Why Empathy is Crucial for Successful Digital Transformation

Part Two in a series about Digital Transformation. For Part One, click here.

When done strategically, digital transformation can revolutionize (read: transform) your entire business and touch every element. But adding it as an isolated department or initiative — keeping it siloed — will keep its success isolated.

Other projects may not share the same success opportunities. At larger companies, change tends to happen incrementally and in isolated channels — and yes, that strategy may be why many of them remain in business — but for true, revolutionary change, those barriers need to come down. You may think that the IT team owns digital transformation, but such a transformation would create a ripple effect impacting every department. And because I’m an advocate for constant and recurring multidisciplinary collaboration, my proposed solution is to create a digital transformation team that involves someone from every department, and to use empathy research to launch the project.

Those are two major points, so let’s tackle them separately.

1. Involve every department.

“But we can’t get all those people into a meeting!” Well, you also know my thoughts on that. Is digital transformation a priority? Is saving money and time worth a moment of someone’s time? You can form a subcommittee to do the heavy lifting (and, of course, engage with a consultant or team to help you) but I urge you to involve others outside of traditional tech. IT will not spot every opportunity for digital disruption company-wide. And neither will your consultants; they don’t know your business better than the people doing the jobs.

What if you overlook a crucial side effect of an element of your transformation rollout that impacts accounting, but IT would never have considered that angle?

What if you commit to company-wide software migrations that are completely incompatible with the workflows of major departments, requiring extreme and costly repair measures post-implementation?

What if there is a better idea from a different perspective?

By including more voices in the conversation, chances are greater that potential issues will be identified upfront — and more impactful solutions can be created.

2. Launch the Project with Empathy Research

Including the voice and needs of the user (in this case, internal users, aka employees) is never a bad investment. Yet most of these complete corporate overhauls happen behind closed doors, with employees the last to hear about them. Your employees are your customers here, and it’s important to make sure that your solutions work for your customers. Greater employee buy-in means greater and more widespread adoption of new processes, and having employees as stakeholders in the very systems they’ll later be using can almost guarantee successful rollout.

This means researching their needs and making sure your chosen (or customized) solutions meet them, just as you would when developing a product for a customer. Empathy research shouldn’t be an afterthought, and it costs far less to conduct than the expense of not having that data.

The only way to make sure that a company-wide initiative will work for your company is through internal research. Think about it this way: If you had a roadmap to tell you exactly what you needed, exactly how it should work and exactly how it will be received, would that be valuable to you? Empathetic research will deliver exactly that.

Want to run your own empathy research project? Start here.

sales experience designer. founder, Publicover&Co. author, Empathy at Scale

sales experience designer. founder, Publicover&Co. author, Empathy at Scale