Digital friction – ten reasons why you should reduce it to a minimum

Time and again, when things in an organization aren't running as smoothly as they should, it is digital friction that is the culprit. Find out just how costly this can ultimately be and why you should eliminate this source of so much wasted time.
October 13, 2023
4 min
Britt Bürgy, Product Management bei tts - knowledge matters Britt Bürgy

Complicated processes, missing information and technology that refuses to do what it should – there are many different facets to digital friction. Gartner® defines digital friction as “the unnecessary effort an employee has to exert to use data or technology for work”. It always crops up when people are unable to work smoothly with digital products and services – in other words, when digital technology doesn’t work as it should. 

Digital friction reduces productivity

Digital friction interrupts the workflow in the digital workplace, leading to a massive drop in productivity, as a study by the University of California, Irvine confirms. According to this study, when users are distracted, it takes more than 23 minutes on average before they can concentrate on the task at hand once more. What’s more, employees spend around 2.5 hours each day switching between different applications and contexts, searching for information or checking the relevance of information that subsequently turns out to be unimportant. Productivity drops by up to 40 percent as a result. 

Digital friction – a “silent killer”

All this means that not only does working on a computer involve more effort than it ought to, but employees also experience increasing levels of stress and frustration. In some cases, users become so demotivated that they boycott applications with significant points of friction. With a bit of luck, they will ask for an alternative solution, but in the worst-case scenario, they will use shadow software to create their own workarounds. This is why market researchers at Gartner® go so far as to call digital friction a “silent killer“. 

Ten reasons why you should reduce digital friction

The problem could get even worse in the future, because every new roll-out poses a risk of new points of friction. Minimizing digital friction is therefore a high priority that benefits both employees and the organization as a whole. 

1. Increased productivity 

When digital technology works smoothly, users are more productive. They can get on with their work, and the error rate drops. 

2. Improved motivation 

Since users don’t come up against barriers as often – or even at all – they successfully complete their tasks more quickly. This improves the user experience and boosts staff motivation. 

3. Less need for training 

When technology can be used intuitively, there’s less need for users to puzzle things out. As a result, employees don’t have to spend as much time getting to grips with systems, and less training is required. 

4. Higher satisfaction 

Employees can complete their tasks with fewer interruptions, so they work with greater focus and are more productive. They rarely get frustrated, and their level of satisfaction grows. 

5. Tighter security 

Employees can follow compliance, security and data protection rules more easily, since sources of error are avoided. The organization therefore has better protection against rule breaches, loss of data, and external attacks.  

6. Faster adaptability 

Positive user experiences boost employees’ acceptance of changes. The organization becomes more adaptable and can rapidly use technologies efficiently. 

7. Reliable data quality 

When user confidence is high, this results in better quality of data. Decisions based on data can be made in real time. This increases efficiency throughout the organization. 

8. Greater cost-efficiency 

Mistakes cost money. High levels of user confidence cut the budget needed for training and IT support. What’s more, the costs of repairs and compensation claims are also reduced. 

9. Improved innovative strength 

Smooth processes and high quality of data also mean fewer missed opportunities. Staff have more time for tasks that add value, and their innovative strength grows. 

10. Enhanced employee loyalty 

A positive user experience boosts employee loyalty and increases the number of positive ratings in review portals. This also improves the chances of attracting new talent.  

How to reduce digital friction

Digital friction crops up in many different areas of an organization, but tracking it down isn’t always easy. Hardware and/or software that is unnecessarily complicated gives rise to obvious points of friction. However, points of friction that have nothing to do with technology – from complex processes and unclear channels of communication to unsuitable training measures – also offer huge potential for improvement. 

So why not take a closer look at the causes of digital friction and identify the aspects that offer the greatest leverage for making improvements to your organization?

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