Design Thinking Series, Part 2: Design Thinking Workshop

Posted by on August 08, 2019

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“Everyone can—and does—design. We all design when we plan for something new to happen, whether that might be a new version of a recipe, a new arrangement of the living room furniture, or a new lay tour of a personal web page. So design thinking is something inherent within human cognition; it is a key part of what makes us human.”

—— Nigel Cross
Design Studies at The Open University, UK

 

Design thinking has been around for decades, used to create innovative new products even before Tim Berners Lee wrote the first Web page. The design agency IDEO is often credited with coining the term in the late 1970s to  better describe their human centered approach to problem solving.

However, design thinking has been increasingly adopted over the last ten years by digital designers applied to software and web design. This philosophy helps them bring a fresh breath of innovative thinking to the profession by engaging the people who know the most about what a product’s needs are— the people who will be using it— in the design process.

Design thinking collects a variety of approaches, exercises, and tools, into a unified process that places humans at the center of all decisions made. The process involves research and rapid ideation (a fancy term for idea generation) combined with telling compelling stories about how the product will be used and then prototyping and testing the ideas.

Simply thinking about the single interface or interaction point with a product is not enough. Instead, design thinking considers the users experience with not only products but with your organization as a whole over-time to design products that fit the user’s needs.

One important thing to understand about Design Thinking, though, is that it does not work to immediately find “a solution”. Instead the process works to understand what is needed, what a successful outcome will look like, and to ask the right questions before even thinking about the solution. This means stepping back from our assumptions and preconceptions about what can be done and instead considering what should be done.

Workshop Overview

The workshop is for people who may not consider themselves a “designer” but want to participate in the creative process to impact the final solution design and experience with guidance from design thinking experts. Thus, the team members in the workshop may often complain, “But I’m not a designer!” at first. The point of the workshop is not to put the burden of design on them, but instead to allow them to work with trained designers to help bring out their own natural abilities for solving problems that only they, as the user, may fully understand.

The workshop goals are to:

  • Discover needs and optimal outcomes for the product.

  •  Define the triggers and expected outcomes for users.

  •  Ideate to flush-out ways to help users meet their expectations.

  •  Tell stories that describe the solutions.

  • Refine the solutions into job stories that will serve as project requirements.

Once completed the designers build on the results from the workshop to create a working prototype that can then be tested and refined with feedback from the workshop teams towards developing the final product.

Workshop Roles & Responsibilities

Facilitators

Facilitators coordinate the workshop and ensure that the teams stay on track. There is a master facilitator, overseeing the entire workshop, with each team having an individual facilitator leading their efforts.

Workshop Teams

The workshop team should be a combination of subject matter experts recruited from power users, new users, and reluctant users who can help guide the workshop towards the solutions that work best for the overall. Each team will be made up of 3-6 (not including the group facilitator) people which will participate in the same workshop but may tackle a different aspect of the solution.

Set the Stage

Before the workshop begins, the workshop master facilitator needs to have the right challenge and the right teams. Working with the client, they will choose the issue to be tackled on during the workshop, recruit the workshop teams, and make sure to gather all materials needed to conduct the workshop.

Design Thinking Workshop —
Define, Generate Ideas, & Tell Stories

This two day session will involve a number of activities to help the team define the needs and big ideas that they are attempting to find solutions for. The bulk of the time will be spent in group activities with workshop teams.

  • To define the solution, they use well tested design thinking processes to come to the big ideas to be achieved for the users.

  • Next, the teams create an initial round of job stories to be considered.

  • Brainstorming ideas (ideation) goes hand in hand with telling stories to communicate how those ideas will work.

  • Once ideas are generated, the teams begin to flush them out using a variety of techniques to describe how the ideas they generated will work in context to the big ideas and job  stories.

This is not a simple linear process, however. The workshop will constantly iterate back around to creating new big ideas and job stories as they come up.

Job Stories

The results of the workshop are specific job stories that define how the product should work, and can be quickly turned into a prototype to be tested with users.

Prototype & Test

Once the issues are well researched and defined with stories that communicate how the solution will work, Rivet Logic will build those ideas into a testable prototype.

  • The prototype is where we begin to design what the final solution looks and feels (visual design) and how it will work (experience).

  • Prototype development will also be vetted by developers and business owners to ensure viability and feasibility.

  • To ensure the solution is on the right course, it is vital to test our prototype—along with any assumptions we’ve made—and then continue testing through the build process to make sure that it is working as intended.

Next Steps

Once the design satisfies client needs after an iterative process of testing and revision, work begins on moving from design into development. This is not simply preparing documents to hand off to development, but involves having design working closely with development to ensure that the solution is realized as envisioned, the highest usability standards are maintained and that the client is fully satisfied. This might involve additional testing of the solution while in production and beta testing.

 

Interested in conducting a design thinking workshop? Contact Rivet Logic to learn more!

Better Content and Data Consolidation through a Corporate Intranet

Posted by on August 01, 2019

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A corporate employee intranet provides an all-in-one, consolidated center for documents, communications, and important company information. Through better data consolidation, a company is able to improve upon its productivity as well as its audit trails. Consolidating information leads to better communication and happier, less distracted employees. Today, 71% of millennials report being unsatisfied with their current collaboration tools, and 45% of boomers report the same.

The Self-Service Capabilities of a Modern Intranet

Modern internet platforms make employees both empowered and agile. Employees are able to self-service many of their own needs, pulling documents and data as desired, referring back to old discussions, and finding contact information as needed. Rather than having to make requests of other employees, management staff, administrative personnel, and IT technicians, they are instead able to directly access the content that is relevant to them.

This is tremendously effective on an enterprise-wide scale. When every employee is able to fulfill their own requests, the entirety of the organization moves far more smoothly. Employees no longer need to wait to get information back, nor do they need to interrupt the processes of another employee to get their answers. Altogether, this reduces the amount of time spent on each interaction and project.

Improved Analytics and Auditing through Data Consolidation

Through a corporate intranet, data can be collected with greater accuracy. The more data your organization is able to collect, the better its analytics will be. Analytics is the key to business intelligence, providing insights into how an organization may be able to optimize and streamline its business processes. Many organizations today are increasing their investments in business analytics for this reason: improved analytics leads to better business.

That’s not all: better data also leads to better audit trails. During internal audits, businesses are able to identify core inefficiencies and create actionable solutions. However, in order for an audit to work, the company must already have strict controls over its data. If its data isn’t being reported consistently or isn’t available in a consolidated fashion, the audit isn’t going to be accurate.

Data audits can happen for multiple reasons. They can be used to identify inefficiency throughout an organization. They can be used to streamline operations and improve business processes. They can also be used to identify discrepancies which could indicate mismanaged data. An intranet doesn’t just consolidate information, it also consolidates information about information.

An intranet will not only collect documents, but also who uploaded these documents, who accessed these documents, who modified these documents, and who deleted these documents. With an intranet platform, data is never completely lost; even if it’s deleted, it can be recovered. Every user is responsible for their own actions, and the organization will always know whose hands last touched information.

Connecting to the Remote and Global Worker

Employers today are hiring more remote workers than ever before. Even local employees now occasionally work from home — in fact, the number of employers offering work from home options increased by 40% over the last five years. It can be difficult for out-of-the-office employees to feel as though they are valued and as though they are productive. They may not be able to work effectively with the other team while they are out, or they may not be apprised of things that occur when they are out of the office.

An intranet is the answer. When connected to externally, an intranet allows even remote workers to feel as though they are a part of the team, by giving them instant access to all of the same information that other employee have. Over time, this also leads to other employees regarding remote workers as equally engaged. Otherwise, in-office workers can quickly grow to resent or to avoid remote employees.

Intranet services make it easier and more feasible to hire remote employees, which in turn makes it easier for businesses to reduce their own costs. Out-of-office employees require less overhead and open doorways into other markets, where talented and affordable talent may be acquired. Through remote employees, companies are able to acquire a diversity of talents and skill sets, assembling the perfect teams.

These teams can then work together seamlessly within their internal platform, rather than having to struggle through individual web-based and cloud-based tools. These enterprise solutions are further able to scale upwards very quickly, thereby making it possible for an organization to quickly grow while still protecting its collaborative infrastructure.

An intranet service makes it easier for organizations to manage large volumes of data and documentation. As companies continue to grow and employees increasingly move towards remote, global work, an intranet platform becomes even more important. Intranet services empower employees to find the information they need faster, while also ensuring that businesses maintain complete accountability over their data and analytics.

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Design Thinking Series, Part 1: Why Digital Transformation Projects Fail

Posted by on July 09, 2019

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…if you can’t get the sum of the parts to be greater than the cost you’re going to fail and I think a large part of that 84 percent that fail it’s because they’re not prepared to change behavior. They think they can have strategy and technology and it just doesn’t get them there fast enough or in a good enough way.

— Michael Gale
Forbes Magazine,
“Why 84% Of Companies Fail At Digital Transformation”

Digital Transformation is growing is priority for most businesses, small and large. Virtually every company in the Forbes Global 2000 company list is on some sort of journey towards evolving their workplace in response to changes  in the way people interact with technology. While a few of these companies are reaping the rewards of embracing a growth mindset towards technology, many are struggling to make it happen or simply not seeing any benefits.

According to Michael Gale, a digital transformation expert, “Some are getting it right and others struggle.  Basically, one in eight got it right and then there were ranges of failure where more than 50 percent just didn’t go right at all.”

Part of the problem, though, is that it takes more than shoe-horning new technology onto old models and processes to create a successful digital transition. To find the right solution requires companies to dig deep into not just the “how” but the “why” they do things. Rather than trying to find the answers, businesses need to make sure they are asking the right questions first. That’s where Design Thinking comes in.

Why Digital Transformations Flounder or Fail

A staggering 84% of digital transformation projects fail, according to Michael Glaze who has been studying the topic for several years. According to a HarveyNash/KPMG survey, only 18% of CIOs said that their Digital Transformations were “very effective.” A less than 1 in 5 success rate would not lead to much enthusiasm or confidence if you are considering such a project.SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26<br /><br /><br /><br />

SOURCE: Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey 2017, Navigating Uncertainty, Pg. 26

The exact cause of each failure is unique, but the reasons at the heart of all of these failures is lack of awareness of the challenges to be faced and the inability to shift focus as new challenges present themselves.This happens because many organizations still not only use, but think in terms of a long term waterfall methodology, where solutions are created early on and expected to be executed despite changing realities during the design and development.

This not only invariably leads to the dreaded scope creep, where timelines and budgets are crushed, it also means that as new research, and new information becomes available, it is often too late to integrate that knowledge into the final solution.

How Projects Succeed

Although there are a lot of factors that can cause projects as large and complicated as a Digital Transformation initiative to fail, there are several best practices we can bring to bear. These do not necessarily remove the problems, but will help to recognize and recover from them more quickly.

  1. Clearly define audience needs and what success will look like for them. It’s easy to believe that you understand your target audience and what they are looking for. You don’t. Even if you are a part of that target audience, you are likely only one of many. It’s important to get out and talk to them whenever and wherever they will be using the solutions you are trying to create.

  2. Clearly define what success looks like to the business and what is the value. All too often directions are given from high levels in the company without a full understanding of what is being asked. Try to work with the decision makers to understand what they think the optimal outcome for the project is and what value they hope to derive, and educate them on the realities of what they are asking for.

  3. Clearly define the technologies to be deployed. It is important to not let the technology dictate solutions, however, it is a reality that it does direct what is possible. It is vital that all parties including designers) understand the limitations and strengths of whatever technologies will be used.

  4. Make audience involvement and testing a part of the process, not an afterthought. Although this might sound like a rehashing  of tip #1, we often forget about the people we’re actually creating for. It’s important to constantly get reality checks from your audience to make sure you are headed in the right direction.

  5. Design & Development in Steps. As mentioned, waterfall just doesn’t cut it anymore. Instead, both development and design must create in iterative steps, allowing them to bring in new insights and information to the solutions as they work.

This last tip is crucial. For developers the iterative step-by-step method is the Agile process using development sprints. Designers have, by and large, been reluctant to enter into a sprint based process, although iteration is a cornerstone of design.

Over the last few years designers have been increasingly embracing the concept of Design Thinking along with the even more recent concept of design sprints. Although still gaining support, success stories of a proper Design Thinking approach are winning converts.

Enter Design Thinking

Design thinking, to be reductively simple, means “thinking like a designer” in order to develop solutions. According to Thomas Lockwood in his introduction to Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, the value in design thinking is that: “By thinking like designers—being able to see the details as well as zoom out to the big picture—we can really add value by challenging the status quo.”

Design Thinking reverses the way many people approach problem solving, allowing them to discover more innovative solutions than they might normally come to. Rather than starting with requirements and features and finding a solution, we start with the user needs and desired outcome (the big picture) and work to find the best way(s) to make that happen by asking the right questions, the first of which is “Is it worth it?”.

This approach  brings together what is desirable from the audience’s (user, customer, partner, employee, etc.)  point of view with what is viable for the business and technologically feasible. It also means engaging people who aren’t trained to design,  but who have to live with the results of the designs, to use creative tools to innovate solutions for a wide range of challenges.

Lockwood lists three primary tenets for design thinking in his introduction:

  1. Develop a deep understanding of the audience based on fieldwork research.

  2. Collaborate with the audience through the formation of multidisciplinary teams.

  3. Accelerate learning through visualization, hands-on experimentalism, and creating quick prototypes, which are made as simple as possible in order to get usable feedback.

However, in our experience designing digital products, we have found that — while excellent for thinking about visual and some interactive issues — current design thinking methodologies leave out how that design fits into the longer term narrative for the audience.  So we add a fourth point:

  1. Follow the rhythm and flow of the audience and how their needs and goals change both in context and over time.

Ok, enough theory, let’s talk practical application. To apply the design thinking process, we make use of two main activities: Design Thinking Workshops and Design Sprints.

Design Thinking Workshops

The Design Thinking workshop is used to kick-off the design phase of a project. This is a process of applying human centered design principles, focusing on deconstructing the problem and then reconstructing it for the solution. To be effective, this means embracing a Lean UX philosophy and creating functional prototypes to quickly iterate the best solutions within the time, budget, and technical limitations.

Design Sprints

Design sprints — developed by Google Ventures (gv.com) — have been applied to help companies from start-ups to Fortune 500s to quickly and accurately prototype and test user experience concepts which can then be developed into final working products.

A single sprint is not meant to design an entire site, section, or even page, but instead to examine the user’s process and how it can be improved within the system.

Using Design Sprints allows iterative improvements without locking into a set roadmap that might need to change in order to meet shifting conditions and priorities. Instead, we define the goal for that month’s design sprint, pulling from a backlog of requests and work to resolve that particular task. As new requests come in, they can be added to the backlog, and then considered for the next sprint, allowing ongoing refinements.

How Design Thinking can Accelerate a Digital Transformation Initiative

The Design Thinking process is a tool that can be applied to any project to address many of the reasons Digital Transformation projects fail.

  1. Audience involvement is integral to developing ideas that are turned into  features. Not only is there regular testing of the product with the people who will be using it, they are also invited in to help brainstorm possible solutions. This ensures that their needs and expected outcomes are met.

  2. Business and tech needs are brought in early. Confirming that the product is both viable from a business standpoint and feasible from a technology  standpoint are constant considerations during the process.

  3. It is an iterative process that can work in close conjunction with an Agile process. Unlike in a waterfall methodology, foundational work on the design is done early, but full design implementations are done in sprints, with feedback from development to constantly refine and improve solutions.

Design thinking is not a magic bullet that can fix everything or prevent all issues from arising. What it does provide, however, is a methodology to better adjust and react to changing priorities and realities during product development. This ensures that whatever challenges you face, you are better able to handle them without derailing the entire project.

Contact Rivet Logic to learn more about how we can help you with your digital transformation initiatives!

Building an Effective Digital Asset Management Strategy

Posted by on June 24, 2019

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Many businesses are finding their digital assets just as important as their physical assets. Yet control over a digital asset can be far more nebulous. Digital assets must be warehoused, shared, monitored, and maintained. They need to be able to be tracked through a content strategy pipeline and analyzed for effectiveness. All of this requires a comprehensive Digital Asset Management (DAM) strategy.

Does Your Organization Need a DAM?

Any organization invested in content strategy and marketing needs a DAM strategy—even if that strategy is fairly light. A DAM controls all of the elements of media that are involved in a marketing or content strategy, from stock photos to video. Without a DAM, a brand cannot make effective use of its content.

DAM strategies have the following advantages:

  • Productivity improvements. By creating a centralized resource of digital assets, you can make it easier for these assets to be accessed and used.
  • Better ROI. DAM strategies make it easier to analyze the overall impact of each digital asset, thereby improving the revenue generation for the business.
  • Superior compliance. A DAM strategy will ensure that media and content is properly licensed and legally published.
  • Redundancy and scalability. As a company’s digital assets and content strategy grow, a DAM will ensure that assets remain controlled and secured.

Organizations may need Digital Asset Management strategies if they have found themselves growing their digital asset inventory, relying more upon their content strategy, or growing as a business.

How Can a DAM Solution Benefit a Business?

A DAM solution has specific use cases which benefit a business:

  • Connecting multiple archives of content assets. Rather than having to search through a file architecture or ask other employees for help, employees are able to look through a central repository for any content assets they need.
  • Performing widespread content analysis. Through a content management system or enterprise content management, data-driven analysis can be performed regarding the types of content being found most effective.
  • Growing marketing campaigns. When marketing strategies are being revised, a DAM solution provides the scalability necessary to scale the marketing campaigns up as desired.
  • Protecting multiple data assets. Through backup solutions, syncing, and redundancy, multiple versions of every data asset can be stored, preventing them from being overwritten or destroyed.

If the above issues are problems for your organization, it’s likely that you need a data asset management strategy.

How Can You Create a Digital Asset Management Strategy?

  • Inventory your existing digital assets. Your existing assets will need to be archived and ported into your new DAM solution.
  • Create new business processes for the consolidation and maintenance of assets. Employees will need to be trained on these new processes and policies.
  • Find the right technology. A DAM solution is driven by a content management, enterprise content management, or digital asset management solution.
  • Integrate your technology. If you’re using multiple DAM, ECM, or CMS solutions, they will need to be integrated to work seamlessly together.

What Technology is Best for a DAM Solution?

There are several technologies often used for DAM: CMS, ECM, and niche DAM solutions. Some organizations use one platform over the other. Other organizations use all of them together.

A content management system is a broad scope solution that’s designed to manage the organization’s content in a consolidated location. Many CMS solutions are client-facing rather than business-facing, making it easier to present content and digital assets to clients and follow a marketing strategy.

An enterprise content management system is a client-facing and business-facing architecture that also often functions as an intranet solution, allowing for easy access to a company’s internal data assets as well as publication of content.

A CMS and an ECM differ primarily in terms of scale. Many smaller or mid-sized businesses can operate solely with a content management system, while an ECM solution is a more robust solution that is used for larger businesses.

In addition to CMS and ECM solutions, there are niche DAM solutions which specialize in managing specific types of assets. As an example, a DAM solution may manage a company’s video assets specifically. A company that deals in a specific type of content may need a DAM utility in order to manage that content.

Key Takeaways

If your organization deals with content management, digital marketing, and digital assets, it’s likely that it does need a digital asset management strategy. A DAM can be quite lightweight and simple or more robust and complex depending on the organization’s needs. By finding the supporting technology, a company can secure and maintain its digital assets, while also improving productivity and providing for better marketing analysis.

Content is becoming one of the major assets for any organization, and the management and maintenance of this content has to be performed in an efficient and productive way. CMS, ECM, and DAM solutions make it easier for employees to interact with, share, and build content, while reducing the chances that this content could be lost, overwritten, or destroyed.

Stacks vs. Suites: Moving Away From Consolidation

Posted by on January 16, 2019

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It wasn’t long ago that businesses were focusing on consolidating all of their technology into single suite systems. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all product solution can rarely service all of an organization’s needs equally. While the simplicity of a single service is quite compelling, it cannot functionally compete with the customization, efficiency, and specialization of a well-integrated stack.

A Conventional Approach to Software Consolidation

Conventional approaches to software have recently tilted towards finding consolidated suites that can do everything for an organization. Enterprise resource planning, inventory management, customer relationship management, and other discrete and disparate products have been folded into singular systems for this reason.

The perceived advantages of this type of system are clear. A consolidated software system is seen as being easier to maintain as well as more cost-effective. From the software provider’s perspective, each vendor is able to capture more value for a customer. IT departments have preferred managing and maintaining a single system, and the belief has been that this type of system tends to be more secure as there are fewer opportunities for gaps.

The Failings of a Consolidated Approach

While consolidated approaches work effectively in theory, in practice they have often led to a “Jack of all trades, master of none” situation. When a single tool is not sufficient for a company’s day-to-day operations, they find themselves adding tools regardless. Once these tools are added, the company has already begun to create a stack — they just have not acknowledged the stack in a way that it can be properly integrated or maintained.

Using a consolidated approach can ultimately lead to an organization using a variety of tools that are ill-suited to their organization’s use, while pursuing a more simplified system. Ultimately this leads to issues in efficiency, and prompts many employees, customers, and vendors to self-service their IT needs and install their own sets of tools.

Developing a Digital Experience Stack

Organizations are now increasingly moving away from a consolidated approach and towards building a well-integrated stack. A well-integrated stack creates a custom workflow for an organization with the tools that the organization needs, but there are challenges present. In order to work effectively, the components of the stack must be fully explored, and the whole system has to be designed to work well together.

Enterprise content management (ECM) solutions and portals become exceptionally important when building out a digital experience stack, as they create central hubs through which the organization can manage its communications and authentication.

When creating a digital experience stack, the organization can no longer rely upon a consolidated system to funnel users into an easy-to-use experience. Instead, it must use a central hub in order to consolidate the information users need.

With the right solution, a digital experience stack can still provide an experience to the user that appears to be consolidated and well-integrated, while delivering a customized and effective experience.

Shifting an Organization from Suite to Stack

Shifting an organization’s infrastructure can appear to be a daunting task, and many organizations find themselves working with managed partners or experts in order to facilitate this shift. When it comes to a switch from a suite-based infrastructure to a stack-based infrastructure, an organization may begin by identifying its current pain points and the solution that it needs.

Developing out a DX stack is like building an ecosystem. An organization can start with its most basic tools such as its accounting, inventory management, and employee portals, building out the tools that it needs to be integrated with its infrastructure. However, it’s vital for the purposes of the user experience that all of these systems be properly integrated together.

Correct integration creates a seamless experience on the user’s behalf, with data being shared and synced from system to system, a singular location for files and documents, and an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. From an IT standpoint, an integrated DX stack must be easy to manage and maintain, with as much automated as possible.

Ultimately, many organizations have found themselves dissatisfied with their consolidated suites, as consolidated suites provide a one-size-fits-all solution that rarely has the advantages of distinct and discrete tools.

By building their own DX stacks, organizations can improve user experience and utility, gaining the best solutions for each task. However, they also need to be conscientious about the increased needs of a DX stack, in terms of integration, management, and maintenance.

Using Data & Analytics to Deliver Better Customer Experiences

Posted by on December 18, 2018

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Customer experiences have evolved through a combination of data and analytics that provide insight and information to make better decisions, stronger engagement and enriched interactions. This requires finding new ways to assess customer needs, pinpoint their preferences and embrace changing trends. The key is to use data in the smartest ways for the best ROI.

According to a report from Forbes Insights and SAS, data analytics have helped deliver superior customer experiences across the board. This explains the shift in many organizations who now make data and analytics a top priority to gain competitive advantages in improving customer experiences. One of the main factors in accomplishing this has to be a focus on aligning people, technology and processes across the entire organization. This includes key departments aligned to deliver these customer experiences, such as production, information technology and purchasing.

How should data be used for better customer experiences?

There should be an integrated approach using both data and analytics to have the greatest impact. Every area of the organization who touches the customer at one point or another must be involved. This helps spot customer behaviors and preferences which open opportunities for the organization. This adds value, indicating purchase sequences, the best times to release new products, when to send discount offers, how customers interact with the brand, and other useful information. This information should be visible throughout the organization to ensure everyone works together for the best results.

Advantages of using data

There are three main advantages for using data to improve the customer experience:

Reduction of customer churn

One of the main obstacles organizations face when addressing customer experience is churn. When customers are not engaged, they may or not return. Businesses use predictive analytics to anticipate at-risk customers, giving them an opportunity to enhance the customer experience in hopes of retaining their business. This data also helps focus on retention efforts for those customers who have been identified as “on the fence” and have a likelihood of staying with the right engagement tactics.

Increase selling opportunities

Many businesses thrive on cross and upselling. When running campaigns, data is used to identify potential customers that will act on these offers. This helps optimize spending by focusing on a select group who show the most promise instead of using those dollars across the entire customer base.

Customize product recommendations

Customers love a personalized experience. This includes SMS offers, email and other tactics used. According to Forrester Research, an average of 10-30% of sales can be attributed to product recommendations. Analytics are used to examine customer behaviors, comparing these findings to data extracted from other customers. The result is customized product recommendations based on viable data in a real-time setting which enhances the customer experience, increasing sales.

Data use for enhanced customer experiences must continue to be a collaborative effort across the organization to realize the best gains. With each department using the data to specifically address their point of contact with each customer, experiences will become more enriched, engaged and value-added with each interaction.

Enhancing a Digital Workplace through the Cloud

Posted by on November 30, 2018

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A digital workplace can be a challenge to manage — but there are some excellent tools that can help. By enhancing your digital workplace through cloud-based technologies, you can improve upon the collaboration and communication of your employees, make your workplace more accessible, and even ensure that your employees are being as productive as possible.

Cloud Collaboration and Communication Suites

Perhaps the most significant challenge when it comes to creating a digital workplace is communicating with colleagues. This is especially true in situations where some employees work through a digital workplace but others are in office. This type of setup can easily lead to a feeling of alienation (on the part of the remote workers) or a feeling of resentment (on the part of those in office). But it can be successfully resolved through the use of cloud-based collaboration and communication suites.

Accessible from anywhere, these suites give employees versatile methods of communication that are designed to facilitate conversation. Employees can choose to use internal messaging systems, instant messaging, or often even voice or video calling, giving them a wide toolset to get the information they need. Further, by logging conversations and communication, cloud-based suites also give employees a one-stop, consolidated system where they can access their information and their files.

Connecting to Mobile Devices through the Internet of Things

A digital workplace requires that employees work with a substantial number of different devices, often through the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Cloud-based platforms offer a unified form of technology that can be used on a multitude of different devices, through browser-based software and native apps. In this way, employees are able to leverage IoT technology such as smartphones, tablets, and similar devices, while still remaining connected to the organization’s system and (perhaps most importantly) keeping the company’s data secure.

IoT has created some security concerns for many organizations, but it’s also for the most part an unavoidable evolution of the modern workplace. For employees who work within a digital landscape, IoT becomes even more vital. Through IoT devices and appropriate cloud-based management, anywhere can become an office as long as there is a smartphone available. These suites ensure that data is appropriately encrypted when transferred so that organizations don’t need to worry about the safety and security of the homes of their employees.

Perhaps most important, they also ensure that employees access their data through a secured framework rather than keeping local data on their devices. When data is local, a company could lose extremely sensitive data through something as simple as a lost phone or flash drive. As long as data is accessed through a cloud solution, the data can still be controlled by the organization at any time.

Better Analytics With Big Data and Machine Learning

Though the cloud doesn’t necessarily have a premium on big data or machine learning, these twin technologies are most useful using the resources that cloud computing provides. In fact, it can be prohibitively expensive to engage in any type of big data or machine learning processing without cloud computing services. Digital workplaces require the crunching of substantial numbers of data, as otherwise it can be impossible for a company to truly determine which employees are engaging in the most substantial achievements.

Through big data and associated algorithms, the top performing employees can be isolated and the performance of other employees can be enhanced. Though the human element can occasionally be lost through a digital workplace, big data can make it easier to continuously and closely manage employees.

By using data to build a rewards and recognition system, big data can be additionally used to create a more effective and meaningful environment for employees. This is an environment that will be able to reduce its churn and keep its best talent.

A digital workplace is not only commonplace today; it’s rapidly becoming more popular and may soon supplant the traditional workplace. Employers who want to get on board and begin benefiting from digital workplaces will also need to become very familiar with the cloud and cloud-based technology.

Why Your Business Needs Enterprise Content Management

Posted by on August 28, 2018

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Having the right business solution that will drive operations makes a difference in productivity and efficiency. As content continues to remain an integral part of an organization’s communication, marketing and sales strategy, learning how to properly manage this content is key.

Getting Down to Basics – Enterprise Content Management in a Nutshell

Enterprise content management (ECM) collects and organizes information that will be used by a specific audience. It combines a number of elements, such as methods, strategies and tools that capture, manage, store, preserve and deliver information to keep the organization running.

What are these elements, and how do they affect enterprise content management?

The following elements are needed for smooth processes. Let’s break it down:

  • Capturing information requires entering your content into the main system.
  • Management of this information is crucial, as it determines what can be found and used by the person who needs it.
  • Storing this information requires finding the right place within the system. Finding the right system and solution is key.
  • Preserving this information for long-term use makes a difference. It’s archiving and protecting information so it will be available whenever it is needed within the organization.
  • Delivering is putting the information into people’s hands when they need it.

Defining the structure of this content helps determine how it should be compartmentalized. There are a number of sources where content can be derived from, and proper management of these sources can protect your organization now and in the future. There are three types of content: structured, unstructured and semi-structured. This is how they differ:

Structured content

Structured content is well defined and is processed by computers, databases and is a factor in line-of-business solutions. It is comprised of independent parts that can be pulled together in a number of ways to get information needed for a particular purpose. Examples of structured content would be the different fields of a blog post, like the author name, title of the blog post, organization where the author is from, description of the post, meta data, and so forth. This information can then be used in a CMS. These elements are independent of one another, but can be used together.

Unstructured content

This type of content does not have a structure that is fully defined, and is read mostly by humans. Most of this information is produced by office applications such as presentation and word processing programs.

Semi-structured content

This information is between the other two types of content, and includes data that is processed by a computer, but have their own layouts, such as purchase orders, invoices and receipts.

Enterprise content management helps do business better. There are 5 top elements of ECM:

Digitally capturing documents

This includes documents that are created, captured, stored or shared through scanning, content that is already digital, filing and categorizing documents automatically, and electric forms. ECM helps capture these documents in a digital repository to eliminate challenges occurring from using paper.

Storing documents in a digital repository

ECM systems are used to store documents that are critical to business operations while being able to view or make edits, view metadata, and organize those documents in a structure that works. Additional features and benefits include duplicating existing file structures, making full-text searchable scanned and electronic files, direct documents where to go automatically when imported, preview content and navigate through thumbnails of documents. You can also save any changes you make with document check in and out.

The metadata system allows users to build document templates that can be used across documents and folders; create document fields that are reusable to note key document information, including the author and approval time; connect any related documents with attachments through document links; sign and validate documents with digital signatures; and track, display and compare various versions of documents.

Retrieve documents, regardless of location or device

An ECM will help you with finding documents with full-text search, identifying specific elements, words, or other identifiers, and use preset search options once the records have been securely stored. You can conduct a search identifying metadata, annotations or entry names to find the information you need.

Enterprise search helps increase efficiency, cutting down on the time needed to find information, answer requests and more. The need for manual tagging is removed, and users have visual images to quickly find documents without going through numerous files and folders. Users will be able to have the right information at the right time to make better decisions that impact the bottom line.

Automate processes

Some ECM systems have digital automation features that will help eliminate manual tasks to get better results within the organization. An automated process will help the document move through the system, acquiring all the necessary signatures and review needed. You will also be able to identify where any breakdown occurs.

Securing documents

ECM systems can help strengthen compliance risk and optimize records management, from the processes to protections. It can provide restrictive access to content, monitor who uses the system, creates documents, changes passwords, and protect sensitive data.

Integration

Although ECM systems were initially designed to capture, store, and manage content for administrative or financial purposes, it has evolved to include workflows, case management, business process management and enterprise search. ECM’s are often integrated with Web Content Management (WCM) systems or portals to create cohesive digital experience solutions ranging from corporate websites to intranets, social communities, customer portals, and more.

With a system in place like this, your organization will be able to run smoothly and efficiently. Enterprise content management is a viable solution for streamlining processes to focus on business productivity and growth, now and in the future.

Why You Should Consider Migrating from IBM Cloud to AWS

Posted by on August 08, 2018

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) currently has 33% of the market share for cloud-based solutions – well ahead of any other cloud services provider. IBM Cloud trails behind at 8% adoption, despite entering into the market nearly half a decade ago. AWS has become the standard and leader for global cloud-based services for a number of reasons, which we will outline below. In this article, we’ll outline why you should consider a migration to AWS, what the principle differences are in AWS technology, and the challenges you might encounter during migration.

What Are the Advantages to Amazon Web Services?

AWS claims the vast majority of the cloud-based market, despite competition from major players such as Microsoft, Google, and IBM. What makes AWS the cloud services provider of choice? Having entered into the market early on and supporting many major technologies, AWS has the following benefits:

  • Cost. When comparing the pricing of six different scenarios, AWS came in middle-of-the-road for nearly every one — not bad for the most advanced cloud-based technology. Comparatively, IBM Cloud was the most expensive service for five out of six scenarios. In general, AWS is going to be one of the most cost-effective solutions available.
  • Trust. Many of the largest sites on the Internet are run through AWS, showing that the organization’s services are more than substantial for even the largest applications in the world. Reddit, Netflix, and Etsy are among some of the major platforms that are run through AWS.
  • Scalability. Amazon’s services originated out of its own need to support its ever-growing catalog of applications and technologies. This has created a system that is as scalable as it is reliable, as it was necessary to support Amazon’s tremendous growth as a major eCommerce marketplace. Small businesses and large enterprises can have their growth supported through AWS.
  • History. AWS was first launched in 2006; long before many of the other cloud-based services came into existence. Comparatively, IBM Cloud services did not enter into the market until IBM purchased SoftLayer in 2013. AWS has achieved quite a lot of traction and growth within the market space, which other companies may find it difficult to compete with.
  • User experience. In public comparison, users rated AWS 4.4 with a 79% willingness to recommend. IBM was rated at 3.8 with a 51% willingness to recommend. Areas in which IBM cloud fell short included enterprise integration, developer services, scaling, technical support, and ease of deployment.

Ultimately, AWS represents one of the most advanced, reliable, and scalable cloud-based environments available. Not only is it cost-effective, but it provides superior customer service and user experience.

 AWS vs. IBM Cloud: The Technological Differences

Though they both provide roughly similar services on an enterprise level, the technologies that drive these services differ. Among the most important differences:

  • Artificial intelligence. Amazon provides a suite of artificially intelligent, machine learning systems, including Lex, Polly, Rekognition, and Machine Learning. IBM’s artificial intelligence suite is driven by Watson. Lex and Polly are designed to make natural language emulation and voice language emulation easier.
  • Internet of Things. Amazon provides both an IoT Platform and Greengrass, a software platform that makes it easy to run local data caching, messaging, and computation, making implementing IoT devices easier.
  • Storage and Computation. Amazon’s computational strength and storage are primarily run by its EC2 and S3 systems, which are the same systems that have been leveraged to support its largest applications.
  • Databases. Amazon’s database solutions are focused on DynamoDB, whereas IBM Cloud’s solutions are focused on MongoDB.
  • Analytics. Analytics on Amazon are provided through Athena, EMR, and Kinesis, whereas IBM Cloud’s analytics are provided by their in-house Analytics Services and Cloudera Hosting.

In general, Amazon has a far larger developer toolset available than IBM Cloud. IBM Cloud’s technology is quite advanced in some ways — such as deep data analytics and artificial intelligence. However, Amazon makes it easier to use its services and resources.

Challenges and Considerations When Migrating from IBM Cloud to AWS€‹

Cloud data migration is always complex, regardless of the platforms involved. A cloud data migration will encompass multiple steps and pre-planning efforts. A few of the core challenges include:

  • Managing the migration without downtime. Often, systems will need to be run simultaneously until a “switch over” can occur. A migration may also be done in planned stages, to avoid having to migrate the entirety of the system at once.
  • Ensuring the fidelity of the data transferred. Permissions, metadata, and access control lists may not always be able to be transferred with complete fidelity. This could lead to serious productivity and security issues. Data needs to be verified completely to ensure that this data has been preserved.
  • Utilizing the services that AWS provides. As AWS provides multiple applications and services that IBM Cloud does not, an organization must plan ahead to begin leveraging these utilities once their migration has been completed. Otherwise, they may not get the full advantages of the migration.
  • Transferring data quickly and effectively. For larger systems, there is the practical issue of moving as much data as possible quickly. In an IBM Cloud to AWS transfer, both services will need to communicate with each other to migrate over data and services.

Amazon provides a number of cloud data migration tools, which are intended to streamline this process. These services include AWS Direct Connect, AWS Snowball, and Amazon S3 Transfer Acceleration. Nevertheless, it’s often a good idea to involve an expert partner.

Is a migration from IBM Cloud to Amazon Web Services right for your organization? AWS can help your organization reduce its cloud-based expenses, while also providing best-in-class technologies ranging from database storage to artificial intelligence. If you want to expand your organization’s cloud capabilities without sacrificing user experience and reliability, AWS may be the right solution.

Engaging Your Audience With Enterprise Video

Posted by on July 18, 2018

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When using video in a corporate setting, one of the most important elements to successfully engage the audience is having a strong connection. What does that mean? Setting the stage to help the audience feel comfortable with your content. Establishing an emotional connection from the beginning is key, and knowing your audience makes that happen.

Technology has advanced to the point where using video within the business setting is a must. It serves as a viable means of communication, but has a number of advantages that help seamlessly connect a business across the globe. Why use video? Here are a few reasons:

  • Convenience – With video, businesses no longer have to worry about flying in employees for meetings. Video conferencing can engage a meeting of one, twenty or fifty no matter where they are in the world. This also works well for remote workers or contractors.
  • Builds trust – Being able to see someone speaking to you makes a difference. There’s something about face-to-face interaction that helps both parties feel more confident in the information being presented and keeps transparency at the forefront of the organization.
  • Reinforces engagement – Live video encourages engagement. People usually interact and comment more in real time stream activity.
  • Creates order – Having the ability to stream video allows you to set things up how you want. It helps create accessibility for employees (ex: watching a huge announcement on the company intranet).

According to livestream.com, 81% of audiences watched more live video in 2016 than 2015. Additionally, live video is more appealing to brand audiences. 80% would rather watch live video than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts. For businesses, this is key, as 56% of the most-watched live content is breaking news, and behind-the-scenes access is a draw for 87% of audiences.

Companies are also expanding their in-house learning options with video, offering ways to build and retain the talent they already have. For example, implementing a video e-learning system comes with many benefits at a small cost. A strong internet connection, good camera and platform for streaming is all that is needed. For companies who adopt this type of video engagement, it is very cost-effective, and can be tailored to meet your budgetary needs.

What are some common ways of leveraging video in your business?

For a business, video can assist across the company. Here are a few areas where video could make a significant difference:

  • Customer Service – Being able to live stream customer service assistance with the click of a button helps consumers and employees feel at home. In an e-learning capacity, having the ability to ask questions and get answers to issues you don’t understand is invaluable. It also enhances your brand.
  • Announcements – Have big news affecting the organization? Live stream it. This opens up real time engagement and allows everyone across the organization to find out first-hand news at the same time.
  • Demonstrations – What better way to debut a new product to your team? No matter the location, or what role they play, they will be able to get this information and remain on the same page as everyone else.
  • Live events – This is perfect for important corporate events that not all employees can participate in person, such as an awards ceremony. Employees can participate through a live stream of the event or watch it on-demand later, maximizing employee participation and engagement.
  • Behind the scenes – Have your employees ever wondered what goes on in other departments? Video is a great way to introduce the entire organization to other areas of the organization they may never have a chance to visit. For large companies, this is very effective.

Implementing enterprise video capabilities throughout the organization is not only smart, but allows the company to grow in areas while keeping audiences engaged and costs low. Rivet Logic has partnered with Crafter Software and AWS Elemental Media Services to power a Video Center solution for organizations who understand the advantages of using video as part of their communications strategy.