Data democratization and productization are creating company cultures in which workforces are fluent in a shared second language.Discover Change
Digital transformation is realized not through the adoption of momentary trends, but through the grasp of momentous changes that evolve the ways we engage in the world through technology.
Our annual Change Report is a convergence of the visions of our 1,600 specialists who breathe those changes daily. Explore them here and download the full report to reimagine the future of your business today.Download the full report
Data democratization and productization are creating company cultures in which workforces are fluent in a shared second language.Discover Change
Thanks to headless technology and cloud-native solutions, modern enterprise architectures are reducing wastes of time, money and resources for business leaders.Discover Change
Responsible business is sculpting a sustainable future for people, profit and planet with a different kind of digital-first thinking.Discover Change
Novel approaches to digital service design are helping businesses stay connected to customers in a reality shaped by physical and social distances.Discover Change
Inclusive design and sustainable development are helping businesses connect with more customers in a digitally dependent world.Discover Change
Nimble business operating models and inter-industry partnerships are setting new standards for growth with agile transformation.Discover Change
Trust and flexibility are making the workplace of the future better for business with the likes of workspace optimization and warehouse automation.Discover Change
Business-changing decisions are being made in minutes, not months, thanks to the real-time processing potential of 5G and IoT technology.Discover Change
The digitalization of the physical and the humanization of the digital are accelerating a more engaging and lucrative concept of the customer experience strategy.Discover Change
Discover how Kin + Carta is making the world work better with diverse, inclusive and responsible digital approaches that have resilience and sustainability at the core.
Dive deeper into each 2021 Change Report topic in our fireside chats between our Lead Strategist, Morgan Kainth, and some of the most progressive minds in a range of industries across the world. Centering on sustainable digital transformation, we look at how technology is shaping the world we’ll live in tomorrow.
Vish Srivastava, Founder and Managing Partner at Future Business Partnership
Keith O'Gorman, Director of Customer Experience at Great Place to Work
Kirsten Groves, Head of Digital Experience at KingfisherComing soon
Bob Gregory, Chief Architect at CazooComing soon
Karyn Mukerjee, Director of Data Innovation at DunnhumbyComing soon
Nick Donaldson, Strategic Global Alliances Director at ArrowComing soon
Leveraging more than 1,600 highly specialized technologists, strategists and creatives across four continents, we make the journey to becoming a digital business tangible, sustainable and profitable.
Want to discuss a particular change? Get in touch today to meet the experts behind the report and discover how Kin + Carta can help you get started.
We’ve inadvertently reached an intellectual impasse of data collection and usage.We have data sets upon data sets amassed over decades, but many of them are still out of reach for anyone who doesn’t have ‘IT’ in their title. Some can’t analyze them, whilst others can’t even access them in the first place.Progressive business leaders, then, are faced with one of their biggest challenges yet: how do they create options for all employees and weave data fluency into their culture in an era of self-service analytics and organizational acrobatics?The solution: data democratization and productization.As many industries are already discovering, the value of creating a data marketplace for widespread access and eloquence is revolutionary for harnessing insights to make faster, fewer and better decisions.Everyone from chief execs to chief copywriters can benefit from sharing a common second language that revolves around treating data as a product - and customers can benefit from better applications of it.What could you stand to gain if data fluency replaced data truancy at every level of your organization?
10% of sales departments can take advantage of their company’s data*.
26.8% of executives have successfully built a data-driven culture within their firms*.
61% of people don't mind sharing their data with organizations so long as they know what it's being used for, and it's useful to them.
Leaders are starting to see the value of treating data as a product and how this can pave the way to data democratization for the benefit of their entire business model.
Those who can craft data-driven cultures that embrace data democratization will empower employees to become fluent in the language of data and, thus, inspire them to do more with it.
The realization of data democratization will allow employees from every department to shop freely in data marketplaces for outlook-altering insights. The resulting businesses will be more agile than they ever thought possible.
As a data-driven culture is more a factor of influence than of control, spread the word about how data and analytics can help drive business results across business units. Data and analytics is not a technology implementation — it is a change management initiative.
Old technologies. New expectations. Obvious ramifications, right?
If the whole world can change overnight, leaders need a modern enterprise architecture that can do the same - not legacy solutions that put them to shame.
It’s altogether timely, then, that we are now in the midst of the MACH (micro-services based, API-first, Cloud-native, headless) revolution. What were once the pride of early adopters are becoming the joy of marketers and developers everywhere: frictionless digital experiences.
Agility, flexibility and reliability are turning from occasional treats to organizational traits for those who know the value of being able to pivot at a moment’s notice.
The likes of headless technology and cloud-native solutions are transforming the ways in which businesses scale, replace, update and improve across the board - and this is only the beginning.
No great change is without its pain-points, of course, so leaders are having to find ways to alleviate them before realizing the future of versatility and customer experience.
70% of people told us that they have abandoned an online purchase because the website or app was complicated, slow or unfamiliar.
75% of people agree that an old-fashioned or out-of-date app, store or website reflects poorly on a brand.
74% of respondents agreed that "It's important to me and people in my household that websites and apps be accessible for people with different needs".
The pandemic has challenged the agility of enterprises like their futures depend on it, so they are increasingly turning to MACH solutions to create more sustainable architectures.
As the operational challenges of taking the MACH approach are overcome, the costs of testing and time-to-market will fall and the bars for employee and customer experiences will be raised across numerous industries.
The nimblest enterprises that integrate MACH technologies at every level will future-proof themselves against any local or global crises that threaten to crack the ground beneath their feet.
We live in exciting times for digital experiences and 2020 has shown us the need for a new playbook – platforms that can allow businesses to build compelling and differentiated experiences. This requires flexibility, the scope to experiment at low cost and technology that converts ideas into market-facing content within hours rather than weeks.
The spotlight on sustainability was cranked to full beam when the pandemic turned the whole world upside down.
Business leaders who had taken a proactive approach to sustainable development and digital enablement used the light to guide them on the path to recovery.
Those who had to be reactive averted their eyes and waited for them to adjust before they could even take a step.
Now, the reality we all share is that sustainability is more than a cogent recommendation. It’s an urgent requirement.
So, what are the next steps? How do leaders build more responsible businesses today for a better tomorrow? How do they follow the lead of B Corporations and hold themselves accountable for every digital, physical and mental action?
This is no longer about doing the right thing for professional reputation. It’s about doing the vital thing for future generations - and they won’t be forgiving towards those who do nothing.
81% of people agree that "brands and businesses have a responsibility to do good in the world - not just to maximize their profits".
80% of people think businesses face a responsibility to invest in becoming more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
74% of people agreed that "It's important to me and people in my household that websites and apps be accessible for people with different needs".
Business leaders have been nudged down the right path of sustainability by the fork-in-the-road pandemic. They now face a global responsibility to consider the impacts of every turn they take from here on out.
The businesses that choose the routes of responsible digital transformation and sustainable development will be the pace-setters as we collectively move on from a landscape-altering crisis.
Fully sustainable businesses will become a reality and people, planet and profit will benefit. The leaders who held themselves and everyone around them accountable for their efforts will find themselves on the right side of commercial history.
Millennials cite ESG investing as their top priority when considering investment opportunities. This is crucial because the biggest-ever generational transfer of wealth – likely to be around $30trn – from baby boomers to millennials will take place in the next few years. ESG investing was already going to reshape the investment landscape in this new decade – but the coronavirus will quicken the pace of this reshaping.
The way we work, the way we play and the way we pay have changed for good.
With health and safety firmly at the fore, business leaders are hurtling headlong into a contactless economy that demands an agile approach to service design and a nimble architecture that’s ripe for instant pivots.
Cashierless technology, contactless delivery and product recognition by way of AI are all signposts on the path towards a sustainable economy, but it isn’t all that straightforward to find sense in a safety-first world.
How do leaders approach service design to create contactless experiences that people actually need? How do they overcome the operational and emotional challenges of making them a reality? How do they prepare employees and customers for a future of contactless everything?
When safety is everyone’s prerogative, leaders need to find ways to work it into our everyday lives without a hitch so frictionless, contactless experiences become the rule, not the exception.
75% of people said they used contactless payment more often in the last 12 months than in previous years.
75% of consumer respondents used less cash in 2020 than in previous years.
53% of global point-of-sale transactions will be contactless within five years*
The shortcomings of the solutions that don’t put our physical and mental health first are becoming painfully obvious, as the businesses behind them face the very real prospect of turning out consumerless in a contactless economy.
Businesses will start adhering to the new global safety imperative by pursuing people-first initiatives in service design that transform the ways they connect with employees and customers and, indeed, the way users engage with each other.
The future’s most safety-conscious, inclusive and sustainable businesses will be able to create new contactless experiences like it’s second nature and neither customers nor employees will think twice about engaging with them.
The pandemic has only served to accelerate an existing trend, only now touch-free payments are no longer a convenience, but a necessity.
What would you do if you discovered that you are shutting out a fifth of your potential customer base because of the way your digital experiences are designed?
That’s the reality facing businesses with exclusionary strategies that ignore the likes of the Purple Pound - and the pandemic has only widened the divide further still between the digitally native and the digitally neglected.
Every day, billions of underrepresented people are hampered by skills gaps, exclusion points and digital poverty and businesses that aren’t addressing them are getting exposed.
There is, however, a way to close the chasm.
The global imperative to be more inclusive can change lives and livelihoods for the better. Indeed, many businesses are already part of The Great Inclusion and their epoch-shaping actions are speaking louder than any box-ticking words.
Discover the new standards of diversity and inclusion as indispensable parts of commercial strategies and how you can lead with empathy and compassion at this critical moment for world commerce.
53% of people make purchasing decisions based on how diverse and inclusive they know a business to be.
75% of disabled people and their families have refused to give their custom to UK businesses after they provided poor accessibility or customer service.
23% uplift in purchase intent on the most inclusive ad shown to participants in a recent Microsoft study*.
The pandemic has shone the spotlight on the stark contrast between saying and doing when it comes to accessible design, diversity and inclusion. It leaves business leaders with now-or-never decisions to make about educating staff and adhering to industry standards.
Digital experiences for customers and employees alike will have to become more diverse and inclusive as legislative changes like WCAG 3.0 come into effect. Compliant businesses will embrace the fact that being the change is better than reacting to it later.
A more inclusive design-led world will be a more lucrative world for the businesses that build bridges for the digitally neglected, turning "the missing 20%" into "the engaging 20%" and opening the online world up to excluded people everywhere.
Diversity & Inclusion is one of the things that we want Unilever to be famous for. This means making sure our business is fair, attracting and retaining the very best talent and helping them unlock their full potential.
Sometimes we can plan change. Sometimes we have to change plans. The success of either scenario depends on how nimble we are to begin with…
Of course, nobody could have prepared for the worldwide tremors of an industry-agnostic health crisis, but everyone can now appreciate that agile transformation is something of an organizational survival skill. Seismic shifts in customer expectations and employee obligations have changed our perceptions of the truly agile business model, but what does that look like for those who already know the difference between a challenge and an opportunity?
How do businesses identify the operating models that will not only see them through this crisis, but bolster them to cope with any future crises to come? How can organizations go global to serve local with the right partners, the right goods and the right talent when the world is susceptible to constant change?
It’s a reality that’s playing out in the era of the agile and many leaders are already making strides. In landscapes dramatically reformed by cultural, commercial and technological upheaval, the agile evolution is irrevocably underway.
72% of people agreed with the statement: "I prefer to eat, socialize and shop local to where I live".
73% of consumers surveyed in Britain and the US prefer to buy from British and American companies if possible.
Leaders are beginning to see the benefits of agile transformation in a new-look world, whether they are benefiting from having planned ahead or planning ahead to benefit in future.
As businesses adapt to more agile models, with cross-functional collaboration and cross-border partnerships blooming, they will realize the true potential of empowering more employees and engaging more customers in their everyday lives.
With streamlined operating models, seamless offshore talent strategies and swift decision-making setting new industry standards across the globe, tomorrow’s truly agile businesses will be able to be there at the point of need every time, whether there is a foundation-shaking crisis or not.
Quite frankly, the Agile approaches scare corporate bureaucrats. At least those that are happy pushing process for process’ sake versus trying to do the best for the “customer” and deliver something timely and tangible and “as promised”—because they run out of places to hide.
The world is renegotiating its relationship with work. Technology is the multiplier. Trust is the facilitator.
From work-life equalization to workplace optimization, cultural and operational changes that were afoot before the pandemic have been fast-tracked to the forefront and leaders have been forced to react to forge the right stacks.
When working from home becomes homing from work, employees expect the kind of flexibility that fuels productivity and fosters connections between colleagues.
When faster order fulfillment depends on smarter stock replenishment, employers expect the kind of efficiency that delights the customer and ignites the workforce.
When flexible ways of working become permanent options, employees and employers will together enter a new era of mutual understanding when it comes to meeting each other’s needs.
The physical workplace will never be the same again, but how do leaders use this opportunity to invest in better ways of working? How do they enable better lifestyles for their employees? How do they build better businesses for the future?
58% of people can't see the way they do their jobs going back to how they were before the pandemic.
69% of people now prefer to work from home at least some of the time if they can.
69% of people agreed that "the opportunity to work flexibly will be a big consideration next time I look for a job".
Many workplaces of old are no longer fit for purpose, so businesses in almost every industry are grappling with the physical and digital possibilities that lay before them to help and not hinder their workforces.
Leaders will face surging responsibilities to balance the commercial with the emotional as they seek to create remote company cultures that people want to be a part of, whether they are looking at them from the inside or the outside.
With astute technology stacks and mutual understandings, the workplace of the future will, at long last, nurture more trusting relationships between employers and employees, as we collectively rebuild a more rewarding world of work for us all.
Many organizations throw billions into building magnificent buildings, but they don’t hear this very simple idea: If you don’t understand how your social and spatial environments are interacting, more likely than not, all that investment is for naught.
Every now and again, a metamorphic movement comes along to alter our expectations of the future.
The endless possibilities of lightning-fast 5G, IoT technology and the real-time data processing that follows are already changing the world. From precision farming to factory-floor robotics, some businesses are enjoying slicker processes, safer environments and smoother experiences than ever before.
Products and services are running seamlessly. People and technology are coexisting peacefully. Data and insights are flowing freely.
That’s all well and good, of course, but it’s not easy and it’s not cheap, so leaders who crave connectivity are faced with some transformative questions.
How do they make it both useful and cost-effective? How do they make smarter investments to create smarter solutions for both employees and customers? How do they protect customer trust in a safety-conscious, data-savvy world of interconnected people and devices?
The answers lie in choosing the right partner for the journey ahead. There is no wormhole between the here-and-now and the hyperconnected future, but there might well be a sinkhole for those who stand still...
53% of people are "excited about the possibilities of 5G devices".
72% of people are "worried about the security and privacy risks of more and more things around the home being connected to the internet".
69% of people "feel like they have given up a lot of data to businesses online, but not gotten much in return".
The world is waking up to a vast array of interconnected possibilities to create superior digital experiences for customers and employees.
The business leaders who find the right partners and harness the capacity of 5G IoT technology to fuel innovation and drive end-to-end value will leave competitors trailing in their wake.
Businesses that prove they can protect privacy rights and use data appropriately will nurture trusting and harmonious relationships with their customers, as IoT devices fit seamlessly into our daily lives.
[IoT] is really an exercise in bridging the technology capabilities with improving business operations. No one deploys an IoT project simply to use a new technology. In certain industries, 5G will be forefront in driving industrial automation, by enabling both indoor and outdoor environments to seamlessly connect
Leading brands are blending the best of both worlds to create customer experience strategies that are turning heads for all the right reasons.
Whatever the recipe, you’ll want what they’re having before long.
Today’s customers want more and they want it faster, which means employees need more and they need it to be better than it was before the pandemic, but where does that leave brands that are trying to find the answers?
How do they create concepts that will actually engage people and promote products and services? How do they find the perfect marriage of convenient experiences that turn touchpoints into precious brand points?
Trust, loyalty and satisfaction are all at stake at any given moment, so business leaders are faced with the future-defining challenge of deciding what to digitize and what to humanize in an ever-changing world of commerce.
The blended reality of brand experience is here and the possibilities of trust at first sight and long-term relationships are there (and now isn’t the time to fake it).
77% of people expect every store to offer some kind of online option nowadays.
75% of respondents agreed that "shopping online can be convenient, but it's no replacement for being able to experience a product for yourself in-store".
71% of high-income earners expect to do more online shopping in future*.
Brands have been presented with an opportune moment to find the perfect blend of online and offline experiences to appeal to the post-pandemic consumer, but they must develop a robust understanding of them first.
Those that can personalize to capitalize and automate to accumulate will not only set the new standard of the convenient customer experience, but they will set themselves up for a more sustainable future.
The industry leaders of tomorrow will leverage a vast array of data, spaces and technology to meet consumers at their points of need with ultimate agility and necessary velocity.
There are all sorts of things happening online, like recommendations, preferences and suggestions. That stuff hasn't been fully evolved into the store experience. Bringing the digital into the physical store experience — I think that's going to be a big investment area for 2021.
Listen to summary
Access concerns the ability or capacity to engage with products and services online. Millions of people are excluded from digital experiences because either they lack the skills or knowledge to access them or because the experiences are not designed with empathy to allow them to do so. Businesses today have an opportunity to become an example by ingraining inclusive design into their experiences.
Join Ryan Fitch, Data Engineer, and Omar Shanti, Labs 365 Chicago Lead, as they walk you through Koko, a gamified experience where Machine Learning and Computer Vision are leveraged to teach users how to communicate seamlessly with American Sign Language (ASL), and to train a model to be able to provide real-time translations between ASL and a verbal language. Koko is proof that creating inclusive learning experiences with emerging technology can help drive valuable change through human-centered design.
Software has never been as ingrained in our lives as it is today.
How we work, order groceries, and even check on our loved ones is increasingly shaped by the technology we have on offer. But, as the pandemic has sadly illustrated, the same technology which has empowered some has excluded others.
Against this backdrop, championing digital inclusivity and bridging the digital divide separating different demographics is more crucial than ever. Designing experiences that empower all users is key.
For us here at Kin + Carta embracing inclusivity is a top priority - whether delivering virtual experiences for our clients or experimenting internally. In a moment, Ryan Fitch will talk about one such experiment: Koko.
Emerging from Kin + Carta’s Labs, Koko is an experiment that ties together cutting edge technology and inclusive design to build and enable communication. Initially developed as a tool to interpret hand signs, Koko has evolved into a gamified web experience that enables participants to learn and develop their skills with American Sign Language.
We as a group of engineers, designers, and product strategists came together with one common goal to provide the participants with a unique and engaging way to learn language rooted in human-centered design. This allowed us to create an experience that is inclusive and purposeful as the participant walks away with not only relevant American Sign Language experience but also empathy for a new way of communication.
We aligned with Kin + Carta’s data privacy considerations by asking the participants to provide their consent before beginning the experience. This allows us to feed their images through the cloud hosted image classification model which outputs a score that is used to measure the efficacy of the sign and is eventually relayed back to the user as a performance indicator. To ensure a compelling experience, we built a gamification system around our Computer Vision core to create a feedback cycle that measures how much American Sign Language the user has learned.
Koko is built on GCP and leverages its latest Vision AI offerings. By virtue of its architecture, Koko learns as its users learn. Specifically, the more that users interact with Koko, the more ASL that they will learn, and the better the Koko algorithm will be at discerning signs.
Although Koko lives in the jungle, she proves that opportunities to create inclusive learning experiences with emerging and existing technologies alike, and drive change through human-centered design exist all around the world.
We’ve just seen how Koko leverages emerging technology to tackle digital inclusivity. But the fact is digital inclusivity must be rooted in user-centered design and embedded throughout the entire delivery lifecycle.
Over the past few years, many companies have recognized this and begun to champion this initiative and trail-blazed in their industries. This prompted Gartner to list Inclusive Design as one of its Top Digital Experience Trends for 2020.
We at Kin + Carta agree and have no doubt that this change will only continue to gather momentum in 2021.
Siloed data and a lack of transparent access and governance are problems that plague most organizations today, threatening their ability to make faster, fewer and better decisions across different departments by discovering insights at speed. As a connective of different specialisms across several countries, Kin + Carta also faces a unique set of challenges and bottlenecks that can only be solved by making data more accessible within the organization.
With the endgame of reducing inefficiencies and avoiding emerging data silos, DigitalKin was born. Join Dhyaanesh Mullagur, Technical Consultant; Don Johnson, Technical Principal; and Chris Weiland, Director of Kin + Carta Labs; as they provide an inside look into DigitalKin, a conversational Slackbot built on a data mesh architecture designed to enable employees to discover company-wide insights by providing access to a user-friendly data marketplace.
Data is quickly becoming both the language and the fuel of business.
Digitally mature companies understand data as a service and a knowledge asset that must be easily accessed, analyzed and reported by everyone - specialist and non-specialist alike - who has a need for information and the insights gained from it.
This is the goal of data democratization.
What will this look like for companies that decide to embrace a democratized data marketplace? Our Labs Innovation team created a platform and an interactive user experience to explore and answer this question, using our own organization's data.
Let's take a look at "Digital Kin".
DigitalKin was born from a very fundamental problem that plagues most organizations, siloed data and a lack of transparent access and governance. Kin + Carta faces a unique set of challenges since we are a Connective of different specialisms across multiple continents. This visualization represents the real time connectedness and slack interactions across our organization globally. As we scale, avoiding emerging silos and connecting various data sources to reduce inefficiencies is starting to become an active problem and out of this the DIgitalKin project was born.
To solve this problem, we began by exploring the evolution of Data platforms. How would a modern data platform be architected today? And the answer we discovered was using the Data Mesh. Why? Well this architecture's core principle is using data as a product. And with this, we can take much of the knowledge of microservice design and apply it to data.
We started by dividing K+C into its business domains: Ordering, Customer CRM, and Demand Forecasting. Each of them are a data product in a mesh with an underpinning of shared data governance, infrastructure,and a common language for consumption. After building the data mesh, we now have a unified platform we use to discover insights.
Let’s drill into Demand Forecasting and take a look at how we have put this together. Slack, Salesforce, and G-Suite are powerful tools on their own but there is a lack of coordination to deliver a unified picture.
To bridge this gap, we connected them into their relevant core domains. These core domains are the building blocks for higher level concepts which are shared among the derived domains. For Demand Forecasting, the Experts domain is where all of the magic happens because it connects employee profiles and skills with client needs.
And finally, we build Business Applications on top of all this. By combining Slack bot and DialogFlow with our Data Mesh, DigitalKin gives our Kin access to all of these insights.
Here is an example of our product in action. As you can see Kin around the company can enter the chat and query for various data in a conversational way. In this example the bot reminds our casting leads of an upcoming project and the user is then able to ask follow up questions to find about the Kin with the technical expertise required to fill that role. The feature set is definitely ever expanding as we seek to add more data and allow different queries.
This was one experience that the underlying technology enabled us to build. As we continue to develop this, we are working towards other use cases and a customer experience driven approach experiences in a customer experience driven approach to see how to best serve the data and corresponding insights to the company. It is an ongoing transformation that begins with data and ends with addressing the daily needs of our Kin.
While digital commerce has been a rising trend for the past few years, 2020 has turned online shopping from convenience to necessity. As this transformation might have shed light on the weaker points of supply and demand planning and logistics solutions, it has also opened up a world of opportunities for businesses to engage their customers in a more interactive and valuable way. In the realm of these opportunities, Kin + Carta Labs leveraged virtual reality and augmented reality technology to create an interactive experience called “FLWR”, where the physical and the digital worlds meet.
The COVID pandemic fast-tracked a new normal in which online shopping has become the norm. Many customers, however, still find reasons to choose the physical in-store experience.
In this sense, there is an opportunity for companies to use technology to enhance the customer’s online journey, to make it feel closer to the physical experiences they long for.
What if Virtual and Augmented Reality are the answer? Virtual Reality uses technology to replace your field of vision and your real world experiences, while augmented reality uses technology to enhance your experience within the real world. Technologies like VR and AR can help develop immersive online environments that empower customers to see and feel your products as if they were right next to them.Our Labs innovation team leveraged these technologies to create an interactive user journey where the physical and the digital worlds meet. We call that experience "FLWR".
FLWR is an experience that aims to bridge the gap between a user in an immersive VR environment and participants watching via a Mixed-Reality view in which the VR player is composited into the digital environment in real-time.
In FLWR, the player in the VR headset takes on the role of a gardener watering plants as they sprout up from the ground with their trusty hose, but with a twist: all the plants look the same to them, and only the spectators can see which plants are flowers and which are weeds. Points are awarded for successfully watering a flower, but points are lost if you accidentally water a weed, so the gardener and the onlookers must work together to grow a beautiful garden (and go for a high score!). One of the most exciting parts of watching people try FLWR for the first time is watching the different communication techniques that groups of people develop as they take turns in (and out of) the headset, and seeing how each technique scores.
When we set out to build FLWR, we knew we’d be exhibiting it in a conference environment, so we considered a real-time “third person” view which shows the current player projected into the digital environment to be critical for the audience to understand and appreciate what the VR player was experiencing. Getting the audience involved allowed us to have many attendees all participating in the experience at once.
That said, while we used it to make our experience more engaging for attendees, the paradigm of a VR experience with support for a non-VR observer view could have a number of other interesting applications.
It could be used to train someone how to perform a task where going in blind could be dangerous, or to train for tasks where participants might normally have to be brought on-site.
Applied to retail settings, this could be a step towards rebuilding the relationship between a customer browsing a store for a particular product, and a retail-worker, who could step in to assist that customer and secure a sale.
And while FLWR focuses on exploring the idea-space of bringing the physical into the digital environment, we’ve also explored augmented reality, offering a whole different set of possibilities, from navigating an unfamiliar space to visualizing a piece of furniture in your own living room before you buy it.
FLWR is a great example of how the digital and physical worlds can come together to create amazing experiences that enhance the customer journey.
As our new normal continues to evolve, what benefits can you envision emerging from combining Virtual and Augmented Reality to enhance your customers’ experiences?
Contactless experiences were a rising trend before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the new safety imperative has fast-tracked them into society. Consumers today expect to be able to purchase goods and have them delivered in a contactless way to stay safe. Kin + Carta has designed its own contactless solution, IdentifAI, a mobile app that identifies food items using machine learning to provide an end-to-end contactless shopping experience. Join our Labs 365 team as they demonstrate how IdentifAI can power the next generation of shopping experiences and spearhead a revolution in the new contactless economy.
Commerce as we know it is changing. Gone are the days of exchanging cash and coins for physical goods at brick and mortar stores. Today we live in a contactless economy as consumers now expect contactless purchasing and delivery to stay safe.
Embracing contactless solutions brings new challenges to retail. Automated systems will need to handle ambiguous situations such as missing barcodes or mislabeled items. The emergence of machine learning means that handling these issues is now possible.
To demonstrate these capabilities, Kin + Carta built IdentifAI, an end-to-end machine learning solution for a contactless shopping experience, using only a smartphone.
IdentifAI is an iOS app that identifies food items using the phone’s camera. Powered by machine learning, consumers can quickly enter a list of food items and find recipes that use those ingredients. Behind the scenes, employees can use the app to collect photos of food items and use them to improve the recognition model over time. The solution reports the model’s performance to a dashboard so that data scientists can make future improvements to the system. IdentifAI is a full machine learning solution that brings value to consumers.
We initially set out to build a solution to demonstrate how machine learning can be used on the edge to drive intelligent customer experiences. After some research, the team realized that object identification is a powerful application of machine learning with various potential business use cases - whether that be for custom shopping experiences or inventory management systems.
IdentifAI is powered by Apple’s CoreML framework. Alongside hardware advancements that support machine learning at the edge, both Apple and Google have introduced software frameworks to leverage this hardware in mobile apps. We selected CoreML so that object recognition can run right on the device, instead of the cloud. Object recognition takes just seconds, whether you’re on or offline.
IdentifAI’s backend workflow is powered by Google Cloud Platform. GCP offers best-in-class data science products, so you can focus on building your applications. Using these tools, we built an analytics dashboard to help monitor the model’s performance and present insights in an actionable way. This completed an end-to-end workflow of model training, deployment, use, and analytics for continuous improvement.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions will continue to shape our world in new ways. In IdentifAI, we demonstrated how AI can power the next generation of shopping experiences, and spearhead a revolution in the new contactless economy.
The pandemic has only reinforced how quickly consumer expectations can and will continue to change. We should expect that modern shoppers’ needs will continue to evolve, with an ever-increasing demand for convenience and digital intelligence. At Kin + Carta we’re excited by this challenge. We look forward to making the seamless customer experiences of the future real.
As we are propelled into a world in which remote collaboration has become ordinary for many workers instead of an option available to a minority, businesses around the world are all faced with a common challenge: using technology to craft a company culture that helps foster connections between people, sustain a productive workforce and establish the foundation for a healthy work-life balance. As our research has shown, the majority of people can’t see the way they do their jobs going back to how they were before the pandemic. In this new scenario, how can leaders invest in technology to design the ideal environments for employees that are not only forced to, but are choosing to work remotely?
In 2020, Kin + Carta Labs issued the Kinnect Challenge, a call for Kin to build digital experiences that would help retrieve the connections that once existed among the Kin who used to share a physical office. Among the projects that were born out of the Kinnect Challenge, Scrum Master Thain Humphrey and Technical Principal Praneet Sahgal will walk us through Office World, an interactive experience where members of Kin + Carta can meet virtually in a digital recreation of our Chicago office.
The pandemic has changed the way we work. Remote working, once considered a radical idea, is now commonplace in a variety of industries. While this shift has brought benefits, such as flexibility and shortened commutes, there are some things we lost. Offices brought community, chance interactions, and opportunities to connect with our coworkers.
In response, Kin + Carta Labs issued the Kinnect Challenge, a call for Kin to work on experiences to rebuild that spirit of connectedness that filled our office space, day after day. One of our teams recognized that we were missing our physical office, and so they set out to build a virtual one. I’d like to introduce Praneet Sahgal to tell us more about tomorrow’s workplace project, Office World:
Office World is an online interactive experience where members of Kin + Carta can meet virtually in a digital recreation of our Chicago office. In this space, coworkers can interact with one another, explore the office, and spend time together. The current version includes the office common areas, such as the cafe and the employee lounge. In the future, we plan to add more space, more ways to interact with one another, and more options for character customization.
Kin + Carta has a vibrant and active community of gamers and hobbyist game developers, and the community was eager to work on an interactive experience to help people connect virtually. To test out our idea, we first built a working prototype, tapping into our Kin’s expertise in game development, art, design, and sound. We then used our prototype to playtest the experience with coworkers. From user research, we found that this experience could recreate some of the joy and satisfaction of spending time with coworkers in a shared space.
Office World uses the Unity game engine, a full framework for developing games and interactive experiences. It handles graphics, sounds, user input, and more. This mature game engine is widely used for 3D projects in a variety of industries, and is popular within our internal game development community. For real-time server communication, we used an open-source toolkit called Forge Networking.
For server hosting, we selected Google Cloud Platform because of its best-in-class tooling for managing multiple servers with Kubernetes. As the experience scales up, we’ll be looking to leverage GCP services such as Google Kubernetes Engine and Google Game Servers. We’re excited to see what tools Google releases to help build interactive multiplayer experiences!
It’s clear from the events of the past year that remote working is now the norm for years to come. As we all adjust to this new way of working, it’s important that companies not only invest in building products and services that sell, but also invest in culture and community. This means building shared spaces for employees, whether it’s a Slack workspace, virtual events, or even a virtual office.
The best company cultures foster empathy, innovation, and engagement. Kin + Carta prides itself on being a place where you can bring your whole self to work, which is what made Office World possible. By encouraging experiments and projects like this, we are not only building a culture that brings innovative solutions to our clients, but also showcasing our digital products that help foster one of the key factors to a business’ success in the new normal: resilient remote teams bonded together by a common culture.
Connectivity isn’t an investment in technologies. It’s an investment in possibilities.
As high-speed networking becomes the new imperative, industries from telemedicine to manufacturing are seeing the benefits in proactively investing in technologies like 5G, IoT and blockchain to create a safer and more efficient experience for their customers. As the global data volume continues to increase exponentially, connectivity molded by smart hardware will play a vital role in making supply chains both useful and sustainable.
In this scenario, our Labs team presents to you Blockchain Gardens, an experience that brings together a microservices architecture, a network of IOT sensors, and blockchain technology to create an automated location tracking system that ensures the validity and provenance of distributed data in real-time, allowing supply chains to stay more resilient than ever before.
Emerging technologies such as IoT, with its ability to measure and quantify the physical world, and 5G, the next generation of high-speed, low-latency mobile internet, are already giving us a preview of a hyperconnected humanity.
Some businesses are bringing these and other technologies together in new and valuable ways, creating more efficient processes, safer environments, and more engaging and interactive user experiences.
At Kin + Carta Labs, we've been exploring how high-speed networking, IoT, edge computing, and blockchain can be combined to create a supply chain tracking system whose impact is greater than the sum of its technological parts.
Let's take a look at Blockchain Gardens.
The Blockchain Gardens experience aims to paint a picture of the supply chain of the future. It marries a state of the art microservices architecture with a network of IoT, sensors and blockchain technology. The result is an automated location tracking system that ensures the validity and provenance of distributed data in real-time.
With this experience, we sought to recreate an enterprise-grade supply chain in a conference venue, where attendees could learn about the technology by interacting with it directly.
We asked each attendee to think of themselves as a crate of lettuce and their journey through the conference as the supply chain. As they went from booth to booth, their locations were triangulated by a high-speed network of RFID sensors and transmitted to our microservices in the cloud.
Meanwhile, a big display showed the visualization of the conference’s blockchain being built in real-time as a series of gardens. Each garden represented a block; each flower a transaction, in this case the matching of an attendee’s location to an experience; and each petal a blockchain validator. Additionally, kiosks stationed around the venue allowed attendees to view their personal journey across the event.
By augmenting the location-tracking sensors with devices that detect heat, light, or sound, this IoT-microservices foundation can be refashioned to ensure quality control and many other SLAs. Consider its value in the transfer of medical-grade materials for example.
With the advent of 5G and developments in IoT technology, this solution only grows more robust and accessible, with smaller devices spanning larger distances, connecting nodes as never done before.
Our exploration was on a relatively small scale - within the scope of a single event - but the real value and impact of these technologies will ultimately be realized as they are deployed at scale, bridging the gap between the physical and digital worlds, creating immersive and engaging user experiences, and connecting people across the globe in new ways.
The world of hyperconnected humanity is fast approaching, and we at Kin + Carta have no doubt that this change will continue to gather momentum in 2021.
The conversation around corporate sustainability and its many benefits existed before the pandemic, but it has now given the global conscience a new direction and a fresh focus on the future. Today we live in a world in which a new doctrine of corporate digital responsibility has given leaders the potential to change the way they do business for the better.
Our partners at Uplight were visionaries in this sense, as they are well on their mission to reduce CO2 emissions by more than 100 million metric tons, and help save consumers in Michigan over USD $10 billion in their energy bills over the next five years. Join Ben Weisel, Head of Engineering at Uplight; and David Maren, Growth Leader at Kin + Carta, as they tell you the story of how Uplight, Google and Kin + Carta set out to create a more sustainable planet by developing a large-scale demand response program.
When it comes to effecting change, and driving toward a more sustainable future, we’re all familiar with the mantra, “Think globally, act locally.” The question is how. How do we leverage technology to drive toward a sustainable future at the community level -- and at the household level -- in a way that actually scales?
It turns out that heating and cooling our homes accounts for over 50% of residential energy usage in the U.S. You heard that right: for the average American household, over half of your energy bill comes from your thermostat.
We’ve all heard that smart thermostats can help make a difference in energy consumption. Independent studies have confirmed that Nest Learning Thermostats save 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling. But even if everyone had a Nest, there’s still a core technology problem to be solved in the quest for sustainability, and it’s related to the weather.
During those really hot days, if everyone’s air conditioning kicks on around the same time, it can overwhelm the grid and cause brownouts. The situation is much the same on those really cold days. So imagine if everyone’s Nests and other thermostats worked in concert to smooth out demand on the grid.
Well guess what? You don’t have to imagine, because that’s what we’re enabling, today.
Uplight, is 300 rebels hellbent on creating a more sustainable planet and like Kin + Carta Americas, Uplight is a certified B Corp. We serve over 85 utilities around the globe and more than a hundred million households and businesses, to accelerate the clean energy ecosystem.
Kin + Carta is proud to be Uplight’s go-to digital product development partner. We’re helping the company pursue an ambitious goal of reducing CO2 emissions by more than 100 million metric tons and saving consumers $10 billion on their energy bills over the next five years.
In partnership with Google, one of our more recent Uplight projects focuses on developing the digital infrastructure that enables Michigan’s largest utility, Consumers Energy, to run a large-scale demand response program.
Tens of thousands of Google Nest thermostats have been provided free of charge to residents enrolling in the program, which aims to reduce energy usage, particularly at peak times, to increase the resiliency of the grid. By allowing the utility to remotely adjust thermostat settings when demand is forecast to exceed capacity, participating households can now save up to 15% on their energy bill while reducing their carbon footprint. The business case for Consumers Energy is profound: The program mitigates the need to build another power plant, reduces the use of coal, and helps the utility target net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.
We teamed with Uplight to build out key program components, including the Consumers Energy online marketplace, matching and eligibility verification systems, and device enrollment. We also teamed on the build of the platform used to schedule demand response events, and trigger remote adjustments to all those thermostats when the grid is forecasted to reach capacity.
The next stop in this journey takes us to the Western US, working with Uplight to implement a similar program for one of the nation’s largest utilities. This program is a model for how to leverage technology to think globally, while acting locally, and we’re absolutely honored to be a part of it.
With one of the beacons of sustainability in business today, Future Business Partnership, we discuss how brands can and should take responsibility for every action when it comes to delivering supply to meet the demands of their modern customers.
Morgan meets with Founder and Managing Partner, Vish Srivastava, to look at how brands can protect people, planet and profit, as well as what we can do as consumers to guide their strategies in the right directions.
The team at Future Business Partnership have obviously been beacons of sustainability and dedicated to sustainable consumer brands since you were founded. So, it would be really, really interesting to understand what guided your approach? Like, what caused you to set this up, and how did you spot the emerging space?
It’s a phenomenal space when you think about it, because what we’re saying really, is that more market share is being won, and therefore more financial success is being had by companies that are actually doing something better for our planet and for our communities. And that is incredibly compelling. And we’re not necessarily talking even about those brands that are sort of, explicitly providing products that make you healthier, or better educated, or more financially empowered. It is just those who do what they do, you know, provide good consumer products in a convenient way, high-quality and at good prices the same way that consumers have always chosen. But, in a way which is kind of to their, to their own people, and kind of to the communities in which they operate, and kind of to their environment when they think about their supply chains.
We actually did some primary research as part of our change report, and it was similarly decisive in it’s expectation and for brands to go beyond profit maximization. So, 81% of respondents agreed that brands and businesses have a responsibility to do good in the world, and not just maximize their profits. Now, obviously profits are important, but there are ways to go about gaining them that are more or less destructive. And, I guess it would be really interesting to hear from you what the opportunity is for consumer brands to have an impact, and all of the different facets of that.
The responsibility is unfortunately on us as consumers. It’s not just our governments, it’s not just legislation, and it’s not just the big corporates who have responsibility. Actually, it’s our choices that will guide, I think the corporates. It will guide governments, it will guide legislation. But ultimately, if we make the right choices as consumers then actually, the profit motive will take care of the rest, right? I mean, it will force companies, I think to rethink how they provide these products to us. So, the negative impact that’s been created today is tremendous, which means that actually, the potential for positive impact is equally tremendous. You know, providing solutions to that. If the household consumption sector is responsible for 65% of the global carbon footprint, and you’re a carbon neutral consumer brand that’s winning market share, you are making a difference.
Fascinating, and I guess this, you know, everything that you’re saying is kind of stacking up towards...it shouldn’t be something that we call an imperative, it should just be a natural, a natural thing that people are pursuing because, it’s really a rounded way of thinking about your business for the long term you know, without addressing some of these sustainability concerns. Will you have a supply chain that works in 20-30 years? Will you have a customer base that hasn’t gotten bored of you? All of these things are kind of all entangled. And sustainability seems to be able to disentangle some of those things for you and create a clearer path into the future. So, given all of that, what do you think is stopping consumer businesses from adapting in this way? You know, what’s the barrier, what’s the blocker in people’s minds?
I think there’s a nervousness around legacy. It’s natural, right to worry about changes. Natural to kind of, do something. I mean, if you think of yourself as- if you put yourselves in the shoes of a large consumer corporate with all the resources they have and all the MPD budgets and all of the teams that are innovating, or the buying power that they have in packaging right, the scale they have, they should be, uh, they should be the best equipped, I think to embrace the change and suddenly just switch their entire portfolio to more ethical and sustainable products. The only thing that should be limiting them would be the technology, right? But the technology is progressing, and yet they’re not, right? They’re not leading the way. And even when they launch vegan versions of their products or sustainably packaged versions of their products, it’s nice to see that signal, but we haven’t really seen those go mainstream yet. And we haven’t really seen them succeed and that ultimately, is because they’re sort of competing against themselves right, with those products. It’s tough to launch a sustainable version of the same product without highlighting how your other product, that’s generating 100% of your revenues today, is unsustainable. That’s not always the case. There are some exceptions and there are some good corporates out there that we do admire. And it’s not a question of size, it’s really a question of culture and flexibility and agility more than anything. You know, a business of over $1 billion in revenues can be agile, it just has to have all of it’s colleagues, kind of running in the same direction and understanding that these things are important. But, I think this fear and this legacy and this concern about competing away your kind of, cash cow, this is what’s preventing, I think a lot of businesses from following the right agenda. But you know, as they get beaten up more by the sustainable challenger brands, as they lose more market share I think they will step up their game.
Awesome, and just to kind of I guess, we should probably end this on a positive note rather than why are people not doing something? And probably just to build on that last sentiment there, to you, what does a successful future look like? Is it that competition on sustainability? What would you say is like, the North Star you’re working towards at Future Business Partnership?
So really, what we’re working towards here is something I think bigger than ourselves. It is to make an example. It is actually in the two markets where we operate, which is the consumer market and the financial market. We’re actually looking to prove to the world that you can make money by doing good. That really is as simple as we can put it. If we can show that actually the businesses we’re backing are winning market share and creating financial success through offering consumers a more sustainable and ethical product yes, but also through offering their employees a more inclusive and wholesome place to work, offering their suppliers an opportunity to be involved in something much more mission-driven, offering their distributors and retailers a way to actually also win market share in that market. But also, just deliver something much more meaningful than just reselling. And for all stakeholders, really, if we can show that by virtue of doing that they are succeeding financially, then I think that through a very positive example of showing that it’s the right way to do business they’ll be influencing others. But, also through a slightly more negative but frankly, necessary example of winning market share away from those who aren’t doing those things, that will force a change in the market. They’ll be a positive influence on their competition as well. And yes, if others do compete, it will be absolutely delightful. For the financial community, as well as the consumer economy to be competing on a basis of sustainability and ethics. And, just like we’re trying to back the right brands that are innovative enough to stay ahead of that game, we would have to back ourselves. As an investment team at Future Business Partnership to innovate further and compete even further on questions of sustainability and ethics to stay ahead of our game and it’s all we think about. It’s 100% of our business, it’s not one of our verticals, it’s our only vertical. It’s what we think about when we wake up in the morning, the last thing we think about at night. It’s how can we stay ahead of the game? How can we do more in what we do day to day, for our communities and for our colleagues and these businesses, for our stakeholders, our suppliers and for our environment. And if we can innovate to do that, then I’d back us to stay ahead of the game as well.
As Director of Customer Experience at Great Place to Work, Keith O’Gorman has had a unique view of how many global organizations have responded to a landscape-altering pandemic insofar as their workplaces and workforces are concerned. Here, he sits down with Morgan to share his insights into how autonomy and flexibility have made (and will continue to make) all the difference.
We discuss organizational readiness for change, protecting employee performance as well as employee experience and the importance of both investing in culture and marketing your value proposition as an employer.
Hello and welcome to an in conversation with friends of K + C to dive deeper into aspects of our 2021 Change Report. The Change Report covers how digital is transforming sectors, processes, and behaviors, often accelerated by the events of the last year and the COVID-19 pandemic.
These changes cover everything from sustainability to agile commerce, our relationship with work, and the future of the retail experience.
Beyond transporting our report provides practical advice and consumer insight to drive thinking into action. So we’re sitting down virtually, still, with Keith O’Gorman who is the Director of Customer Experience at Great Place to Work. Keith works with a huge array of businesses,who are committed to matching high performance with great employee experience. And Great Place to Work offers a suite of services to help organizations optimize their relationships with employees. So, as I said, there’s nobody better for us to be having this first conversation with and welcome Keith. Thank you so much for joining us.
Thanks for having me.
I wondered if you could actually give us some examples from the Great Place to Work perspective of how you’ve seen companies adapt from big monolithic central offices to remote working and perhaps where and how that’s been facilitated well, and maybe not so well.
Sure, so interestingly many of the companies with which we work are already set up to work from home. Or, have some kind of home base work days already built into their schedules.
So, some of the things that have you know, been successful I would say is organizations that have allowed, you know the technology or the use of personal technology obviously, getting personal laptops and things like that, it was much easier for those organizations to transition to the lockdown.
The other big change is that organizations have become more interested in communication.
Which I know sounds kind of weird, but, if there’s been more channels of communication As we’ve gone remote. So, from our perspective at Great Place to Work, typically organizations might do an annual engagement survey. So once a year they’re kind of querying their employees trying to figure out what’s working for the business, what’s not working for the business, where there needs to be improvements.
And there’s been a huge shift this year to regularly survey their employees. At first, it was very specific to the adaptation of the at-home work and then the response to COVID-19. But now, again the surveys, they want to regularly monitor their employees well-being and their engagement.
Thank you so much for that, that’s some great background and also quite an interesting introduction into I guess, the next question that I have to ask, which is given your amazing position seeing all of these different companies adapt, and adapt quickly, it would be so interesting to hear from you, kind of what those key components are as you are reviewing organizations that have been able to adapt so quickly, you know, what is a great, flexible place to work, this year, and into next year and beyond?
Yeah no, it’s a great question. I would say that the two key factors or two nouns I would use are communication and autonomy. So that has been huge, honestly this past year, as far as the immediate response to adapting to basically working from home in COVID-19, it was whether or not some companies were either well-prepared. And by well-prepared I mean, kind of seeing this coming down the road and then making preparations before lockdown actually happened, versus reacting to when lockdown happened, because then, you know if you’re just reacting then you’re making up for lost time.
And then as far as what makes a great, flexible workplace again, that’s kind of where the communication and autonomy come in because companies that allow for their employees to, to make their jobs work for them, that’s been a huge component of all of this is that, you have your flex hours and you know, basically being treated like an adult to work your own schedule, make your own schedule and being trusted to do your job when you know, when you’re able.
So, it’s been huge for those around childcare daylight hours in the winter, you know, for example I’m not scheduling meetings between 12 and 2 because a lot of organizations are encouraging people to spend some time outside and do something healthy for each other. And then also just again, letting people let work, work for them and not the other way around.
So those have been the two main highlights again, it’s just communication and autonomy.
You mentioned there a couple of times lockdown, and obviously that has kind of been the thing that we’ve all experienced in 2020. But have there been any opportunities? I often find that there are some kind silver linings to all of these clouds, so maybe from a business perspective kind of, what shifts in behavior or new innovations can you point to as being a positive consequence of the fact that we’re all working from home now and we’re not tied to, kind of a bricks and mortar office.
This shows that if you’re fortunate enough to work at a high-trust culture and you have the equipment you need to be successful working from home or working remotely, it does open up a whole host of possibilities and opportunities for the global workforce. You know, the term “digital nomad” of course comes to mind.
And then, probably I’d say, one of the most important things is that the pandemic has really made companies reevaluate their perspective on how they approach employee well-being. Nearly 100% of organizations approaching Great Place to Work are very specifically interested in learning how to do more for their employee well-being. And the Great Place to Work well-being model, as it were, not only pertains to just your mental or physical health or your work-life balance. It has to do with the overall fulfillment of your work. It also has to do with managing interpersonal relationships at work, whether it’s remote or otherwise. And then also having a suitable work environment and then also your financial security.
Yeah, I think that’s really interesting, isn’t it? And, I guess a natural consequence of a distributed workforce is that though you may have people fulfilling very similar roles, the circumstances under which they’re doing that you know, are so different depending on how they’re set up at home, whether they’ve got, you know commitment to kids or elderly relatives that they’re also trying to fit into that day and so naturally, I guess this rules-based, you know, one rule for everyone system has kind of gone out the window and treating people on a more individual, case-by-case basis to help empower them and maintain that productivity within their very specific circumstances is definitely something, I mean I know that Kin and Carta has invested really heavily in over the last year.
So I guess picking your brains now, as someone that sees the best of the best, and kind of, drawing on your experience, especially of this year, and successful adaptations, what do you think companies should be investing in today, to make sure that they’re really attractive to top talent tomorrow? And, what have we seen that’s come out of this pandemic that that is really worth businesses investing in for the long term?
The best thing an organization, honestly can do is market their value proposition as a workplace. And what I mean by that is like, just very clearly communicating what you bring to the table from a culture perspective. And, I say that because whenever we dialogue, or begin to dialogue with an organization what I always like to do is I go to their Careers page first and foremost. And just see kind of, how is this organization marketing themselves?And you either have a simple reaction, “I want to work here” or “I don’t want to work here”. You know, and what I mean by that is organizations really have two brands if you think about it. You have the brand that you put forth to your clients, but then you also have the brand that you offer to prospective employees. I mean, just like consumers want to ethically align their spending habitsto organizations that are, you know ethically and morally upright. Or, people want to work for good businesses. So, that’s probably the main thing I would say is like, invest in your culture.
So, thank you Keith for all of those insights. It’s been really, really interesting to hear about how people are doing things well and also what you think is, kind of here to stay.
As part of our ongoing efforts to make the digital world a fairer place for everyone, we are joined by Principal Front-end Engineer at Kooth, JF Hector Labram, to delve into inclusive design and what it means to create with people and not for them.
We look at how millions of people are excluded from digital experiences every day because they weren’t built with impairments and disabilities in mind, whether they are permanent, temporary or situational. Hear how there is always more we can do as a collective to educate ourselves and design more collaboratively with everyone in mind.
Hello and welcome to another session in conversation with friends of K + C to dive deeper into aspects of our 2021 Change Report. The change report covers how digital is transforming sectors, processes and behaviors often accelerated by the events of the last year. The changes cover everything from sustainability to agile commerce, our relationship with work and the future of the retail experience. And beyond trend spotting, our report provides practical advice and consumer insight to drive thinking into action.
So, today’s session focuses on accessibility and inclusive design. Our change segment is called “The great inclusion: Bridging the digital divide” and gives our perspective on why the accessibility movement really needs to gain traction and it’s time to design with users, rather than for them. So, we are delighted to be joined by JF Hector Labram as Principal Front-end Engineer at Kooth. He’s also an IAAP-certified web accessibility specialist. And Kooth provides a suite of digital products and services supporting all sorts of individuals and groups with effective and personalized digital mental health care for their needs. So, before learning to develop user interfaces JF was actually a design strategist, user researcher and interaction designer making him genuinely the best person to be having this full-stacked conversation with. So, welcome, and I guess the best way to kick off is to do so with our first question. And I think this is probably an explainer for lots of our audience today. So, when you hear the terms accessibility and inclusive design, you know, what do you take those things to mean?
JF Hector Labram:
Inclusive design can mean two, slightly different things when people talk about it. So, for a lot of people inclusive design means being careful and proactive. As we design and as we even build user interfaces to be very careful and proactive throughout the process to not exclude anyone or not discriminate against anyone. And it’s done in a very, very broad way. And so,when we talk about exclusion or discrimination, we could be based on their gender, or their race, or it could be Because they have an impairment, or it could be because of lots of other reasons. That’s the very, very broad term. But in the context of accessibility, we talk about, you know, being careful not to put barriers in the path of people as they use our products and services. It’s actually not possible, what some people say, and I believe to design for people, who are going to be perceiving a user interface or using or experiencing a user interface differently than you do. You can’t design for them. So, you have to design with people who are going to be experiencing auser interface or using it or perceiving it differently than you do. And that’s a very, very key idea in inclusivity design.
Super, that’s actually really interesting. So, I guess it bridges both kind of, understanding the limits of your own perceptions as a designer, and then also ensuring that the product that ends up in people’s hands is usable, depending on their context. And I guess, you touched on there in the first question a little bit around kind of some of those fuzzy edges where we might want to think about accessibility and inclusivity. But it would be great if you could just break down, you know who are the beneficiaries? Who benefits from accessibility and inclusive design?
JF Hector Labram:
It tends to benefit everyone, but in different ways. So, I’ll give you an example. Impairments can be permanent or they can be temporary or they can be situational. If I’m born deaf, that’s a permanent, not just an impairment, it’s a culture as well. But it’s, in that sense it’s a permanent impairment. But if I’ve had an ear infection that I may not be able to hear, that’s a temporary impairment. And if I am in a very noisy pub that’s a situational impairment. In all those cases I have an impairment. So, something like captions would be helpful to people in all those circumstances. So, it’s crucial for a lot and millions of users and it tends to help many, many, many more people in more circumstances.
We’ve done a bit of research alongside this change report, some consumer research and really, it reinforces everything you’re saying. We found that 52% of people said that they, or a member of their family, especially as services had moved online through the pandemic, had been unable to access them, because of the way that they’re offered. And so it’s clear that there are still some barriers to products and services being designed for and designed with users in this way. Could you maybe break down what some of those barriers are, or barriers to perception are and what it might take to make inclusive design something that, that is unilaterally embrace.
JF Hector Labram:
It’s that by and large, the level of accessibility on the Internet is really, really poor. And what I also know from having worked in the past as a designer and now being a frontend developer, what I also know is that 80, at least 80% of all those barriers they’re here, not because not because of work that was not done but it was because of designers and developers introducing these barriers in the code in the designs unknowingly. What I mean by this is that, web browsers come with lots of accessibility features and operating systems come with lots of accessibility features, HTML is fully accessible, and it's all those things accessibility issues start to appear when we, as designers and developers and clients and product managers don’t know everything and approve designs that are inherently inaccessible. Or, write code and review our colleagues' code and fail to notice that it will be blocking people who don’t use the Internet, maybe in the same way that you do. And they all,I would say, boil down to a lack of knowledge. So, a lot of people would say, “Oh we don’t have the time. It’s a lack of timelines'' or lack of sufficient time or lack of willingness from the clients. And for sure, all those things help but there’s something, there’s a lot that every single one of us can do in the situation that we are currently in which is just to know a little bit more and read one more article, watch more and more videos because we are making so many mistakes all the time that are so easy to avoid. And, we don’t need to ask for extended timelines to do that and we don’t need to ask for clients’ permission to do this because if anything, we should ask permission to exclude people, not to avoid excluding them.
That makes so much sense, and it’s really fascinating, you know just playing back conversations that I know I’ve witnessed with clients, and also within project teams where there has been this kind of friction between safeguarding accessibility and this perception that it might have some impact on being able to get things done. And, I guess when you are faced with a situation like that, which is, unfortunately, still inevitable whose responsibility it is to really, kind of fly that flag, fight that corner and ensure that products and services are accessible and inclusive not just as nice to have but as a requirement, as you say?
JF Hector Labram:
Some teams will hire a specialist and hope that everything will go easily and sometimes, it works. But, generally what it takes is different people doing the best to learn a little bit more and to improve the practices in their corner of the project. It’s not reasonable to expect a full stack engineer will know about everything. So, everyone starts with their own level of knowledge on a project of accessibility, and what you can do though, is when you have a bit of spare time, get more of that knowledge, and when you’re on a project, stretch yourself as much as you can, so you can do your best.
Yeah, that’s a great point. Amazing, and in terms of, I guess your experience,you know, you have really deep experience in developing with people to try and create the most accessible products and ensure that they are as inclusive as possible. To kind of end on, I guess a more positive and inspirational note, are there any examples where you’ve seen this approach go incredibly well? You know, what’s out there that’s really inspiring you in terms of a company, a product or a service that’s put accessibility and inclusivity really at its heart?
JF Hector Labram:
Well, so the government's digital service is really, really good at this and they’ve created a design system that’s backed up by a lot of user testing that we are using a lot at Kooth to build our own design system. The BBC has done the same, and Apple, Google, Microsoft are - we are really saying that they are doing some very complex interfaces and getting it more and more right. If you started a design project, and you have, and you understand already this, consideration about inclusion, as well as consideration about aesthetics it’s quite easy to put these two things together and creatively come up with a solution that’s both that’s kind of wholesome, that’s kind of beautiful, and also doesn’t unnecessarily exclude people. Once you start to notice how a user interface typically excludes people, those that do you stop seeing them as beautiful. And, what you see is beautiful is something that feels, like I said, wholesome. It really has a lot of personality, it’s very elegant. And you know that you can use it with a mouse, you can use it with a keyboard, you can use it magnified as 400%, you can use it in portrait, in landscape, and all those things. And suddenly, I know that if you went to print it, and put it on the wall and were to review designs like this it might not win the award but as a mechanism, as something that people need to see and love seeing, but also use in lots of different ways, it’s very, very beautiful in that way.
That’s an amazing point to end on, I think. Thank you so much, that was so insightful, and though I know you said that you shouldn’t be thinking about accessibility and inclusion as being an inspiring thing, I think you’ve definitely managed to make it so, so thank you so much for your time.