Part 1 – The digital friction dilemma: Why is it so hard to measure and how did companies get here?

February 29, 2024

Sarah Morrison

Part 1 – The digital friction dilemma: Why is it so hard to measure and how did companies get here? image

Businesses are facing a growing challenge impacting their productivity, worker satisfaction and the bottom line: digital friction. Our latest research of knowledge workers highlighted the scale of the problem, finding that 5.5 hours are lost per employee per week due to poor digital employee experiences (DEX). Gartner defines digital friction as any unnecessary effort an employee must exert to use data or technology to complete a task. With so much work today relying on digital technologies, digital friction is a scourge that businesses must deal with to improve efficiency and make workers’ lives easier.

In part one of this two-part blog series unpacking the digital friction dilemma, we will explore why it is becoming such a significant issue for organizations, what the impact of digital friction is, and why it matters. Our second blog in the series will run down the top digital friction productivity blockers to look out for.

How did companies become so overburdened with digital friction?

One major driver of digital friction is the rapid adoption of hybrid work models. The urgent deployment of digital tools led to an influx of new applications – often with overlapping functions. Today’s technology estates are complex and poorly integrated, with workflows that span multiple applications and domains. Employees are burdened with too many apps, and to make matters worse, most don’t even know how or why to use what they’ve been given.

Digital friction is exacerbated by businesses’ lack of visibility into digital experiences and user journeys – leaving them unable to identify factors such as whether applications are crashing regularly or where convoluted workflows cause bottlenecks. Decision makers lack oversight into device performance, meaning many workers are suffering in silence with slow running machines that impact their productivity. Organizational growth further contributes, with different digital requirements across teams leading to software and hardware sprawl – contributing further to friction and communication silos.

Four reasons digital friction is so hard to measure

  • Digital friction is subjective: It’s not as simple as counting the number of applications used in a workflow. In many cases, workers frustrated by digital friction find a workaround whilst others continue to struggle. But identifying these instances is difficult for IT teams as they often go unreported; employees simply accept inadequate IT services as the status quo, which normalizes poor experiences.
  • Manual observation does not scale: IT teams often manually observe workers’ stations to assess quality of IT services, digital friction, and workflow. This does not provide an authentic view – when workers know they are being watched, they use ‘best practice’ rather than their workarounds. Additionally, manual observation is not scalable in an enterprise with thousands of employees.
  • Oversight over adoption is a challenge: The typical IT discovery process doesn’t provide insight into how products interact, or where standard business procedures are being followed. For example, if IT teams are not aware of gaps in workflows, they are unable to advise on and implement middleware to automate workflow integration and bridge these gaps.
  • Workflows are intricate and interconnected: Meaning that identifying specific points of digital friction is challenging due to the complexity and quantifying its impact even harder. Minor incidences of friction across multiple stages in a workflow add up to be a major headache for employees.

What is the impact?

When tech is badly integrated and user journeys are poorly designed – the subsequent digital friction causes siloed conversations, wasted cost and even increased security and governance risk. When workflows don’t flow, or variation exists within or across teams, consistency and oversight is lost, and data becomes disconnected.

And perhaps most importantly, digital friction is frustrating for workers. Inefficiencies in workflows have serious effects on productivity, worker satisfaction and wellbeing. Our research found that almost a third (29%) of workers blamed poor digital experiences for them wanting to leave their job – and in a hyper-competitive talent market, it is clear that digital friction is not something businesses should let slide.

Check back soon for part two – where we’ll cover the most common areas of digital friction to be on the lookout for. Learn more about Scalable Software’s Acumen Platform