Current events are significantly challenging the status quo world of work. The pandemic crisis wasn’t a catalyst for change as much as an accelerant of changes already unfolding. Customer context, preferences, and behaviors continue to shift.

We should be asking ourselves new questions to help shape the new normal. Given technology possibilities now, and the continually accelerating pace of advancement, what is possible for the future equipment finance experience?

From Human OR Machine to Human PLUS Machine

If you thought automation was about “setting it and forgetting it,” think again. Automation is essential, but it is not a “set it and forget it” proposition. Processes, automation, and applications built on the assumption of “normal” human behaviors can break down when those behaviors shift. What happens to your operation, technology, and customer experience when human behaviors suddenly and radically change?

The COVID-19 situation accelerated several human behavioral changes with interesting technology impacts, especially algorithms running behind the scenes: fraud detection, sales forecasting, inventory management, content recommendation, marketing, sales, and more. A fascinating MIT Technology Review article described it like this, “Machine-learning models trained on normal human behavior are now finding that normal has changed, and some are no longer working as they should.”

The pandemic situation shines the spotlight on just how intertwined our lives are with AI. While AI can positively influence change in our behavior, our behavior can affect how AI works on the flip side. As you consider the future of work, it is important to consider humans and technology’s interconnectedness. The automation design question for the future is not a matter of “Human or machine?” Human involvement in automated systems is critical. Especially in extraordinary circumstances. What a great time to look at newly exposed flaws in your systems and processes to redesign for future resilience.

In many cases, it makes sense to replace humans with machines, when the work is repetitive and robotic, by all means, call in the robots. Many more processes in our business will benefit from a Human PLUS Machine mindset. Humans augmented with intelligent automation and analytics capability will produce more than humans or machines alone. There is power in the PLUS.

Considerations for Shaping Your Next Normal

  • Does excellent customer service always require human interaction?
  • When is human interaction most relevant to the customer?
  • What processes in your business could benefit from robotic automation? Where might intelligent automation amplify human capabilities in your business?
  • Given a new context for customers, what constitutes excellent customer experience in our customers’ eyes today?
  • How might our process evolve to deliver an exceptional experience given a new business context?
  • How might technology play a role in delivering that excellent customer experience?

In 2018, I wrote the following passage in a piece for the Equipment Finance Advisor about the future of equipment finance.

“The next great equipment finance concept lies at the intersection of business, technology, and mindset. It requires fresh thinking. Equipment finance companies don’t need only equipment finance businesspeople to be successful. Today, they need technology and people with modern technology capabilities. We need the wisdom of the past, but we also need fresh new thinking for the future. We need the wisdom to know how to strategically design a business for profitability, but we also need to have the boldness to question long-held traditions and to reimagine how we can get there. Then we need to harness new technology to make it happen.”

This thought still applies today. It is a great time to take a step back and take a new look at how we do things and why. We don’t just have to let the future happen to us. Shifting our thinking, looking at people, process, technology through a new lens enables us to reimagine new possibilities and shape the future.