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Why User Experience (UX) is the centerpiece of digital transformation

Digital transformation is a challenging and complex endeavor, and it's easy to get tripped up by unforeseen issues. For many organizations, the focal point of their digital transformation strategies is throwing their weight behind new mobile initiatives. These can often include both internal and customer-facing platforms, designed for a variety of purposes. A mobile platform is only as good as the user experience (UX) it provides, and businesses that fail to diligently adhere to UX best practices may see their mobile-driven digital transformation goals go up in smoke.

Mobile's place in digital transformation

Digital transformation is such a complex concept, it makes sense that corporate leaders would cling onto something tangible in their efforts to execute upon it. It's no wonder, then, that mobile has become the face of digital transformation as it is a natural starting point for sweeping technological change across the enterprise.

By first laying a sound technological foundation through mobile application development, businesses can put themselves in a stronger position to effectively embrace other aspects of digital transformation such as the Internet of Things (IoT).

In fact, a recent Forrester Research study, that surveyed 250 technology decision-makers and influencers involved in enterprise mobility and digital transformation, discovered that most organizations have multiple mobile projects underway as part of their broader technological strategies.

These mobile application development projects aren't entirely targeted at a consumer end user, either. Many companies are developing mobile applications that support staff in different corners of the enterprise, enabling them to work more efficiently while on the move.

"[Companies] are deploying applications across many roles and processes, ranging from sales to human resources to supply chains," the Forrester Research report reads. "Many firms are planning to implement these applications to address the needs of as many as five additional roles." In fact, 61% of respondents are deploying mobile applications to support three or more employee roles as part of their digital transformation strategy, and 25% of respondents are even deploying applications to support five or more roles.

The success of these projects will ultimately be determined by the quality of the mobile platforms' UX.

Meeting user expectations

Whether they're focusing on Android or Apple iOS platforms, business leaders cannot overlook the importance of user experience when developing enterprise mobility strategies. An application with poor UX will present a major barrier to adoption, and it's likely that employees will turn to an alternative if the navigation and interface are difficult to manage. It's a simple fact of life for mobile developers: If your audience can't easily use your software, they won't use it at all.

Take, for instance, Google's real-time communication platform, Google Wave. The app was supposed to reshape the way we use and think about email, and proponents saw a great deal of potential in it. However, many users found the interface confusing and were unable to take full advantage of the platform. These hurdles proved to be too significant to overcome, usership dwindled and Google quietly put Wave out to pasture just six months after its release.

This concern is amplified in an enterprise environment, where employees have numerous responsibilities and tasks to see to and can't waste time coming to grips with an un-intuitive platform. If they're more comfortable with the status quo, they'll continue using what works, even if it is more time-consuming over the long haul.

The consumerization of technology has resulted in consumer-level expectations for enterprise software. It may not be entirely fair to hold employee-facing applications to the same standards as a social media app, but that's the state of affairs - and those standards are climbing higher every day.

According to Kissmetrics, 16 percent of mobile users would abandon a page if it didn't load within 1-5 seconds. Thirty percent would do the same after 6-10 seconds. For 3 percent of the mobile users out there, you have less than a second to load the page before they say goodbye.

UX challenges loom large

There are a number of reasons why mobile UX continues to elude certain companies, but according to Forrester, some of the most common include:

  • Not having business leaders and IT departments on the same page.When your key stakeholders don't see eye to eye on your enterprise mobile strategy and how to execute it, you won't be able to agree on anything.

  • Not having a fully realized mobile vision. If your organization pursues digital transformation as separate, siloed projects, they'll never congeal into a wider, successful strategy.

  • Not having mobile development expertise. Mobile app development is a completely different beast than building web or desktop applications - and that goes double for mobile UX. Many organizations fail to bring in the right talent and subsequently see their projects flounder. It's also important that your developers are experienced with your particular platform. Someone who has only worked on Android projects may struggle with an Apple iOS app.

How to successfully approach UX

To address these challenges and provide the best UX possible, the first thing to do is take a step back. Don't rush into a mobile application development project or execute a digital transformation strategy without really considering what it is that needs to be accomplished. When it comes to UX, get inside the head of the user -- what do they need from any given piece of software? How can the software achieve that goal? What is the most efficient and intuitive way to guide that individual to the desired outcome? A bit of planning can go a long way.

The other point to consider is that digital transformation doesn't have to be a solo journey. There's no reason to go it completely alone. Help is out there in the form of UX tools to guide development and analytics solutions to get better insight into the minds of your targeted audience. Above all else, look outside the walls of your organization for assistance. A partnership with an experienced organization with a track record of success in this field can help get your enterprise mobility strategy on the right path.