2020 has been an awful year for mankind with a dramatic and devastating impact on lives and livelihood from COVID-19. As the medical teams have worked tirelessly to help the sick, and scientists have made amazing breakthroughs and advances in developing vaccines quicker than ever before, there has also been a variety of changes to everyone’s lives and lifestyle. A key part in those changes has been software and its impact in these socially distanced times. A large group of the population whom we normally regard as technology laggards have been forced, cajoled, encouraged, and now ultimately recognise the advantages of using online services and applications. Are these people now accepting of applications and so are we ending 2020 with H-appy laggards?
As the year draws to an end, I thought it was worth reviewing some of the software changes, how users and society have adapted and adopted the software and the ever expanding online revolution.
“Are we ending 2020 with H-appy Laggards?”
Drivers for Change
There are several drivers that have triggered change this year:
- Government enforced rules that meant traditional face to face ways of doing activities were not permitted at all.
- Government enforced rules that meant traditional face to face ways of doing activities required significant change (i.e. social distancing).
- Increase in people working from home.
- Reduction in people travelling to work, especially on public transport.
- Reduction in range of leisure activities due to social restrictions.
- Time for people to reflect on their situation and look for something different in their lifestyle.
- More time for people to adjust and adopt new technology.
- Recognition of risks in the environment and online alternatives.
- Benefits for using online tools have increased, even though downsides of setup and learning new tools have not changed.
- Reduction in amount of people available in customer services e.g call centres to handle questions and issues.
Behaviour Changes Due to Legal Rules
Socially Distancing & Health Monitoring:
- Apps to detect people nearby and allow contact tracing.
- Apps to track visits to locations, for contact tracing reasons.
- Apps to capture symptoms and give guidance on appropriate action.
Socially Distanced Shops:
- There has been a shift from using cash to a cashless economy. Shops prefer contactless payments to handling physical money.
- Ability to book an entry time slot to a shop to avoid queuing, and control volume of people in a store.
Socially Distanced Restaurants:
- Checking into a venue, to maintain a contract tracing list.
- Online menus for people to use to remove the need for physical menus on a table.
- Use of QR codes for easy access to a menu in a venue.
- Increased use of online booking systems to book a slot and check availability.
Closure of shops:
- Increased the demand for online shopping.
Closure of restaurants:
- Increased use of apps for traditional delivery services.
- New delivery services and online solutions were developed.
Behaviour Changes due to Risk Aversion
Socially distanced petrol station:
- The ability to pay for fuel at the pump using an application now removes the need to join a queue and enter the shop to pay with a card.
Socially distanced postage and parcel handling:
- The ability to pay for postage and print a digital stamp from an application rather than queue at the post office to buy stamps.
- The ability to request parcel collection from a home address rather than take it to a post office to send.
Socially distanced greeting cards:
- Sending a greeting card or photocard from a 3rd party service direct to a recipient. Removing the need for shopping for card, shop for postage, trip to a post box.
Socially distanced parking payment:
- Meters in car parks were often out of order/full of coins/deliberately turned off so that drivers would have to use an application to register and pay for parking.
- Use of online services to book repairs .
- Use of online tools to find solutions for faulty goods and parts to fix them.
Behaviour Changes Due to New Opportunities
- Use of applications to find walking trails
- Use of applications to track levels of walking and cycling
- Use of applications to track weight and fitness
- Use of applications for meal planners and diet management
- Use on applications for booking medical appointments, and ordering medications.
Online social events
- Use of video conferencing for family and friends to meet up and chat
- Use of applications for shared game experiences
- Use of applications for online quizzes
- Shared social experience (watching a synchornised movie and having a simultaneous chat/call)
Self Improvement and Education
- Use of online training for new skills for career changes and job enrichment
- Use of online training for personal development of new non-work skills eg hobbies – sewing, woodworking,
- Use of augmented reality applications to try out home improvements, colour changes, new furniture in a room
Home clear outs
- Use of online tools to send CD, DVD, books to services that pay for the items
- Ability to book a time window at a local refuse site to dispose of unwanted goods
- use of marketplaces to offer and sell nearly ne, unused and even worn out clothes, and household goods
Behaviour Changes Due to Working At Home
- Use of online shops to buy desks, chairs, lights, mice, extra screens.
- Online conferencing and meeting tools, including virtual backgrounds, large gallery views of multiple participants, interactive “raise your hand” or “vote” features.
- Software to reduce ambient and background noise (kids, washing machines, vacuum cleaners).
- Remote desktop support tools to help people at home.
Will Online and App Usage Be Sticky After the Crisis?
Assuming the initial hurdle, of people installing applications, registering with websites and going through an initial training and learning phase, has been completed successfully. Which requires some people to overcome sometimes fear, often procrastination and master a new software tool then a level of usage should become acceptable and the new normal. Subsequently a pattern should emerge that continues long after the COVID crisis has diminished and the lifestyle changes are relaxed.
What Have We Learnt As Businesses and Developers?
There are certainly some things we have seen that we should have learnt from. Although there is evidence to show some companies have adapted and developed , some however have missed the chance and some may never recover after these uncertain times.
- In a global pandemic we can all offer something to benefit our communities whether directly or indirectly. People remember and value those items which builds trust and can go on to create a potential user base for your services and products or at least strengthen your reputation. The way we treat our staff and suppliers with respect and empathy will be remembered for a long time to come.
- Secure by default regardless of which location (work or home) the software is used from.
- Broadcast user messaging panels to show messages and additional information to all users within minutes, or at least links to emergency websites with information on new procedures.
- Instant scalability to react to load and traffic variations i.e. cloud based scaling
- Agility to alter the product as new requirements become obvious and users demand them very quickly or move to alternate products in droves
- Flexibility to react to market changes and quickly add and alter pricing models to allow a level of free usage to support the community and population in times of crisis
- Online support and automated assistance is key if customer support teams are also impacted
- Software teams have shown they can be trusted to work hard in an independent unmonitored fashion i.e. from home. This has then opened up businesses to realise they can look for the best people in the global talent pool either by B2B outsourcing or hiring staff in remote locations and enabling them via online tools.
- Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity DR/BC were a seemingly reluctant topic and kept to the IT area however we should all be encouraged to always ask “What if…” and be prepared.
So Are We Ending 2020 with H-appy Laggards?
I will leave that for you to decide but as a cohort they are certainly changed in their perspective and use of online services and applications. After this year they are unlikely to be Happy in a full and rounded sense but lets be satisfied with a new set of users in this high tech world.
Stay safe and Best Wishes for 2021