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Time for Mid-Size Tech Providers to Harness the Voice of Society

By Barika Pace | October 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

Tech and Service Providers


As much as we hear about polarization, much of the world remains in the center, steering away from the toxic fringes of the left and right. Recently, my colleague Aapo Markkanen and I had an opportunity to write a piece titled “Maverick* Research: How Product Management Drives the Demise of Digital Giants in Three Acts.”  Our assertion, relentless polarization presents a severe crisis for the Ozymandian digital giants that hubristically hold up the world’s digital economy. To escape the wrong side of history, product managers must stop putting the customer before society. But, as the giants struggle to manage the headlines, aimed squarely at issues caused in part by their products and service strategies, perhaps the door is ever so ajar for the mid-size tech provider.

For mid-size brands, maintaining a sufficiently positive brand perception is of the utmost importance. For many brands, being talked about, even in a controversial context, can be a good thing, as it implies relevance. However, being consistently associated with politically divisive issues and even outright toxic communications, such as hate speech, is something that mid-size brands must desperately  avoid.  The prevalence of such unconstructive — and unprofitable — forms of relevance increases as the level of polarization increases.

With many consumers feeling like big tech has tuned their voices, perhaps it is time for mid-size tech providers to delight these disenchanted customers.  There are so many voices, but the voice of society (VOS), can yield significate insights if we stay firm to our organizations core values



The “Goldilocks” Zone

What keeps today’s digital economy running is a critical mass of highly monetizable and digitally engaged consumers whose digital personas reside in a sort of “Goldilocks” zone of monetization: not too hot, not too cold. Figure 2 below  demonstrates the dynamic.

The key for mid-size tech providers, avoid the toxic and elusive fringes and remain firmly center.

Goldilocks Zone Fig. 2


As headline news mounts against larger tech providers and consumers question their intentions in the public domain, mid-size tech providers with moderate corporate values remain able to seize on new opportunities in the Goldilocks zone. Gartner’s survey data below indicates continued sustainable engagement in social advocacy is growing, with consumers ranking equality loyalty and authenticity as their top values.. The key take away, avoid the toxic fringe

With these values in mind, many have abandoned larger tech providers, calling out several issues:

  1. Bias in design
  2. Hate-for-profit concerns
  3. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) issues in hiring
  4. Pricing concerns for those facing the digital divide
  5. Sustainability concerns

 Mid-Size Tech Providers Must Address 3 Social Woes Near Term

If you are thinking about where to start social engagement with consumers, investors and employees, note that consumers are thinking about a few select areas from tech providers.

1.    Pandemic Response

Consumers are paying close attention to how brands are responding to the COVID-19 crisis: 69% say they’ll remember how companies respond, and those that put profits before people will lose their trust forever.3 In addition, consumers are appreciative of their collective increased awareness of companies’ social responsibility practices (see “Leverage Consumers’ Emerging Optimism to Position Your Brand for a Postpandemic Future”).1


2.    Sustainability

Sustainability-savvy brands can support the environment, attract ESG-conscious investors, attract top talent and innovate in new technology markets. Recent research in these areas points out that the growing pressure and urgency regarding environmental sustainability is ushering in fundamental changes to technology markets. These trends present product leaders with both new challenges and new opportunities across three themes: changing fundamentals, zero-waste operations and existential breakthroughs (see “Emerging Technologies: Top Sustainability Trends for Technology and Service Providers”). Here are a few areas that mid-size tech companies should look at:

  • Showcasing sustainability benefits and features in product offerings by exposing sustainability features and metrics in product and service interfaces
  • Software tools that enable increasingly complex and comprehensive sustainability reporting, analytics and accounting — especially for carbon footprints
  • Consulting capabilities to measure the financial risk and liabilities associated with sustainability issues and to deliver change programs, for both enterprises and investors


3.    Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

With equality toping the consumer values list, many are aware of tech companies’ slow response to addressing DE&I issues. Furthermore, the number of women leaving the workforce is complicating most organizations’ DE&I goals. However, tech companies have fared better than most in terms of retention during this pandemic era. Working from home and flexible work arrangements are more suited to the tech industry than some others, which has helped to stave off attrition. So any plans of going back to the old days may merit additional consideration.

So what can mid-size tech companies do?

  • Invest in developing talent pools of underrepresented candidates by partnering locally, developing training programs, offering apprenticeships and exploiting multiple recruiting channels to build your future talent pipelines.
  • Build an employer-of-choice brand for women candidates by partnering with marketing and human resources to establish and evangelize your commitment to both product designs and a culture that is inclusive of women.
  • Bridge digital divides affecting users by using voice of the customer (VoC) insights to account for technology adoption barriers and bias in existing CX data.
  • Transform barriers into product design opportunities, and create an optimal inclusive experience for communities challenged by digital deserts. Consider leveraging a combination of human-centric design approaches, such as design thinking and inclusion design, and pay attention to consumer pricing.


Further Reading

Why the Voice of Society Is Getting Louder

Maverick* Research: How Product Management Drives the Demise of Digital Giants in Three Acts

Overcoming the Digital Divide: How Product Managers Can Reach More Women Users

Case Studies in Advancing Gender Diversity in Tech Companies

The Gartner Blog Network provides an opportunity for Gartner analysts to test ideas and move research forward. Because the content posted by Gartner analysts on this site does not undergo our standard editorial review, all comments or opinions expressed hereunder are those of the individual contributors and do not represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management.

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