To inspire digital transformation we need to speak human

As someone who is part of the Forbes Technology Council, I read the insights from my fellow colleagues with great interest. Recently, an article titled The End of the Internet of Things Can’t Come Fast Enough caught my attention.

As someone who is regularly advocating to businesses on the importance of IoT and connected devices for the future of business, I get the premise of this article. The term, at least among inside circles, feels outdated. It implies some level of specialness when in reality we’re surrounded by, and expect, IoT functionality in our daily lives – from our mobile phones, voice controlled appliances, and advancements in the digital tools we use at work.

But the answer isn’t as simple as a shift from using the term IoT and inserting in its place business transformation. Our team at Twisthink has learned firsthand that the term is equally wrought with more vagueness and personal interpretation instead of needed clarity.

Somewhere between IoT and business transformation, a group of executives is trying to figure out what they’re really trying to accomplish. IoT might not be in their vernacular and business transformation could take on many definitions, not to mention sounding incredibly daunting.

This isn’t a criticism of the article. It’s an honest grappling with the challenges we all face in helping business leaders make informed decisions about what’s next.

Speaking human is at the core of HCD

To help bring clarity to what’s next, our team uses the process of human-centered design (HCD) to help businesses figure out what deserves to be built. To extract real human experiences, spoken to us in uncomplicated and straightforward language, starts with us speaking human. When we do, we glean meaningful insights into what people truly desire in new products and services. It also helps remove biases, assumptions, and guesswork. From here we can get to work figuring out if what’s desired has technical feasibility and business viability.

Will that include IoT? Yes.

Might it represent some form of business transformation? Indeed.

But when we fail to communicate in a common language and speak human, we fail to capture the imagination of those who most need to make a pivot.

Breaking down business-speak to better speak to the business need

Many business leaders still speak in a language of comfortable metrics:  What will it take? How fast can it be done? What’s the impact (ROI)? What will it cost? If initiatives aren’t easily answered in those business metrics, they don’t get funded. These are important questions, and they deserve to be answered. But leaders need to understand is what deserves to be built and have it conveyed to them in human terms. We have to understand what any business is trying to accomplish.

In our work, we’ve identified what we see most businesses wanting to pursue – that “thing” or “strategy” that lies between IoT and business transformation in more understandable and human terms. This is digital acceleration – the desire to move quickly into the digital domain to realize a digital transformation of how business operates and what it offers customers. Because the effort is laser focused on user experiences to define success, business leaders are more open to embrace it.

 Digital acceleration explained in human terms

Digital acceleration involves the gathering of useful data that can be trained via artificial intelligence (AI) to become predictive and actionable data that better serves the desires of people and bottom lines of businesses. It occurs through digitally powered products and processes that live on the edge, where physical devices exist, as well as in the cloud.

When businesses realize this is what they are after – and something they couldn’t quite articulate or put their finger on before – then the line of questioning becomes a bit different: What pain points might we solve internally and for our customers by accelerating a digital solution? Do we believe digital is the future of business? Can we afford not to do this? Do we have the talent and resources to bring digital solutions to life? Can we quantify what the ROI will look like for something we’ve never done? Who can help us understand and quantify the value of digital acceleration?

When we speak human and we take human-centered approaches to solving problems and determining what deserves to be built, then the roadblocks to using IoT and seeing eventual digital transformation are lifted.

The inner workings of IoT are all technical. And for most, tech-speak isn’t enough to inspire leaders to action. The same could be said for the platitudes of business transformation – ethereal promises of a better future without a clearly defined path forward.

Digital acceleration on the other hand begins to send a different signal altogether. It informs that this work is indeed digital and the future of where all businesses are headed. It includes IoT, algorithms, AI, and cloud connectivity as the means to solve much bigger business challenges. Acceleration evokes a sense of urgency, and a desire to speed up and not fall further behind. It is what leads to digital transformation.

Too often our daily business sense of urgency prevents us from doing what we need to do – slow down, do the difficult work of really connecting with your human stakeholders, speak human to them, listen well, and bring forth the needed clarity to complex challenges. When we do, we’re likely to accelerate faster than we could have ever imagined.

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