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“Real-time” is becoming the default expectation. What's holding it back?

By  Lyric Hartley

 25 Feb 2022

The world keeps moving faster, trending towards more rapid delivery of goods, services, and ideas. We use the term “Real-time” to mean that it happens as close to “now” as possible. For ideas, the internet is an obvious multiplier and we can easily see how it enables information to spread at, well, close to the speed of light.

A number of new technologies aim to accelerate this for goods and services as the expectations for “faster’’ continue to grow. In PwC’s June 2021 Global Consumer Insights Survey, 87% of responding consumers ranked reliability and fast delivery as top concerns when shopping online. After reading that stat a few questions came to mind:

What is at the core of those feelings?

What should we be thinking about as the world trends towards “real-time” being the default expectation in all domains?

What does this mean for businesses?

Let’s tease this apart a bit.

Time is scarce and valuable

Time is finite, it keeps moving forward no matter what we think about it. As more things are required of us, the time consumed becomes more valuable. Time is one of our most scarce, non-renewable resources. We may be able to backfill some resources, but not time. We’re all getting pulled into this new speedy world of change whether we want to or not. Someone demands something speedy from you, you, in turn, require speedy results from someone else.

Scarcity increases value and time is becoming increasingly scarce.

The thing that then begins to differentiate you from your competitor is how long it takes for the customer to get value from what you offer.

You can set yourself apart by showing that you value your customer’s time more than your competitors. Showing them that you care.

However, speed is only one part of the equation. It has to be accurate as well or…well, it wastes to fix it. That is often more frustrating than the time “saved” on the front end. And it will certainly get reflected back to the image of the company.

Value the customer’s time

Businesses have historically focused on saving time internally. Trying to make the business itself more efficient etc. However, today’s businesses have to focus on empathy for the customer by saving them time. The companies that send customers the message that they don’t value their time, will lose…unless they have a monopoly (looking at you DMV).

Customers expect fast and reliable

While your business goals may be focused on your external customers, your internal “customers” will have the same expectations when it comes to speed and accuracy of information. You can see this in the numerous companies that service internal teams. Those teams used to send that work to another internal team like IT. Teams found they could get their needs met from someone/company externally who could deliver on the promise more reliably and faster. So, they pulled out that corporate card with a quickness.

Not all time wasters are in shipping or inaccuracies though. A company can also show a lack of empathy by wasting the customer’s time with, for example, a design or data that is not actionable. People have expectations in some of these areas already, but they will have expectations in all of them over time. It is best to understand it now.

It might be boiled down to the time it takes to do something or even decide to do or not do something. We see an increase in frictionless design. For example, “One-Click” buying, intuitive interface designs, intelligent options or defaults, and other time-savers.

We now expect things to be “smooth”, if not, it feels like a waste of time.

An example of internal vs external user experience that comes to mind is the difference between Amazon’s regular customer experience and that of AWS. The Amazon.com site meets (and sets) many of the expectations for speed and reliability. While using AWS often feels like the opposite. That may converge over time. If not, startups will continue to pop up around making a smoother experience to fill the gap.

You may be thinking “ok, I get it, folks now expect things in “real-time” or as close to it as possible” soooo …what is the holdup?

What is holding us back?

There are a few things slowing, or in some cases stopping the realization of “everything real-time all the time!”. Some things we have to just live with, but others we can do something about.

Physics

One that rears its head is physics. If you work in tech for long you will eventually get the question “why is it taking so long?!”. Sometimes it can be fixed, but sometimes you just have to say “we have not figured out how to go faster than the speed of light”. If you wanna move 5TB of data across the world over the public internet, it just takes a bit of time. Sure you can get a dedicated, better pipe, but eventually, you hit the reach of our understanding of physics. If you want your product to magically appear after you order it? Same problem. Wouldn’t be great if when you needed salt, coffee, whatever, bing it appeared. It would be like in that old show I dream of Jeannie. Well, that’s not going to happen, but we can make changes to get as close as possible.

Legacy Systems

If physics is not the limitation, another common one is that existing systems don’t support going faster. It could be that it has not become cost-effective or there is not enough demand yet for that option or more often than not, it is a legacy industry that has not caught up yet. The pandemic forced many companies to undergo a “Digital Transformation”. So, many are getting closer to the current expectation. This is good for them because the pandemic also forced a spread of the speed expectation as people broke out of their old habits. Whether because they were working from home, ordering online more or ordering food, etc.

Mindset

Another reason, that may seem silly, but is very common, is simply that the folks that are working on a system have not stepped back and thought about it. Seriously, how many things do we do just because we have been doing it that way?

Even in the days of the pervasive, high-speed internet, where it seems like everything has been done or made and you can have it delivered to your house for free in two days. Many of us don’t often step back and (re)think about why we are doing what we do and if there is a better way. If you made it this far, I am guessing you are not one of those people.

We can’t change physics, but if you are reading this, you likely have the right mindset. That leaves updating the tools to support another “new normal”. A normal where “real-time” is the default.

None of the systems can achieve “real-time” if the data it requires has not achieved it. So, we have to start there. This is where Meroxa and Conduit come to the rescue.

At Meroxa, we believe there is a better way to work with real-time data. We have created a company around helping developers reap the benefits of this real-time data world. A platform to make the integration and use of real-time data easier for developers. Come give us a try. :)

         Meroxa, Conduit

Lyric Hartley

Lyric Hartley

Trying to learn what I don’t know, and remember what I forgot.