The notion of technology stirring human emotion is not new. However, recent focus on experience design and robotics are prompting an examination of our complex relationship with technology – to which anyone who witnessed the gasps of the crowd at the recent Darpa Robotics Challenge or the Queen of England being charmed by a waving robot, can attest.
The speed at which technology is accelerating is putting immense pressure on enterprises, forcing them to grapple with the challenge of balancing the demands of rising customer and employee expectations against the constraints of legacy technology investments. Surprisingly, customer expectations are proving easier to manage, as a lovely facade and a few sweeps under the rug can oftentimes give enough of a perception of a high-performing system to get by (although this is certainly not a recommended approach). Many organizations’ operational technology users, however, are not so lucky. Behind the curtain, they are faced with the striking contrast between the endless keystrokes of dated systems and spreadsheets, compared to personal pocket technology that does the heavy lifting “below the waterline” and then anticipates what they want to do next. Which systems would you rather use?
Henry Dreyfuss wrote (in 1955!) that “[w]hen the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed.” The principles of the “frictionless” experience remain relevant today. Successful organizations have been quick to respond to rising expectations by placing the customer or employee at the heart of their thinking … charting their emotional journeys, and then working to build technology-powered points of contact around them. But why stop there? In light of the emerging API economy and the Internet of Things, organizations can also consider an enterprise-centric view in addition to this user-centric focus – one where the points of contact are not between users and their applications, but between the company itself and a broader ecosystem of partners. It is within this ecosystem that experiences orchestrated between people, businesses and our technology can fulfill its highest potential.
As Dreyfuss articulated six decades ago, friction is the enemy of engaging experience (and the catalyst for frustration), and this applies to products, applications and organizations alike. In the age of the platform economy and IoT, the agile, connection-ready enterprise will be positioned for success by delighting its customers, employees and partners, in the same way that a pleasing experience serves as competitive advantage for a product. The slow, frustration-prone and experience-deficient enterprise will end up like the printer in Office Space. What does the future hold for your organization?