I don’t know about you, but whenever I read the term ‘digital transformation’ it’s usually accompanied by, or referring to, a rather cheesy cyber-tech metaphor, wherein a faceless ‘business person’ is about to engage in a some abstract, futuristic interface that doesn’t really mean anything to anyone.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it? But organisations are serious about ‘transforming’ – they need to, and they know they need to – adapt or die – technology is genuinely disrupting the relationships businesses have with their customers.

Increasingly, progressive and ‘future fit’ organisations are seeing Digital Transformation through a different lens. In fact, more companies are realising the benefits of rejecting the term altogether. It’s not just about Technology, Marcoms, BIG data, or the end user experience – all these elements are very important, but do not present a collective panacea in and of themselves. More fundamentally, it’s about digital being a catalyst for change; and about the transformation of organisational culture.

These days, the merits of user-centred design have become more widely embraced. UX practitioners will routinely humanise their research data, in the form of Personas, often extended into more detailed Customer Experience Maps, but these only go so far in affecting any real shift in organisational behaviour. And in my experience, this is due to a consistent pattern of investment in digital products way outstripping that in planning for good governance, skills and resource.

This compounds a problem – a problem that really shouldn’t still exist in 2017, but does, and on quite a prolific scale: that businesses treat their websites like a ‘House’ – a rigid, static, albeit often attractive, structure that’s increasingly filled with contents, of varying value, rather than seeing it as a ‘Garden’ – a living, breathing, constantly nurtured space that people flow through naturally, regularly pruned to maintain only the best of what it produces. This metaphor speaks to how few are brave enough to set off on the journey to empowering their staff to be agile, autonomous and user-centred in their collective ethos.

More practically, one of the key reasons this problem prevails, is that regardless of how much research and evidence-led product development an organisation endorses, they often fall short of adapting their business-as-usual processes to ensure they use data-driven outputs (Personas; Experience Maps; et al) to regularly plan and produce content and utility that’s based on the needs of their customers.

Change isn’t mandatory, but then neither is survival.

Increasingly, and rightly, the focus is on the customer ‘Experience’ – data, insight, brand, mobile, content. But allied to this, an organisation’s ‘Capabilities’ need to be considered – the degree to which staff are digitally literate, the resources and infrastructure they do or don’t have to perform highly in a more agile, user-led context. This in turns shines a spotlight on the overarching ‘Culture’ – is leadership progressive and empowering, or traditional Command & Control? Is a culture of innovation fostered to help keep pace with rapid changes in technology and the behaviour and expectations that it influences in society?

We, therefore, no longer see User Centred Design in isolation of business change, but now need to adopt a new approach of User Centred Transformation (UCT).If organisations are to thrive, they need to empower people in organisations to collectively change their behaviour toward a more future fit and user-centred culture, with the right kind of leadership to let it flourish.

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