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By Katja Forbes, emerging tech specialist and A/NZ MD of Sydney-based strategic design firm Designit.

The whole purpose for building technology in the first place is all about the human experience. That’s really what drives our need for digital transformation – it always has and it most probably always will. 

Technology is just one aspect, usually the largest, of what designers and engineers use when they create these solutions. Which is why I always stress that digital transformation is about people, not technology, no matter how it may be made out to appear. 

Understanding the intricacies of the technology itself is not necessary unless you are the relevant engineer yourself. Understanding the human experience behind the appropriate concept is key to appreciating our global and individual need for digital transformation.

Speaking of misunderstanding, we tend to imagine that digital transformation will just appear on our doorstep in a convenient little package and, upon unboxing, will immediately go ahead and change our lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case – how awesomely straight forward would that be! Digital transformation is more about people and behaviour, than it is actually about technology. 

Digital transformation is more about people and behaviour, than it is actually about technology. The ‘transformation’ part describes the changing of behaviour, and not the building of technology. Humans need to accept that the way we have always done something has caused a problem, and now this problem is under the microscope.

We need to change whatever we have always been doing, in conjunction with using this new piece of technology. If we don’t change what we have always been doing, the results won’t change either. If we want a different result, we all realise that we need to actually do something differently. The designer and their associated team have the job of convincing us to change our behaviour.  Once we start to behave differently utilising a purposely designed piece of technology, and receive desirable results, this is known as digital transformation. 

Before the tech wizards start to assemble, and the designers begin to evolve and create, the most important step is to discover where the transformation is required. This applies to every company and every industry or facet of life. And this discovery process cannot be undertaken without communicating with the human occupants.

In other words, experience designers need to firstly figure out whether their exciting new solution will be used in the anticipated way, before they jump in there and enforce this latest transformation. That means they need to communicate directly with those who are impacted – if not face to face or by email, then market research.

Designers need to determine what exactly the problem is or could potentially be, and how these people feel it could potentially be resolved.  Once a particular solution has been suggested, this again needs to be communicated to the humans who will be affected. Research has shown time and again that if those who are affected by the transformation are behind it from the beginning, then they will actually use it.

If, on the other hand, it’s just thrust upon them with no prior warning, if they are not given a voice, they won’t bother to evolve. Humans like to feel engaged and involved in the process. Humans especially like to feel empowered. As digital transformation is all about people, the purpose should be about finding a solution and empowering people to be part of enforcing the transformation, rather than it all just happening to them.

It is a shame that so many are wary of digital technology, assuming that if they are not a tech whiz, then it’s not something for them. Digital transformation is for all of us. It involves all of us, belongs to us and empowers us. It gives us a voice and communicates with us.

There is nothing more isolating than being left behind on each wave of digital transformation. The first step in avoiding that from happening is to realise that digital transformation is all about people, and nothing about technology.

Katja Forbes is an Australian pioneer in the field of experience design including research, emerging technology as well as service design, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX). As Managing Director of DesignIt, Australia & New Zealand, Forbes works with ambitious brands to create high-impact products, services, systems and spaces. She is also International Director on the Global Board of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA). In 2014, Forbes founded Syfte, a specialist research and experience design firm which was acquired by Wipro in 2018. Forbes: “One of my personal motivations is to inspire other women, especially in this industry, to reach toward their definition of professional success.”