Doug Bannister's blog

Cybersecurity is a challenge that must be addressed

Technology continues to change, but now more rapidly than ever. As companies adopt new digital technologies––Internet of Things (IoT), big data, blockchain, cloud computing, and mobile computing––security must be a primary consideration. In the past, securing network perimeters from threats was enough. Now, data spreads across systems, devices, and the cloud, all of which require a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy. The Digital World Needs Security Just Like the Non-Digital World From decision making to customer service, digital technology continues to reinvent the way companies operate. The automation of business processes and increasing digital connectedness of technology have significantly raised cybersecurity risks and threat levels. Any vulnerabilities can be exploited to quickly proliferate a cyberattack throughout the entire supply chain. This costs an organization not only money but also the trust of its customers. To properly address these concerns, it is essential to take a proactive approach and build security directly into storage, applications, and interconnected devices. This ensures organizations can maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data wherever it resides, whether on premises, in the cloud, or in hybrid environments. IoT is Reinventing How Companies Conduct Business The Internet of Things makes cybersecurity essential, but also more challenging. Through IoT, billions of devices are connected and interacting to a degree that the world has not seen before. As IoT becomes more prevalent, malicious cyberattacks are growing in frequency and sophistication. With these devices deployed in potentially vulnerable environments, such as vehicles, banks, hospitals, factories, and power grids, the risks to human welfare grows more serious. The message is clear. Failing to secure these devices could have devastating real-world consequences. In Connected Environments, Security Must Exist Across All Applications IT personnel regularly secure outside access to their networks and applications. However, the transformation of digital communication has created a vast network of interconnected environments, so perimeter protection is no longer adequate. Once a cyber-attacker compromises a weak link, they have access to the company’s networks, systems, and data. Security must be proactively embedded into all applications as a first line of defense. In addition, security controls should default to the highest levels of protection. Encryption of data in transit and two-factor authentication are additional measures that can dramatically increase the security of communications. It is essential that the cybersecurity and IT professionals find a common understanding, a shared terminology, and a unified approach to securing applications and data.  

Say No To These Digital Signage Myths

Digital signage is not technology of the future, but is very much the technology of today. Businesses of all sizes put this electronic medium to use and enjoy a positive return on investment. Digital signs can increase sales, boost foot traffic, and offer a dynamic advertising medium with the flexibility and impact today's businesses need to differentiate themselves. From small cafes to boutiques to large showrooms, digital signage is a valuable marketing tool that delivers results. Digital signs beautifully display marketing messages, including specials, impromptu sales, and other information about a business that customers can immediately take in and use. Don't buy into the following 4 myths about digital signage. 1. You Should Wait for Technology to Mature More While there will undoubtedly be further advancements in digital signage technology, existing technology is already mature, with most digital signs using LED backlighting which cuts way down on power consumption. And yes, 4K displays are here, but HD is still phenomenally popular and is more than sufficient for most digital signage applications. 2. You Can Save By Using a Consumer-Grade Display In some cases this is true, but usually a commercial-grade display is worth the investment. Consumer-grade panels are rarely rated for longer than 10 hours of daily use, while digital signage is typically expected to perform longer than this. Furthermore, warranties on top commercial displays last up to six years, compared to the typical one-year consumer-grade warranty (which may be voided anyway if it's used in a commercial environment). Commercial-grade displays let users lock out video inputs so no one can turn them off or change them, plus many have schedulers and on-off timers for source flexibility and automation. 3. Digital Signs Cost Too Much On the contrary, the ROI for digital signage can be easy to justify. Screen sizes range from modest to very large, and a high-performance full HD display with media player and software in a turnkey solution can be had for a reasonable sum. No longer does using digital signage require expensive equipment, coordination among multiple vendors, and specialized software. Benefits become apparent very quickly as your business generates additional sales revenue due to relevant information being presented to customers in your store. You can even display customer endorsements that come in from Facebook and Twitter on your digital signs. And when a campaign ends, you're spared the hassle of discarding old physical materials and starting over. 4. Installation and Content Building Will Be Too Complicated Today's digital signage systems allow content to be uploaded in a variety of ways. Creating signage content today is no more complicated than creating an audio playlist or putting together a PowerPoint presentation. Many of today's digital signage applications include pre-made templates that make it easy to build content, without the necessity of hiring a designer. Updating your digital signs as needed is easy.  There is simply no reason to be intimidated by the idea of using digital signage today. With powerful systems available at a range of price points, even small businesses can make great use of this technology to drive higher revenues and generate relevant, up-to-the-minute advertising without expensive third-party software or the necessity of hiring a designer. Advances in technology have made displays more cost-effective, brilliant, and energy-efficient than ever, and the ROI for digital signage can be both quick and positive.

Are You Disruptive or a Dinosaur?

Disruption in an industry leads to innovation. Uber and Airbnb are two examples of companies that are disruptive and have turned an industry on its head. They created a peer-to-peer model that combines technology and business. Previously, these industries had cobwebs in their innovation labs. They had established markets dominated by a few main players. By companies such as Uber creating a sharing economy, consumers have greater access to goods and services that may have once been unavailable. The result is an expectation for other companies in that industry to adapt and evolve. While consumers are not necessarily demanding digital transformation, they will gravitate to those organizations that offer the best customer experience. Creating disruption By leveraging a digital communications platform, you can create a unique and engaging customer experience that sets your business apart from your competitors. Perhaps it is getting rid of a point of friction, such as the lines and checkouts, like Amazon Go did with their new retail concept store. No matter what it is, digital communications enable you to create meaningful connections between technology and your stakeholders. Technology has changed how people see various industries and they expect choices. Innovators have developed platforms that enable businesses to easily collect, process and deliver targeted information across the organization on any screen; enhancing your business’s two most valuable assets, people and data. Think outside the box Uber and Airbnb are disruptive because they don’t actually own any cars or hotel rooms. What they have done is transform the entire experience, not just create an app. Consider Airbnb for a second, they disrupted the entire travel industry in 2008. Before its existence, boutique hotels were providing guests with a more intimate stay than the large, mainstream hotels. Travelers began to expect even more choice, they craved a new type of hospitality that provided a personalized experience; the ability to live like a local and immerse one’s self in the culture. Airbnb used technology to be disruptive and create a “marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world” and at the same time created a new normal in the travel industry with their peer-to-peer business model. Previously, consumers weren’t aware what they wanted because the choice wasn’t there. Now, they expect options that grant them more control of their experience. They value increased technological capabilities that are user friendly. If you don't have a digital transformation strategy in place, you will be left behind in the ever-changing business economy. You risk competitors providing better and more robust innovation. And, worst of all, you risk losing your customers. According to Forbes, “for a successful digital transformation in any business organization, digital maturity and a modern organization culture are of paramount importance.”

Digital Customer Experience

Why Digital Customer Experience Is Driving The Shift From Multichannel To Omnichannel  In 1955, milkshake salesman Ray Kroc entered into a partnership with a small California hamburger restaurant named McDonald’s. Over the next few decades, the golden arches would experience an almost unprecedented rise that would shift the landscape of the entire food service industry. What often goes overlooked when discussing the historical significance of McDonald’s, though, is that apart from their streamlined business model, a key driver of growth was the integrated approach to the customer experience. The consistency of McDonald’s messaging allowed them to reach and retain a diverse set of customers. This variety of high-quality consumer communication increased brand loyalty and created opportunities for long term revenue growth. In the not-too-distant-past, sales and marketing professionals looking to emulate the success of a McDonald’s-type organization would refer to this as a “multichannel” marketing strategy. This multichannel strategy involved the simultaneous deployment of messages and offers across a tiered system of channels. The approach, however, is flawed as it lacks a critical cohesiveness.    An omnichannel marketing strategy, on the other hand, is an integrated cross-channel communication strategy that leverages the dispersion of platforms and screens to create powerful and targeted impressions. Omnichannel marketing takes an IOT-like approach to marketing by combining data and analysis with real-time updates and messaging. This omnichannel approach is much better suited for today’s rapidly shifting technological environment. The rewards of a highly optimized customer onboarding, payment, and appreciation process can be tremendous. The Starbucks app, for example, currently has 18.9 million users in the U.S. and allows customers to place their order, pay before they even enter a store, and collect reward points. Mobile technology is allowing this coffee retailer to drive in-store sales and reduce bottle necks. The next evolution in the digital customer experience strategy is the linking of digital displays and communications. Digital signage is quickly replacing the static variety because it offers organizations such as retailers the opportunity to engage and interact with customers on an entirely new level. Due to digital displays doubling as smart solutions, they can do so much more than project menu boards! By utilizing the proper software, businesses are able to display optimized content, creating a better customer experience, while offering retailers additional advertising opportunities. One exciting digital communications asset available today is multi-screen displays. Dozens of different displays can be synced together to promote attention-grabbing content. VOX Cinema recently completed a refurbishment of its theatres that was designed to create a compelling and integrated digital customer experience. The new VOX cinemas also make use of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and social media to make customers a part of the conversation, with a dedicated six-screen video wall displaying live feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Dubai’s City Centre-Deira location synchronized over 135 separate screens to create a world class environment for its customers. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment uses Omnivex Moxie digital communications platform to create an immersive fan experience, by connecting hundreds of screens throughout their flagship Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. This Digital Customer Experience can make quantifiable differences in a company’s P&L as well. Capgemini research found that on average, over 80% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience. The same study also found that 1 in 5 customers stopped purchasing after a poor experience. Businesses not employing an omnichannel marketing strategy are not only missing out on potential revenue, they are potentially turning away customers for life. With better and easier access to pricing information and quality reports than ever before, consumers today are exceedingly savvy. This means that competitive businesses must utilize all the tools at their disposal to make the customer experience a seamless thing of beauty.

Defending Against Disruption

Defending Against Disruption: Why Business Leaders Must Be Digitally Literate If you are a business leader, there is one term you should be obsessed with: exponential growth. Technology is screeching upward with rocket-like intensity, and unprepared organizations will be left behind. Technology is a little bit like King Midas; everything it touches is transformed. However, it isn’t always possible to predict the next wave of innovation. Decision-makers who are technology savvy and digitally aware have a better chance of rising with the trend, rather than being swamped by it. In fact, the most competent companies in the world should be the most worried about digital disruption. Often, these organizations have established systems and processes that they are reluctant to change with disruptive technologies, even when the business benefits could be significant. While these leaders believe they are doing what’s best for their companies, they are inadvertently the source of organization wide failure when faced with digital disruption. This means that leadership should not only be aware of the latest digital transformations, but also be prepared to embrace them before it may be obvious to do so. You understand the importance of being digitally literate, but now what? There are many ways in which leaders can educate themselves in order to become digitally literate. Start by surfing the media. The media – whether social media, the internet, or even the newspaper – is a consistent and up to date source. As a Founder and CTO myself, I am very familiar with the difficulties of making time among the many other tasks that require my attention throughout the day. That being said, I understand the importance of keeping myself updated and aim to read a minimum of two articles per day. Social media is a great tool to help find these articles. Follow some business or technology visionaries and scroll through your feed whenever you find yourself with a spare minute during the day. You will be surprised how much you learn without having to carve out time to do so. Second, do some research. When a new technology catches your eye investigate it further. Think of the standard questions - Who, What, Where, When, Why. Who could use this technology in my organization? What would they use this technology for? Where can this technology be used – across the organization or individual departments? When does it make sense to roll out a new technology – now or wait until it is more proven or tested? Why does this technology make sense for my organization? Lastly, be open to new technologies. While some new tech may seem farfetched, try and think; how can I use this in my organization and what would it look like? This does not mean you have to jump in head first with an enterprise wide installation, begin with a pilot. Approaching technology with an open mind can reap great benefits, and is sure to surprise you in the long run. Yes, it is true that not every new software or hardware device that comes along will be the game changer. But, as a business leader, it is important that you are unafraid to experiment with the latest and greatest to see if the upside really exists. Especially if that upside involves digital communications and attracting more customers.

Data Drives Decisions

The modern world runs on data. It is the most significant and valuable commodity on Earth, and is the reason Silicon Valley giants like Facebook and Google are worth hundreds of billions of dollars. The core business of these and other tech titans is amassing and consolidating data that can then be sold for use by other companies such as advertisers. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion a few years ago wasn't just merely a play for grocery dollars. It offers the online company a brick-and-mortar presence in which it can explore retail analytics, customer traffic management, and other data driven experiments to gain insights into in-store consumer behavior and decisions that can be transferred to online applications. While data is at the heart of business and technology, many organizations are unable to leverage these silos of wealth and make them useful, due to challenges in consolidating and sharing the information. Unlocking the power of data is key to creating a competitive advantage and the reason for the rise of chief data officers within organizations. A Fortune 1000 company is estimated to generate more than $65 million in additional net income through a mere 10% increase in data accessibility. For retailers, big data has the power to increase the operating margins by as much as 60%. Less than 0.5% of all data is ever analyzed and used to make decisions, leaving a lot of money on the table. It’s no wonder that 97.2% of organizations are investing in big data and AI. Achieving real-time data access and figuring out how to derive value from it is a major consideration for organizations in any industry. Most businesses understand that data empowers more informed decisions, enhancing productivity and efficiency while cutting costs to boost the bottom line. It can also be used to gain actionable insight into consumer behavior and improve the customer experience. The lifespan of a Fortune 500 company is shrinking, and those unable to harness data to their advantage will find themselves losing the battle against data savvy competitors who have harnessed its power to their advantage. The future success of an organization rests in its ability to consolidate information and share it across the business in real-time for maximum impact. Connecting people with data isn’t a nice idea it is a business imperative. From customers to employees to visitors to partners, access to relevant real-time information will have a bigger impact than perhaps even the data itself!    

Podcast - The New Normal is Business Unusual

Doug Bannister, Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Omnivex Corporation, has seen his fair share of business-altering events in the near 30 years his company’s been in business. But Bannister admits he’s experienced nothing quite like the ongoing pandemic that’s changed the way every company does business. In this time of COVID-19, what does the new normal even look like?   “If this event took place 10 years ago, technology was nowhere near where it is now,” Bannister said. Many of the web conferencing tools people are using to communicate now were not available even five years ago. And Bannister pointed out everything from grocery orders to movie watching is under a rapid change where people are doing more things online, and through apps, that they previously did in person. Online education tools are another area that is transforming as the pandemic goes on.   During this time of rapidly changing events and information, Bannister said the most important thing for businesses to do is to provide reliable, consistent, and continual communication with their workers and their customers. “All of these people in business now working remotely have put a magnifying glass on areas we never really focused on before,” Bannister said. It is crucial to re-examine how we communicate under these new sets of circumstances.   If there is a silver lining to all of this, Bannister believes life-altering global events such as the current pandemic bring forth technological enhancements and behavioral changes that transform the way business moves forward. The new normal may be in flux, but one thing’s for sure; humans are adaptable and will make the change.          

How Going Digital Will Transform Employee Engagement

The success of an organization is dependent on its employees and their level of engagement. Engaged employees are enthusiastic and committed to their jobs. They understand goals and objectives of the organization and are committed to its overall success. Engaged employees are less likely to leave the organization to pursue other opportunities. In US companies, employee turnover already costs $160 billion a year. There is no debating the economic benefit of employee engagement. Results include higher productivity, better employee retention, a positive, more creative environment, and generally a better place to work for everyone. So how do you improve employee engagement in your organization? Here is your 5-step guide: 1. First, Take Care of the Basics Employee engagement isn't always easy to define, but you (and your team members) know it when you see it. Studies by the Dale Carnegie Institute have found that there are three key influences on employee engagement in the workplace: Employee relationships with the immediate supervisor Confidence in senior leadership Pride in working for the organization Are these three influences positively affecting employees in your organization? 2. Put Digital Communications to Use in the Workplace Employee bulletin boards, memos, and announcements over the public-address system have been used for ages to communicate to and among employees but there was no guarantee the information was reaching the right employees at the right time. Digital communications on devices like digital signs, videowalls, tablets and mobile phones, incorporate the best of these traditional communication channels with the best of technology. Most people associate digital communications with customer-facing communications, but employee-facing digital communications can be remarkably effective too. Not only can you notify people of emergencies quickly, you can communicate personalized real-time information in a manner that's efficient and often entertaining as well. 3. Make Content Appropriate to the Audience One of the best things about digital communications is that you can do as successful television networks do and tailor content to the audience and their needs. Consider a digital screen in a warehouse - a message welcomes the morning shift to work and reminds them to finish their safety training by the deadline could precede a message from HR about the changes to the benefits plan. At their station personalized information about the orders for the day and key statistics from the previous shift can be pushed to their mobile phone or screen in the area. Digital signage in the locker room could thank the departing shift for their work, showcase key stats from their shift, and provide real-time updates on weather and traffic for their drive home. 4. Use Digital Communications for Employee Recognition A terrific use for digital communications and devices like digital signage is employee recognition. Content could include coverage of formal awards people have earned, or even information from the company social network. Giving employees a way to submit positive information about their peers helps maintain a positive work environment, and when employee achievements are tied in with brand philosophy, both are amplified. 5. Consider Creating a Corporate Social Responsibility Channel Some organizations improve team cohesiveness even more by using digital communications to promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). Most consumers today expect businesses to focus on the world we live in as well as their own interests, and this, of course, carries over to employee attitudes. For example, using digital signage to communicate CSR initiatives and highlight relevant accomplishments on both the employee and corporate level can help employees take pride in their organization. Digital communications is far more than a way for businesses to communicate with customers. It's also terrific for communicating with employees and gives companies lots of opportunity for doing so in an entertaining and effective manner. Not only can devices like digital signs and mobile phones be used to inform employees quickly in the event of an emergency, they can be used for countless everyday applications as well, including deadline reminders, employee recognition, and information about how the company is striving to make the world better. Using digital communications toward better employee engagement helps create a more cohesive workforce, with better morale, and hence a greater willingness among employees to give their best effort. It's fast, flexible, more environmentally friendly than printed materials, and offers endless possibilities for programming content.

Digital Transformation - Keep Pace or Lose the Race

Keep Pace or Lose the Race: Is Your Digital Strategy Ready for Tomorrow’s Marketplace? Companies come and go every day—that’s just the reality of business. Not every company lasts for decades, and even fewer last over a century like Ford, which was founded in 1903. The kiss-of-death for a company is an inability to keep up with technology. It might sound surprising, but the life span of a Fortune 500 company today is significantly shorter than it was 25 years ago. Research in Motion, Nortel, and perhaps most spectacularly of all, Blockbuster, are all casualties of a failure to stay ahead of the technology curve. In fact, in its bid to remain viable, Ford itself recently replaced its CEO amid a tanking stock price. Investors view the automaker as lagging behind Google, Uber, and Tesla in developing technologically advanced, autonomous vehicles for the future. Today’s business climate is dominated by companies that embrace technology and data to transform industries. Think AirBnb, Alibaba, Amazon, and Lyft. We live in a digital age, and leveraging digitization is the only way for a business to thrive in such a competitive landscape. Powerful digital communication tools can enable organizations to easily collect, process, and deliver targeted real-time information to optimize its operations. Digital communications allow for effective message dissemination and extends real-time, customized information to everyone within a company. It’s critical that CEOs and C-suite executives encourage the wide adoption of digitization within a company. It’s a transformation that must involve every team and department to maximize success. Many organizations are slow behemoths, unable to nimbly respond to the fast pace of technological change, often resulting in poor customer experiences. Equipping people and processes with the right technology improves customer satisfaction, inspires innovation, and delivers greater value to all parties. A successful digital platform is one that improves employee engagement, reduces costs, boosts productivity, improves safety, builds brand awareness, and elevates the customer experience. It will also allow employees and partners to better connect with customers to achieve business goals. When effectively deployed, digital tools will reduce costs by optimizing inventory levels and eliminating the distribution of printed material. Digital communications enables organizations to share information while adding value and improving the customer experience. No matter your business, the perfect digital tools will free up time, labor, and financial resources so that you can focus on your core mission.  

It's Time To Rethink Mobility In The Workplace

The digital workforce was a revolution in itself, but the mobile workforce takes it to a new level. What does mobile really mean? Mobility is often associated with a physical device - the mobile phone. However, a mobile workforce is more than just employees running around with mobile phones. A mobile workforce has access to real-time information wherever they are on any device and the ability to communicate back in real-time. Many organizations have a workforce that works virtually or is dispersed across many locations. How do you ensure these employees are getting the right information at the right time on the right device to perform their job? Whether it is corporate news, new policy updates or real-time Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or even individual tasks, information is the most valuable when it is timely, relevant and engaging. -Advertisement- The most successful organizations will be the ones that recognize the value of putting information at the fingertips of the employees, customers, vendors and partners. The rewards will be numerous from time savings to increased sales to improved satisfaction to company agility. Enterprise mobility is a strategic concept, and not simply a matter of buying the latest devices. Rethinking enterprise mobility requires understanding the tools needed, the ways people consume information and how that ties in with overall corporate objectives. Here are some areas to consider when thinking about enterprise mobility: Mobile Devices Mobile devices, whether phones or tablets, make sense for a huge range of industries. Sales professionals can always be reachable, while technical personnel working in the field can receive important updates in a timely manner. Field technicians can log their work with ease and accuracy, and employees can take care of mundane office tasks without necessarily being in the office. Whether you provide phones or tablets for your team, or have a "bring your own device" (BYOD) strategy, enabling your team to accomplish important tasks on the go is a cornerstone of enterprise mobility. However, another point of consideration that is almost as important as the device itself is what type of information will your employees need to have access to on their mobile device? Will they need to provide real-time updates back on the status of tasks and projects or share key information from the field? Are there corporate resources like expense tracking or vacation requests they need to access when out of the office? A digital communications platform enables organizations to share information in real-time with people regardless of where they are and on any screen is a critical piece of software to have. Videoconferencing One of the drawbacks to a dispersed and mobile workforce is that it can be harder to corral everyone for important meetings. Fortunately, videoconferencing technology has advanced to the point that even smaller businesses can afford it - and they're often the businesses that benefit most. Videoconferencing saves on travel expenses, makes scheduling meetings easier, and is now mobile-friendly, so your busy and scattered workforce can "get together" virtually more easily and cost-effectively than ever before. Videoconferencing makes working virtual still feel like you are part of a team! Digital Signage You might not think of digital signage as being integral to enterprise mobility, but it is. When you have a mobile workforce getting information to the right people at the right time is extremely important. Perhaps it is displaying important corporate messages when they are arriving and leaving the office on a videowall in the lobby or departmental KPIs on a screen in their area or safety notifications on screens throughout the office, regardless digital signage is a great way to make sure the information is seen by people on the move.

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