Was just reading an interesting piece on how the Internet of Things (IoT) is going to impact businesses over the next 4 years. One of the benefits promoted in the article was productivity. 

This chimed with a team conversation earlier this morning, where we reflected on a visit to a bar and bistro down at the coast. We had seated ourselves, eventually noticed there was an iPad chained to one end of the table, ordered and presto, out came a person with our drinks and snacks. A simple (even simplistic) example of IoT in action. 


A person bought the drinks, was there to take payment at the end and - as far as I could tell - simply stood around in between triggering events. No one welcomed us, explained anything to us or waved goodbye at the end. Yes, they could be replaced by Robbie the Robot altogether, but are we really sure this is where we want to go? After all, the replacement of human cashiers by automated checkouts in some UK supermarkets has removed the only human contact some elderly people can expect to have each week. (Ever wondered why old Mrs Smith does a little shopping every day?)

So while I absolutely believe that we should be using technology well to make life and business run better, I think there is some deeply flawed thinking in the mix, as well. Growing productivity in a business has to be more than shorthand for replacing people with technology, for this simple reason:

You are still only as good as your people.

Businesses with great technology and who value having the right people in the right roles, deliver fabulous customer experiences and build valuable, trusted brands with real longevity.

Businesses with great technology who treat their people badly and / or don’t even bother to get the right people in the right roles, really, really suck. As in, generate (and ignore) angry posts on social media, produce dangerously high blood pressure in their frustrated customers and destroy their brand equity.

Most businesses aren’t even that centred on their technology - it is enabling rather than driving the business, assuming it is there to any great extent at all - so let’s move the discussion about productivity back to where it needs to begin:

You have set yourself a mission. Do you have the people you need, in order to deliver that mission? Would you even know?

So don’t throw the baby out and then expect the high tech bathtub to take care of business for you. Embrace the future, including IoT. But remember, you still need the right people.

Originally posted on LinkedIn - Published April 29, 2016