Just when things look like they may stay the same, they change…
Amazon recently launched its first checkout and employee free retail site in the America as a natural complement to the existing Amazon web and mobile shopping experience. Products can be purchased via the existing Amazon web or mobile app and collected without Amazon employee intervention in the store. Or purchased in store from a limited selection based on a wholly store based experience with no in store Amazon employee oriented human interaction. This really is an example of digitisation “plus” at work where the historical customer buying cycle of instore person to person interaction with additional onus on the integrity of the financial transaction at the end of the cycle, has been reengineered to become a fully technology enabled experience.
Self-scanning checkouts in retail started the trend and are now somewhat accepted (if at times still challenging to use), but the human option for person to person engagement remained a key element of the instore experience based on the importance of cash collection and a customer satisfying end to the retail interaction. But could this be a “reset” of the customer retail purchasing script delivered in one swipe by the completely new Amazon retail approach. The Amazon experiment or pilot may signpost with tangible evidence the changing state of the workforce where system driven automation may augment or totally replace person to person engagement.
The Amazon GO launch has delivered a degree of shock and awe to both customers and the industry in equal measure and whilst much of the discussion has focused on the impact on jobs, i.e. the detrimental human labour effect, it further signposts the ever increasing importance of information technology in our professional and social lives. Secure wireless networking, high definition cameras, advanced AI, big data and analytics, IOT sensors and the sheer volume of IT elements required that must work in harmony with zero failure is immense. With the end result, promotion of the IT system from technology to augment human actions & intellect to a mission critical platform fundamental to both the business and customer experience. Via this new IT persona, failure, downtime or system breach is no longer an option – for any reason. Tomorrow’s user is already here today and deems a “Digital Me” experience, the only experience – the amalgam of imagination, technology and process allows that to happen.
Whether you are a supporter or detractor of this fundamentally new approach to retailing, the innovation and bravery of Amazon must be admired as the pilot of anything new of this style may suffer from the usual first mover teething challenges (shrinkage, reliability, miss set expectation issues). However, this really is a new dawn for the use of new technology, IOT and actionable AI in a real world customer centric environment. Personally, irrespective of the success or not of this Amazon initiative I have no doubt other retailers will be seriously considering this new customer engagement mode as the potential within is clear for all to see.
In my option human intelligence will NEVER be replaced by IT based systems, but standardised, repeatable human activity that can be automated and “systemised” certainly will be.
Forward now looks very very interesting
Until next time.
Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK: Networking, Security, Collaboration
Digitisation and the impact across generations is now an interesting and valuable debate. There should be no doubt that digitisation is already delivering immense value but is the relentless drive to “digitise” everything unifying or dividing the social and working world (a discussion for another day)?.
My passport details do not hide the fact I am “Generation X” therefore hailing from an era without “digital personas” at the core but I am equally fortunate to possess a digital journey that did not commence at the dawn of the Smartphone era or more recently the industry restart of the digitisation agenda. I can fondly recount my early days in information technology (which span back to punched cards and mainframe tapes !!) when the “digital” world we now deem our norm first spawned. Back then a fair degree of resistance to information technology (IT) was evident due to natural human fears of change and equally the unexpected results delivered by IT systems of the day. And as many prepare for the new Star Wars extravaganza, concerns of “beings from out outer space” and even the potential takeover of the society and humanity we hold dear by “the machines” were ever present.
If I fast forward to now, the binding between humans and technology is very different – we have an umbilical style dependency on digital technology without a fear of inconsistent results, in fact quite the opposite due to a common reliance on IT solutions to deliver workload “consistency”. And the human concerns of “the machines” taking over the world have been replaced by a global “welcome mat” for technology based assets driving digital elements forward at warp speed to do just that, “run our lives”.
It is this humble journey of that has allowed me to tag myself a “Digital Inspirer” (albeit a reluctant one at times) as I have enjoyed my role as one of the human change agents flying a flag for IT and digital technologies from the dawn of the modern computing era to the present day. Does this history deliver extra credence or deeper immersion into all things digital, potentially but through my own experience heavily tempered by a perspective that places human expectations at the core of all technology aligned outcomes?
A temptation may exist if people flip into enthused technologist mode to “do digital” or “become digital” with the drive to force technology forward without a qualified and validated overwhelming human need to embrace it. This mistake has been made with numerous technology centric “must have” initiatives over the past 30 years (and many years prior) resulting in a fundamental stall prior to solution adoption. Fortunately the digitisation drive today is different from those past technology led initiatives that remained “technology centric” interpretations. From a two year old child swiping the screen of an ipad mini to a £100000 production car handshaking continually for updates with the internet, the digitisation template we are now absorbing feels more human, more personal than any previous technology led evolution. The poster child for digitisation, the Internet of Everything (IOE) is already with us but the “everything” annotated will be a number of connected and different devices beyond our widest dreams. It is for me one of the most exciting and potentially human impacting digitisation perspectives as our imagination will be the only limiting factor that impedes progress.
2016 is set to be an amazing year with the digitisation impact at the heart.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist – Computacenter UK, Networking, Security & UC
Recently Jeremy Hunt – the Health Secretary – has stated that the NHS will become paperless by 2018 to “save billions”. But this is not a new project. Before the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) and Connecting for Health (CfH) were even a twinkle in a Health Secretary’s eye, the Information for Health (IfH) agenda clearly outlined the need for a paperless NHS (initially released in September 1998).
In fact, successive Health Secretaries, and other NHS leaders, have often suggested dates by when the NHS must become paperless, and yet in 2013, we still have a mainly paper led system. Granted, there have been great developments in this – for example, most GPs work in a paper-light fashion, and referrals, results etc. are all moving to a more paperless system. However, paper – and other hard copy records (e.g. X-rays) – still exists in the NHS.
Most of the changes that have come about in the field have not happened due to some mandated requirement. Instead, they are often brought in by clinical and business leaders to solve real business and clinical issues. Paperless solutions can lead to a reduction in treatment/medication errors, quicker time to diagnosis, shorter time to treatment, more collaborative diagnostics (allowing a wider range of specialists to be involved) and overall better patient care.
From a business perspective there are a number of benefits. As well as reducing the time taken in certain business processes (look at how email has transformed the business world) there is greater traceability, more accuracy and an overall change in the behaviours of many organisations for the good. Unfortunately, the Health Secretary fell short of announcing any new funding to assist with the paperless NHS vision. And so, again, organisations will attempt to become paper-light through localised procurement and innovation.
There are many suppliers in the “paperless office” space and organisations need to ensure that they choose the right partner for what they are trying to achieve. The software solution alone is not the only consideration. What are you trying to achieve? Clinical notes digitisation has a number of specific issues which need to be carefully managed if the digitisation process is not going to negatively impact on clinical care.
Considerations as to the security model and the storage requirements will play heavily into the service definition, and it is often better to overestimate the growth of data by a small margin than to underestimate. Many vendors will offer an assessment as part of their overall offering.
Organisations need to be sure that they are looking at how and where the information will be required. Make certain that various clinicians are part of the working group which defines how the information should be used. Too often projects like this can become centred on the technology, when actually technology is just about enabling the change to information flows. Clinical participation is critical to service success.