It seems like all companies today are trying to find a way to incorporate augmented reality, voice, machine learning, or IoT into every technology product. Promises of systems and applications that can improve customer engagement, boost business optimizations, and provide Geordi La Forge-like VISORS vision are being peddled like the actual cure for blindness (I think someone actually might be doing that). While all these technologies hold enormous intrinsic potential, without the right vision and strategy they will ultimately serve as a hindrance long before they improve the engagements at your company.
We’ll cover why it’s important for you to take pause and think about why you are considering such new tools and how to be critical of getting the timing and implementation right for your project.
So, When is the Right Time?
The easy answer: when you can find a way to give your users utility. Period.
The hard answer: it’s a nascent technology and you won’t know without first taking a deeper dive into your team’s readiness to adopt, and more importantly the specific use cases driving the development need at your company.
Today’s applications of such technologies have largely revolved around marketing and one-off cases — it’s the best way to create a use case for what might be perceived as an otherwise crazy and impractical new technology. That’s why over the last 10 years, we’ve seen AI on Jeopardy, people of all ages catching Pokemon on the streets, and Alexa skills to turn your house into George Jettson’s abode. While entertaining and easily understood, these are crowd-pleasing displays of what nascent technology can do — in the chart above, AR, VR, and Voice still existing between ‘Frenzy’ and ‘Maturing.’ This means that as use cases are pioneered it’s critically important to think creatively and thoughtfully of how these tools can bring utility to the users they hope to provide with long-term impact.
Solve a Problem
When it comes to the AR, Voice, or traditional mobile applications (only 10-plus years ago an emerging technology) we help develop for our clients, it’s critical to start with the one question: “What is it I aim to solve at my company?” This question must be asked devoid of any assumed technology, process, or solution — it’s easy to pigeonhole yourself to what you think you should be outputting (I need an App. My field workers need AR). It’s not uncommon for us at Shockoe to turn prospects away from technology and instead have them reflect on their existing systems and processes before diving into building out “solutions.” By taking this introspective approach, our clients are given a (sometimes rare) chance look at the broader picture with the purpose of evaluating and surfacing whether they are indeed solving for a problem, or instead, buying into the latest flavor of emerging technology with no real business gain.
Ideation and Use Cases
Walk through the trade show of any conference and you’ll hear product after product built on AR, VR, OCR, or Voice with the promise of being the catch-all solution to any challenge your company has ever faced. It’s easy to be coerced — a single case study can stand out and demonstrate industry parallels that make it seem like a no-brainer.
This is when you should take a moment to think of the broader picture. Ideation and establishing clear use cases for your specific company needs is a mandatory second step. Stakeholders, compliance directors, financial and managerial key players should sit together in a room to answer and ultimately pose the one driving question behind your use case. In short: what is it your team jointly hopes to resolve, improve, or eliminate? There must be strategic alignment (not tactical!) between VPs, Managers, Supervisors, and field workers. Period. It’s only once you have firmly posed this question that you can start thinking critically as to how you answer it:
- How might we reduce the cost of on-going training without sacrificing quality?
- How might we boost medical trial adherence with less frequent check-ups?
- How might we reduce the stress of prolonged and complex medical procedures and have happier patients?
It’s only at this junction that you can consider new technology. Use this as an opportunity to tap every stakeholder, identify every blocker, and come up with a joint plan to resolve your business challenge.
Prove it or Fail Fast
Design Sprints are an ideal way to test your ‘crazy’ ideas quickly and meaningfully. If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy of Sprint by Jake Knapp.
Rather than having countless inconclusive roundtable discussions with varying internal stakeholders, take the prototype and put it in front of the eyes that will ultimately be using your technology idea. It may seem like an obvious task, but too often ideas are produced and tested among the creators and company stakeholders alone.
Build a prototype in Figma, Sketch, Powerpoint — fake the nuance and details but get the experience to feel as real as possible. This might mean crude Unity models, slapped together Alexa skills, or dynamic powerpoint slides that mimic the real thing. Regardless of how, provide an experience that can let your test subjects to give you candid feedback that can make, break, or guide your project through the next stages.
If done properly, this stage can become the springboard for identifying key conversions, behaviors, or KPI’s that will continue to shape and improve your built technology. In short, find a way of proving out the ROI or the desired behavior that will drive the proof and efficacy of your MVP or full-scale project.
Measure, Measure, and Don’t Forget to Measure
Should your testing demonstrate users that are open to embracing your proposed emerging technology tools, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re over the finish line. Stay vigilant and stay critical for ways to prove your investment and future iterations. Set key metrics to determine adoption, usage, and to pivot your strategy in the face of attrition. The testing done with individual users is not a catchall solution, but merely a litmus test of your target audience. Take advantage of analytic tools, hardware and application alike — these are the data points that will drive ongoing development, small or large.
If you’re not sure of how to set this up, I invite you to think back to that one critical question: What is is your team is hoping to resolve? Keep your analytics simple and if you do nothing else, ensure your data give you a clear answer that one key question.
Emerging Technology is Not Always the Answer
We’ve turned clients away from an idea when it was simply the wrong fit. As you venture along the process above, you’ll be thankful you failed in a one week sprint rather than 6 months after sinking countless resource hours into an unadopted product.
Whether it’s AR, VR, Voice, or otherwise, there are many technologies that users simply may or very well may not be ready to welcome into their lives. Be honest about your end-user, be methodic about your exploration and discovery, and then and only then will you be ready to bring the latest technology to your company.