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4 Signs You're Being Digitally Disrupted
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ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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3/7/2014 | 5:08:18 PM
An example
McDonald pointed to a great example of putting action on the edge, one we've written about quite a bit as well: Royal Caribbean. Its newest cruise ships use head-counting cameras to constantly know how many people are seated at each of its restaurants. It broadcasts that occupancy to digital signage around the ship. That information lets guests find their own way to the less-occupied restaurants, rather than having staff do it. 

Here's some past coverage we did of the innovation at Royal Caribbean: 

http://www.informationweek.com/it-leadership/global-cio-5-ways-royal-caribbeans-cio-taps-emerging-tech/d/d-id/1090492
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/8/2014 | 11:12:34 AM
Re: An example
While I've seen it and done it myself, I've not heard the term "human middleware" applied to it before. That is an easy problem to fall prey to and a hard one to solve sometimes. Incrementally, it is often easier to throw more bodies at a problem. If you take a longer view, that gets expensive and doesn't resolve the root systems problems. One solution I've used is to add that human middleware for a transitionary period while the system is reengineered to resolve to root of the issue. There's probably better solutions, but that one has work for me several times.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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3/10/2014 | 10:13:04 AM
Re: An example
There's a fine line here between what counts as human middleware and what counts as great customer service that sets you apart from competition. Healthcare is a great example of an industry struggling to figure this balance out, as many people WANT to do more digitally -- make appointments, check their test results -- but they also want the insight and guidance of highly trained people when needed.  
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/10/2014 | 10:32:56 AM
Re: An example
I'm not so sure it's a fine line. I think the two are very different, although folks probably confuse them all too often. I would place a significant distinction between customer support and what we refer to as operations support. The former is about engaging customers to build loyalty. That's crucial for any people-focused business or business unit. The latter is more akin to pushing paper between systems and processes. This is what ought to be revisited regularly to optimize efficiency without sacrificing the customer experience.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
3/10/2014 | 3:24:39 PM
Re: An example
I'm not sure how I feel about the term "human middleware" -- at some point in the progression of robotics and AI, that will describe almost every job. Soylent green is ...

OK, that might be overdramatizing the situation. But if our ultimate goal is to engineer people out of every process we possibly can, where does that end, and what then do all the people do? 
rradina
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rradina,
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3/10/2014 | 3:46:18 PM
Re: An example
If Star Trek's vision is our future, there is no currency.  By implication people will have their needs met through automation and the state.  People are kept busy improving themselves through personal achievement.  My take on that:  Everyone will be free to do what they love without today's consideration of compensation.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
3/10/2014 | 4:15:50 PM
Re: An example
My intent is certainly not to engineer people out of every process. The human mind and its insights are still not able to be replicated. Yes, Watson can win Jeopardy, but despite speech nuance, that is still rapid and massive calculations on historical data. Individuals interpret the same data differently from each other.

The goal would be to engineer people away from processes that don't need a human intuition or personal empathetic interaction element. More importantly, don't just throw more people at a problem when the process isn't working.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
3/10/2014 | 11:09:11 AM
The Aging Customer problem
Point #2 is real, not only for many companies targeting IT industry customers, but also for retail, travel industries, etc. Anyone working at a company where you feel you're making great strides targeting the next generation of IT customers? Let's hear from you about what works.


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