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Human Experience at the Core of Digital Transformation

Sara Armbruster, Vice President, Strategy, Research & Digital Transformation, Steelcase
Sara Armbruster, Vice President, Strategy, Research & Digital Transformation, Steelcase

Sara Armbruster, Vice President, Strategy, Research & Digital Transformation, Steelcase

Most organizations in the thick of digital transformation recognize it’s a path, not a destination. There’s no finish line. No ribbon cutting. No end game. It’s an evolution that requires a multifaceted approach to people, process, and technology. But, too often, it is the changes in technology that attract the most attention. While embracing and deploying new technologies is a crucial component of digital transformation, at its core, it is the human experience. Our own experience in digital transformation at Steelcase highlights three places in which the linkage between technology shifts and people are particularly noteworthy.

Seamless Workplace Experiences

New technology-based products, services, and businesses are being leveraged to create a better day-to-day physical experience for employees. Organizations are harnessing data to create a smarter, more connected workplace, and they are putting new digital workplace tools in the hands of employees. The digital experiences these tools need to be seamless and easy-to-use. A digital ecosystem connects data to improve wayfinding, scheduling, wellbeing, and collaboration for employees and creates a rich platform for real estate decision-makers to develop actionable insights from space analytics.

One of our customers in the technology industry, who is an expert in technology adoption, recently shared with us how having our Smart + Connected system of interconnected digital tools enabled their employees to enjoy a more seamless workplace experience with little training. The system connects data points on the backend and displays a similar interface for employees on every platform. It allows people to reserve a meeting room with an app on their phone, see the reservation displayed with digital signage on their booked space, and view what’s still available throughout the floor on a live map updated in real-time. People spend less time searching for a place to work and are able to use that previously-wasted energy to get more done — helping people feel good and improve productivity.

Value Delivered in New Ways

Companies, including ours, are fundamentally rethinking the customer experience to meet changing needs and expectations and to deliver value in new ways. One example from our own experience is a unique online platform called Steelcase Marketplace we recently launched to serve architects and designers in a way that simplifies what is becoming an increasingly complex design and specification process.

 

  

At its core, digital transformation is about the human experience. It becomes a catalyst for change when it is accessible, visible and malleable


   

 

 

Marketplace’s new tools reimagine the collaborative experience between customers and designers during the design process to foster ease of use and access. Our goal is to continue to provide choice, and a breadth of offerings, designers and customers rely on, but in a fundamentally new way that supports those users’ core needs and workflows. Before Marketplace, designers spent hours upon hours tracking down different dimensions, fabrics, delivery systems, and costs (to name a few) for hundreds of different products — manually adding all of these details to complicated spreadsheets. Now, they can navigate thousands of products all in one place and add relevant information to their project with one click. Time is today’s luxury, and new digital tools can save time and money.

Empowered Employees

When it comes to product development, an invention only becomes an innovation when the market embraces it. The same is true for digital transformation. Innovative efforts must be nurtured and shared intentionally so that they can be embraced. One effort in this spirit at Steelcase is our Digital MakerSpace, a physical place we created where employees with interests in emerging technologies spend discretionary time exploring how to solve business challenges with technology.

Recently, a few Makers identified an opportunity within Finance. They brought in a prototype class of interested finance employees — some who knew how to code and some who didn’t — and began work. The Makers educated and guided each person in the class. Every participant ended up being able to contribute to the design and implementation of a new technology-enabled workflow that reduced a significant amount of time spent on non-value add tasks. The use of technology yielded benefits; the bigger benefit came from turning this group into empowered employees ready to embrace transformative opportunities.

At its core, digital transformation is about the human experience. It becomes a catalyst for change when it is accessible, visible, and malleable. The landscape is continuously changing. It’s through an intentional practice both externally and internally that we’re able to advance and evolve alongside our customers.

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