Ideally, you should use the DIF at the outset of a project to help clients shape the value that a project will deliver and, thus, its impacts—both those that are internal to the organization, as well as external impacts.
Drivers of Digital Impact You Can Measure
The DIF considers four drivers of digital impact:
- Economic—You can assess the regional and national impacts of a project or program of work in terms of its gross value added (GVA).
- Social—You can understand the human, societal impacts of an intervention—such as greater well-being, improved infrastructure, or a cleaner environment.
- Process—You can analyze the ways in which organizational processes will be more effective and improve morale.
- Innovation—You can measure spin-off ideas and novel products that you’ve developed as a result of your project or program.
By including value drivers that are internal to the organization, as well as those that are external, the DIF overcomes senior management’s tendency toward fundamental attribution error (FAE)—the human tendency to overemphasize personal characteristics and ignore situational factors when judging people’s behavior. This cognitive bias occurs when organizations regard internal successes positively, but underestimate the impact of external factors.
The Foundations of the DIF
“One way of removing silos and focusing on the entire business is to leverage acquisition, behavior, and outcome metrics. This will allow, nay force, our senior business leaders to see the complete picture, see more of cause and effect, and create incentives for the disparate teams to work together.”—Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google
Evaluative approaches are an emerging area of user research for digital products and services. But because of the scope of these projects and the ever-changing digital landscape, formulating an assessment framework is quite tricky. To create the DIF, I drew from an array of assessments, with particular emphasis on the gold standard for governments—the logic model / theory of change approach.
A logic model graphically represents a project’s components. Creating a logic model helps stakeholders clearly identify measurable links between what they put into a project—the inputs; what they do—the activities; and what the results are—the outcomes and impacts. The theory of change links outcomes and activities to explain how and why an organization expects a desired change to come about. Drawing these two processes together supports a robust, causally driven series of metrics that show impacts.
The DIF is a hybrid framework that works well in enabling an agency like Nomensa—the company I work for—to evaluate the success of our client work internally and understand how immediate UX outputs have concomitant outcomes and impacts. It also constitutes a service that we can offer our clients to help them approach their own impact goals strategically—whether those goals are for the immediate future or the longer term.
Next, let’s look at some kinds of organizations for which the DIF works well, how you can implement it, and steps you can take in using it for your clients.