centric, from beginning to end.

That’s probably why Zhu proceeds to list 12 IT change management practices that ALL involve listening to people. She proclaims, “The digital age upon us is the era of people.” Now, where have we heard that before? Oh yeah, our Director of Emerging Technologies Tim Kulp has been screaming it from the rooftop for years now.

Business Processes are People Processes

Words like “system” and “process” get thrown around so frequently in business today, they can seem to lose all meaning. That’s why Dave Smith’s Unifying People and Communications Technology to Drive Better Business Outcomes caught our eye last month. He offers up a simple, accurate definition that’s gotten lost in the shuffle. One we all need to get back to: “Any business process is essentially a series of collaborative events.” It’s people, internal and external, working together.

How do we get stuff done in the modern work environment? We collaborate, hash it out, have conversations. But the way people talk today is very different from 50 years ago. We can say technology is to blame for that, but assigning blame isn’t the point. The point is: Technology needs to support the new ways we talk and collaborate.

Smith advocates a “shift to conversational experiences.” And we’re not talking about two people chatting face-to-face on a street corner. We’re talking about all kinds of people, sometimes from all over the world, accessing ongoing conversations that “flow seamlessly around business workflows.” Technology must provide the interfaces and context to make that happen. Tech should “create virtual conversational spaces. . . where people come together to create, inform, negotiate or persuade each other in ways that advance the business process.”

Building Human-Centric Platforms

When technology needs to transform to support the new ways people collaborate (work), people must be involved at every stage of the game: discovery, development, execution and adoption. If it’s FOR people, it needs to INCLUDE people – in thoughtful and considerate ways. Duarte CSO Patti Sanchez just provided an excellent roadmap for doing exactly that in The Secret to Leading Organizational Change is Empathy.

If you include people from all divisions and levels of your organization in the comprehensive assessment of your existing systems and the “dialogue-based planning” Sanchez describes, you can’t help but implement a human-centric solution. And the payoff for a human-centric solution is increased adoption.

For 30 years, Mind Over Machines has been practicing what so many thought leaders are preaching right now: Put people at the center of tech transformation. When we partner with an organization, we learn how people are using the existing technology. We listen to what people (from C-level to daily user) want and need. We design a solution that works for people, and we teach them how to use it. From beginning to end, we make it all about people.

When it’s time to make a change, we’re the tech people who will help you keep your people at the center of everything you do.