Anyone who’s worked with an organization on digital transformation has heard that question time and time again. Lots of time, money and internal resources are spent to create something fantastic but people simply don’t use it. There can of course be a million reasons why this happens but for now I’d like to focus on just one… People don’t know how. I’m not talking about a lack of technical enablement. I’m talking about not knowing how to use data to think FUTHER than they otherwise would.
Most of the time, the designer of the tool knows when they have created something revolutionary that will support much more insight and understanding, all while saving time and money. They are understandably proud and can’t wait to see how it will transform people’s way of thinking and working – except that it doesn’t. People keep using their excels, maybe using the tool to look up a few things and then downloading the data to do their own analysis in a way that they are used to.
Why? Because they don’t see the value in putting different pieces of information together to get insight. From my 10 years working as a CFO I continually saw that simply giving a person a great, revolutionary tool doesn’t mean that their way of thinking will suddenly change.
It was extremely rare that I asked a question and got an answer that gave me strategic insight. The vast majority of people stopped at the first most obvious answer. I had endless conversations like this:
- Why are costs above budget? …IT expenses are over budget (usually the prepared answer ended here)
- Why are those expenses over budget? …because of maintenance expenses
- What is causing maintenance to be over budget? …we got an invoice that we didn’t expect
- Why didn’t we know about it? …because the budget wasn’t prepared properly. No one feels responsible for it
THIS is what I actually needed to know and why I asked the question in the first place. There is no clear budget owner for IT expenses. Without that, it is clear that the costs are out of control.
Going back to the topic of digital transformation, the developer can have created a fantastic application where all of the information is available for someone to easily answer all of those questions. However, this will not automatically lead the user to suddenly start thinking things through all the way to the end. This is something that needs to be taught.
The developer/data leader must create something and assume people aren’t going to know how to use it, not just technically but strategically.
While it’s clear that the real value of digital transformation is giving people the ability to get strategic insights, most people won’t naturally make that step. If they don’t, and they don’t think that they are really saving time in the preparation they simply won’t see the value and won’t change their behavior. The tool itself needs to guide them to understand how to get insight that they didn’t even know they needed.
Doing things like adding elements of navigation/thought flow throughout the tool, adding descriptions and making sure to tailor the tool to who is going to use it can make a huge difference in making this happen.
Simply put, if you want people to use a revolutionary tool and embrace digital, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the user will automatically change their way of thinking just because they have been provided with a tool that would make it easy. Most will need to be led there.