Feb 02 2022

Why the Pandemic Has Changed End Users’ Relationship with Tech

As people become more accustomed to using technology to perform everyday tasks, they are less forgiving of poor experiences.

Over the past two years, many of us have experienced significant change, personally and professionally. As we embark on what’s next, it’s important to internalize what has happened to the technology adoption cycle and associated customer expectations.

It starts with digital transformation, the megatrend affecting virtually all of today’s economy. “All things digital” is the essential enabler of the long-standing vision shared by most IT departments of securely connecting everyone and everything.

This transformation has been underway for a long time, but an interesting change to the pattern occurred during the pandemic: long-available technologies such as video chat and online shopping became ubiquitous. They’re now a lifeline to our families, friends, colleagues, doctors and more.

Thus, the first effect of the pandemic on technology evolution has been an acceleration of the classic adoption cycle. A faster adoption cycle is in turn driving the second effect: greater end-user expectations. Demands for instant access, constant availability and zero lag are getting stronger and gaining urgency. Delivering a great user experience is no longer a goal, but a requirement.

Understanding that will help us all reframe how we embrace digital transformation, whether through hardware development, software-based solutions or service delivery. As we move forward, people and their evolving expectations are the core driver for all that we do.

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Key Questions for Your Employees

This absolutely applies to your customers. Meeting their expectations is only becoming more challenging. As they come to rely on any new capability you create, key questions are worth considering: How effectively can you test it to ensure maximum availability when customers want it, with the right performance and user experience? What can you do to ensure that it won’t break when changes are made?

Going one step further, have you also considered the evolving expectations of your employees and the resulting implications for your business? Are crucial tools available when and where they are needed? If your employees are not equipped with the right tools, it’s going to be significantly harder for them to deliver on the heightened expectations of your customers.

This is all very challenging, to say the least, but there is a positive aspect: The pandemic experience has thoroughly validated the core idea that, done wisely, digital transformation leads to better outcomes for you and your customers.

Going forward, we must assume people and enterprises will continue to use hybrid approaches for essentially all of their activities. Why? Because an “online plus in-person” hybrid is convenient, helps simplify our lives, and offers the flexibility to address dynamic or complex requirements.

There is no going back. The worldwide stress test brought on by the pandemic has amplified the need to accelerate our collective digital transformation.

WATCH: Learn how to lead a team of thousands while building culture in hybrid work.

Tech Isn’t Always the Answer

Surveys by Bloomberg, McKinsey and others show this is already happening: Many or most companies believe the pandemic has sped up their digital transformation by three to seven years (on average, it’s on the order of 5.3 years).

It can be tempting to simply throw the latest, hottest new technology at a problem, hoping that will magically make everything work better and keep customers happy. This rarely produces the desired outcome and, therefore, usually slows rather than accelerates any transformation.

A better way to tackle the acceleration challenge starts with gaining clarity around your business strategy for meeting your customers’ needs. With a strong customer-centric strategy, such clarity includes three essential elements: a crisp definition of your customer set, an imaginative understanding of their unmet needs, and a compelling offering that delivers real value to them.

With that level of clarity established, you can embark on thoughtful (yet fast-paced) planning of the changes most relevant to your business’s digital transformation. You can then move on to the selection and deployment of the right technology to make those changes a reality.

If you want to achieve exceptional performance across your digital platforms, you may be asking, “What does it take?” And you’ll likely want to assess how far you need to reach — from core to cloud to edge, or vice versa — and how far up or down the protocol stack you need to look. It’s also useful to examine how you can validate actual and potential performance gains, and decide what to test in the lab and what to monitor in the field.

If you’re seeking to embrace new use cases or even new business models, which technologies will inspire and enable new possibilities your customers will value and pay for? Depending on your core capabilities, it may be time to consider what kinds of technology partners and collaborators can help you deploy a new concept successfully and in less time.

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All of this makes clear that all things digital — that essential enabler of connection — is also what makes for a superior user experience. The business goal is to create an experience that provides differentiation and competitive advantage. The best-case outcome is a user experience that meets or exceeds ever-higher expectations.

Obstacles to Success in Hybrid Work

Getting there is not easy. There are significant obstacles on the road ahead, and the strain of the past two years has revealed crucial weaknesses that are on the verge of becoming fatal liabilities.

Demand for bandwidth continues to grow unabated. In today’s world, more devices are transmitting and receiving richer content: high-resolution images, 4K and 8K video, and dynamic, interactive experiences such as multiplayer gaming.

Here, the key drivers include the exponential growth of Internet of Things devices and machine-to-machine communication, and new capabilities and use cases made possible by the ongoing rollout of 5G. In networking, the world continues to deploy 400 Gigabit Ethernet, but the jump to 800 Gig is coming, and 1.6 Terabit Ethernet is on the horizon.

These forces are driving technology trends we all need to get ready for now: process automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence and the AI of Things, edge computing and so much more. Staying ahead of these trends is essential to meeting customer needs, building competitive advantage and achieving business success.

Aleksandra Zlatkovic/Getty Images

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