9th February, 2018

Human experience and the consumerisation of tech

There’s a huge number of tech tools now available to consumers to allow them to do things that previously needed professional input. How does this affect human experience? 

Canva, a recent unicorn, empowered a lot of people to become their own graphic designers – so what effect did that have on existing graphic designers?

“Just before we launched we talked a lot about this internally…we actually had a whole info pack prepared,” co-founder Cameron Adams told a panel at PauseFest.

“Strangely enough, [blowback from designers] didn’t happen. We had two snarky Twitter comments and that was it.”

Instead, Adams found that businesses that previously wouldn’t have even thought about graphic design started thinking about it. It grew the category as a whole and led to more work for designers down the road.

“[Business owners] didn’t have the resources to do [graphic design], the understanding, or the knowledge of how to do it and didn’t understand how it was important to their business,” he said.

“Showing the value of having a great brand and being able to communicate consistently and having high quality materials they can use to build their business on has been eye-opening.”

Similarly, MYOB has created software which has empowered small business owners to do more for themselves and taken a lot of the grunt work out of the accounting and bookkeeping industries.

Head of Customer Marketing at MYOB, Jane Betschel, said those who were missing out were those who didn’t adapt.

“We spend a lot of time in our industry helping and working with people like bookkeepers or accountants who have seen their world incredibly disrupted,” she said.

“What we’ve found is that the progressive bookkeepers we know…have started offering other services for their clients. They now see themselves as business support, so it’s new work they’re getting into.

“We’re not seeing the industry being disrupted in a negative way – it’s just changing the kinds of work that they’re doing.”

But what happens when the disrupters and tech enablers are disrupted?

READ: Fear of automation will be 2018’s fake news

The future is about humanity

Hospitality training provider Typsy is a company which is potentially disruptive to training providers in the hospitality sector. But the number of people employed in hospitality could be potentially under threat from Airbnb increasing pressure on hotels.

Felicity Thomlinson, Head of Group Strategy at Typsy, said while tech like Airbnb put pressure on the company’s potential customer base as more people stayed at Airbnb properties, there was still a crucial component which meant hospitality isn’t going away: humanity.

“There’s so much in hospitality which has an emotional component – from where the beans come from to grinding them in a certain way,” she said. “There’s just a whole story which comes across in hospitality and the workers that come into the industry are incredibly passionate.”

Betschel said the growth of restaurants showed that people still craved experience despite the effect of globalisation and manufacturing processes on the availability of food.

“It’s not that long ago we would have all been farmers or working on farms to produce enough food just to look after ourselves but now there’s so much food…you can buy almost anything you want in a pre-packaged form,” she said.

“But we all still want to go to restaurants – and there’s a new one starting every week.

“We’re looking for experience, and I think technology may struggle to replicate those human experiences.”

It’s why we all love an artisanal cupcake.

“Now we’re constantly craving produce that’s coming from 10 kilometres away that’s been artisanally grown by a bearded man whose name you actually know,” said Adams.

It’s why despite tech becoming more available or pervasive in our lives (depending on your perspective), human skills will win out over skills like coding.

READ: Why the future is still human

Creativity will be essential

“Of course [problem solving and creativity] are more important, but if you can’t code make sure your best friend or business partner can code,” said Upwire co-founder Ben Brophy.

“I think problem solving right now is the most important part. There’s a hell of a lot of noise in the marketplace… and you’ve got to sift through that.”

Betschel said despite the huge advancements made in working at a place like MYOB, the best outcomes were borne of creativity and collaboration rather than sitting at a desk coding.

“I’ve been working in tech for a lot of years, and when I look at an agile team that are working on a project you see the great teams are the ones who have diversity in them,” she said.

“That’s diversity of thinking, different skill sets, genders, and they’re all bringing that to the problem.

“There are days gone by where it was a programmer sitting in rows and not really collaborating.

“That collaboration and creativity…is definitely what we’re great at as humans and I don’t think computers can do it just yet.”