THE ON-DEMAND ECONOMY RELIES ON HUMANS AS MUCH AS TECHNOLOGY, BUT BALANCING THE TWO ISN’T ALWAYS EASY.
By Joe Coleman
Want that organic oatmeal deodorant in less than an hour? Amazon Now’s got you covered. Need to book a flight to St. Louis but can’t muster more than a text message? An app called Magic will take care of it for you. Even while the Internet of Things hogs all the attention, the service economy is being quietly reshaped by the “Internet of People”: Aggregated groups of humans who are organized and managed through underlying technology.
Businesses that find the right balance of people and technology can both satisfy customers and make the market for on-demand goods and services more efficient. But managing that equation is tricky. On one hand, the human component is a key piece of many emerging companies’ service offerings.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs and investors love technology because it’s predictable, scalable, and generally on its best behavior—all things that human beings are often not. Investors (and the entrepreneurs who court them) tend to think of businesses that are heavy on human capital like jury duty—something to be avoided if at all possible—because the path to a scalable money machine can be murky.
And yet it can be done, and it’s worth doing. But it’s crucial for tech startups and other digital services companies to understand how to incorporate both talent and technology without upsetting that balance. Here are a few ways to do that.