Digital adoption is not enough

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Top-down perspective of a table with multiple laptops, phones, and other electronic devices with two pairs of hands working and and collaborating over coffee
Top-down perspective of a table with multiple laptops, phones, and other electronic devices with two pairs of hands working and and collaborating over coffee



What is digital adoption without strong engagement?

The problem this project was tasked to solve involved understanding the enterprise collection of communication and productivity tools. It consisted of multiple ecosystems and platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Meta Workplace.

Like many large organisations, balancing the ability to provide thousands of employees the flexibility to collaborate and work in the best way possible with aligning ways of working with organisational strategies is very difficult.



The goal was to leverage the high level of digital adoption and increase the level of engagement, or quality of the digital adoption. The findings indicated that many found the plethora of tools and places where data could be stored and shared confusing, leading to inefficiencies, miscommunications, duplications, and time wasted finding information; a clear symptom of choice fatigue.

Many expressed the displeasure of having to switch back and forth between so many platforms for a tiny subset of relevant information and that they would much prefer if the critical, core and common information could be aggregated.

After an intense series of user research, workshops and testing, the synthesis of findings revealed that a single portal that combined the core needs of the user and then set up as the default browser tab was the solution. To also meet the security requirements of the organisation, the solution was an on-premises web application that consumed public and private APIs that were approved to be in the scope of the application. It allowed users to quickly find content, news, and links to productivity tools. It also allowed user customisation, secured behind the active directory user identity and delegated permissions with future extensibility for role-based content.

Roles and responsibilities

Research, Insights, Testing, and Synthesis

As Lead Design Technologist, I participated in the research and mapping of the technical landscape of the organisation to translate the as-is conditions to constraints and opportunities. The team depended on my skillset to help design their UX research approach and identify what technical information was missing.

Two laptops side by side on a table seen from the side with two individuals holding pens collaborating

I also participated in user interviews, and led a workshop as the primary technical interface with technical stakeholders. Furthermore, I researched new technologies as potential bold opportunities to enhance the value of the solution.

One of the advantages of including a Design Technologist early in the design phase is the ability to provide coded prototypes for features that are hard to mockup in the traditional design tools to give a more accurate testing experience. Additionally, using my business and operational background, I assisted in the synthesis of findings and establishing the scope and direction of implementation.


While to continuing my technical advisory role to the designers, I transition into Solution Architect and Lead Developer with one junior developer to deliver the MVP.

The implemented solution was a full-stack framework web application, hosted on-premises and consumed selected data from public and private APIs only accessible by VPN. It provided a set of links that could be searched and also a subset could be set as favorites for individual users, saved in a database. An admin panel feature was also implemented to allow the client to manage and create new links. The solution also included visual interface to navigate to links for users who preferred this method of finding information as well as a carousel of most relevant news from different platforms.

The technologies I selected were based on my experience and understanding of how the solution needed to deliver a good user experience, while also ensuring the organisation's best interest in maintainability and future extensibility. A server-side rendered app provides the benefit of faster loading times, reduced browser overhead, progressive enhancement, security, and the ability to control both client and server side caches at a granular level. We also leveraged the defer API which provided granular control over which data the client waited on from the server before rendering and then inserting the rest non-critical data after it was obtained. Altogether, this keeps the app loading and performing fast and delivering a positive user experience to keep the engagement up after adoption.

I selected Remix as the framework among other similar SSR frameworks because both environments are JavaScript and that the client framework can be changed out without having to rebuild the whole app. React is a fantastic library and continues to dominate the local market so it also helps the organisation attract and find developers to maintain and further develop the solution.

Overhead photograph of a hand holding a highlighter in front of a screen and a mobile phone with paper and markers spread out.

The project also had a unique opportunity to establish a scrum process and manage it in Azure DevOps with the focus of keeping design efforts ahead of development. This ensures ownership and engagement of the backlog with designers while also helping developers continuously deliver value to the client and make project handoff easier to manage.

Grayscale of mac laptop with hands on the lap of a person sitting.
Grayscale of mac laptop with hands on the lap of a person sitting.

Results & Reflections

By bridging design with development right from the beginning, we were confident that we were building the right solution that delivered the value users wanted. We also knew that the what and how of what we wanted to build was achievable and fit well with the organisation's strategies.

The solution MVP was delivered on-time and immediately registered a high level of adoption. The level of activity throughout the day and updates to user settings suggest a strong level of engagement. Moreover, requests for new features and feedback suggests that users also invested in the solution as a quality of life and productivity portal for their work.

The codebase is robust and flexible for future extensions, well documented with automated testing.

At the time of this writing, the project is still in further development so handoff has not been completed yet. Inwards looking, the amount of investment in setting up the backlog with designers and keeping design ahead of development facilitated more designer collaboration and ownership of the backlog and ensured constant and continuous value being delivered each sprint.

*Details, name of organisation, and screenshots for this project are unavailable due to confidentiality.

**Images are stock photos found on UnSplash.

Ā© 2023 Stephen Chiang