There is a rapidly widening gap between what is technologically possible and how professionals practice their profession. This gap exists, because for each new technological advance, a high level of analysis and review is needed before lawyers, physicians, or other professionals can implement it. This prudent approach is causing a growing tension, that after 50 years of Moore’s law dominating technological advancements, has come at a point that the gap is clearly visible for everyone. We no longer compare our experience at the doctor’s office to that of other doctor’s offices but to the services we get online from tech giants. We expect our physicians, lawyers, and other professionals to meet these same service levels.
Do no harm
Most professions have the imperative of “do no harm”, for good reasons. As a result, before adopting new technologies, professional obligations demand that risks are avoided. So, professionals tend to stick with what is known to work. However this prudent approach is leading to the significant delay of the adoption of new technologies, which nowadays seems to be causing more harm.
Since the mid-sixties, information technology engineers have worked in a concerted action to obey to Moore’s law. Working together, they advanced the technology and kept progression going at a breath-taking speed.
The differences in growth have resulted in a, by now, visible gap between what is technologically possible and what professionals use in practice.
Size of the gap
If the statements above sound abstract, let’s look at what this actually means by using numbers.
Blair Janis, in GP Solo of the American Bar Association, suggests to measure the tension between what is possible and what is offered as the difference in the rate of adoption of new technology driven by information technology and the rate of adoption of new technology by professional service providers.
The technology side of the equation
We know the rate of growth on the technology side, thanks to Moore’s law, see graph above.
Moore’s Law represents the rate of progress clients experience due to technological advances in the information technology. (i.e. doubling the processing power every two years).
The professional side of the equation
For the professional side, we can follow Blair Janis and assume a slower rate of progress for professional service providers. Assume progress happens at the speed of one-half (instead of two) every two years. If off, it certainly is at the high end, predicting too much progress.
Exponentially growing tension
Just as most graphs that represent Moore’s law, the graph below starts at 1970.
For 1970, I set the progress for the information technology and the professional services both at 1. For the next years, until 2018, I applied the progress rates as stated above. That is, on the information technology side, it doubles (x2) every 2 years and for the professional service progress increases by one half (1.5) every 2 years. It is difficult to see the difference in progress in the graph for the first years. The table below provides more details of how the numbers progress over the years.
Due to the difference in progress rates, the tension growth every two years exponentially at a rate of 1.5 times.
In 1986 there is a 10x difference in progress. Yet, the absolute values are not that far apart, respectively 25 and 255. By 2002, the difference is 100x (65,220 vs 644). By 2018 the difference is a 1000x (16,656,036 vs 16,350). The gap is growing rapidly since 2002 and becoming clearly visible (due to the exponential nature of this difference).
This may explain why to those in the profession, they rather suddenly experience a lot of external pressure to change and innovate. While, if you were looking at the professional services in isolation, the progress between, for instance, 2014 and 2018, is significant (nearly doubling from 7,284 to 16,350). However, compared to the absolute growth of progress in information technology, it dwarfs.
What do I mean with the visibility of this gap and the tension that results from it?
When I go to a physician’s office, I wonder about the quality of their service upon seeing that that they still use paper records. Same for a lawyer, that asks me to fax my information. Or when the government demands that I request a paper form first, before I am able to renew my driver’s license and demands that I apply in-person to renew my passport. In each of these circumstance I wonder, why? Seriously? Are you still that far behind with technology adoption, in this day and age?
I am sure that the respective physician, lawyer, and government workers believe that they deliver a top-notch job.
However, since I cannot evaluate the quality of their services objectively, I make inferences based on what I know. I know there are ways to share personal data electronically and securely, between physicians or between the lawyer and I. I also know that there are multiple ways to authenticate myself electronically. What is more, asking me for two passport photos to attach to a specifically-for-that-purpose-designed paper form, of which the officer then scans one, takes the other, and returns one to me, is curious to say the least.
In each of the examples above, it means that I severely start to doubt the organization’s professional attitude. If they are this far behind in their game, how up to date are they in their profession?
Closing the gap?
Some have doubted at the 50th anniversary of Moore’s law in 2016 whether the law has come to an end. Indeed progress seems to be slowing down, however technological progress is still making leaps forwards.
Thus, in the coming years, the gap will remain to exist, and in all likelihood, the tension will continue to grow even when the professional services start to take innovation seriously and work together to make leaps of progress in their profession.
As a result of the present tension, the professional services industry finds itself competing with outside providers attempting to fill the gap. This phenomenon is already taking place. In healthcare Minute Clinics by pharmacies and telemedicine options by insurance companies compete with primary care providers. In the legal profession, Littler, Legal Zoom and many others compete for the low-end market for legal services.
High-end professional service providers should not ignore this tension, thinking they are safe while delivering tailored and often personalized high-end services. Disruption in other markets have shown that high-end providers are not safe in the long run either. Even more, these high-end providers typically have the hardest time adjusting and therefore experience great difficulty catching up once they feel the impact.
Take irresponsible risks?
The path forward is not to take irresponsible risks nor to try to keep the status quo. Both will hopelessly frustrate your patients and clients and will give outsiders plenty of opportunity to outperform the current providers.
Instead, a prudent stead-fast course of action forward is best. There are too many, too great options out there for you as a professional not to try.
In addition, there is an advantage to being a late adopter, in that you can focus on the things that have proven to have true benefit in your or another profession. New business models, new technologies such as big data, machine learning, etc. have been around long enough to have proven their value and worth.
Below are some links to reports with trends in a few of the professional services. As you can see, the trends are all focusing on similar problems: increase acceptability, reduce variability in service quality, increase quality, and reduce costs.
Trends for 2018 in:
- Legal: https://www.thebalance.com/trends-reshaping-legal-industry-2164337
- Healthcare: http://hitconsultant.net/2017/12/18/defining-healthcare-trends-to-watch-2018/
- Government: http://www.oecd.org/gov/innovative-government/flyer-embracing-innovation-in-government-2018.pdf
Still in doubt?
If still in doubt, engage your clients or patients in the process. Ask them, what aspects of your services they perceive to be outdated. Their honest feedback gives you an idea of what to focus on and your clients will feel they are finally listened to as well.
Just know, that asking for input sets expectations that you are willing to listen and change. You don’t have to follow up on every single request and act upon every suggestion. That would be foolish. However, you have to take the input seriously and be committed to innovate to close the most pressing and prominent gaps in expectations.
Now, go out there, close the gap and change the world for your clients, organization, and profession.
P.P.S. If you are wondering how to act to close the gap, sign up for our on-the-job training sequence. During this series of just-in-time training sessions, we help you iterate your way to success and close the gap between what your clients expect and currently receive.