Becoming a Digital Humanist

Blog /Becoming-a-Digital-Humanist

In my last post, I talked about the fact that to become a truly digital business, you must take a cue from industry disruptors and focus on people before technology. In other words, look at changing how people live and work as the goal, with technology as an enabler.

This may seem counterintuitive to those in the IT industry whose job is to develop the next amazing innovation. It’s easy to become so engrossed in leveraging the latest technology to build cool features and functions that you lose sight of the fact that truly great technology is great because it meets a human need.

The good news is that shifting the focus of technical innovation isn’t as hard as it sounds. I’ve helped many clients on the journey. It starts with thinking like a startup. Notice I say think like a startup, not become a startup. Being nimble and quickly adjusting your business model to market needs and customer wants is easy when you’re three guys in a garage and have no legacy systems. If you’re a Fortune 500 company that’s been in business for 50+ years, it’s not so easy to change business models or systems.

What you can change is how you think about your business models and systems.

  • Start with customer centricity, and keep in mind that a customer can be customer, employee, partner, whatever. The point is you need to think about who your audience is, what they are trying to do, and how your systems, processes, and technologies are helping or hindering that.
  • Take that understanding and feed it into a digital roadmap. Set goals and targets but manage your digital portfolio as a whole and prioritize projects based on that roadmap. Everything you do should be in service of that end goal.
  • Be agile, and I don’t mean waterfall wedged into sprints. Ideate, create POCs, beta test, fail, and go back to ideation. Create less documentation and more prototypes.

You’ll also need to approach innovation in a new way. Innovation from a purely technological perspective is destined to fail. It becomes a novelty that is not sustainable. Approach innovation from the standpoint of human need. Once you have an idea for a product or service, vet that idea through the combined lens of desirability, viability, and feasibility to see if it has real potential.

If your idea meets those criteria, follow the process of design thinking to move it toward reality.

Process of Design Thinking

Empathize to understand the audience and their needs. Define how your product/technology/innovation is going to work to meet those needs. Ideate frequently to refine toward a minimally viable prototype that you can test and iterate.

Throughout all this, your organization must focus on continuous improvement and respect. Respect not only for your employees or customers, but for an iterative process that contains many small failures pushing you toward ultimate success.

Post Date: 11/24/2015

NTT DATA Services Lisa Woodley Lisa Woodley

About the author

Lisa Woodley, Vice President of Experience Design at NTT DATA, has more than 15 years of experience successfully leading user experience strategy and design programs for clients across industries. Lisa is also an adjunct faculty member of Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Education, responsible for developing and conducting a User Experience Design class for Rutger University’s MBS program.

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