Doug Bannister's blog

Striking a balance in a digital world

How a focus on digital innovation and operational excellence drives results Earlier this year, I had the great privilege of attending the CIO Perspectives conference. I participated in the Publisher’s Panel alongside executives from OpenText, ePlus and IDG Events. The topic of the day was business innovation and operational excellence. As part of the conversation, we addressed some key findings from the 2018 State of the CIO Report.  Of particular interest to me was the fact that while 88 per cent of CIOs say their role is becoming more focused on digital and innovation, nearly three quarters of respondents find it difficult to strike the balance between business innovation and operational excellence. This presents a significant challenge for CIOs and other leaders, as digital transformation is becoming increasingly crucial to businesses’ ability to thrive. However, operational excellence and business innovation are not either-or scenarios. In a recent blog post, I discussed the concept of digital maturity, which refers to a company’s ability to use new tools and strategies to adapt to an evolving digital environment. Ultimately, digital maturity and best-in-class operations go hand in hand. For a business to maintain operational excellence, it must embrace the digital landscape and use innovation to maximize its efficiency, gain a competitive advantage and increase its bottom line. It’s important to note that operational excellence, purpose-driven innovation and successful digital transformation are tied together by effective communication. Muddled messages and tired delivery methods limit the potential for a symbiotic relationship between innovation and business excellence. As well, they can also have a negative impact on employee engagement, productivity and company results. Effective communication starts from the top, and it is up to the entire C-suite (including CIOs) to develop a comprehensive leadership strategy. It is important to foster an environment in which the right information is shared with right people at the right time on the right device. Tools like digital signs help companies that want to communicate in a meaningful and relevant way. However, leaders must first ensure that effective communication is baked into the company’s overarching strategy and is utilized up, down and across the organization. Dovetailing from effective communication is company-wide buy-in. This is the most crucial piece of any organization’s digital transformation. CIOs and other leaders, must secure alignment from all levels in order for change to be successful. If employees do not buy what the C-suite is selling, the risk of failure is high. As a result, operational efficiency and productivity will likely suffer. In order to mitigate this risk and build a cohesive, engaged workforce, employees must understand what is happening and why. This means any effort to improve operational efficiency through digital channels must be strategic and purposeful. Furthermore, executives must determine the methods and tactics of change that will work for their organization. At the end of the day, leaders struggling to strike a balance don’t have to choose. You can have both digital innovation and operational excellence. With careful planning, effective communication and a clear, purpose-driven strategy, the two priorities can complement each other. This ensures the business remains productive and efficient today while prepar

What Does the Future of Information & IT Look Like in 2019?

Since the late 90s there have been extensive predictions for the future of information and IT. While many seemed fantastical, countless of these insights have indeed materialized, providing for a complex, yet connected world most could never have imagined. So, what does the future of information look like in 2019? Early Assumptions In a 2003 Harvard Business Review article, author Nicholas G. Carr asserted that IT had become ubiquitous and commoditized.1 In his view, IT was merely a standard cost of doing business that offered no competitive advantage. In the years to follow, cloud computing deconstructed the traditional IT organization. Businesses have flocked to inexpensive or free applications as the cornerstone of their operations. With competitors mainly utilizing the same tools, the competitive advantage has shifted to other technologies. Microsoft’s Vision from 2009 Microsoft is often looked to when it comes to the future outlook of information and IT. In 2009, a short video called, “Microsoft Office Labs Vision 2019” was released to the public.2 The video displays a futuristic world of technology that, at the time, may have seemed improbable. Featuring innovations like touchscreen windows and a digital interactive newspaper, the video piqued the imagination. It instilled within us a future of possibilities yet to come. While it’s true that a few of these technological predictions haven’t made it to the consumer level yet, many seem less far-fetched than they did when Microsoft recorded the video a decade ago. Accenture’s Vision from 2011 In 2011, Accenture distributed its vision of future tech, predicting technology to become fully incorporated with business trends and societal movements.3 Accenture maintained that the path of IT carries as much importance for businesses and governments as it does for technology sector. They noted strides in data analytics and cloud computing. As well as, a shift to service-centric architecture, social networks driving business intelligence, and a transformation in data privacy risk interpretation.  Accenture also noted that IT was no longer a supporting function, but rather a leading player in the lives of individuals.  Much like Microsoft’s predictions, some of Accenture’s views have come to fruition or are still an anticipated possibility. Today’s Prediction for the Future of IT The vast array of emerging technologies offers a broad spectrum of possible expectations for the direction of information and IT. From AI to IoT4, modern technology solutions have the potential to impact every aspect of our lives. They represent significant gains in efficiency and productivity by empowering machines to interact intelligently. Further, various new currencies are gaining a foothold in the economic world (i.e., cryptocurrency and blockchain technology), and their growing popularity could have a lasting impact on financial systems globally. Blockchain technology integrated into cryptocurrency promises to deliver added benefits in numerous industries as well. Regardless of what the future holds, Omnivex is committed to staying current with existing and emerging technologies. We will create cutting-edge software to deliver complete digital communication solutions. Simply put, Omnivex enables organizations to improve the collection, distribution, and presentation of critical business information, ensuring our customers success.   1https://hbr.org/2003/05/it-doesnt-matter 2https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwj2s_5e12U 3https://insuranceblog.accenture.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Accenture_Technology_Vision_2011.pdf 4https://www.business2community.com/tech-gadgets/5-future-technologies-will-mainstream-2020-02006302  

Artifical Intelligence: The Future of Digital Communications

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is enabling organizations to create a more personalized digital communications experience. The AI market is predicted to rise to nearly $60 billion by 2025. AI Will Provide Tremendous Growth Opportunities AI permits machines to learn from data in much the same way as the brain does and then use that knowledge to perform human-like tasks. Artificial intelligence is used in some very exciting applications, including speech recognition, complex problem solving, and voice-enabled digital assistants. Communications and media companies have embraced AI. Accenture Strategy research found that 63 percent of telecommunications executives believe AI deployment will drive additional revenue and growth opportunities. That’s why 72 percent of these same executives identify AI as a Top Three business priority currently or within one year. It’s clear that AI is the future of digital communications. AI Allows Personalization and Segmentation on a Level Never Seen Before Customers expect a personalized experience with information that is relevant to them. AI helps deliver that experience by enabling organizations to draw on the vast amount of historical data they have have collected and leverage it to deliver the targeted content. For example, digital signage can detect that a shopper entering a store is a female with curly hair. Using AI the shopper is shown store items that customers like her have purchased. Artificial Intelligence can also predict other offer aspects, like the quoted price necessary to make a conversion or which clients are more prone to making more than one purchase. Machines have the power to process huge amounts of data, quickly decide which data is most relevant, and then segment appropriately. AI Will Transform Digital Communications AI solutions for digital communications are becoming even more customizable, allowing the optimization of digital advertising and algorithm-generated content. For example, AI can determine which ad to display by interpreting audience engagement levels and comparing them to historical behavior data. In fact, digital signage networks that use AI increase content relevancy by up to 50 percent. As these tools evolve they will reach a point where they are able to surpass human ability. Gartner predicts by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed by artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence can help improve the productivity, efficiency, and profitability of your digital communications.

How Digital Communications Can Transform HR

Recent advancements in digital communications are disrupting a wide variety of industries, including transportation, insurance, and hotels. It’s also disrupting departments such as human resources. Once viewed as a support function, Human Resources (HR) is now poised to take a leadership position in digital transformation. HR departments are exploring new applications, platforms, and ways of working. HR Leaders are Driving Organizations to Embrace Digital Tools According to Deloitte, 56 percent of companies are redesigning their human resources programs to leverage digital and mobile tools. Additionally, 41 percent are actively building mobile apps to deliver HR services and 33 percent of human resources teams are using AI to provide HR solutions to their employees. Over the past few years, many companies have replaced their legacy talent systems with integrated HR platforms. Now that the technology is in place, human resources has turned its focus to people, work, and platforms to create a set of practices Deloitte calls “digital HR.” This strategy has become essential to creating the systems and tools necessary to attract and retain young, digitally savvy workers who are comfortable doing things themselves and sharing information in a transparent way. These workers demand an integrated, digital experience at work, designed around teams, productivity, and empowerment. It is up to human resources to deliver this digital experience Advanced Technology is Changing the Way HR Works Although in its infancy, AI is used in a number of innovative ways in HR. Chatbot services, such as Wade and Wendy, and Mya, help companies acquire talent, convert job seekers into applicants, and deliver informed recommendations throughout the recruiting process. The technology does this by showing prospective employees job opportunities in the company, helping with their career strategies, and allowing them to better understand the organization’s culture. Additionally, artificial Intelligence is utilized in software to help human resource professionals write better job descriptions. Crowdsourcing is used by Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth and LinkedIn Salary to collect anonymous data on millions of salaries. This allows professionals to compare their compensation package against those offered in similar jobs by city, tenure, industry, and even company. Embracing Digital Communications Can Make Organizations More Efficient Leveraging digital tools empowers HR professionals to help employees do their jobs better. Digital signage enhances employee experience by providing real-time information about KPIs. As well as, highlighting goals, and sharing  news, weather and safety information. Mobile apps enable organizations to stay connected with employees out in the field. These apps provide employees with relevant company information and access to necessary tools. Integrating digital signage and mobile apps provides a new way to tackle training and coaching across a dispersed workforce. The workplace of the future is digital. HR teams that embrace digital communications will transform their organization, enhancing employee experience and creating competitive advantage.

Standalone Digital Communications Displays Are Dead

Standalone Digital Signage is Dead In the early days of digital signage, screens were often standalone displays that didn’t communicate with others. The technology had not matured enough to create a fully integrated system. This, coupled with high costs, kept digital displays standalone. However, much has changed since then. With the barriers of complex connections and high costs gone, digital communications can now leverage data to create relevant and personalized experiences. The standard is for all displays and content to live on one network. The days of the standalone displays are officially dead. In its place is the ability for any space to be connected digitally — from campuses to offices to hospitals to just about anywhere! Connected Networks Streamline Content Creation Before the connected era, standalone displays required every screen “owner” to create their own content. This was inefficient, time-consuming,  and the content often was inconsistent. It created communications silos, where each installation had no ability to talk to another or share content. A connected system changes all of that. With a network, you have the ability to create content on a standardized template and share it across all of your screens. For example, hospitals, which are often massive in size and have multiple buildings, can connect every display on one network. Each department or group at the facility may be responsible for their content, but the content is now cohesive and usable on any screen. Welcome screens may add some content from the food service screens announcing lunch specials. Or, the digital screens in the cafeteria, may run, with their menus, a reminder to complete a satisfaction survey or get a flu shot. Networking your digital signage improves branding, allows for messaging to be unified and creates opportunities for cross-promotion. It’s also a significant time saver, streamlining the process can equate to significant time and cost savings. IoT Devices’ Data Collection Influences Digital Communications A major part of any connected space today is IoT (Internet of Things) devices. These devices are capable of making things easier for those in the spaces. They can track and store data as well as communicate with digital displays. Consider a busy parking lot and real-time parking availability. Beacons fire off data identifying where parking is available and where it’s occupied. That data is then publishable via digital communications on screens at the entrance, through mobile apps or through colored lights over the spaces. From college campuses to airports to shopping centers, parking is frustrating and can take considerable time. With this data, drivers know more quickly where they kind find a parking spot. In terms of security and safety, sensor data could prompt real-time communications on every screen. Whether it is a fire alarm or other safety alarms triggered by disasters like tornadoes or hurricanes, a digital network can enable a quick systemwide message. If you’re struggling with a disconnected digital system, it’s time to move to the new standard. With Omnivex, our platform enables you to connect, distribute, present and automate messaging to any screen.    

Does Your Business Need the Internet of Things and Blockchain?

Experts expect global spending on information technology (IT) to reach an astounding $3.7 trillion in 2018. That’s 4.5 percent more than the spending in 2017, despite relative uncertainty in the market. Growth in several areas of IT will influence this spending, notably the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain. With IT developing so quickly, it’s increasingly important that business decision makers make informed choices on how to move forward. Many businesses today are prioritizing customer satisfaction and connectivity. To move a company in this direction, executives must decide if IoT and blockchain can help their business. What is the Internet of Things? The “Internet of Things” may sound like just a trendy buzzword, but it’s a phenomenon that affects most people in the developed world in 2018. In short, the Internet of Things is the connectivity in everyday devices. Our society has created the Internet of Things by making coffee pots, refrigerators, thermostats, light bulbs, cars and many other objects into data transmitters and receivers.  Kevin Ashton is the expert credited with coining the term. He said, "If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss, and cost." What Will the Internet of Things Change? Many experts may answer this question with one word: everything. It’s true that the Internet of Things has the potential to impact most parts of daily life. However, the leading industries that this technology seeks to change right now are energy, healthcare, retail, logistics, and manufacturing. Whether it’s the step counter on your wrist or the quality-control device on your machinery, it will be nearly impossible to avoid the Internet of Things in coming years. Unlike other emerging technologies, such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things is not a disruptive innovation. Instead, it is an additive. Rather than demolishing existing businesses (like Uber did for taxis), the Internet of Things will drive savvy companies forward. How to Implement the Internet of Things The best ways to use the Internet of Things in any business will depend on the company’s needs, industry, and goals. Decision makers should consider where they can get the most value from the Internet of Things. For example, some businesses may want to use this technology to better understand its customers and their needs. Another company may understand their customers well enough but could use the Internet of Things to make daily operations more efficient. The chances are that if a business faces a fundamental problem, there is some way the Internet of Things can help.  What is Blockchain? The term “blockchain” is often used side-by-side with “bitcoin,” which means that sometimes people use these terms interchangeably. While they are interconnected, blockchain and bitcoin are separate terms. Before a professional can decide if blockchain is right for the business, it's essential to understand these two terms fully.  Bitcoin, in short, is a cyber-currency. Rather than spending a dollar or some other government-backed currency, bitcoin is entirely online. Blockchain is the type of technology that makes spending bitcoin possible. Blockchain technology creates a record that is not centralized, which is essential to bitcoin and what makes it different than sending a payment of currency over a system like PayPal. Furthermore, blockchain technology is as impossible to change as the serial number on a dollar bill. Is Blockchain Disruptive? Unlike the IoT, blockchain is an entirely disruptive innovation. In fact, turning the financial industry on its head is at the core of these technologies. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, many people went in search of an alternative to traditional banking. The answer was bitcoin. Bitcoin would need specialized technology to make it work, and blockchain was born from that need. Do All Businesses Need Blockchain? While blockchain may not become as ubiquitous as the IoT (at least, not as quickly), there are plenty of business applications for this emerging technology. Blockchain technology could help a business when it’s time for an audit. It can also help create better contracts and make supply chains more transparent. Whether your business decides to implement both of these technologies, one, or neither, it is essential for decision makers to stay on top of trends in technology. Things can change quickly in IT, and you can get left behind if you move too slowly.

Does Your Business Need Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence?

If it feels like you hear something new about virtual reality (VR) or artificial intelligence (AI) every day, you’re not alone. Like other communications technology, these areas have grown at astonishing rates. In fact, the virtual and augmented reality market may be worth 215 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. Likewise, there have been 14 times more startups in the AI space than in 2000. As a business professional, all these new technologies can leave your head spinning. Each one promises to revolutionize your business, making it difficult to understand the real potential of each new technological release. Don’t let the speed and intensity of these industries turn you away from great communications technologies. Instead, take a moment to explore emerging VR, AR, and AI technologies to foster informed purchasing decisions. How do I decide which technologies to integrate? Right now, organizations are facing a massive wave of disruption. The technology on top right now could be gone as quickly as it came. While this tsunami of disruption is great for innovation, it can be dizzying for businesses. The best way to decide if a new technology is worth your investment is to consider if and how your employees or customers can use it. That may seem obvious, but it's not always simple to know exactly what you will use. Consider if the innovation adds real value or if it's just a shiny new object. Is it additive or disruptive? Virtual reality versus augmented reality Virtual Reality (VR) has gotten lots of media in recent years. The equipment creates an entirely immersive experience, which for some businesses is the whole appeal. For example, gaming companies are leveraging virtual reality to create a three dimensional environment that the player can interact with during the game. The high expense of VR may ultimately deter most organizations from using it and has definitely impacted it being widely adopted. Instead, its brother technology, Augmented Reality (AR), is better poised for widespread adoption and longevity. AR adds to the existing world rather than creating an immersive world. When we look at gaming again the widespread popularity of Pokemon Go illustrates how easy to use this technology is and how widespread its adoption can be. However AR isn’t just for gamers, there a multitude of business applications from wayfinding to digital signage to advertising. Experts expect augmented reality to grow faster than its fully immersive counterpart. In fact, some predict the AR market to increase from $2.35 billion in 2015 to $117 billion in 2022. Companies like Pepsi Max have used this technology effectively in their signage, and you can expect to see more AR in advertising soon.  What About Artificial Intelligence? If your mind automatically goes to the Terminator when you think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), think again. AI has been in homes and businesses across the globe for years. Every time someone asks their Amazon Echo a question, they utilize AI. In the business setting, AI has detected credit card fraud for years. However, while AI is an established part of our society, it is far from reaching its full potential. AI will allow businesses to collect more and better data. Perhaps that is why experts expect spending on artificial intelligence in retail to grow from $2 billion in 2018 to $7.3 in 2022. AI will also allow businesses to better understand their customers and offer better services. With many organizations focused on improving employee and customer experience, AI will become a valuable tool. The Bottom Line In this time of incredible change, it is essential to keep up with emerging technology. However, it's equally important not to get swept away in the wave of disruption and think about what is important to your business and what objectives you are trying to achieve.

AI is changing the face of retail

Digital signage is now a familiar site in the modern world. From displaying menus at restaurants to offering directions in a building, digital signage feeds audiences information in a dynamic way. But how much more valuable could this channel be? Can digital signage take on a role to personalize messages or respond to a situation in real-time? Yes, with help from artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning. Deep learning turns data into action With deep learning, AI-driven platforms evaluate large data sets, typically in real-time, leading to specific reactions. AI engines have access to huge amounts of data. Data, of course, isn’t any good unless it’s analyzed and delivers an actionable response. AI is all about automation. It doesn’t necessarily “think” for you. What it can do is draw conclusions, find patterns, and react to situations. The platform can “learn” over time, making it an even more valuable tool. So, what does the future of digital signage look like with a boost from AI and deep learning? Personalized Experiences Every customer wants to feel important and have a personalized experience. AI and deep learning are the tools to make it happen. Soon, digital signage platforms, powered by AI and deep learning, could actually recognize customers. Just like local stores once new all their customers’ names, digital signage could act as a greeter. The digital signage could recognize the customer, say hello, and offer them useful information like what’s on sale, based on the customer’s buying history. While an amazing fete of technology, organizations should present this as a way to personalize what you see, becoming a benefit rather than a privacy concern. More Relevant Content In-store shopping continues to decline in favor of online shopping. That means retailers need to create experiences for shoppers who visit their brick-and-mortar stores. Many have already been using digital signage to promote sales or offer customers an in-depth look at products. AI can take it to the next level with personalization. A business already has historical data on its customers and their behaviors. Specific content is already created that plays at certain times or days. That’s the baseline that informs what content these consumers would most want to see. With AI and deep learning, there are two ways to improve content: either by putting the data in context or creating personalized ads. With context, the system is already starting with known behaviors like an increase in purchases of sunglasses after sunny days. But that won’t always be true. Deep learning adds context to this “rule” by capturing and integrating content that informs the situation. Maybe it’s a rainy day, which the system could detect with weather data. Or, the store knows, via sensors, that no one is shopping for sunglasses. This “learning” allows for the signage to “overrule” the sunglasses promo, switching it to items shoppers were currently looking at or umbrellas. Deep learning by an AI platform enables targeting down to the individual. If a male shopper enters a clothing store, digital signage could detect that the shopper was in his 20s wearing hiking boots. The system takes this information then reviews what items are in stock or on sale that men who purchased hiking boots also bought. What it finds could then be communicated to the shopper in almost real-time. Not only is the customer seeing personalized information it will prompt them to look at these items and make more purchases. How Will AI Evolve Your Digital Signage? The investment in digital signage and AI will continue to grow. The global digital signage market is expected to grow to $31.71 billion by 2025. While the AI market is predicted to rise to nearly $60 billion by 2025. These sectors are seeing phenomenal growth, which means organizations all over the world are investing in them to deliver better results. Intelligent digital communications are changing the world. Are you ready to be a part of it?  

Big data in digital communications

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. This infographic looks at the volume, velocity, variety, veracity, and value of the data in organizations today.

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.”

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