How Digital Experience Management Differs from Content Management

Posted by on October 12, 2017

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When considering Digital Experience Management and Content Management, it’s best to have a concrete definition of both terms to fully understand how they differ.

What is digital experience?

Digital experience includes a number of things, including communications, processes and products from every digital aspect that engages an audience. This includes wearables, use of the web and mobile devices, beacons and recognition. The information gathered is analyzed to provide insight into customer relationships, identity, and intentions as they interact with businesses and organizations. This helps determine how companies deliver these digital experiences for their customers for future success.

What is content management?

Content management is also known as CM or CMS. It involves the collection, acquisition, editing, tracking, access and delivery of both structured and unstructured digital information. This content includes business records, financial data, customer service data, images, video, marketing information and other digital information.

With content management, you create and manage content, finding ways to generate awareness across multiple channels to reach more people. While having content is good, it’s more about offering the entire “experience” to the user that will give them more enhanced, enriched engagement. Content Management Systems have continuously evolved, integrating contextual digital experiences. This requires a comprehensive and effective strategy, the right tools, the right approach, and most of all, the right technology. An optimal digital experience embraces all these elements to provide personalized, responsive, and consistent experiences for every user you engage.

How is this done?

Digital experience (DX) management works in conjunction with content management, but is more comprehensive and fulfilling to the user. Think about the different outlets that engage customers – websites, social media, microsites, text messages, mobile apps and more. All these elements offer a complete digital experience. The processes and technology that provide these customized, consistent experiences is the management of it all.

One of the best ways they differ is that in digital experience management, the distribution channels all have objectives to follow and limitations. These help drive specific requirements for content and how to manage it. For instance, your tone and CTA will be different based on the digital platform you use. Additionally, when interacting with content, users want personalized experiences based on analytics you have determined appropriate for that channel. This allows them to seamlessly interact within that experience.

Web publishing used to be the first line of engagement, but not anymore There are too many channels users interact with that require ways in which publishers can gather feedback to quickly adjust their content. Without this management model in place, the system will not work.

Tools of the trade

There are a number of tools and systems to manage the digital experience. There are options for advanced analytics, to enhanced marketing tools that manage content based on channel. There’s also an emerging breed of Digital Experience Platforms (DXP), which provide businesses with an architecture for delivering consistent and connected customer experiences across channels, while gathering valuable insight and digitizing business operations.

When you have systems that work well together, being able to track successes becomes easier. When determining which tools will work best, you may want to start with product mapping. As a basis, the digital experience tool should include a combination of inbound marketing automation, analytics, and content management. Getting a system developed to meet all your needs is key.

As different avenues of engagement now drive the customer experience rather than the web, delivering a comprehensive and holistic experience is key. The digital experience is more complete, diverse and authentic – future thinking, while integrating content is how it should be done.

Machine Learning is State-of-the-Art AI, and It Can Help Enhance the Customer Experience

Posted by on October 05, 2017

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Is artificial intelligence the same as machine learning? Machine learning is really a subset of artificial intelligence, and a more precise way to view it is that it is state-of-the-art AI. Machine learning is a “current application of AI” and is centered around the notion that “we should…give machines access to data and let them learn for themselves.” There is no limit to that data (or Big Data).  The challenge is harnessing it for useful purposes.

In his Forbes Magazine piece, contributor Bernard Marr, describes AI as the “broader concept of machines being able to carry out tasks in a way we would consider ‘smart.’” So, AI is any technique that allows computers to imitate human intelligence through logic, “if-then” rules, decisions trees and its crucial component, machine learning.  Machine learning, as an application of AI, employs abstruse (i.e., difficult to understand) statistical techniques, which improve machine performance through exposure to Big Data.

AI has broad applications…

Companies around the world use AI in information technology, marketing, finance and accounting, and customer service. According to  a Harvard Business Review article, IT garners the lion’s share of popularity in AI activities, ranging in applications that detect and deflect security intrusions, to automating production management work. Beyond security and industry, AI has broad applications in improving customer experiences with automatic ticketing, voice- and face-activated chat bots, and much more.

Machine learning is data analysis on steroids…

AI’s subset, machine learning, automates its own model building. Programmers design and use algorithms that are iterative, in that the models learn by repeated exposure to data. As the models encounter new data, they adapt and learn from previous computations. The repeatable decisions and results are based on experience, and the learning grows exponentially.

The return of machine learning

Having experienced somewhat of a slump in popularity, AI and machine learning have, according to one software industry commentator, Jnan Dash, seen “a sudden rise” in their deployment. Dash points to an acceleration in AI/machine learning technology and a market value jump “from $8B this year to $47B by 2020.”

Machine learning, according to one Baidu scientist will be the “new electricity,” which will transform technology. In other words, AI and machine learning will be to our future economy what electricity was to 20th century industry.

The big players are pushing AI and machine learning. Apple, Google, IBM, Microsoft and social media giants Facebook and Twitter are accelerating promoting machine learning. One Google spokesman, for example, recognizes machine learning as “a core transformative way in which we are rethinking everything we are doing.”

How Machine learning has transformed General Electric…

A striking example of how AI and machine learning are transforming one of the oldest American industries, General Electric, is highlighted in this Forbes piece. Fueled by the power of Big Data, GE has leveraged AI and machine learning in a remarkable—and ongoing—migration from an industrial, consumer products, and financial services firm “to a ‘digital industrial’ company” focusing on the “Industrial Internet.” As a result, GE realized $7 billion in software sales in 2016.

GE cashed in on data analytics and AI “to make sense of the massive volumes of Big Data” captured by its own industrial devices.  Their insights on how the “Internet of Things” and machine connectivity were only the first steps in digital transformation led them to the realization that “making machines smarter required embedding AI into the machines and devices.”

After acquiring the necessary start-up expertise, GE figured out the best ways to collect all that data, analyze it, and generate the insights to make equipment run more efficiently. That, in turn, optimized every operation from supply chain to consumers.

5 ways machine learning can also enhance the customer experience…

Machine learning can integrate business data to achieve big savings and efficiency to enhance customer experiences, by:

  1. Reading a customer’s note and figure out whether the note is a complaint or a compliment
  2. Aggregating the customer’s personal and census information to predict buying preferences
  3. Evaluating a customer’s online shopping history or social media participation and place a new product offering in an email, webpage visit, or social media activity
  4. Intuitively segmenting customers through mass customer data gathering, grouping, and targeting ads for each customer segment
  5. Automating customer contact points with voice- or face-activated “chat bots”

How Rivet Logic can make you future-ready and customer friendly

Your business may be nowhere near the size of General Electric. You do, however, have a level playing field when it comes to leveraging Big Data and machine learning products to a winning strategy. What we do is help you plan that strategy by:

  • Aligning your business goals with technology—What are the sources of your own data and how can they harness the power of NoSQL databases, for example?
  • Designing your user experience—What do you need? A custom user interface, or a mobile app with intuitively simple user interfaces?

We can do that and much more. Contact us and we’ll help make your business future-ready to collect, harvest, and leverage all the great things you are doing now.

Building Brand Advocates: Customer Experience Strategies that Work

Posted by on September 19, 2017

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Simply providing customers with reasonable access to your information and a way to purchase your products or services is no longer “good enough”. Today’s consumer is incredibly savvy and has high expectations, so if you’re expecting them to become brand advocates without some optimization on your part to create a superior customer experience you are in for a nasty shock. Think about the brands that you recommend to your friends and family members. Are they the brands that put barriers between you and the product, or do they provide an intuitive and friendly experience that leaves you with a good feeling about the brand? If you’ve wondered what that special sauce is that keeps customers coming back for more, keep reading to see how you can empower your fans and turn them into raving brand advocates.

Know Your Audience (and Target Your Message)

The first step in building brand advocates is fully understanding your audience. Do you know who your best customers are — those that come back repeatedly even when you’re not having a sale? The one-off buyers that only come around when you’re having a sale are not your target market, as they’re likely shopping around your competitors looking for sales as well. However, the individuals who are willing to purchase at full price are the ones who should be your first market. Offer them incentives to spread the word about your brand by providing them with VIP status: early access to new offerings or sales, make them part of an elite focus group or other non-monetary incentives. Targeting a specific message to these loyal customers can help them turn the corner into true brand advocates who amplify your marketing message.

Empower Your Service Team

No one likes being put on hold to be transferred to another department, especially because you’re generally a bit upset already at having to make a phone call for service. The situation becomes worse when a customer is required to repeat their needs . . . each time they’re transferred! Ensure that your customer service staff is fully empowered to solve customer problems the first time whenever possible and within set parameters. However, there are times that they’ll need to pull in a colleague. When this happens, be sure that the customer does not have to repeat their story — this causes a negative feeling and doesn’t build customer loyalty because of the disconnected feel of their experience.

Put a Face to Your Brand

This could mean a variety of things, but be sure that your brand has personality. Whenever possible, respond to requests as a human, with a name and face attached, instead of responding as a remote brand. Humans crave relationships and engagements with other people, and providing that type of interaction ensures your customer has a memorable experience. Take a cue from the CEO of Zappos who treats long call times as a benefit that cannot be overstated, and a useful tool in building brand loyalty. Treat people like individuals, and make marketing emails and interactions more of a personal experience instead of a stuffy, remote corporate response.

. . . But Don’t be Creepy

Overdoing personalization can be much worse than not addressing your audience as individuals, so always be aware that there’s a fine line between friendly and creepy. If you want to know more about your customers to enhance their experience, simply ask them for details! This can often be the best way to determine which of your products and services is the ideal fit for their needs. Few organizations have the deep pockets of Amazon or Netflix to form the type of recommendation engines that seem to know what you need before you even need it (and deliver that information to you regardless of where you’re browsing!), but asking a few simple questions and tailoring your responses doesn’t have to be expensive. Numerous personal goods companies request your favorite colors, design choices, and sizes to offer you the options that will interest you the most.

Add Value to Your Conversations

Some brands seem to be reading a marketing manual that states they must put out a certain number of content pieces per day, regardless of the value of that content. Don’t waste your audience’s time by sifting through low-quality information. Instead, strive to provide unique value when you offer information. Re-posting great content from the past isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. With the cyclical nature of social media, you’re unlikely to hit the same people in your audience twice — even if you try!

While measuring engagement can be important, be sure you’re measuring the right pieces of data to determine the impact of your customer experience strategies. There’s a mental shift to be made from impressions to engagements for ads, for instance. While impressions are great and help build brand awareness, true advocacy comes from customers sharing the ideas and resources that you put forth.

At Rivet Logic, we help brands understand their audiences and deliver riveting digital experiences that surprise and delight customers. Learn more about our Customer Experience Management solutions.

Approaching the C-Suite Regarding Digital Transformation

Posted by on September 06, 2017

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Even though digital transformation may be the next necessary step for a business, it can often be difficult to get the entire c-suite on board. It’s easy to understand why: on the surface, a digital transformation can appear to be a business disruption. It can seem both costly and unnecessary to those who aren’t aware of the technology that is now available to them… and it can be a difficult pitch to a board of investors. Nevertheless, digital transformation is absolutely critical to a thriving enterprise.

Understanding the Major Reservations Regarding Digital Transformation

Though it can seem as though the c-suite is being stubborn about transitioning to new technology, it’s understandable why a complete transformation of digital infrastructure may cause them to hesitate. There are generally a few major reservations regarding digital transformation:

  • Cost. Any investment in software is likely to be an unscheduled expense for the business. Just a decade or two ago, digital transformation could be incredibly costly, necessitating new hardware, licenses, IT training, and more. Most of the c-suite will still remember the days when a digital transformation meant dramatically revamping the entirety of the technology of an office, from telephones to personal computers.
  • Disruption. Likewise, digital transformation has historically been the source of significant disruption. Changing over both a hardware and software infrastructure leads to confusion and a loss of productivity, which can lasts anywhere from days to months. It’s the old adage: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If the c-suite doesn’t see problems with current operations, they are going to be very hesitant to change anything.
  • Productivity. Employees aren’t the only ones hesitant to train in new technology. C-suite members themselves often don’t want to have to learn new technology; they may feel as though it’s going to damage their productivity and that they aren’t going to have access to the tools that they want to use.
  • Future needs. Finally, the c-suite may be hesitant to advance technology because they know that they’re going to have to advance technology again in the future; in other words, they may not want to upgrade now, because “we will just have to upgrade later.” Though there is a flaw in this logic, it can still present significant hesitation.

Of these concerns, the cost and potential disruption to the business are usually the primary concerns. Addressing these two major concerns is usually the best way to bring them on your side.

Addressing Concerns Related to Cost and Business Interruption

  • Break down the costs. New digital transformation technologies, such as cloud-based systems, are not as expensive to upgrade to as a physical infrastructure would be. When breaking down costs, additionally show the c-suite how much money this would save in the long run.
  • Focus on pain points. To show the value of a digital transformation, you should first show the problems that the business is currently facing and the areas in which technology could improve them. The c-suite needs to be shown that this upgrade is necessary and useful.
  • Demonstrate the solutions. Many of these solutions are easier and more intuitive than the c-suite could otherwise expect. Showing the c-suite the software solutions and familiarizing them will give them a better picture of the software’s benefits.
  • Create a roadmap for the future. The c-suite should be aware that many of these digital transformation solutions have their own future-proofing built-in, which means they will iteratively upgrade rather than having to engage in transformation again and again.

Getting the c-suite on board with digital transformation is simply a matter of showing and proving value. It is the c-suite’s responsibility to protect the business and its bottom line at all costs. What may seem like reluctance to evolve are simply well-intentioned reservations that need to be countered with facts, statistics, and a clear plan for change. Once these pieces fall into place, the c-suite will be able to see the true value of digital transformation.

Improving Customer Relationships Through Mobile Strategy

Posted by on August 29, 2017

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As more consumers move towards using their mobile devices as their first and often only method of interaction, it becomes necessary for businesses to engage in a clear and comprehensive mobile strategy. Mobile strategies encompass new, innovative ways of engaging with customers, in addition to ways of measuring mobile accessibility and the success of a mobile campaign. Customer relationships can be vastly improved through the heightened connectivity of the mobile age — and companies that aren’t paying attention to this could easily be left behind.

Choosing Between Native and Web Applications

The first decision your business is likely to make is whether it’s going to invest in either native or web-based applications. Native applications are applications directly installed on a user’s device. It requires further engagement to convince a user to install a native application, but the native application is more likely to be effective — the user is going to see and interact with it more often, and it will have advanced engagement features such as push notifications. Web applications, on the other hand, are really just responsively designed websites, and though they can be accessed through a mobile device, they do not give additional functionality on the device itself. On the other hand, web applications are more affordable and more likely to be accessed.

Understanding the Customer Benefits to Mobile Accessibility

Customers today are looking for certain features through mobile devices. It is these features that a company will need to provide if they are to develop a solid and successful mobile strategy:

  • Self-servicing through a mobile app. Most customers today prefer to be able to find information themselves rather than having to work through a customer service representative — and this is advantageous both to the business and its customers.
  • Fast purchasing and check out. Being able to complete an e-commerce transaction on-the-fly is what draws many customers to purchasing apps. Companies need to be aware that the faster the ordering is, the more likely the customer is to commit; this is why “one-click” ordering features have become so successful.
  • Ease of contact through multiple channels. Customers want to be able to email, instant message, or call a company quickly through their mobile application. Different customers and different situations require different venues of contact, so having these choices is important.

Of course, mobile strategies are also changing and customers are starting to desire even more from their devices. Leading companies are creating instant mobile chats run by artificially intelligent bots, for example, which can offer even better self service. Companies need to keep on top of these changes to remain competitive.

Developing Your Metrics for Success

The goal of a mobile strategy is to increase engagement, customer acquisition, customer retention, and overall sales. In order to track the success of a mobile strategy, a business must fist settle on identifiable metrics that will define whether or not the mobile strategy is truly working. Metrics may include metrics on the strategy itself, such as how many installations a corporate app has achieved, or metrics on the overall performance of the business, such as improved ROI since the mobile strategy was first conceived. Regardless, the metrics must remain consistent across reporting to identify any potential strategies for optimization.

Improving customer relationships through a comprehensive mobile strategy is about more than simply providing mobile features — it’s about developing these features in a way that they are attractive to customers and that they ultimately fulfill the customer’s needs. With that in mind, it becomes exceptionally important to test out these features and optimize them over time. Mobile strategies are accelerating and evolving as they become more important to the core operations of many businesses.

Top 10 New Features of Liferay DXP

Posted by on August 24, 2017

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With so many choices for today’s consumers a click or swipe away, the companies that stand out will be those who deliver highly personalized experiences in the channels of their customer’s choosing. That’s why Liferay has redesigned the next evolution of it’s platform, the Digital Experience Platform (DXP), with new functionality to equip businesses with the tools to create, manage and deliver end-to-end digital experiences across all digital channels.

In this post, we’ll share some of our favorite new features in Liferay DXP…

Modularity

Liferay DXP’s new modular architecture empowers businesses to build powerful, adaptable, lightweight and innovative systems for the digital world. This functionality has been distributed into hundreds of modules, allowing you to use only what you need for your project. Built using a framework that allows for modular deployment of applications, portlets and libraries, Liferay DXP’s modular architecture gives businesses extensibility unthinkable until now and an elegant development model.

Audience Targeting

The new version of Audience Targeting contains advanced segmentation of audiences with new segmentation rules. Visitor segments can be created based on user profile custom fields, user language, IP address, sign up date and last login date. A report builder is available to generate reports for segments and campaigns. Additional reporting capabilities include the ability to view and download the list of users of each segment. Finally, targeted assets can be filtered in the Asset Publisher using advanced filtering settings.

New Mobile Experience Features

Liferay’s updated mobile tools enable you to create applications for collaboration and social, while ensuring that the information on your phone remains completely secure. New features include:

  • A new set of screenlets for Liferay Screens, including Image Gallery, Blogs, Comments, Ratings, Generic Asset Display, PDF Display, Video Display, Audio Display and Image Display.
  • Improved support for structured web content in the Web Content Screenlet.

Elasticsearch

The default search engine in Liferay DXP is now Elasticsearch for improved monitoring, tuning and clustering. Subscribers have the option to extend Liferay Support with support for Elasticsearch installations.

Media Selector & Inline Image Editor

The ability to upload a picture, select an uploaded file, and even take a picture or video to add to your content is now easy with Liferay’s new media selector. This feature is also highly extensible so that new sources of media (e.g., Google, Flickr, YouTube) can be added to any application using the selector.

In addition, the new image editor allows for simple image editing directly from within Liferay, eliminating the need for an external tool while creating content. Easily resize, crop and make color adjustments to any image uploaded to Documents and Media from within blogs or any other application that uses an item selector. The image editor is easy to customize and allows developers to create and deploy tools that modify images.

Single Page Applications

Thanks to Liferay’s own Senna.js project, all applications (even custom ones) are automatically configured as Single Page Applications (SPAs). Only the pieces of a page that are necessary are loaded, leading to reduced bandwidth usage, load times and rendering time in the browser. This means users will perceive faster loading and performance on the new Liferay platform.

Improved Collaboration Features

The changes Liferay has made to collaboration features give users more ways to communicate and share information, helping to eliminate departmental silos and foster better collaboration. Some of the improvements include:

  • Blogs experience – Improvements to the blog experience include the ability to set cover images and more convenient and reliable image uploading and sharing, along with additional features for RSS support, threaded user and guest comments, tags and labels, social bookmarking links, email notifications of blog replies and an entry rating system.
  • Social Collaboration Apps - Microblogs, contact center, announcements, ability to invite members and other social collaboration features are now available out-of-the-box through multiple dedicated apps.
  • User Mentions - Users can now @mention another user within blogs and comments. Mentioned users will receive a notification that they have been mentioned in that particular asset.

Modern, Fast Site Creation

A series of improvements for creating dynamic and visually stunning sites provides more power to administrators for faster site creation. A new set of modern themes and site templates available in Liferay Marketplace provides a foundation for quickly creating your websites with features such as application decorators, application display templates, sets of pages and more.

Simple Content Authoring With AlloyEditor

Authors now have access at any time to Liferay’s powerful authoring applications thanks to AlloyEditor, a WYSIWYG editor built on top of CKEditor. Designed using React, a JavaScript library developed by Facebook, AlloyEditor is designed to help easily create web content. Developers are able to use the OSGi framework to customize CKEditor’s con guration in two ways: modifying the configuration and adding new behavior.

Enterprise-Ready Forms

A brand new application for defining and publishing advanced dynamic forms allows for complex multicolumn layouts and the ability to span several pages. The new application offers more control over form fields, such as the ability to customize fields or hide them with visibility expressions. Forms can be published in any Liferay site simply by dropping the form into a page or providing a URL that links directly to a full page form. An additional feature is the ability to pull in data from an external source (i.e., “Data Providers”). Once the administrator configures the Data Provider, the data can be shared across any form. On the roadmap is the ability to use the Forms API to render the form engine, even for sites that use Liferay Forms alongside another technology. Liferay Forms is planned to eventually replace the Web Form app and the Dynamic Data List (DDL) Forms from previous versions.

Well, there you go, some of our favorite new features of Liferay DXP. What are your favorites?

If you’re still running on an older version of Liferay Portal and are interested in upgrading to Liferay DXP, we can help! For a limited time, we’re even offering a 50% discount off an initial assessment!

Optimizing Your Customer Experience Management

Posted by on August 15, 2017

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A customer’s experience with your organization may, in fact, be more important than the quality of either your products or your services. Customers today want to feel valued — they want to be able to have their needs both anticipated and fulfilled. Improving upon and optimizing your customer’s experiences is called customer experience management. Through new technologies, there are many ways that you can improve upon your customer experience management and, additionally, your ROI.

Integrate Your CRM, Marketing Automation, and Media Solutions Into a Single Infrastructure

Optimizing customer experience begins with consolidating and analyzing your data. To that end, integrating your CRM and marketing solutions can be an incredibly effective first step. Comprehensive CRM and marketing automation solutions — such as Salesforce, Marketo and HubSpot — almost universally come with third-party integrations out-of-the-box. For more distinct infrastructures, APIs, importing and exporting, or custom programming may be required. Regardless, this will create a single infrastructure that contains all of your customer information.

Not only does this improve analytics, but it also improves customer care overall. Both customer service representatives and sales personnel will have all of the information they need to quickly service the customers and get them the information that they need. Marketing campaigns will be able to target customers based on their prior behaviors — and will be able to prompt them towards purchasing more effectively.

Develop an Omni-Channel Approach through Content Management Systems

Content Management Systems (CMS) make it easier to push content directly to a multitude of different channels. Social media, email marketing, and websites can all be consolidated under a single content system — so that a single push of the button can update customers on a variety of platforms. Omni-channel approaches make it easier to scale your organization upwards and to reach out to individuals across multiple demographics and interests. Through regular content distribution, companies can achieve better organic growth and improve upon their inbound marketing.

A CMS is particularly useful for lead procurement and demand generation. With the use of a CMS, a strong and strategic digital marketing campaign can ensure that leads come to the business rather than the business having to procure leads. Organizations are thus able to improve upon their ROI, extend their marketing reach, and refocus their budget to additional areas of advertising and support.

Explore Big Data, Such as Emotional Analytics and Predictive Intelligence

Emotional analytics and big data can work together to develop new strategies for customer acquisition and retention. Algorithms are now available that are substantially advanced that they can look at patterns of customer behavior and determine the best way to service that customer. At its most complex, emotional analytics can involve motion capture and facial analysis, in order to detect micro-expressions that may aid in detecting the customer’s emotional state. But this isn’t the type of analytics that would most commonly be used by a business. Businesses, instead, would most likely use text-based analysis or verbal analysis, to detect the best leads based on their word usage and the amount of emotive statements they have made.

Not all big data is so complex. Predictive intelligence can also be much simpler, such as looking at a customer’s past purchases and predicting when they will need to make further purchases. Predictive intelligence is used to fantastic effect on many e-commerce marketplaces, to suggest items that may be relevant to the consumer based on the items that they have either purchased or browsed. Predictive intelligence can also be used to detect and identify certain patterns, such as whether a customer may have abandoned a shopping cart due to high shipping charges.

Create Knowledge Management Systems for Superior Customer Service

Customers today often prefer to self-service. A solid customer service experience is, thus, often one in which the customer does not need to contact the organization at all. New help desk and support solutions can be nearly entirely automated, so that customers can get the answers they need out of a knowledge management system. This management system may take the form of a helper website or even a live chat with a bot. When self-service fails, customers prefer a variety of ways to communicate: through email, phone, instant messaging, or even text message.

By providing these additional resources for customers, organizations not only assist the customer in getting what they want, but also reduce their own administrative overhead. The more customer service can be automated, the less time and money the organization has to sink into technical support and customer service personnel.

It’s an exciting time for organizations looking to improve upon their customer experience. Through better customer experience management, companies can fine-tune their operations and ensure that their customers keep coming back.

Moving from Legacy Systems With Digital Transformation

Posted by on August 08, 2017

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Digital transformation. It may sound intimidating, but it’s vital to the operations of every organization. From small, single proprietorship businesses to large, sprawling enterprises, there comes a time when the organization is no longer being served by its technology. Digital transformation is a process through which organizations are able to upgrade and improve upon their technology, moving away from the legacy systems that may be holding them back.

The Danger and Inefficiency of Legacy Systems

  • Legacy systems are often unsupported. Businesses may find themselves continually using outdated legacy solutions because they simply don’t want to upgrade — but eventually the company producing these systems halts their support. It can become increasingly more difficult (and more expensive) to find technicians able to repair these systems.
  • Legacy systems aren’t compatible with new solutions. Though the temptation may be to upgrade a system piecemeal, this often does not work out because legacy systems are old enough that they cannot be easily integrated with newer systems. This holds the entirety of the infrastructure back.
  • Legacy systems are inherently less secure. Legacy systems were developed before new cyber security threats and are often not maintained in the wake of new ones. Because of this, legacy systems may be vulnerable to many types of attack.
  • Legacy systems are clunky and cumbersome. But perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to switch from a legacy system is that they tend to have a very negative user experience. Legacy systems may make all business processes take longer to complete.

The Benefits of Modern Software Solutions

Modern software solutions are efficient and scalable, both in terms of cloud-based solutions and new on-premise infrastructures. Organizations can invest in private clouds, public clouds, and entirely on-premise systems, which will adhere to modern security standards and be accessible and reliable. Compared to legacy software solutions, these modern systems are more focused on user experience and efficiency. They are able to take advantage of the resources offered by modern hardware, and consequently they are better able to handle the needs of a growing business. Modern software solutions are also better supported than their legacy counterparts, and finding individuals skilled in their use is far easier.

Transitioning from Licensed Solutions to Open Source Software

Licensed solutions need to be renewed every year — and they often go up in price based on the size of your business or the number of seats that you require. Open source software, on the other hand, is freely available for use without any fees… maintenance or otherwise. For businesses that want additional functionality and features, affordable enterprise editions are available, often for a low subscription based cost. When completing a digital transformation, there is often an emphasis on switching costly, proprietary licensed solutions over to open source platforms. Though there may be a cost associated with enterprise editions, it’s far less than proprietary software.

In addition to the cost, there are a number of benefits that open source software provides:

  • An extensive and well-supported code base. Open source software is often associated with large communities and dedicated developers, all working together to improve upon the system. Not only will the system be robust and well-designed, but it will also have continual support. Comparatively, many licensed solutions will drop support for their older products in just a few years.
  • Easily customized solutions. Open source software will often have modules and extensions designed to customize their suites to your needs — and even those that do not have modules and extensions can be easily customized by a talented programmer, as the code is available. Proprietary solutions may have APIs or nothing at all, which means that a business cannot acquire a customized solution unless they purchase it directly from the company at a high cost.
  • Better security. Open source software is frequently updated by a large number of contributors, which means that security issues are caught and patched very quickly. Many security flaws within a system are introduced through third-party solutions. For organizations that rely upon their technology, security, and privacy, open source software can be a more reliable method of reducing risk.

And, of course, cost is a major factor. By reducing the cost of your system, you can create a system that is more scalable — and you can devote the budget that would otherwise be allocated towards licensing to other areas of your IT budget.

Digital transformation is a way to improve all of your organizational processes with a single structured transition. Through digital transformation, your organization will be able to leverage vastly superior technologies, while also reducing costs and administrative overhead.

How Focusing on Digital Can Help Create a Learning Organization

Posted by on July 31, 2017

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For many years, the idea of creating a learning organization was little more than a corporate buzzword that business majors used to encourage leaders to invest in consulting time. Creating a true learning organization requires much more than jargon and a few external classes — you need the rigor of an ongoing commitment to excellence and education at all levels of the organization. Leaders today are finding that a focus on digital may help drive culture and encourage ongoing learning and growth.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement is one of the cornerstones of a successful organization, but failed programs can pull time and attention away from strategic initiatives. Why do improvement rates remain low for most organizations? Continuous improvement requires a lifelong commitment to learning, and that basic truth can be difficult for an organization’s leadership to grasp. In today’s world, change comes at the speed of light so many companies must either make adjustments or risk becoming defunct. Visionary leaders are constantly on the lookout for ways to solve problems, re-engineer processes and see the world in a new light — which requires a laser focus on creating an organization where people are continually learning together. Yet, the danger comes when leaders believe they’re creating a Utopia instead of nurturing an environment where business process improvement can occur.

Failing Fast

Perhaps the most inelegant way to describe learning is to “fail fast”, and to ensure that your organization is a safe space that allows leaders and workers alike to feel confidence in taking this step. No one wants to take chances on new ideas when there’s a long-term stigma attached to what some may consider failure. However, a healthy mindset has leaders reinforcing that failure is only a step along the journey to success — and that failing fast and learning from your mistakes is one of the first steps in creating a culture of continuous growth and improvement. Embracing innovation requires a strong and confident leadership team, and constant encouragement to reinforce support to leaders at all levels of the organization.

Fostering Innovation

Innovation is a hallmark of our digital generation, where years are defined by new iPhone and Android offerings that incorporate biometrics, advances in artificial intelligence and new methods of performing everyday tasks and interacting with each other. Keeping pace with the rapid changes in technology means you may be retraining employees on a monthly schedule instead of every few years when you have a major software or other tech upgrade. On-demand learning provides employees with an opportunity to have more control over their learning so it can be incorporated into their daily life. Technology advances can be as simple as a new way of routing telephones directly through laptops to make voice and video calls instead of requiring employees to be in the office to conduct business.

Organizational Tools

Fostering innovation starts with encouraging staff to fully utilize the tools available through the organization, such as content management systems and digital experience platforms. Whether mobile is a part of their personal life or not, the majority of consumers now access the internet through a device other than a desktop computer. Cross-team collaboration provides a great way to inspire others to work together to create a customer-centric organization that is constantly listening — and constantly learning.

Intranets: The Magic Portal

Corporate intranets offer a fantastic opportunity to share best practices with peers across business units while providing transparency to the broader organization. When you take the time to craft a business intranet, you’re connecting points across your business that might not otherwise relate to each other. You can offer learning opportunities such as video courses, shared resources, and Lunch n’ Learn schedules. Plus, the information and document management properties of a properly executed intranet gives employees easy access to the latest and greatest procedural documents and forms, which can greatly reduce the load on HR and IT departments. Want to track staff learning needs and requirements? There are few more effective options than a secure employee intranet that allows individuals to see the available opportunities at a glance.

Perhaps one of the best ways to strengthen learning within your organization is to motivate leaders at all levels to see the value of this cultural trait, so they’re constantly reinforcing the message of learning. Self-directed employees become natural leaders, which in turn often encourages them to empower others. Whether it’s utilizing new methods for asset management, defining new customer experiences through a mobile platform or taking the time to complete online training, a focus on digital supports your goal of becoming a learning organization.

Moving Your Enterprise to the Cloud. What’s the Best Approach for Your Business?

Posted by on July 20, 2017

cloud questions

According to TechTarget’s IT Priorities 2017 survey, cloud remains a key priority for tech leaders this year.

The benefits of cloud computing today are too compelling to overlook. Increased collaboration, cost efficiency, flexibility, scalability, heightened security, and decreased capital expense, are just a few reasons why migrating to the cloud has become more of a necessity than a consideration. It used to be that companies were hesitant to move data to the cloud because of concerns about security. Today, they are more likely to move it to be more secure. Cloud security is a major priority for cloud providers, and now a convincing argument for moving to the cloud.

The question for those organizations considering migration becomes which type of cloud is the best match for your technology, business objectives, and environment?

Reports from a recent study by McAfee, show that 93% of businesses use some type of cloud service. To determine which is the ideal approach for your business, it’s best to understand the options.

Public Cloud

There are many benefits to using infrastructure and services that are publicly available. Use of the public cloud can be optimal for small to mid-size businesses as it is relatively simple to deploy. Resources can also be offered on a “pay-as-you-go” basis, making it very scalable. Because the infrastructure is shared among different users and businesses and there are very few upfront costs, organizations can significantly reduce their IT budget. Due to the broad network of servers, the public cloud also delivers significant reliability.

Top concerns of use with the public cloud are performance and security. Though most IT professionals believe that the cloud is safer than traditional IT systems, there remains some hesitancy with the public cloud. There are fewer geographical regulations on public cloud servers, meaning your server could be in a different country and under different restrictions. Additionally, surges in internet use can impact data transmissions. For this reason, some experts recommend private cloud use if performance is absolutely critical.

Private Cloud

A private cloud delivers all the advantages of the public cloud, but is dedicated to a specific organization. Because of the proprietary infrastructure, private clouds are easily customized.

Private clouds can deliver an increased level of security for businesses that are highly regulated or require complete control over applications and data. Depending on a company’s existing technology, infrastructure, and budget, the private cloud can either be implemented in-house or it can be outsourced. Though the cost to transition to a private cloud is higher than the public cloud option, in the long term there are still significant cost savings over purchasing dedicated servers or hosting your own servers.

Some of the key downsides to the use of a private cloud are the costs involved (as compared to public cloud) and due to heightened security, it can be more difficult for employees to gain access to information remotely.

Hybrid Cloud

Hybrid Cloud deployment has become attractive to many businesses due to the complexity of their existing architecture. This approach is a blend of private and public cloud use and can be an excellent choice for larger businesses that are required to keep critical data behind their firewall, but also want to leverage the flexibility and scalability of the public cloud for applications that may be less sensitive.

In reference to upcoming initiatives, 55% of the 2017 IT priorities study respondents stated hybrid cloud deployment when asked which deployment model they would use.

Many IT experts argue that advances in private cloud technology haven’t been able to keep up with public cloud platforms, and if private cloud innovation isn’t evolving at the same rate, it may not make sense for businesses to take the private cloud approach exclusively.

For example, the world’s largest public cloud provider is Amazon Web Services (AWS), and based on reports from Synergy Research Group, AWS is “vastly overpowering its competition. AWS has launched more than 1,000 new features in the last nine years and dropped prices more than 50 times since it launched. Many experts agree that it’s difficult for private cloud technology to keep up with growth like this and it doesn’t make sense for businesses to miss out on this level of advancement.

For most organizations, the benefits of cloud computing are no longer in question and the move is inevitable. Migrating your business to the cloud should be approached in a practical way that allows you to take advantage of the full array of benefits while minimizing disruption to your operations. A trusted Managed Services Provider (MSP) in the cloud space can be a tremendous advantage to ensuring a successful migration. Cloud MSPs also have the deep expertise necessary for the ongoing management and optimization of your cloud environment, allowing your team to focus on core business objectives.