by Alex Shegda

We’re in a new era. We need a new paradigm.

The Challenge 

Businesses that are increasingly digitizing their operations and creating new and better customer experiences. It’s a trend that was well underway before the pandemic, and it’s only grown as more employees work remotely and more customers shop online for goods and services.  

Yet studies show that about 70 percent of technology value-creation initiatives fail to fully deliver. Why is it so difficult to get the ROI you expected? 

How to Avoid the Common Pitfalls of Technology Investments

In our experience leading hundreds of diverse technology projects to successful ROIs, we’ve identified a number of common challenges that keep companies from realizing their expected returns:   

First, their technology investment is disconnected from strategic business outcomes. If the IT team doesn’t understand how a system or organization is directly empowering the business to achieve strategic goals, implementing systems that simply increase costs is a danger. 

Second, modern systems require an entirely new architectural paradigm. There’s a tendency to assume the skills that got you where you are today are the same skills that will get you where you want to be tomorrow. This assumption doesn’t hold true. People must learn new skills to realize new value. And setting them up for success takes empathy—the ability to anticipate and respond to their cognitive and emotional needs. 

Third, organizations fail to accurately quantify the value of an effort upfront, in the business case. Even when they do, there’s a temptation to forget it takes the right tools and KPIs to deliver that value. 

Last, and most importantly, companies devalue how their employees will interact with the new technology. This is the legacy of an old paradigm that no longer serves customers, employees or the bottom line. 

Valued People Create Valuable Technology 

We have a long track record of helping companies realize the full value of their technology investments.  We help them take a holistic and empathetic approach to building five capabilities that are key to value creation: 

  • Increasing customer value and lifting the revenue curve by using technology optimization to transform the way the organization operates. 
  • Enabling best-in-class cloud solutions to reduce costs, improve flexibility and sustainability. 
  • Maximizing the business value of applications and accelerating speed to market through our applications strategy.  
  • Better understanding the business, suppliers and competitors by enabling faster, deeper insights through data. 
  • Using digital to drive differentiated customer and employee experiences based on deep understanding of wants and needs. 

Every step of the way, realizing the full value of technology is not only a technology problem. It’s about realizing the full value of your people.  

Healthy Employee Experience, Healthy ROI 

What we see, and what studies show, is that digital channels are the most common way for companies to realize value from new technology-driven revenue sources. As such, most companies understand the importance of centering the new technology around the user experience they want to create for their external customers. But many still overlook and undervalue the needs of their internal customers—their employees.  

High employee adoption is just as important as high customer adoption of a digital channel. Companies need to bring the same level of empathy and understanding to employees as they do to their customers. What matters to your employees? How do you create a user experience that enables them to deliver the greatest return on your tech investment?  

The new paradigm is human-centric 

Decades into the digital revolution, it’s ironic so many companies still view and value “user experience” as the customer experience. Why does the employee experience still get deprioritized when it’s essential to realizing the highest ROI on technology spend? 

It’s a legacy of the manufacturing age, the era in which most of today’s senior business leaders came up—the era of Drucker and Deming. Under this manufacturing-centric paradigm, companies defined great leaders by their ability to maximize the quality and productive output of widgets.  

But the enterprise has changed. It is now completely wrapped around experience—internal and external. This shift from the manufacturing age to the human-centric age forces all of us to rethink not only  

how we organize the enterprise, but also how we affect change across it. While the old paradigm was hierarchical and concentrated power in the hands of the few, the new paradigm is democratized, inclusive and diverse. Everyone is a stakeholder, everyone has a voice, and the people who work close to customers and know them best have the power to influence decisions.  

Empathy Counteracts “The Slope of Despair” 

We anchor our approach to technology initiatives in understanding the full user experience with equal consideration for customers and employees. This includes helping employees navigate what we call “the slope of despair”—the downward curve that typically occurs when the initial excitement of a bold technology investment moves into the planning and action phase. At this stage, it’s common to get lost in the technical minutiae and forget systems exist for people. This is typically the point of the project where the ability to realize value begins to erode. At this critical point, we steer the project to stay oriented around people. We prepare people to succeed, and we implement some quick wins that deliver significant value right away. Quick wins build people’s confidence in their ability to realize value and set them up for future successes, too. After all, when an organization fails to meet goals, people’s resistance to change increases. On the other hand, when an organization has experienced wins, people are more inclined and receptive to shifting gears because they’ve done it before—and succeeded. 

The Bottom Line 

Businesses are living in a new era, and we all need to think differently about how we create value. Taking a holistic approach and anchoring it around the human experience—with empathy for your employees and customers—is the critical path to the greatest return on your technology investment. You’ll realize value more rapidly. Your employees will feel a greater sense of ownership. And your organization will gain the agility and appetite to keep learning and launching new technologies that create new value. That’s the best bottom line of all.