As we pass the one-year anniversary marking many industries’ shift to working remotely, the use of technology has blossomed to help facilitate work in previously private spaces—our homes. What used to be a space reserved for our personal lives has transformed, more smoothly for some than others, into a second office where workers of all generations have had to familiarize themselves with new technologies while attempting to balance their normal day-to-day work.
This transition, however, did not come without bumps in the road. At the beginning of this pandemic, when employees were beginning to work from home on a consistent—and soon to be semi-permanent for some—basis, many employers were confident that their existing tools could be repurposed and optimized for a work-from-home environment. While they were mostly right, it is difficult to forget the trials and tribulations along the way, such as the phenomenon of “Zoombombing” that plagued the popular and widely used videoconferencing app Zoom.
“Zoombombing” occurred when public zoom meetings were interrupted by ill-meaning trolls and users who often were able to hijack control of the meeting in order to display explicit imagery or audio, not only interrupting the meeting but allowing these nefarious users to get access to potentially confidential information. While increased reliance on Zoom’s platform due to the pandemic revealed this issue, there is little doubt that it was exploitable long before the pandemic.
Zoom’s issues last year should serve as a cautionary tale to all companies developing new and revolutionary technologies. As our society irrevocably shifts towards greater online interaction and presence, so do the dangers of technological shortcomings. This is why it is increasingly more important to ensure your company’s technologies are well-equipped to handle the rigors of increased use and scrutiny by users with both good and bad intentions.
Here are some issues that all technology companies should be aware of and address when developing new technologies in order to enhance their acceptance and avoid potential crises:
- Privacy: Privacy is of paramount importance in ensuring that users of your product are confident that their information is protected. As more aspects of our lives transition online, there are more opportunities for our information to be compromised. The first part of the development process for any new technology should include a comprehensive review of privacy protocols associated with it.
- Health & Safety: With every new technology that is developed, there will always be questions as to whether it is safe for users of every background. Some questions that companies should always be prepared to answer are:
- Can my children use this product?
- If I have a medical condition/impairment, can I still use this product?
- Can I use this product in any environment?
- Are there risks associated with the long-term use of this product?
- Understanding your Customers: Despite companies’ best and well-intentioned efforts, it may be impossible to uncover and fix every issue or bug in a new technology product prior to launch. Thus, it is important for companies to be attuned to how its product is being received by consumers and the media. Consumers of any given product have several different mediums through which they can provide feedback such as customer service—and more importantly, social media. It should come as no surprise that consumers of new technology products tend to be more active in online forums. Users can sometimes use these public forums as a way to broadcast issues that they are having with the product, making it important to stay abreast of what is being said online and how the company can respond.
- Company Response: Developers of new technologies should always be prepared to respond to issues brought to light by consumers. Whether it is by way of customer service responses or media communications, all critical employees—from the engineering team to the communications team—should be well-trained on where to escalate different issues within the company.
When developing new technology, companies would be well-served to think about and prepare how they can manage these issues and ensure that their employees are tried and tested in responding to consumers’ dealings with these issues. One way that this preparation can be done is by having employees manage a hypothetical situation where one or more of the above issues arises. This allows for employees to practice response protocols prior to the launch of a new technology product, reducing the risk that the company will be caught unaware.