Human-First, Not Digital-First

In a conversation today, I started discussing digital transformation in depth and found we were talking about digital as though that was the point. It made me wake up, as digital is not the point. Business, connectivity, relationships is the point.

When we discuss doing everything online, converting to open systems, transforming to be digital and digital-first, yes, those are the outcomes. But the start point has to be human-first.

Talking about 5G, quantum, AI, DLT, crypto, APIs, apps, Open … these are all great technology developments, but the start point must be human-first.

It is why many businesses need a reboot, because we have not designed digital layers to be human-first. This hits home every time I’m logging into a website. You’re meant to use different passwords for every site … but we don’t. In fact, the British comedian Michael McIntyre hit it on the head in this sketch …

I love this sketch, as it hits the nail on the head of what human-first means. If you can’t watch it or don’t have time, the sketch basically talks about the evolution of passwords. You start with a simple one, maybe back in 2000.


Then the wise people who run internet accounts realised that the passwords are being stolen, leaked or similar, so they asked us to add a number to our password and to make sure it is upper and lower case.


This still didn’t solve the issue, so you need to add a special character.


Then you find you have lots of accounts, and you’re meant to use a different password on all of them.


What this shows is (a) passwords don’t work, (b) they’re not built to be human-first, and (c) humans all act in similar ways.

The key to this is to get rid of usernames and passwords, and build human-first access systems, and we are getting there.

Biometric access with no layers or barriers of access and simplicity is where we are heading, and this answers that question of: what is human-first?

Human-first starts with how to make it the easiest way for customers to use our systems? Then we need to make sure that is done safely and securely, particularly in finance and money. If we make it safe and secure but in a bad way, we need to redesign that way.

Layers of systems over decades of years has made most internet sites and services almost unusable. We then say let’s design them to be digital-first. Nope. Design them to be human-first.

Related: Imagine if Business Was Driven by ESG