The COVID-19 crisis made experience-centricity and IT agility paramount to nearly every business. In the post-COVID world, where digital acceleration is the rule rather than the exception, organizations will need superior digital enablement and experiences to ensure business continuity, customer satisfaction and a competitive edge. Small wonder, then, that in Gartner’s 2021 CEO survey, digital is among most CEOs’ top priorities.
Experience-centricity encompasses every aspect of software that can enhance an organization’s ability to solve key business challenges, harness meaningful market opportunities and delight end users. Research reveals that fanatical devotion to desirability leads to tangible outcomes that can be measured by increased customer retention and revenue growth.
The move to digital is creating new business opportunities, but also presenting challenges and risks to IT executives. Top-of-mind questions include: What makes digital products go viral? What are the key success factors? How can we make digital business headway and thrive? How can we transform monolithic systems into sleek, modular digital products or platforms?
After extensive engagements and conversations with client companies, we offer five considerations (for a deeper dive see our white paper “Enhancing Desirability: Five Considerations for Winning Digital Initiatives.”)
Empathizing with business and end users and experimenting to deliver delightful products are necessary but not sufficient. Delivering successful digital products requires a deep understanding of customers and a focus on human-centered design. Moreover, experimentation on the technology and engineering fronts using minimum viable product (MVP) concepts is necessary to build the experience right. These include focused experiments or proofs of concepts for validation among a small set of users, as well as MVPs released to broad groups of users. Organizations that deliver solid digital products master the art of combining design thinking with software engineering practices to enhance desirability.
Foster these qualities by:
To enhance desirability, a good mix of empathy and experiments is also necessary but not sufficient unless digital initiatives are delivered quickly, frequently and with ever-increasing degrees of predictability. When IT takes too long to deliver results, it is a struggle to delight customers and create long-lasting trust. Organizations should follow Agile and DevOps practices, including extreme programming practices and Lean Startup principles. With digital initiatives, speed-to-market and time-to-value are highly valued. And the ability to ensure frequent and predictable releases with new features and enhancements is what provides holistic value and enhances desirability.
Put this into action by:
This is about moving beyond nurturing relationships, performing retrospectives and focusing on results within product or engineering teams. It is about building relationships with stakeholders — specifically, customers and partners — and considering end-user feedback for retrospectives and continuous improvement. Teams should consider this approach and provide positive results to enhance desirability. On one engagement, rather than conducting retrospectives at the end of every Sprint or release within a team of software engineers, we engaged a larger team that included business leaders and end users. This enhanced the effectiveness of lessons learned for continuous improvement.
Strengthen these practices through:
User experience (UX) is not limited to the static aspect of user interface (UI) design or the dynamics simulated by UI prototypes. It has a deep bearing on the internal quality of products that correlate with performance, scalability and maintainability. Microservices-based architectures, cloud-native development and modern engineering practices, such as pair programming and test-driven development, have the potential to deliver an elegant code base that is scalable and extensible. Site reliability engineering is critical to ensure resilience and reliability. Coupled with DevOps environments that are auto-scaling and self-healing, UX can ascend from usability to desirability.
Enhance quality by:
Digital natives courageously embrace emerging technologies, and are tenacious in creating excellent, elegant products that delight customers. This is achieved by delivering on the factors that customers desire most. Most customers expect digitally native products built with modern tools and techniques that deliver near-clairvoyant experiences. Traditional IT organizations can no longer afford to experiment with monoliths and hybrid software development approaches that deliver static, unrewarding experiences. Embracing modern software engineering paradigms such as cloud-native development and DevOps tools can help put IT on the path to user delight.
Promote this by:
The following figure recaps the many concepts we’ve explored.
Offering an engaging experience is essential to enhancing desirability. The starting point is an unflappable focus on experience-centricity based on design thinking, customer journey mapping, contemporary UI design and visualization of the UX. From there on, the process is nothing less than a true transformation that combines modern architectures, cloud platforms, engineering practices, high-performing teams, digital-aware governance teams and involved stakeholders.
For IT organizations, this means nurturing the right talent, culture and mindset to deliver on this promise. In addition to strategic intent, commitment and investment, ensuring the proper balance between workforce enablement and hands-on experiments can promote continuous learning and operational improvements that result in tangible business outcomes.