Why Do 70% of Digital Transformations Fail?

Transformation is alive in all businesses today, but only the minority of cases have a success story to tell at the end of it. With 1 in 3 digital transformations failing, YaYa are here with a special guide to provide all the help we need to build engagement, adoption, and advocacy with digital transformation in this guest article.

The digital world is evolving at a rapid pace, and some businesses are struggling to keep up. The pandemic has turbo-charged the need for companies to move online, which is why it’s vital to hit the mark first time round with new technology in order to survive.

Boards look to the c-suite as accountable for the success of digital products, so we must be constantly challenging our teams to think in the right way.

But why do almost three-quarters of digital transformations miss the mark, and what kind of impact does this have on businesses?

The Impact on People

If you’re creating tools for internal use, getting your digital transformation wrong can have a detrimental effect on your workforce. Yaya research found that half of employees surveyed would leave their current roles due to bad digital tools, and a further 58% said the products they use at work come a poor second to the apps they use in their personal life.

A lack of employee involvement during the design process was cited as a key reason for the failure of these tools: only 10% of workers said they or their colleagues were consulted at this stage – and only 8% were actively involved in the design process. Perhaps most shocking of all was the fact that 50% of workers said that the new tools they were given made no difference or actively harmed their ability to do their jobs.

Whether your target audience is internal or external, no business will survive by alienating one of its most important assets: its users.

Building a House

So how can companies create digital products that people love? Using a human-centered approach to digital change is a bit like building a house. Housebuilders might ask how many bedrooms are needed or how deep the foundations should be. Alternatively, they might ask who lives in the house and where they see themselves in the future. The latter, more people-centric approach will build a home that owners love and facilitates their life goals.

It’s the same with technology. Rather than asking which systems need to be implemented or where the data will be stored, begin by considering your users and understanding their needs. We’ve all seen digital teams race to develop prototypes within days, but they’re missing a vital step: expanding their understanding of people. The companies that succeed in developing digital products during changing times aren’t obsessed with technology, they’re obsessed with human behaviour. It’s no surprise that digital tools fail if we don’t deeply understand the needs, behaviours and motivations of our audiences.

Companies often don’t recognise the strategic gap between the need for digital transformation and the building of the product. Whether it’s empathy mapping, user testing or field studies, it’s essential to walk a mile in your user’s shoes and understand how a product can fit into their world before creating the solution.

Whether your target audience is internal or external, no business will survive by alienating one of its most important assets: its users.

Phil Bolland
Co-founder, YaYa


Challenging Your Understanding

But where to start with a human-centered approach? The pandemic has accelerated the need for digital change, and it can be tough to stay ahead. Although no one can accurately predict the future, simply creating a product that’s a bit better than a previous version or that’s slightly superior to your competitors just won’t cut it.

There are various research methods that can help to build an empathetic picture of users. Ethnography looks at people in their cultural setting, with the researchers immersing themselves in this setting to understand how audiences are influenced by their customs, habits or mutual differences. This approach, layered with all other data we have available to inform how an audience behaves, means companies can build a richer picture of different user groups before development begins.

For example, if you’re looking to develop a new sports app, putting on your trainers and sweating it out in fitness classes to understand what motivates people will align your business and its strategy with the needs of users. From research to strategy, through to design and delivery, this kind of human-centered insight challenges any conscious or unconscious pre-conceptions and instead crafts a product that users will love.

Aligning Your Business Strategy

Crucially, starting with the needs and motivations of your users means businesses avoid the expensive embarrassment of failed products that have been created in a vacuum. In fact, companies enjoy 32% higher revenue when taking this approach than traditional businesses. Further still, fixing a problem in development costs 10 times as much as fixing it in design, and 100 times as much when the product has already been released . With a people-centered approach, your business strategy is perfectly aligned to your users, lowering risk, and ensuring future scalability.

So, the message is clear: if you want to build successful digital tools, start with people – not technology.

To read the full report from YaYa: People centered design at work: how to design digital tools your employees love, click here.


Phill Bolland
Co-founder, YaYa

With a background in running complex digital projects, consulting, and growing start-ups, Co-founder and Designer of YaYa, Phill Bolland, oversees all user experience, facilitating Design Sprints and using data to drive design decisions. He is responsible for ensuring every tool solves the right problems and gives users an intuitive experience.