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Computacenter’s Chief Technologist on digitization and putting the user first

Hot Topics sat down with Computacenter's Chief Technologist, to discuss putting the user at the heart of digital transformation.

Digitization: Putting the User First

The user must be at the heart of any digital transformation project, says Paul Bray, chief technologist, end user and collaboration at Computacenter.

The ongoing digitization of the workplace is prompting organizations across all sectors to examine the role that technology can play in their success – whether that’s simplifying business processes, improving customer relationships, boosting productivity or making cost savings.

However, many organizations don’t realize the success of such digital transformation projects relies on one critical factor, the user. If you fail to understand your employees’ needs, challenges and decision-making, then any investment in new technology will be meaningless.

Recognizing the importance of user involvement, IT services provider Computacenter has launched a customer-focused campaign called Digital Me, which places the user at the heart of the process. “The campaign is driven by the disruption and transformation that’s occurring in all of our customers’ environments,” says Paul Bray, chief technologist, end user and collaboration, Computacenter.

“There’s a myriad of new technology and new themes that have entered the workplace so we’re offering to aggregate and integrate those solutions to deliver that customer value. But the emphasis is on looking at that from an end-user perspective, focusing on the user needs and how we can support and enable the user.”

Workstyle Analysis

As part of Digital Me, Computacenter undertakes a ‘Workstyle Analysis’ consultative program with its customers to gain a deeper insight into users’ requirements. “We know there’s a disjoint between employees’ expectations and the power they are given, versus what the business and the IT department is able to fulfill. That’s manifested itself through shadow IT and Bring Your Own Device, endorsed or not, across our customers in all sectors and verticals,” says Bray.

“It’s going back to Digital Me and getting a deep understanding of our users’ needs and expectations to some degree – because even if you can’t fulfill them it’s important to understand them.”

Computacenter consultants will approach users personally to investigate what challenges they face, what works for them and the context of their role. They then summarize the information and present it to the business’ leaders to decide on their next steps.

Despite the intention of Digital Me however, people are often resistant to change. It’s easy to imagine such an approach might hit a few roadblocks along the way – not least with employees viewing the exercise more as a distraction than anything. However, the situation has been quite the opposite, says Bray.

“We go in as an outside entity; we might provide the services to that customer but we’re doing the activity independently. The end users take assurance from that, and there’s a degree of anonymity in the specific feedback. We get 90 percent plus attendance when we schedule an interview. Users want to engage in this conversation, and hopefully make their lives better moving forward.”

Unexpected results

Computacenter has uncovered some interesting, and somewhat surprising, results from user feedback through its Digital Me campaign.

For example, despite the hype surrounding collaboration software and instant messaging, Computacenter has discovered the enterprise still runs on email. “All this sentiment about the digital natives entering the labour force – how they communicate through Slack or Facebook groups and don’t understand email – email is completely prevalent in all the organizations, and there’s no sign that it’s going anywhere, despite the headlines we’ve seen over the last few years,” says Bray.

Interestingly, the consultation isn’t necessarily centered on technology like Digital Me; the organization’s culture and working practices are also assessed. Explains Bray: “We’re not embarking on these exercises to understand the specific technology; we’re seeking to understand how the culture of an organization fits within the working paradigm that they offer their users,” says Bray.

Bray cites a media company whose employees were failing to collaborate effectively.

Computacenter discovered it wasn’t a technological problem, but a problem with the facilities which had meeting rooms that just weren’t set up for the kind of collaboration users required.

“The facilities didn’t suit the working patterns of the users so we were able to identify those themes and then we were able to get into the more interesting stuff of road-mapping and planning how we’re going to resolve those challenges,” says Bray.

Another example is a clinical organization where users were bound to central PCs, which were scattered around clinical wards.

It initially made sense to equip the doctors and nurses with tablets to enable them to spend more time at their patients’ bedsides, and give them faster access to information. However, that didn’t gel with the working practices of the staff.

Says Bray: “We had feedback that those are highly pressured environments and the doctors and nurses actually need time away from the patients and the families to digest and reconcile the information they’ve learned, which they are unable to do in front of the patient. And these central PC clusters on a ward – that’s the point where the learning happens for the junior doctors and nurses, that’s where they congregate around the machines – if you remove that central hub, you remove that.

“You need to be engaged still with the users to ensure what you’re doing is correct. You can make decisions based on the information provided that may not actually fit the context of the environment,” he says.

Organizations face significant challenges as they travel the path of digitizing the workplace. Employees’ IT wish lists are getting longer, but more than that, the technology needs to fit into their everyday work practices.

CIOs also need to realize that not all employees are the same, and their individual requirements may be far removed from what they might have previously envisioned.