by Devin Maguire 02/17/2021
What if instead of people adopting technology, technology adapted to people? Successful digital transformations are not about technology but how technology translates into more efficient, effective, and enjoyable experiences. A major challenge to this success is change management: overcoming inertia and motivating adoption of new tools in already complex digital workplaces. Tools that seamlessly weave into the fabric of established workflows ease this burden. But how do we identify and introduce these types of technologies to the enterprise?
In my own work, I use twenty-four software applications. Going through the list, some are essential, and I would struggle without them. Some are critical to cross-functional team collaboration. Then, there are the myriad I need when I need them. Not counted among the twenty-four are others used by partners and vendors, the blogs I read, market research subscriptions, and more. You get it. Odds are I am preaching to the choir.
Recently, we decided to evaluate another tool: number twenty-five. It feels like the app that broke the technology stack.
Here’s the thing about the tool: it’s useful. It brings powerful features together in a good user experience. However, I find myself resisting adoption. Realizing the benefits of these powerful features requires change, and while some tasks may be improved, it adds further complexity to an already complex digital workplace.
A major point of resistance to new tools is the addition of yet more place to work. It’s another URL to bookmark, another interface to learn, another application pushing notifications to let us know something happened so we can login, see what’s new, and add our contributions.
A second obstacle is fatigue with the pursuit of diminishing returns in the parts of work that are not the most broken. Instead of addressing complexity, we have more and more tools that aggravate this core challenge. Decades of new tools and clever features haven’t made us more productive or effective. As a community, knowledge workers still spend more time searching for and managing information than they do putting it into practice.
Maybe the problem is as simple as this: it doesn’t make work better. The essence of work is connecting the right pieces of information to inform a decision and execute an action that leads to a desired outcome. People are still the center of this process. Across applications, people are the common factor; we are the conduit between the tools and teams that turn information into creation, execution, and contribution. But too many digital tools treat people as tangents to the technology. It needs to be the other way around.
What does that look like? How do we reduce complexity and achieve simplification by addition? One approach is consolidation: move data and tools into a unified ecosystem. This is a heavy lift, and it is still technology-driven approach. When I look at my tools, there are certainly opportunities for consolidation, but the real problem is not the quantity of tools but the gaps between them. How can we empower people to work better and smarter within and across the tools they already use? How can we transform work while lowering users’ burden to change and adopt? The answer is in the shift from technology-driven transformation to transformation-driven technologies. There are three attributes of technologies that adapt to users and accelerated adoption: user-centricity, silo agnosticism, and flexibility.
People are the center of work. Why then is technology the gravitational center of the digital workplace? We orbit our tools and jump between them based on the demands of our current task. It often feels like the most demanding task is just figuring out where we need to search and what tool we need to use: navigating across sources; parsing emails or chats or channels to connect with people; aligning on tools for a project; getting the attention of experts; shutting out the noise. This is a tough environment for any new tool, and it’s not surprising that change management is a heavy lift with so much competition for our time and attention.
User-centricity is a commitment to a different paradigm that revolves around people. It mitigates the burden of adoption by delivering value within and across established tools and interfaces. Slack did this effectively with their “where work happens” promise. This approach changes the adoption conversation from an imperative about how you need to adopt and adapt to an invitation to experience capabilities that make existing practices and habits more effective and efficient.
Often the value espoused by new technologies and digital transformation projects is conditional upon adoption of their silo: one search for all your data…if you move and index all your data in our silo; one place for all your marketing… if you put all your contacts and content in our silo; one place for all your project management…if you store and create all your files in our silo. If we think of the digital workplace as spheres of influence competing for shares of users’ workflows, the silo is the vehicle vendors use to add mass and gravity to their sphere, and it serves the vendor more than it does the user.
The dogma of the silo – the idea that we must aggregate and organize data in one place – has not led to transformation. Silo-centric can only be user-centric if the silo monopolizes the entire user experience. Even as platforms become more and more expansive (for example Microsoft 365’s ongoing evolution into an application, communication, and productivity aggregator), they still treat users as tangents to the technology.
Silo-agnosticism surrenders the monopoly in pursuit of ubiquity. By placing people, not data, at the center, it doesn’t matter where data is stored. And when it doesn’t matter where data is stored, it doesn’t matter where users need it. Suddenly the impenetrable barriers between tools becomes permeable, and information can flow between the gaps.
According to BCG a faster, simpler approach to digital transformation can deliver twice the value in half the time. Focusing on the objectives of digital transformation to improve work – to accelerate access to relevant information to inform better decisions and execute faster – it is all about supporting people through their existing workflows and offering the flexibility and adaptability to deliver value across a variety of users and use cases. Delivering this type of solution does not require a radical change or massive implementation. Something as powerful as easy access to relevant information where we work can be accomplished without moving any data.
When assessing new technology, there is greater value in tools that create value across the technology stack and enrich many applications than those that only create value in their environments. Digital work is not about a single tool but the ecosystem, and it is the ecosystem experience that has the greatest impact on productivity, performance, and experience. Take the browser as an example. We spend subsets of our time in the browser using different applications like Salesforce, Zendesk, Jira, etc. A tool that affects the browser ecosystem delivers additive value everywhere – in Salesforce and Zendesk and others. Flexibility is key to fitting into agile and adaptive workflows, and often the lighter the footprint the greater the flexibility.
All of which brings me to that essential tool in my tech stack I haven’t mentioned yet: Keeeb. Now, I know my perspective is biased, but hear me out. Keeeb is one tool that enriches all the others. It instantly changed my digital work experience without any effort on my part. And that’s an amazing thing – to transform the same effort and input into more powerful output. I didn’t adapt my work or consciously adopt a technology. Instead, my world just got easier. And my work got better. Keeeb’s user-centric technology works around me. Keeeb’s silo-agnosticism breaks down the barriers between technologies and creates synergies with colleagues. And as my tasks and needs adapt, the flexibility of Keeeb delivers the information I need where I need it.
In our upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore each of these elements and how a transformation-driven approach shapes Keeeb’s seamless, light-weight, and powerful solutions. Of course, the best way is to experience Keeeb yourself.