Ordering ahead

If you have been to a McDonald’s in the last months, you have probably seen one of these devices:


McDonald's Corp. Trials Table Service At U.K. Restaurant
Self-Serve Kiosk (Source)

By using self-service kiosks, McDonald’s hopes to alleviate congestion at the “human” terminal and save labor costs. While there is always a person behind the counter, willing to take your order the traditional way, I have seen a large fraction of customers using these devices during my scarcely visits. Increasingly, I started to use these machines because I feel that they make the whole process of ordering quicker and more convenient.

The trend towards automation based retailing is not limited to the brand with the yellow M. Flight travelers use check-in kiosks since years and they are an expected seeing at airports. A relatively current development is the fact that more and more brands are playing with the idea of “Ordering Ahead“. Instead of going into a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, ordering at a cashier or with a kiosk and then, finally, receiving your order, these services promise the convenience of ordering ahead and, as a result, assure a short visit in store.


Mobile Ordering at Starbucks (Source)

Starbucks deployed their mobile ordering system in 2015 and other brands are either testing it or having it in place. Especially commuters with strictly scheduled days and little time to wait for an order to finish seem to be keen on using it.

Admittedly, I feel some guilt using non-human ordering services and, thereby, contributing to the future loss of many jobs due to automation. At the same time, the convenience and benefits are clearly apparent and on some days I am totally fine with not having to talk to somebody early in the morning.

How do you see these services, also in regards to job losses and lack of social interaction? Did any of you ever use a self-serve kiosk or mobile application to place your order for later pickup? Which brands would you like to see adopting any of these practices?





How Digital Technologies Disrupt the Health Industry

Not long ago, the health industry used to act exclusively in terms of human-to-human interaction. Doctors treating patients, salesperson selling health insurance to customers, caregiver caring for an elderly person.

This approach to providing health services has certainly changed in the last years. An increasing percentage of traditional health services has been replaced by technological counterparts. Let’s have a look at some examples…

Doctor treating patient —> people look up information online or with help of AI

We have all been there: you have some form of physical pain or issue and you immediately ask Google what type of disease you might have. According to a study 60% of Americans google their symptoms before consulting a doctor. If you are anything like most people, you are likely to focus on the worst stated possibility. This not only increases your fear and anxiety but is also most likely to be plainly false (only 34% of symptom search queries showed the correct diagnosis first). Despite this issue there has been constant advances in the field.

Have a look at Ada:

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Ada – Personal Health Companion (Source)

Ada promises to be a personal health assistant that learns over time about your physical wellbeing. It uses Artificial Intelligence to “feel” as human as possible.

Selling health insurance through salespeople –> using comparison websites to find best offering

In a lot of countries now you have the choice between several health insurance providers. Similar to online services providing flight price comparisons, these websites offer a broad picture of existing solutions.

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iSelect Health Insurance Comparison (Source)

Instead of salespeople initializing the purchase of health covers, now the customer starts the search and quest for a suitable offering. Thereby creating a more transparent and competitive market.

Human caregivers –> addition of robots

Caring for elderly or disabled people is usually a highly physical job, making the replacement by machines less likely than the first two scenarios. Nevertheless, there are parts of “caring” that can be automated. Consider the following video:

The robot can easily remind people of taking medications or providing an easy way to call a doctor or friend. This obviously does not get rid of the need of human caregivers but it offers a reliable solution to rather mundane tasks.

Where is this trend going?

While we are still highly dependent on doctors or caregivers to provide health services anytime soon, there are clear trends towards more automation in this industry. The interpretative and physical nature of these jobs make them less susceptible to be replaced by machines and computers, but more and more simple tasks can be provided using technology. I would not be anxious about job losses though, especially since demographic change will demand more services in the future. Moreover, automation will drive costs down, thus allowing previously uncovered people to enjoy health benefits.

Where do you see the health industry heading? Will using an app replace going to the doctor in the future? Will technology help to close the gap between developed and developing countries in terms of health services?

Slack and the future of ‘work’ networks

With the ongoing success of the workplace network Slack and Microsoft pushing into the same market with their Teams offering, it is worth reflecting on this current development of what basically are stripped-down business social networks.

At the time of writing this post, there are 5.8 million people using Slack every week, resulting in estimated revenues of $100 million. That is not too bad for a startup that launched less than four years ago. It is further reported that 77% of Fortune 100 companies use Slack.

Why is Slack so successful? And maybe more importantly, is Slack just the beginning of a huge industry in the making?

Satya van Heummen names a couple of reasons for the success of Slack, some of them psychological nature. According to him, the usage of Slack creates Social Pressure that ultimately forces you to use it. Let’s illustrate this using a graph:

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This perpetual process of increasing importance, ultimately, leads to a state of every employee using the service. While this is not the only reason for Slack’s success and points like business model or competitors play a huge role as well, the psychological process shows the importance of a common playground” in a business context.

Slack basically opening up a very unique and new industry segment didn’t go unnoticed. Facebook and Microsoft started to jump on the bandwagon with their respective solutions (Workplace & Teams), both companies with massive funds behind it and serious ambitions to threaten Slack’s current position.


Facebook Workspace (Source)


Microsoft Teams (Source)

While Microsoft has a long history of serving business-focused solutions, Facebook is treading new water with Facebook Workspace and their efforts mark first steps into unexplored territories of B2B.

So where is this going? 

It is certainly hard to give future predictions for technology-based industries, especially if they are so young, but a few things can be said:

  1. There is money to be earned with B2B

Admittedly, the B2B market is by no means as large as a general B2C market, like Facebook targets with their Social Network, but B2B customers are willing to spend resources on IT solutions. Services that facilitate team communication and ultimately performance are therefore high on managers agendas.

2. Entirely virtual companies

There is an increasing number of companies that exist mostly in virtual terms. Think of crowdsourced projects or programmers dispersed around the globe. These companies/projects don’t necessarily have physical offices to facilitate communication. Instead, services that enable efficient collaboration rise in value. Here’s where Slack, Facebook Workspace and Microsoft Teams come in.

3. Growth Opportunities 

Microsoft is actively promoting their offering to schools, thus allowing teachers and students to exchange ideas, learning materials and also grades. This shows that the concept team-based collaboration is not limited to workplaces. I can easily think of other use cases: local sports clubscharities or universities.

Do you think the industry of work-focused collaboration will keep on growing? Where do you see limits and opportunities?

Post your comments below!