All of us are driven by the rising tide of automation to use technology to boost productivity while enhancing existing occupations and establishing new ones.
This means designing human-centred systems and providing personnel with the ability and freedom to undertake tasks beyond the capability of artificial intelligence. But prior to all of this, it is important to understand what a human-centred organisation means. An organisation that prioritises serving its users, customers, and community is said to be human-centred.
In this week’s let’s talk edition, we asked our experts whether starting a human-centred business is viable in the age of machines and, if so, how.
Cassandra Kelsall, Director of Experience, Publicis Sapient
“Creating a human-centred business in the age of machines is closely tied to the pursuit of customer experience (CX) excellence. As the world races to digitalise and automate, CX programs have become so obsessed with data that they risk losing sight of what customers want from a business or brand in the first place. A deeper level of emotional connection is required to create distinct and elevated experiences, and research shows that emotion increases brand loyalty and trust, boosts sales and drives engagement.
“Thankfully, when it comes to emotional connection, humans continue to have the edge over machines. Therefore, the brands that win this race will be human-centred at their core, with the ability to form a deep connection with customers and employees at an aspirational as-well-as functional level. Ultimately the future is human; technology and data are enablers that can accelerate that connection, but the intersection of human insight is what will unlock the ability to create meaningful experiences and business outcomes.”
Vijay Sundaram, Official Member of Forbes Business Development Council and Chief Strategy Officer at Zoho
“Technology has the power to do many things, including transforming the way we live, work and play, but it cannot and should not replace meaningful human interactions. Businesses that put people at the heart of their strategy and innovation are designed for success.
“The idea is simple: do everything as if you are in it for the long term. This means that values must extend beyond balance sheets and into four core pillars – customers, products, employees and culture. How does your tech empower your team to be their best version at work? How does your product benefit not only your customers but also the wider community? True capital includes a strong business purpose and the shared culture and dedication of the people who make up the organisation.
“At Zoho, our approach for over 26 years still rings true today: nurture people and businesses and lower the barrier of entry. Our investment and innovation philosophies are rooted in researching and developing powerful, unified tools that are customisable to any organisation’s distinct business needs and vision.
“The deeper and more meaningful connections you have with customers and employees, the better business results you drive. Whatever your business, don’t lose sight of your purpose.”
Jason VandeBoom, CEO, ActiveCampaign
“As someone who’s built a customer experience automation business with more than 180,000 customers globally, my answer to this is definitely ‘yes’ – but it’s a qualified yes.
“The secret is knowing how to integrate technology into your business in ways that optimise your operations, without compromising on the things that create repeat, loyal customers.
“Typically, those are a good product or service offering and responsive, personal service that makes customers feel seen, heard and valued. My advice to the small and medium-sized businesses we work with is to focus on the value-adding activities that don’t need to be performed by the human hand – invoicing, onboarding and so on.
“Automating those functions saves time and money, and you can use the former to work on your business. It’s also possible to harness technology to make your operations more human-centric rather than less.
“You can utilise CX automation, for example, to personalise customer journeys, reach out to regulars at key touchpoints and be there in the moments that matter, such as birthdays and anniversaries, with well wishes or a special offer.”
Christa Quarles, CEO, Corel
“In the fast-growing world of technology, it makes no sense to invest in the right tools without paying equal – if not more – attention to the people that are using them.
“It has been said before and it is a quote that I strongly believe in, ‘In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, but in the future, they’ll be about heart.’
“We, as leaders, have an amazing opportunity to reimagine and redefine job roles and ultimately revolutionise how we skill, train and treat our employees. Bringing digital innovations to life requires not just the right tools but the human element to use them authentically and with purpose.
“In this age of machines, we need workers with qualities such as empathy and creativity because these are adding value through an innovative mindset and an open culture. The ability to authentically connect with people is critical to using technology to its full potential and inspire change.”
Scott Euston, Principal Product Manager of APAC, UKG
“The rapid uptake of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) has opened new ways for SMBs to utilise workforce data and put people at the centre of their business. Technology, when used correctly, shouldn’t replace humans, but rather augment roles by leveraging communication to improve efficiency and experiences. SMBs that succeed are people-focused; they are the ones that harness solutions that are collaborative and flexible rather than transactional, bringing people into the process and meeting employees where they are.
“SMBs can use AI to identify trends within data that can be used to offer personalised guidance to management and staff. For example, providing individualised alerts based on behavioural trends, rather than spamming all staff with generalised content. By using a platform that employees are familiar with, it can incorporate their day-to-day experiences into their work life. This might include the ability to post shifts on a marketplace, reducing friction between management and staff in replacing shifts as well as avoiding sick leave.
“Ultimately, SMBs should leverage technology solutions that are in service of people, providing guidance, collaboration, and autonomy by offering the right information to the right people at the right time to make better informed decisions that benefit both the people and the business.”
Matthew McCormack, Managing Director ANZ, UST
“Digital transformation is not just a trend; it is essential to business growth and keeping pace with the competition. However, transformation is not just about changes in technology infrastructure but also calls for a shift of perspective.
“An organisation can develop or invest in the most transformational technology in the world; however, if people don’t buy into the transformation and new technologies, that investment will be rendered useless. That’s why 84 per cent of digital transformation projects fail. In order to ensure they succeed, digital transformation journeys must be centred around the people, which starts with business leaders involving employees in the journey.
“The values created from enduring relationships and human centricity will inspire and encourage employees to champion diversity and inclusion for success. Working in digital transformation consultancy, I have seen on many occasions how human-centred approaches helped cultivate meaningful solutions and advance businesses to new heights. And therefore, I am certain that human-centred organisations will be the leaders of the future.”
Tom Christodoulou, Sales Vice President of ANZ, Zebra Technologies
“There are many sci-fi stories about people and machines forming a symbiotic relationship to create a better life. This has become a reality as businesses are eagerly embracing digitalisation and automation to stay competitive.
“As the national skills shortage looms, augmenting front-line workers’ capabilities with the right technology to achieve greater efficiency and productivity is the way to go. At the same time, businesses recognise that certain human attributes like experience, intuition and personal touch are not easily replicable.
“Technology and machines can liberate workers from repetitive tasks or help to complete them quicker and more accurately. This allows them to focus on other aspects that drive greater value, making their work more enjoyable, which can contribute to talent retention. This includes equipping workers with mobile devices or wearables to perform their tasks better. Advanced technologies like RFID can automate time-consuming chores like inventory counting. Furthermore, deploying Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) in fulfilment centres and distribution centres for optimised picking can take over laborious tasks like transporting the goods to and from pick zones.
“By cleverly pairing up people with the right technology and machines, businesses will be able to achieve much more in terms of enhanced efficiency, productivity, and greater success.”
Merlin Luck, Regional Vice President of Small and Medium Business, Salesforce
“The pace of disruption, combined with inflation, rising interest rates and living costs have placed businesses under greater pressure to retain their customers as prices continue to rise. This, against a backdrop of heightened customer expectations for the very best experiences, is putting a post-pandemic rebound at risk.
“Meeting today’s customer expectations requires adopting a human-centred approach that engages customers in ways that feel personal and authentic – and harnessing digital capabilities and data-driven insights is key. When small businesses leverage digital capabilities, they can automate tasks and drive efficiencies in many of the day-to-day operations required to run a business. This frees up staff to focus on engaging customers in more meaningful conversations.
“Furthermore, data-driven insights enable business owners to truly get to know their customers and create personalised experiences that customers want and expect.
“One company succeeding at personalisation is White Fox Boutique. It’s leveraging the power of Salesforce Marketing Cloud to make every touchpoint with its customers relevant and tailored to their purchase and browsing behaviour, resulting in a two per cent average click-through rate on personalised product recommendations.”
Jason Toshack, Vice President and General Manager of ANZ, Oracle NetSuite
“Automating key business processes through technology has been a clever and effective way to enhance operations and increase profitability. However, some individuals have doubts that technology and machines can complete the same work to the same standard as humans. Many business owners have found the tasks, automated or manually, can often complement each other.
“Applying automation to the finance function can significantly enhance the employee experience. Automating accounts payable or accounts receivable can increase the efficiency of daily repeatable accounting needs. Performing these tasks manually, accounting staff may spend several hours on repetitive data entry, which is inefficient and increases the risk of errors.
“Pairing humans and technology can have a lasting impact on business operations. Having dynamic and highly efficient workflows offered through end-to-end business management systems, can help to relieve workers from repetitive tasks and have them contribute to areas where they add the most value.”
Penelope Feros, APAC Vice President Employee Experience Management, Ivanti
“Prioritising the digital employee experience is crucial to creating a human-centred business today. How employees interact with technology and their satisfaction with that experience can impact morale, productivity and ultimately the value they deliver to the organisation.
“Research by Ivanti discovered that 56% of Australian employees are frustrated by work tech. However, the study also found that 65% of C-level managers in Australia believe that leadership prioritises profitability over the digital working experience.
“IT and security teams need to work closely with the C-suite, consider the user journey and invest in tools that alleviate pressure points and frustrations. For example, Ivanti uses AI technology to identify and resolve IT issues proactively in real-time, thereby keeping the employee updated and reducing downtime. Improving the digital experience will drive better business outcomes – from employee productivity to workforce retention.
“The question is not whether we can create a human-centred business in the age of machines, but rather how we ensure technology supports employees and their digital experience.”
Justice Anyai, Senior Cloud Security Architect and Evangelist, Check Point Software Technologies
“The pandemic accelerated digital transformation, with Australian organisations increasingly adopting cloud-based solutions to support remote and hybrid work. While there are many benefits, this does come with challenges. According to Telstra’s State of Cloud Adoption in Australia 2021, 79% of companies faced a cloud-related security incident last year.
“SMBs can become vulnerable due to a lack of cybersecurity expertise and the complexity of running business applications in the cloud.
“At Check Point, we support an automation + human approach, where your team is central to protecting your business. Here’s why:
- Misconfiguration is the number 1 problem: sophistication is not the main reason cybercrimes are successful. Human errors drive most attacks. Ensure your team is prepared to set up your business in the cloud.
- Shared responsibility: your cloud provider offers cybersecurity features, but your company retains responsibility for securing data you put in the cloud. Understand exactly where responsibilities lie and be prepared.
- Awareness encourages prevention: Gartner predicts that, through 2025, at least 99% of cloud failures will be the customer’s fault. Foster a prevention-first team culture.
“For extra reassurance, a cybersecurity provider can bring more expertise and support while you take care of your business.”
Michelle Kvello, Director, Lantern Partners
“I for one am looking forward to the robots taking over! The age of the machines will allow human centred businesses to really thrive. When I talk to people about the qualities that a CFO needs, EQ comes very high on the list, which comes as a surprise to some people. It’s just numbers right? Wrong. Yes the numbers absolutely have to be correct but the value is in the interpretation of the numbers and what to do next. The “so what” and “what now” debate that is not as simple as AI interpretation of the data. When we are working with founder CEOs about the direction of the business and the next right move, there are not only multiple scenarios to be considered but also the human element of what taking those decisions mean not only for the business but for the people in the business. Analysis can only take you so far and robots will never be able to replace that facet of doing business. What it can do is remove the manual crunching of data, which is prone to error, and free up time for discussion and gaining consensus on what the next right step is for the business. That’s where human centred businesses need (and want!) to spend their time.”
Danny Lessem, CEO & Co-founder, ELMO Software
“Machines have become more integrated in the workplace than ever before and according to ELMO’s new research, the majority of employees believe it’s a good thing. Our recent Q2 Employee Sentiment Index reported a rise in the number of Australian employees who believe that a greater use of technology will assist them in their roles. Younger generations were more likely to agree with the sentiment, with 70% of Gen Z and 73% of Millennials in favour of more technology compared to 64% of Gen X and just 54% of Baby Boomers.
“However, while technological advances will continue to offer many benefits for businesses, human-centricity will always remain as the first and foremost component for organisational success. The core of every business is rooted in its employees and their ability to create better experiences for users, customers, and the community. Humans are complex beings and technology on its own is not the answer. Instead, businesses should balance the use of technology with a human-centred approach to create a more effective employee experience.
“We’ve also seen how human-centred businesses are more successful in attracting and retaining a diverse network of employees, which will be extremely advantageous considering Australia’s battle with the current talent shortage.”
Grayson Milbourne, Security Intelligence Director, OpenText Security Solutions
“In the age of machines, the reliance on cybersecurity technology is essential as workforces increasingly become connected and widely dispersed. However, business leaders can’t lose sight of their employees being the first line of defence from malicious actors – nor can they lose sight of humanising the tech processes required to protect their business’s sensitive data and information.
“Our BrightCloud Threat Report revealed 46 per cent of successful phishing attacks used HTTPS in the first half of 2022 reflecting that attackers are increasingly leveraging deception to achieve their goals so businesses must remain vigilant. Brands such as Google, Apple and PayPal were among the top ten so far this year for credential phishing, a process of obtaining loin information from users.
“In this instance, businesses should turn towards enabling ongoing security awareness training (SAT) for their employees to reduce the likelihood of successful attacks. SAT is a proven approach to empowering employees to recognise and avoid security compromises while using business devices. Additionally, it provides employees with timely information and knowledge on topics like social engineering, malware, compliance and information security so businesses don’t fall prey to malicious actors from human error as employees operate in the age of machines.”
Sara Faatz, Director, Developer Relations, Progress
“Creating human-centred experiences is a growing conversation across the technology industry. We want to ensure humans remain at the centre of everything as our world – and businesses continue to digitise.
“In particular, there is an expectation that software products and apps target users personally, matching their preferences, differences, emotions even.
“To be successful, we need to build human-centric software and apps that take into account the habits and behavioural patterns of people who would use the product.
“This requires everyone involved in the software development process to immerse themselves in the lifestyle and thinking of real people, understanding their unique needs, motivation and challenges.
“But people’s habits and expectations when interacting with software products change, or sometimes software ends up being used in a way developers didn’t intend. Only those who capture and address new attitudes, desires and user behaviour early will be able to increase their competitiveness and innovate.”
Ravi Saraogi, Co-founder and President APAC, Uniphore
“Creating a human-centred business is plausible and achievable in the age of machines. Anything that involves technology must however be done according to proper governance, strict planning and customer experience always kept at the very heart of the business.
“When used suitably, machines can enhance human experiences exponentially. Platforms with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation can now interact in real-time with employees and their customers, thereby enriching the information that the employee can pass on while also automating simple, repetitive tasks. This correspondingly extends to ‘Emotional AI’, which brings advanced functionality such as the ability to read emotions, and facial expressions and detect different voice tones – again, bringing humans closer to machines that help and enhance what they are achieving.
“With the scarcity of available talent in Australia, using machines to help employees fulfill their roles makes a lot of sense. If employees can perform to a higher standard when given the right tools, their capacity to keep customers satisfied is enhanced, giving that organisation a strategic advantage.
“So yes, humans and machines can indeed work together, and be infinitely successful. Not only will this allow organizations to maintain a human-centered business, but it is likely to help secure customer satisfaction, and lead to long-term success. As such, it is imperative that organisations look to the future, accept that humans and technology have a common role to play, and start to look at ways where this intersection can benefit their daily business.”
Richard Shanahan, Chief Product & Data Officer, Tic:Toc
“In the next wave of automation and digital transformation, creating a human-centred business in the age of machines is key to success. Many AI models rely on applying human changes to continually improve and enrich the dataset to create an accuracy benefit loop.
“Tic:Toc combines tech and people to simplify the complicated, automate the laborious and humanise the digital. Automation is a pivotal part of Tic:Toc’s business model, and will continue to be so, because it enables us to offer the fastest online home loan origination. This combination of humans and machines empowers our team to create powerful customer-centric solutions.
“Your people are the core of your business. Automation is about allowing these high value people to perform high value tasks such as delighting your customers and innovating. Automate the mundane, repetitive tasks to give your people the opportunity and capacity to work on more interesting tasks. The benefit is creating a better experience for both your people and customers, as well as continually adding business value.
“Humans like humans, and no amount of automation or machines will ever take away the value of quality conversations that are tailored, purposeful and insightful.”
Michael Judge, Head of Australia and New Zealand, OFX
“The one thing that should never be overlooked in business is the human element – whether it’s your clients or team. At OFX, we adopt a digital + human approach to help our clients manage their personal and business international money transfers.
“While high-end technology plays a pivotal role in automating processes, enabling advanced fraud protection, and establishing a safe and reliable environment to transfer money to over 170 countries, our human expertise helps us stay competitive as a business.
“Much like SMBs, our FX specialists (we call them OFXperts) don’t solely operate 9-5. At any one time, our clients may need specialist FX support to help determine their global money transfer objectives, plan for future supplier payments, or monitor market fluctuations to protect their bottom line. Our global team of OFXperts are available 24/7, so our clients always have the right level of FX support available.
“I encourage organisations to implement technologies that streamline processes or enhance customer support, but ensure those technologies are balanced by a human element.”
Sasha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds
“The value machines can bring to society is undeniable. However, when it comes to cognitive, social, and creative intelligence, machines have a long way to go before being able to replicate such human behaviour.
“While machines bring value and success to businesses, leaders need not forget machines only run because people found ways to make them do so. Without their creators, the value a machine offers can’t be realised, so neither can its benefit.
“However, we shouldn’t fear the age of machines and instead focus on the skills that can’t be replicated by them. Business leaders should nurture and facilitate employee development to help prepare for a future that inevitably involves more technology.
“With this in mind, it’s important business leaders strive to create organisations that focus on their people as much as the outputs and machines they operate or produce. In doing so, they place society in a better position to reallocate skills when more efficient processes are introduced, ultimately helping an organisation with its technological advancement.”
Bryan Finfrock, Director of Product Marketing, Cheetah Digital – part of CM Group
“Being a human-centred business is the only way to be successful in the ‘age of machines’. The technology exists today for marketers to start listening at scale; to start understanding audiences deeper than only at a segment level and then to deliver rich, truly personalised experiences across all marketing channels.
“Much like they would interact with a good friend or their favourite bartender, brand marketers need to strive to build authentic relationships rather than to persuade and demand action from their audiences. Conversations, along with meaningful questions and answers, are heard and absorbed. This is how human relationships are created.
“This human approach to personalisation is critical in this day and age, where consumers will easily switch providers if they don’t receive the experience they were hoping for. In order to maintain their customers and continue to grow, brands need to foster personalised relationships by showing empathy and an understanding of their audience’s likes, interests, history, and preferences and then delivering in the right moments.”
Albert Nel, Senior Vice President APJ, Contentsquare
“As digital interaction continues to influence more and more aspects of our lives, digital-first is the only path forward for many businesses. However, digital does not equate to losing human-centricity. Businesses who adopt human-centred design start by understanding their end-user and end with new solutions that are tailored to meet their needs. This allows businesses to better understand their customers’ needs and motivations in order to design products and services that they actually need. Taking a more efficient and data-driven approach to the design process, this approach helps businesses to better understand why their customers behave the way they do online, take action and ultimately, grow and drive their bottom lines.
“According to Forrester, the three aspects of customer experience (CX) quality are effectiveness, ease, and emotion. To elicit emotion from your user is key to being successful in delivering genuine, human experiences in the digital space. In order to do that, businesses need to go beyond traditional online conversion and engagement metrics. They need the insights, technology and processes to respond and interact with digital customer frustration, happiness, and satisfaction throughout the online customer journey. By identifying and prioritising important experiences and key moments, businesses can make better decisions to optimise experiences for their customers.”
Jenny Oliver, Chief Claims Officer, TAL
“In the age of digital transformation and technological innovation, we know consumers increasingly expect immediate results – a shift away from more traditional people-powered processes.
“However, as life insurers we recognise that when customers make a claim they share deeply personal experiences which deserve high quality and empathic interactions with our people. This is why we have built into our comprehensive digitised customer experience opportunities for those valued connections with claims consultants.
“At TAL we have used digital transformation to drive ease and efficiency in the operational components of the claims process – like providing us with information or tracking progress – but then we encourage customers and consultants to pick up the phone to have those deeper conversations. This balance delivers a better all-round experience for our customers and supports faster decisions and payments.”
Rod Lester, Managing Director ANZ, NICE
“Every business has the potential to improve processes and experiences by leveraging the age of machines, and in particular emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI). When it comes to creating a better customer experience (CX) with contact centres and virtual agents, AI is a gamechanger.
“There is no doubt that customers often still want to speak with humans on the other end of their enquiries; however, AI in contact centres can actually help not hinder by streamlining connecting customers to live agents.
“Conversational AI can also field repetitive and mundane calls and answer simple requests, improving CX. AI assistants can seem so natural that many customers won’t realise they are talking to a bot. Using just a few words, it can identify customer intent and provide the customer with a tailored experience, as well as remove friction from the agent experience, freeing up their time to focus on more challenging calls and deliver more personalised experiences.”
Billy Loizou, Area Vice President, Amperity
“Though technology is often misunderstood to be better suited than humans to solve the most complex problems, we must not lose sight that it’s best used to enhance and augment human capacity.
“Our mission is to help people use data to serve the customer. We study the obstacles teams face when there is no single source of truth about the customer, with every system asserting its own representation of an individual.
“In order to build the richest and most accurate view of customers possible, even when data is incomplete, inconsistent and lacks identifiers across systems; Amperity uses AI to find the hidden connections and insights in all of a brand’s data. This allows businesses to unify all customer data, from any source, without it being limited to a single format or set of identifiers. It’s a complete 360-view for deep and contextual understandings of customers at the individual level, and it’s durable as data continues to grow and evolve.
“The power of data blurs the line between what is human vs machine. The end goal is for the customer to not see where the lines are drawn.”
Shriman Kalyan, Director, Digital Experience, ARQ Group
“Human-centered design (HCD) approach will need to evolve and adapt to drive business transformation in the age of machines. The challenge here is to offer experiences not just for humans or machines, but for human-machine interactions and collaborations.
“Humans will continue to be part of the broader consumer ecosystem of the future; be it consumers of services, experiences, or the value that businesses aim to offer. Machines have already started turbocharging brands when it comes to realising cost efficiencies at scale. But moving forward, businesses will need to tailor their service experiences for ‘human in the loop’ scenarios.
“Businesses need to think beyond human-personas. By including bot-personas in journey mapping initiatives like next-gen personalisation, intelligent recommendations, or context-based AI nudges, we are delivering impactful business outcomes for clients of ARQ Group.
“These machine-inclusive personas enable teams to gain a deep understanding of life stages covering the breadth of human-machine touch points. The result is a seamless experience across humans, and the likes of machines, AI systems, humanoids, and digital humans of the future.
“Businesses have a lot to leverage from human-centered approach in the areas of inclusive, ethical, sustainable, and bias-free experiences to foster a future of greater good.”
Lindsay Brown, Vice President and General Manager APJ, GoTo
“Regardless of digital transformation, humans will remain at the heart of every business. Businesses need to ensure that the technology put in place will enhance the work that their employees perform, rather than replace them. A business that prioritises its employees, and sees technology as a tool to augment human capabilities, can create a successful human centric business in the age of machines.
“For instance, GoTo and Frost and Sullivan’s research found 76% of SMBs believe their IT team’s workload has gone up since 2021, with 43% believing their workload has become more difficult. Organisations need to recognise the human challenges faced within the business and employ the right technological solutions to combat them. In this case, implementing solutions that streamline work and optimise IT function will enable those IT teams to be more productive, strategic and happy in their roles. By using technology as an enabler to improve your staff’s engagement and output, you can create a successful human-centred business.”
Chris Smith, Partner and Alliance Manager ANZ, M-Files
“Creating a human-centred business involves facilitating the use of technology that lets people work better within the organisation’s system, rather than creating systems around the capability offered by technology. While technology is an enabler of progress, ultimately people are always the strongest part of a business and its growth. Technology must be designed to support the strengths of employees.
“Successful organisations invest in technology that’s tailored to the people using it, enabling them to build and share knowledge more easily, aligning with established processes to create seamless experiences.
“Rather than adopting technology to ‘keep up’, there must be a tangible value add for the people who use it. In short, the technology must make their lives easier by reducing barriers or improving opportunities for efficiency.”
Steven Armitage, Country Director of Australia, SANS Institute
“When you think of cybersecurity, it’s easy to understand why people feel technology is the bedrock of cyber resilience, but that’s not the case. People remain number one in defending businesses.
“This is particularly important when you consider the hybrid work model. With so many people working outside of the parameters of the office, it’s much easier for people to let their guard down and not follow through with the usual protocols as they once did in the pre-pandemic days. One error in judgement can prove to be catastrophic.
“The key to defending against cyberattacks is to empower employees with cybersecurity awareness to develop cyber resilience. This includes being able to identify phishing attempts, creating strong passwords and regularly conducting patch updates.
“In the age of machines, humans must continue to be empowered and placed at the core of business and cybersecurity.”
Jeromy Wells, CEO and Founder, Whispir
“At Whispir, we are seeing first-hand the way technology and artificial intelligence are transforming the way human-centred businesses operate. Digitisation is in fact amplifying many new opportunities for more effective human connection and responsiveness, rather than detracting from it. Whether businesses are operating in retail, logistics, manufacturing or any other sector, the people they engage with are more sensitive than ever to contextual human considerations such as: privacy, timeliness, usefulness, actionability, tone, empathy, cultural appropriateness, the list goes on. Understanding and responding to their personal preferences is the key to unlocking effective human engagement with people at scale.
“Innovative organisations are using software to do the heavy lifting, so that they can reduce their communication management costs. Even more importantly, they are using the same software for compelling next generation services that deliver greater impact, cutting through the noise to deliver an unprecedented quality of engagement with people at scale. They are achieving communication that is more effective, more engaging, and even – more human.
“At Whispir we imagine a digitally enabled human-to-human future.”
Vince Giovanniello, CEO, BlueRock
“BlueRock’s key focus is to maintain human connection within our offices. Our approach to growth, whilst expanding our business, is to limit the number of staff in each office to 150 people. We see the value in fostering a workplace where everyone knows each other and genuinely cares about one and other. We noticed that as we grew those connections were getting lost, so we decided to shift our business model to allow for growth but keep people at the focus of how we expand.
“Leading with a smaller team, I can get a lot closer to every individual and encourage them to share their own BlueRock vision. We have found that by nurturing an environment that encourages employees to own their own vision and challenge how we do things, the uptake in innovation has been much faster compared to larger organisations.
“In developing new ways of doing things and automating processes our focus is always on converting time on tasks into the ability to spend more time on our relationships both with our clients and internally. As we are a multidisciplinary firm, we want to make more time to collaborate with each other.”
Graham Glass, CEO, CYPHER LEARNING
“Recent disruptions and technological advances are building the next era of human-machine relationships. Sci-Fi novels have helped create a narrative of ‘man versus robot’, or ‘people versus machines’, but the reality we live in is much more complex. I believe that the better term is people ‘plus’ machines – rather than ‘versus’.
“We humans have and will continue to achieve great things and make the most of technology. However, businesses cannot thrive without people, no matter how much they rely on tech. This is because people build the machines and technology; we are the ones pushing the buttons and the masterminds behind it. Successful business leaders are those who pay close attention to the needs of their employees, partners and clients, and strive hard to meet those needs. Investing in your people is the most important pathway to success and the use of technology is just a part of that process.”
Matthew Hunter, National Manager Emerging Technology, Konica Minolta Australia
“Every SMB is under pressure to sell more, make more profit, and grow the business, all while facing budget constraints when increasing headcount and striving to create a culture that puts humans at the centre of the business. However, there are innovative ways for SMBs to be more productive without excessive outlays and with a good return on investment that will actually support SMBs in their mission to create a human-centred business.
“One example is 3D printing, which supports SMBs in taking products to market faster, manufacturing locally, and maintaining their own supply chains, all of which are critical to a successful operation that supports its workers. Another example is the use of autonomous mobile robots in small manufacturing and supply chain operations. The implementation of robots can essentially replace menial tasks, letting employees be redeployed within the SMB to more higher value tasks. This empowers them to contribute more to the business while elevating the value of their contributions, creating greater opportunities and increasing job fulfillment.”
Dr. Zeshan Shaikh, CEO, Vityl
“The healthcare industry has been pushed further towards technological reliance following the enormous strain we have seen GPs and emergency departments face over the last couple of years. The pandemic has fast tracked the digitisation of a sector many believed would always remain relatively “offline”. However, it’s crucial that it continues to evolve technologically to ensure the wellbeing of patients and practitioners are front of mind during a time of immense change and uncertainty. The rise of digital health platforms such as Vityl, are empowering patients and health professionals by alleviating the pressure on the system and increasing access to individuals in rural areas. In doing so, it has made room for new technologies to replace outdated ones. For example, Vityl’s unique electronic medical record (EMR) which utilises AI pattern recognition to create treatment plans based on data analytics, creating a library of real-time case studies, invaluable to the medical industry. It is this data that can help detect and treat chronic illness at the source, treating the whole person rather than just the hole in the person. Ultimately, technology can help people – and it’s important that this remains the heart of every decision we make in business.”
David Nemes, Regional Director APAC, Templafy
“In order to create a human-centred business in the age of machines, businesses should focus on finding tools that streamline repetitive tasks to allow employees to focus on impactful tasks instead. This is particularly true when it comes to content production.
“As businesses continue to operate more in the digital HQ, pretty much every interaction customers have will be driven by content. Which means content is the lifeblood of your business and needs to be treated as such. It needs to not only have information accurate to the customer, but also the right components from the company. Businesses that use tech to eliminate the need to manually input those company-specific components such as logos, formatting and disclaimers, can focus on personalising the content to give it that human touch with every customer. For example, businesses that use content enablement solutions can intelligently connect content to people and workflows, allowing for employees to create better quality content more efficiently. This could include rolling out a new brand identity to ensure the up-to-date logos and fonts are automatically part of all templates or it could include ensuring all business documents have the right legal disclaimers and information to mitigate legal risks. As such employees can focus on personalising the content.
“By implementing machines that speed up the process of brand wherever possible, businesses can create the human feel while reducing risk, increasing efficiency and ultimately increasing revenue.”
Chris Dahl, Co-CEO, Pin Payments
“Until our customers are machines, being human-centric should always be best practice for any type of business. A human-centred approach to business recognises that its staff, customers and stakeholders are vital and, as such, its operations and solutions should meet their needs. For human-centred businesses, profit-seeking is on par with people, and aspects like emotions, sustainability and the community are core within the business ethos. To create products for people, a human-centred approach which recognises the importance of our wants, emotions and needs is essential.”
James Campbell, Regional Manager ANZ, SnapLogic
“Success can only be found in the businesses that put humanity at the forefront, whether that’s their customers, employees or the communities they operate in. A people-first focus in the age of machines is to a large degree, why the ‘age of machines’ even exists.
“Ultimately, the goal of automation is centred around giving employees back the time they need to spend on value-add tasks, such as analysis and business intelligence whilst simultaneously improving processes, accuracy and efficiency.
“Without automation and AI integration, CFOs and their teams could spend weeks or even months labourously checking data accuracy, ensuring regulatory compliance and thorough reporting. It is even common for staff to work late, undertaking gruelling month-end processes.
“The age of machines is about giving time back to employees to focus on what lights them up, keep them motivated and engaged and even prevent burnout. On the other hand, it’s also a boon for customers, ensuring speed, accuracy and greater personalisation capabilities. The age of machines is nothing without human intelligence.”
Matt Morrison, Global CTO, triiyo
“Technology has changed how we operate in our personal life and at work. Remote working is a common disruption to many verticals within industry that has seen the gap between work and life become even more blurred.
“Disruptive technologies have attributes that are recognisably superior and have enabled improvements for businesses in productivity, efficiency, automation and communication to name a few. However, with the increased use of new technology there is a risk of losing the human element in the workplace which can cause people to feel a loss of control. For example, technology is increasingly replacing jobs through automation; and the information captured by machine learning can be highly sensitive therefore individuals may feel threatened when that information is put in jeopardy.”
Oliver Bampfield, Managing Director ANZ, Lumi
“When people think of technology companies, they might assume that machines are at the heart of everything that they do. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth as its people who make companies great. This means that having a people-first approach to strategy, solutions and innovation is what sets up businesses for success.
“Our mission at Lumi is to connect people who wish to express their views as shareholders, with the companies they invest in. Our core technologies and mobile applications were designed to help companies create engaging and interactive conversations in the room, in the moment and across the world.
“For me, building a human-centred business also means creating a culture where everyone’s contribution is valued. Achieving this means everyone has a role in shaping the business, and feels passionate about going above and beyond to deliver fantastic meetings for clients. However, whilst everyone across all levels has a role in building company culture, leaders have the utmost responsibility to lead by example. If leaders are open and transparent, people will be empowered to be their best self.”
James Richardson, Co-Founder, Optimising
“Even as technology becomes more intertwined into our everyday lives, we can never truly replace the importance of people. A human-centred business can thrive, but the secret is to take advantage of this machine technology to become even stronger.
“There’s no doubt that both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning play a huge part in digital marketing these days. From website copy written by AI to Google using its algorithm to answer search queries and run paid ad campaigns, we are seeing these technologies become more relied upon in the marketing space. These new technologies are exciting and without a doubt, they change the way we do our work. Ultimately, when used correctly, they make the human-centred aspect of what we do more effective.
“But, machines still struggle with aspects like context, tone, and connection. As marketers that is our biggest strength. If we focus on the messaging and delivery, we are much better placed to connect with our customers and engage in more real relationships – something machines will never be able to compete with.”
Kristi Mansfield, CEO & Co-Founder, Seer Data & Analytics
“The Productivity Commission’s Interim Report highlighted just how important data and digital transformational are to grow Australia’s economic prosperity and standards of living, but machines are not the entire solution. Even though we are in the data age where machine learning, robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already providing competitive advantage and greater efficiencies, it is important to remember that these tools are no more than implements businesses can use to unlock and enable the fuller potential of human experience. Unless data and digital tools lead to improved customer or employee experience, greater choice or flexibility, or even lower prices, these tools will be quickly abandoned.
“Human-centered businesses will adapt and grow through the adoption of new data and AI tech, continuing to automate tasks that are best done by machines. In turn, this enables staff to apply human creativity, capabilities and values to deal with interpersonal interactions, community building and creative problem solving. People can then focus on purpose over output. This is the opportunity the data age offers visionary leaders who strive for a prosperous Australia.”
Yosuke Hall, Co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Carma
“Digital technologies, data analysis and automation have the potential to completely transform industries – not only how they operate but also how customers interact with them. In the ‘age of machines’, technology is at the core of improving customer experience – by making things easier, faster, safer and more personalised. However, there is a point where bots and automation can become an impediment to customer satisfaction, because the human touch is lost.
“Arguably, businesses will have to be human-centred to be successful in the age of machines. It’s vital to keep the customer at the heart of everything you do. In bringing the used car buying experience online at Carma, we’ve made sure each part of our business is human-centred, even though we have invested in technology and our ability to harness data to underpin our operations. While data analysis and automation tighten our processes, we implement insights in ways that benefit the customer first and foremost.
“The trick is making your customer journey as intuitive, intelligent and frictionless as possible, ensuring they still have an experience that makes them feel appreciated. The businesses who succeed will adopt a blended mix of modern technologies and human interaction.”
James Hancock, Co-Founder, Making Work Absolutely Human (mwah.)
“In an age of digital change what matters to humans hasn’t changed. Purpose, relationships, freedom (agency), and accountability (to add value) – culminating in a sense of belonging and connection to other humans.
“Machines and technology focus on architecture, patterns, and models – logic and rationality. Humans are a little different – we have schemas and models, but are more dynamic, irrational, and emotive. We have untapped potential, and an extremely powerful ability to shapeshift, grow, evolve, and add incremental effort!
“Through a global pandemic, we saw the next evolution of humans – not only from couch to fridge and back again, but rather, back to the core of what really matters.
“In fact, human centricity is the north star in the age of machines and human-centred businesses are crucial to ensuring good organisational culture. It helps us understand individuals), n=few (groups of people), and n=many (common threads) to understand, test, design, and refine solutions – human, digital, machine, or wherever they might intersect!”
Rob Ranoa, Founder, Hypop
“Although chat bots and other AI customer service solutions have their place, they can also be a source of serious frustration for customers. Online businesses can’t rely on machines to manage their customer service for them – customers need to be able to connect with real people to help guide them through the sales process and answer any questions they may have.
“Because we have such a specialised offering, there’s no technology available that has the capacity to assist our customers in any meaningful way. Our entire customer service process is run by humans, and we’re available via phone, email, in person and online chat, so customers are able to contact us in a way that suits them best. When they buy from us, every order is packaged by hand and includes a handwritten card – this is our way of showing our customers that we care about them and the products they are buying.
“While automation might save time and money, businesses can’t ignore the importance of creating unique customer experiences – and that’s where small businesses have an advantage over retail giants. We’re able to take the time to build those personalised customer relationships which help to foster long term loyalty.”
Marco Zande, Head of Marketing and Digital Comms, WLTH
“Although WLTH is a digital platform that improves the convenience of loan application and online payments, there is still so much value in creating a human-centred business. The majority of our business may exist through a website, but we create a lot of difference through our human-centred approach.
“Apart from our in-person sustainability missions with Parley for the Oceans, our online platform has been designed with our customers in mind, especially our loans applications service. Taking the hassle out of applying for a loan via the phone or in-person utilises technology to allow clients an easily accessible and simple way of applying for a loan while maintaining a successful human-centred approach. A business does not have to operate in-person to be considered human-centric, so long as it puts its customers as the priority when making decisions.”
Suzette Bailey, CEO and Co-Founder, reKnow
“As AI and automation increasingly become integrated parts of our world, we believe opportunities for human-centred businesses will only grow brighter.
“Authentic human interactions will increasingly command a premium, as people seek service that only humans offer.
“First and foremost, these businesses will need to focus on delivering an excellent customer experience. This means continually enriching their understanding of customer needs and wants and going above and beyond to meet them.
“Secondly, it’s critical for them to invest in AI and automation, so their low-level business tasks can be performed more cost-effectively. This allows their human team to focus on creativity, premium service and fostering deeper and more meaningful connections with customers.
“Finally, these businesses should continually look for opportunities to differentiate their offerings from highly automated competitors. Where they can’t compete on price, find gaps where human teams deliver additional value that AI can’t touch.”