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The key to successful digital transformation is user acceptance

April 20, 2021

Keep this in mind as you investigate new technologies, systems or other change-management projects.

iBASEt's Scott Baril

Traditionally, enterprises’ digital transformations focused on the implementation of technology and the stability of the underlying infrastructure. Implementations proved difficult. Projects got delayed. Expectations were not met. Cost overruns occurred. Many initiatives got stuck in the project phase and don’t progress to full sustainment.

Based on my experience working with many multi-national manufactures, there is one common attribute that separates the winners from the others—relentless attention to meeting and exceeding user expectations.

No matter how you spin the metrics surrounding a project, the success of any program that involves change will be determined by user acceptance. If new processes “stick” through employee engagement that ultimately drive new value or higher performance, then you can always count your program as being a success!

Keep this in mind as you investigate new technologies, systems or other change-management projects. Users are the key factor that drives success during every implementation phase. After all, they will be the ones who interact with the new solution. Do they have an intuitive experience? Do they actually want to use it? Can it be deployed, maintained and updated easily?

The number one reason for project overruns is the lack of “real” end-user involvement. It is also imperative that you manage the change carefully, keeping in mind what motivates the users.

The issue of incorporating end-user acceptance, such as with a manufacturing-execution system, is even more critical with today’s new generation of digitally native workers. They have all come of age with digital technology and comprise more than half of today’s entire workforce—a factor that will only grow in the years ahead.

Five user-adoption factors to measure success of digital transformation

Here are several obvious and not-so-obvious factors that can have a big influence on whether users will embrace new technology or a program that is part of a digital transformation strategy. 

  • Intuitive and standardized UIs. This is an obvious one, but essential. Users these days expect the same, intuitive experience regardless of the device. A web-based HMI framework will help maintain a standardized user interface that workers find familiar. This also makes it easier for you to create and support applications without worrying about which devices people are using (or will be using next year).
  • Out-of-the-box capabilities. You want any new software deployment to go smoothly so users can jump right in and start producing. This applies to your IT staff, employees and partners. A technology solution with robust pre-configured capabilities will significantly reduce your IT burden and deliver the solution faster. One caveat: if you go this route, make sure the solution has the real functionality you need, including specific capabilities, integration links, and reporting tools. It’s easy for vendors to claim out-of-the-box functionality…make sure they can deliver it.
  • Low-code configuration. As good as an out-of-the-box solution may be, you probably won’t want to be locked into the standard capabilities forever, for every user. Chances are you’ll want a solution that has strong developer tools, in case you need to customize in the future. A growing number of software vendors offer built-in software-developer kits (SDK) that enable low-code configuration for creating custom user interfaces and APIs. These can be used to quickly integrate with other applications or customize where needed. Having the ability to support power users or “citizen developers” who want to do their own customizing is even better.
  • Staying current. Information technology never stops changing. New devices, applications, links, fixes and expansions all require regular updates to your software. The time will inevitably come when you are faced with a mandatory version upgrade. The impact on users will determine the success of this transition. This very issue is one of the reasons behind the growing popularity of adopting a microservices-based architecture, which enables easy future updates or the addition of new features without any user-experience disruption.
  • Simplifying workflows. Nobody wants more complexity in their life. If a new industrial-transformation program can simplify a decision process or workflow, then everyone benefits. Digital initiatives usually have a data-collection and analysis component. Intelligent decision support made possible with a manufacturing-execution system that leverages the Industrial IoT by aggregating the necessary data can achieve this objective. Everything in the factory today has an associated data component—in many cases a virtual or digital twin. This exists in equipment on the production line to systems managing inventory to the pallets on the shipping dock. All of these things produce vast amounts of data that decision-makers can use to improve operations—but only if they can harness it. Stay focused on this requirement and the ability of users to ease how they do their job and your users will be far more satisfied if you can deliver it to them.

I have only scratched the surface on user acceptance as part of a successful digital transformation. The design of the user interface itself, its ability to adapt to company and user cultures, its language support, and technical features are all factors that play a role in user acceptance. That is why it’s wise to consider one more thing to ensure user acceptance and satisfaction: include user representatives on your technology and project review committees!

Your users are going to tell you what they want—it is in their best interest. You can choose to listen to them either before you invest in the technology, or after. 

Scott Baril is the chief customer officer for iBASEt