20 Apr 2016 21:29 IST

Putting people at the centre of everyday tech

Successful businesses are the ones that reimagine themselves with human quotient as a key business driver

In today’s era a critical question being considered is, will the variety of technologies in our lives create the desired impact and value? The answer lies in yet another question: is technology a technical or a human phenomenon? When seen as a technical phenomenon, it becomes utilitarian. When seen as a human phenomenon, it feels and impacts us like a dear friend, delivering transformational impact very naturally.

Remember how Al Gore, in his eulogy for Steve Jobs, mentioned how Jobs’ death attracted an overwhelming response from around the world. Gore says, “I think that, at its core there was something truly unexpected. And I think it was truly love.” And we know Steve Jobs has left behind a phenomenal legacy for us.

So what is human quotient in the context of technology? If we look at technology life-cycles, the human quotient can be defined differently for various stakeholders. For instance, for product owners it can be defined as ‘creating human touch points/interfaces, and monitoring the impact of these touch points in deriving business objectives’.

For product engineers, it can be defined as how they are able to build products that will deliver functional and emotional impact with continuous validation from the end-users. For product support teams, it can be defined as how to further deliver a human experience when the end-users need support and service on the product. These aspects need to be factored into human quotient management.

Reinventing the business process

Why is human quotient important in current times? Imagine, if it were not for Apple’s iconic experience platforms, such as the iPhone, iPad and Macs built with “human quotient” as their core, would it be this successful. If it were not for Google’s minimalistic text box to the universe of information, would it be this successful. And if it were not for Uber’s simplified experience for travellers, would the company have been this successful.

In current times, businesses have to reinvent themselves by imbibing the human quotient in everything they use and build as technology. For this, there is a need to reinvent the way they work with stakeholders including investors, executives, managers, staff members, support staff, partners and vendors.

The starting point would be improving employees’ ability to think “human quotient” and applying it actively in their day-to-day work and deliverables. Joe Keohane notes in a The New Republic essay that workers who are emotionally invested in their work are less motivated by earthier enticements, such as pay, vacations, flextime and good hours while generating 147 per cent higher earnings per share.

It is critical to select the right parameters and the method to measure the business results that needs to be delivered by the various stake-holders. For example, the success of a new technology product is defined by user adoption; this needs to be further augmented with the impact created by the technology on its users — does it leave them happy, confused or disappointed?

Human behaviour

Further, these KPIs (key performance indicators) need to be monitored using analytical engines to derive both business results, as well as draw insights about deep human behaviour, which can be used to improve the product/solution. Ninety per cent of technology products fail as the user feedback with respect to their emotional response is captured either too little or too late. The ones that succeed are able to deploy the mechanics of continuous engagement with human stakeholders and factor in their feedback for continuous improvements.

Business processes need to be reimagined too. While they need to deliver business results they also need to track and deliver on human quotient. For example, a communication technology is supposed to deliver emotional support to its users. It is increasingly important for organisations to design resilient processes that go beyond revenues and profits to deliver exceptional success on human quotient.

Setting standards

Technology businesses which imbibe an approach where human quotient is a priority are likely to succeed better than businesses that don’t. Airbnb has achieved phenomenal business success by providing solutions to the basic human emotional need for comfort wherever one is while travelling, thereby benefiting all involved.

So, successful businesses are the ones that reimagine themselves with human quotient as a key business driver. Businesses will have to build or source the right mix of technology and skills in the areas of customer experience, user experience, usability and end-to-end human quotient management. Such businesses will drive the definition of success, which will become industry standards for others to follow. Thus, different forms of human quotient will become the core of anything that’s technology in coming years. We are already seeing this happening around us.

Mehul is Advisor-Digital and Ashootosh is Executive Director-Advisory, PwC India

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