Employee and customer experience : simplification is not rationalization

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Experience appears to be a key element in digital transformation, to such an extent that using it for anything is going to make it meaningless. However, if experience only is not enough to achieve digital transformation, it provides useful guidelines provided one is clear about what experience means.

From my point of view, a key element of a successful experience, either on the client or the employee side is simplification. Do whatever you want regarding digital transformation but if you manage to make things simpler you won’t have to look far to find benefits for your clients, your employees and, in the end, for your organization.

Beware of top-down simplification

That’s something that is easily understood by most organization because they are aware of their own complicatedness even if it’s easier said than done. But let’s hope that, in the future, they will get the lesson and stop responding to the unavoidable growing complexity of the world with complicatedness.

Regarding simplification approaches, one of the first things to decide is the method. And it’s easy to fall in the good old traps : things are seen from the top, an army of knowledgeable people is in charge of solving employees’ problems without even involving the employees and, in the end, solve anything but what makes work complicated, and sometimes come with solution that generate more complicatedness than the problem they solve.

That’s the same on the customer’s side even if businesses are more likely to listen to them and co-create with them than with their employees.

Let’s talk about enterprise software for instance. Too many tools, too much functional overlap, poor integration and communication between them, unclear use-cases. No matter. Let’s remove most of the old tools, let’s replace them with less tools that are richer and let’s impose a unique workflow, a “one best way” of working and using tool. That looks like a promising idea but it often solves nothing.

There is not a single use-case and journey

As a matter of fact, such an approach supposes that employees are an even mass, that they all have the same needs, habits and constraints. Reality is totally different. Depending on their job, on the fact they’re nomad or not, on their implicit or explicit workflows, not everybody uses the same tools, not in the same way, not for the same needs. Sometimes it’s about comfort (but doesn’t comfort drive simplicity and efficiency ?), sometimes it’s because of job-related constraints. Some need sync files to work offline, others are always in the office and are happy with doing everything in their browser.

Rationalizing is not simplifying

The cause of such approaches is obvious : when it comes to top-down simplification, businesses make three mistakes :

1°) Assuming they know their employees’ day-to-day problems.

2°) Assuming that all employees have the same people and overlook their diversity.

3°) Mistaking simplification and rationalization.

Rationalization makes businesses see things with their own eyes, not with the eyes of the employee or the client. Less is simpler. Yes but only if it covers all the employees’ use cases and journeys.

Simplification is customer sided, not enterprise sided

Simplification is about benefits for the end user, not the organization. Most of times rationalization means removing options while that was not the problem. The problem was, for instance, SOO, having to enter the same information many times, a validation workflow…the list is long. Rationalizing use cases often leads to uses cases that fit nobody’s need or neglect some users than can be a minority but will ultimately find their job harder to do after.

I’m talking about software and use cases but it’s the same with process and workflows. Sometimes simplifying work is giving more options, not removing some because by doing so one makes it harder to handle exceptions that are the norm in knowledge work.

The example of the customer journey

Here again, businesses should do internally what they do externally, with their clients. They eventually learned that clients have taken the lead on their journey and imposing a journey only frustrates them and makes them leave.

Who would say, today, that a single customer journey making it mandatory to complete the journey fully online or offline, refusing mobile devices, would be a good idea because it means rationalization ? No one with common sense.

Simplicity is about adding options, not removing some

Simplicity, either for employees or clients, means having options to adapt to their context. For businesses it means rationalizing while they should focus on proposing the right options and making use cases clearer.