We all feel the loss of human connection due to relentless automation, the emerging behavior of Digital Natives (who prefer online interaction to direct human interaction), and the inability of current systems to support “personalization at scale.” So I’ve been wondering whether we will start to see real pushback against the straight-through and self-service procesees we endure daily — what I am calling “faceless” processes. In short, we are starting to see inklings that the pendulum is swinging away from faceless processes and a back toward more personalized human-driven interactions.
There are a few things that seem to point in this direction, such as community banks taking customers from the big guys, or the well-documented hatred of foreign call centers and voicemail hell. An “I’ve had enough” shift is also advanced by more vocal consumer attitudes — witness, for example, the recent consumer pushback on debit card fees. The question is, will we start to see companies start to differentiate based on injecting humans back into the process? Does social have a role to play here? And is there a way to measure whether this is actually happening?
My “Stuck in Cement” research is up on Forrester.com today. I have to say, I really wrestled with the title. It’s just incorrect to say “stuck in cement,” because technically cement is only the active ingredient and needs to be mixed with sand and water to make concrete. So it should be “stuck in concrete,” although somehow this doesn’t quite sound right. But really, who but a chemist would lose sleep over this or even catch the distinction? The real issue is whether packaged apps really are a barrier to innovation at this point — or does our research just reflect the high level of frustration that our clients feel trying to manage technology in a world changing so quickly?
The basic idea is that industry-specific or packaged apps — and these are currently mostly on-premises applications — aligned with organizational silos have worked well for well-defined, highly structured processes where volume, scale, and straight-through processing dominate system design. But these apps are difficult to change, appear increasingly less relevant, and form a barrier to innovation for companies in fast-moving industries like energy, healthcare, and financial services now facing advancing consumer technologies that threaten business as usual.