The competitive advantage of managing human experience


Vaq Hussain

Recently we wrote an article about why technical data isn’t the same as human experience. We talked about how, in order to avoid vast and overwhelming data lakes, we naturally turn to averages to help us understand the technical data our businesses produce. And about how those averages just don’t give us an accurate understanding of the way people feel when they interact with a digital system.

But why should you care? As a senior business executive, what impact does human experience actually have? What are the benefits of getting it right and the penalties for getting it wrong?

The previous blog post looked at one practical example - slow browser speed and it’s impact on consumers who can tolerate a small delay but will, at a certain point, get fed up and abandon the website altogether. We also briefly referenced employee engagement, morale and turnover, highlighting the internal implications of ignoring human experience.

But these are just a starting point. The impact of a lack of insight into human experience goes beyond the day-to-day operational aspects of an organisation to a more strategic level.

Making a difference at a strategic level

Experience is what bridges the gap between technical and business, helping us to understand the true impact that the more basic numbers have on the company as a whole.

As more organisations go through the digital transformation process to enable both employees and customers to ‘do it themselves’, technology becomes less of a differentiator.

Whether you’re migrating to cloud services or enabling employees to work from home, with everyone having access to the same digital tech stack, functionality becomes a necessity.

So how can organisations maintain a competitive advantage, ensuring customers choose them over their competitors? That’s where managing the human experience comes into its own.


Maslow’s hierarchy for digital strategy

Think of digital measurement as a hierarchy, much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the bottom we’ve got availability. Is the service up and running? This is the most basic need and one that is critical as a starting point.

 Next you’ve got performance, which is where most traditional network or application performance management systems sit and do very well. Here those technical metrics and averages can be useful to get an overall feel of how things are going.

 But once these needs have been met we need to move to the next level - experience. Are your employees getting frustrated with the intranet being inconsistent? Are your customers switching to other brands because their experience of your app just isn’t slick enough?

Hierarchy of digital measurements (2)

Both on a practical level (the ability to complete a task successfully and in the appropriate time frame) and an emotional one (the level of frustration inherent in completing the task), human experience can have an enormous impact on engagement, and productivity.


Translating human experience into competitive advantage

 To fully appreciate these ramifications we need to look at how our understanding of experience feeds into the two final levels of the digital measurements hierarchy - outcomes and value.

 By understanding how people are experiencing their digital ecosystem we can start to explain everything from why call centers aren’t performing at their optimum level to why shoppers are abandoning their carts before purchase. You can see why employee productivity is down 12% or compound annual growth rate has slowed.

 These are the outcomes and associated value impacts of a poor human experience.

 Where reporting availability and performance is useful on a day-to-day operational level, they don’t have the strategic implications of human experience.

 In this context, the main problem with averages and technical metrics in general is that they only tell a small part of the story - the first two levels of hierarchy. This leads to IT teams being reactive - waiting for something to break and then moving to fix it.

 To really get the most value from our data we need to understand the impact on human experience so we can begin to use it strategically and proactively, making informed decisions based on real insights from employees or customers.

Strip Banner - Reporting vs Insight