Being Intentional, Flexible and People-Focused in 2021
MichiganLabs co-founder and managing partner, Joshua Hulst, sat down to share his insights for a strong start to the new year and the exciting technology trends that his team is tracking for 2021.
What's been your biggest piece of advice for your clients as they plan for 2021?
As you would expect, COVID-19 continues to be a huge topic and my first piece of counsel is to be intentional about taking a look back at an intense year of change. We can use this organizational momentum to address the problems that were probably always there but weren’t clear until this year.
Many of our clients have been forced into reimagining their internal operational structure and how they interact with customers and users. A lot of assumptions that these businesses have made about the way that they work have been tested - and some of those assumptions have been proven correct and some of them have created the need for a few tweaks or major change within the organization.
I’ve also been encouraging our clients to make a written list of what they learned last year and to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. Our team can then come alongside clients to build technology solutions to solve some of those problems. It’s actually a very exciting time if we can capitalize on these opportunities.
What do you see as some challenges and opportunities in 2021?
The word flexibility comes to mind immediately as both a challenge and an opportunity. We’ve been forced to be flexible in new ways; whether that’s remote work or finding virtual ways to meet with customers or users.
For MichiganLabs, it’s pushing us into being even more innovative and we were already very flexible in the way that we interact with clients. We are stretching ourselves farther and that can be challenging. But we’re definitely focusing on the opportunities that it brings to our client service, culture, and ability to scale with this new world that we all find ourselves navigating. I think our clients are also focusing on the positives of this forced flexibility.
What are the growing software trends that you’re tracking in 2021?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are at the leading edge and will become more mainstream in the next year. We’re seeing Apple and Google adding this technology to their devices and software being developed to utilize data intelligence.
People are starting to understand the limits of AI and machine learning but also where they can help advance a business or enhance user-experience and that gets us really excited as developers.
Can you highlight a few projects that you’ve been working on this year?
We developed an app for a multi-state logistics client that uses AI to recommend specific job duties for individual users that are well-suited to them. It offers a level of personalization that you just can’t do to this scale with a human perspective. By leveraging this technology, the goal is not to replace people doing the work, but to serve their users better and to drive better business outcomes.
Another app that has been fun to work on is for a national healthcare client. Using IoT, the app connects already operational industrial devices to the internet to then build maintenance and monitoring plans. We’ve been able to provide some really interesting health-focused data points that will drive better patient outcomes and provide great insight for care teams.
What does 2021 look like for MichiganLabs?
Our people and building strong client relationships will continue to be a main focus for us.
We’re looking forward to moving into our new space next summer. While we’ve always embraced flexibility, we believe that a balance of time in the office and virtual work is really best for our culture and our ability to offer collaborative solutions to clients. For us, team interaction produces better business results and generates personal growth so I don’t see us ever being 100 percent remote. We’re all eager to return to full capacity when it’s safe.
The opportunity to create meaningful technology while strengthening personal relationships is why we are passionate about what we do every day.