Enabling-Digital-Transformation-IoT
Enabling Digital Transformation: IoT

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The internet was created by the US military to create a seamless self-repairing almost indestructible connection of computers and to maintain critical communications capability in the event of nuclear attacks on cities and government infrastructure.  It wasn’t until the invention of the world wide web (www) that the internet became widespread. Since then, the evolution of digital and network technologies has made it possible to connect almost any device to the Internet. The Internet of Things (IoT)  can include a wide range of machines, sensors, smart objects, unique identifiers (UIDs) – provided they are connected to the Internet and have the ability to send and receive data without human intervention.

There are a plethora of ‘things’ today that can be connected to the internet and are not restricted to devices and sensors alone. Anything with an IP (Internet Protocol) address can now be connected. Wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 4G/5G have created more possibilities for devices to be individually connected. With the advent of IoT, remote connectivity has become the norm bringing several advantages across all industries. The global Ecosystm IoT study reveals that organisations are looking to leverage IoT not only for asset management but also to fuel innovation.

Drivers Benefits of IoT Adoption

 

The key to IoT is connecting any physical ‘thing’ to the Internet, allowing remote control and monitoring functionalities over the network. The power of the technology comes from the fact that these devices can then be used to monitor and get data from virtually any other device or application. This opens immense avenues for the connectivity of various applications and expands the overall potential of the Internet dramatically.

 

The simplest way to appreciate how IoT can benefit organisations is to see its operations in some industries. The list below is not exhaustive and includes:

 

  • Medical and Health: The key technology enabling eHealth is IoT. IoT has enabled remote diagnostics and patient monitoring even beyond the walls of the hospital. Remote monitoring has a deep impact on improving health outcomes and enables community-based healthcare and aging in place practices.
  • Construction: IoT enables almost all home and office devices to be virtually connected allowing remote activation and control based on specific data gathered from the environment. This application is being utilised in ‘smart homes’ and commercial buildings, allowing the automation of security, lighting, HVAC and other systems. IoT applications have made their way into Building Information Management (BIM) systems even at the design and construction phases.
  • Energy and Environment: In one of the early use case in energy efficiency and distribution, IoT is used to monitor the energy requirements of homes and industries with the help of ‘smart grids’. The technology is also helping meteorologists to predict storms, earthquakes and other natural disasters with the help of smart sensors to monitor environmental changes.
  • Transportation: Autonomous Vehicles or driverless cars have become the popular face of IoT application. More significant than the vehicles or the technology itself, are the parameters that are involved in providing the right infrastructure for these vehicles. IoT is already bringing substantial improvement in the industry with connected transportation systems and controls in the applications for trains, smart cars, and airplanes
  • Manufacturing: The Manufacturing industry is where the concept of process automation originated. Needless to say, the industry is seeing an uptake in IoT as automation reaches a whole new level. The adoption of IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is allowing manufacturers better visibility of the supply chain, more efficient inventory management, and proactive asset management through predictive maintenance. This impacts both the productivity of the plants and the quality of the products.
  • Agriculture: IoT has numerous use cases in making Agriculture more productive and efficient, such as automated irrigation systems, crop monitoring, pest control, driverless tractors, and other smart farming solutions. Smart Farming practices will ensure a better outcome for environment management and promote trust in agricultural products as the entire ‘food to fork’ supply chain becomes traceable.
  • Smart cities: ‘Smart city’ is an often-used term that can have different meaning depending on the maturity of the country. What is common however is the widespread deployment of IoT applications, devices, and sensors to handle various activities providing citizen services and infrastructure monitoring such as traffic management, street lighting, citizen security and monitoring, and more.

 

The early use cases of IoT have been in automation and asset management. As technology and connectivity evolve, the applications will be more widespread and impact every aspect of our lives.

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VendorSphere: NICE Interactions – Key Takeaways

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I was a guest last week at the NICE Interactions Summit in Sydney and it was great to hear from executives from NICE talk about the journey the company is taking their customers on. Australia and New Zealand are witnessing good adoption of cloud contact centres and many organisations (as covered in some of previous blogs) are at the inflection point of investing in a cloud contact centre, machine learning, customer journey mapping and predictive analytics technologies to drive greater customer experience (CX).  Across Asia Pacific and in the ASEAN region, more organisations are at the verge of embarking on transformational CX projects to help them raise the bar on CX in a highly competitive environment. We can expect the adoption of cloud contact centres to grow rapidly in the next few years across the Asia Pacific region as companies move from expensive and traditional legacy environments to agile platforms.

Investing in Analytics and Cloud

Darren Rushworth, NICE’s Managing Director APAC, talked about how NICE has moved from being an infrastructure player to become an analytics company and talked about the acquisitions that are helping them alleviate their game in CX. Key acquisitions since 2016 have been instrumental to shaping their offerings and these include Nexidia, an Interaction Analytics software company and InContact, a cloud contact centre vendor. In 2019 NICE acquired Brand Embassy, whose technology brings to CXone a full range of integrated channels, enabling any digital channel to be integrated into customer service operations. In a Mobile First economy where customers want the applications of their choice, allowing customers to use the social media or messaging application of their choice in their contact centre interactions, will be critical. The Brand Embassy platform supports more than 30 channels and these include Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, SMS, email, and live chat.  This is an important acquisition and not many contact centres have addressed the issue of allowing multiple forms of messaging to be used when customers want to communicate an issue or get answer to a query. Customers are gravitating towards social media platforms and messaging apps for daily communication and being able to integrate those channels to the contact centre is important.

The Move to the Cloud with NICEinContact

It was interesting to hear  Tracy Duthie, Head of Service Development at 2degrees Mobile talk about why they deployed a NICEinContact solution. She talked about 2degrees having too many legacy systems that were not all integrated. The problems with not having the systems integrated drove the team to think hard about embarking on a journey with NICE. The objective was to grow their market share and to drive greater contact centre efficiency. She mentioned that 2degrees were keen on a SaaS option and it was not just about replacing the legacy solution. The move to the cloud as many organisations are starting to tell me, is to drive transformation and further innovation including deploying agile methodologies to deliver great CX. Also because this was a cloud deployment, they invested heavily in the network. This is an important aspect for an organisation when embarking on a cloud journey especially for mission critical applications such as voice, video and collaboration applications where latency and jitter can spoil the experience. Many times, I have heard customers blame the vendor for the technology. For cloud voice, video and other contact centre applications to work well in real time, the investment in the network must not be compromised especially when working on a tight budget. When this aspect is ignored, the problems  discussed early are bound to arise.  She also highlighted how important it was to eventually get the agents on board the new deployment and they adopted an open culture of allowing the agents to provide feedback and an open dialogue was initiated. As this was a big change from when they were running the contact centre in a  traditional environment, the change management aspect was critical for the agents.

Compliance is something that has to be adhered to seriously

Efrat Kanner-Nissimov from NICE presented on driving a proactive compliance culture. This is a highly talked about area in the contact centre, given the  increase in legislation around privacy and all countries having strict legislation around customer data and data privacy. Contact centres store sensitive customer information and knowing when to dispose off that data or for how long the data can be kept is an aspect that cannot be ignored. With what the banks have been through in Australia in recent times with the Royal Commission, serious questions around compliance and how compliant the agents are cannot be ignored. Ecosystm research finds that several organisations fail to identify what could be sensitive information. The journey towards a compliant environment starts with data classification, long before security roadmaps and solution implementations.

There is a greater emphasis on compliance and whilst many contact centres will claim that they have the processes in place, some of these have not been looked at for years. Compliance impacts the IT Manager, the agents, the Supervisor and ultimately the business. An automated compliance solution will help detect violations, prevent errors and allow for better visibility across different systems.  She presented how Macy’s claims to have reduced their infrastructure and storage costs by 40%, through automating and deleting interactions that were no longer required. This helped lower IT costs and reduced time on audits.  With the emphasis today on data privacy, data storage, data deletion and being compliant when you talk to your customers,  the CX agents have a critical role to play in ensuring compliance.

Ecosystm comment:

Organisations across the Asia Pacific region are re-inventing how they look at CX as mentioned in my previous blogs. Banks, airlines, retailers, telcos and organisations from other verticals are investing in projects to drive transformation in CX. Applying deep analytics along every step of a customer’s journey will help the contact centre and the wider organisation better serve customers. The traditional methods of just looking at inbound and outbound interactions and setting KPIs for that, are no longer enough to drive this new vision. Machine learning, customer journey mapping and analytics, as well as shifting to the cloud is needed to drive transformation and agile ways of running  CX.  The Brand Embassy acquisition is an important one for NICE given one of the challenges not addressed by contact centres is integrating the various social and messaging applications and making them available to customers as a way to interact with the brand. This is an area contact centres have been looking to resolve.

In a highly competitive CX market where CRM, analytics, cloud and machine learning technologies are important aspects of a CX journey, NICE is investing in these areas to further strengthen their cloud contact centre value proposition. Compliance as highlighted earlier cannot be ignored and it is an area contact centres will be looking to invest in due to the multiple strict regulations underway across the Asia Pacific region surrounding how customers data is treated.

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VendorSphere: HCL’s Digital Transformation Capabilities Come Of Age

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As a technology analyst I have followed HCL for many years – and their capabilities have changed over that time – particularly in Australia and New Zealand. When they entered the ANZ market they were somewhat unique – an Indian IT Service provider with views and opinions. One who was not just good at meeting RFP requirements and delivering technology projects, but also individuals who were empowered to challenge the status quo in their clients – to challenge clients to be better. But as several large managed services providers lost their way in ANZ, HCL stepped in and – for a number of years – became all about outsourcing and managed services. They grew their business significantly, but what seemed to be lost was that factor that set them apart. In focusing on good delivery they seemed to lose their differentiator.

However, I recently spent a few days with HCL and their clients in Adelaide and I can report that they are back. They are winning digital transformation deals. They are driving a technology industry agenda and are becoming an important force in the education and evolution of the high tech sector in Australia and New Zealand. Adelaide was chosen for the event as HCL wanted to showcase how they are making real investments in the local market, and how they are helping South Australia to transform itself and create new job opportunities both in Adelaide and in the regions. Their managed services contract with Elders is a great starting point for them – and in meeting and interviewing the Elders stakeholders, it is clear that it is a partnership – HCL has collocated to ensure that the HCL staff are side-by-side with the Elders teams – and they are doing a good job in driving innovation into the Elders business.

The Cricket Australia digital transformation contract is a big deal, and is really a great indicator of their capabilities. HCL won the contract from Accenture – showing that they can compete against and beat the best (Accenture is the biggest IT services provider in Australia today – and for good reason). Building off their success with Manchester United, HCL has won another important digital transformation deal with a global sporting brand. Personally, as a fan of the Australian women’s and men’s cricket team, I look forward to engaging with the fruits of their endeavours soon!

The main take away from the time spent with HCL is that they are growing their business here in Australia and across the entire Asia Pacific region – and that the growth is coming from many areas – not just traditional outsourcing contracts but also across the spectrum of digital transformation. Importantly they are also taking responsibility for that growth – bringing the market along with them as they look to help educate and employ the next generation of technology professionals.

HCL also seem to have mastered the ability to both respond to the standardised processes of the sourcing deal advisors as well as stand out as an individual company. While deal advisors play an important role, I often hear clients say that they can sometimes take the personality out of a deal. They bring comparisons between vendors to standard and measurable metrics – but you sign a deal with a person, you negotiate with a person, and it is people who deliver the solution. Winning deals is not just about proving the ability to deliver, but also convincing the client that they want or need to partner with the IT services business. Based on client feedback, HCL is mastering both sides of this process, and are earning the right to be considered in a broader range of deals.

If you are dealing with HCL, it may also warrant looking beyond the traditional measurable metrics. Speak to their leadership team both locally and globally, especially given their emphasis to bring in local leadership in their key markets . Get a feel for the culture of the company and whether or not it matches your culture or even sometimes challenges your business to be better. Services deals are ultimately about people, so spend time with the people – challenge them to come to the party. Put them under stress and see how they respond, as it is typically the hard times that define the longer term success of a partnership.

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Ecosystm Snapshot: Confidential Computing Consortium formed for data security

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A group of some of the world’s largest technology companies including Alibaba, ARM, Baidu, Google Cloud, IBM, Intel, Red Hat, Swisscom, and Tencent have come together to form “Confidential Computing Consortium”, an association established by the Linux Foundation to improve the security of data while in use, and hosted by them at ConfidentialComputing.io.

Confidential Computing Consortium aims to define and accelerate the adoption of Confidential Computing by bringing together a community of open-source technologies and experts.

 

New Cross-Industry Effort

There are many government agencies, consortiums, and software and hardware vendors working on data security so a key question here is “who needs it?”

Commenting on CCC, Claus Mortensen, Principal Advisor at Ecosystm said, “whether this is really ‘needed’ is a matter of perspective though. Many would argue, that a project driven by technology giants is contrary to the grassroots approach of earlier open source projects. However, Confidential Computing is a complex area that involves both hardware and software. Also, the stakes have become high for businesses and consumers alike, as data privacy has become the focal point. Arguably, the big tech companies need this Open Source initiative more than anyone at the moment.”

 

How CCC would benefit enterprises and business users?

With the increasing adoption of the cloud environments, on-premise servers, the edge, IoT and other technologies, it’s crucial for enterprises to increase the security of the data. While there have been approaches to encrypt data at rest (storage) and in transit (network) it’s quite challenging to fully encrypt the data life cycle and that’s what Confidential Computing aims to solve.

Mortensen said, “when it comes to data security, the actual computing part of the data life-cycle is arguably the weakest link and with the recent increased focus on privacy among the public, this ‘weakness’ could possibly be a stumbling block in the further development and update of cloud computing.” Mortensen added, “that doing it as part of an open-source initiative makes sense, not only because the open-source approach is a good development and collaboration environment – but, crucially, it also gives the initiative an air of openness and trustworthiness.”

 

To drive the initiative, members have planned to make a series of open source project contributions to the Confidential Computing Consortium.

  • Intel will contribute Software Guard Extensions (SGX) SDK to the project. This is hardware-based memory level data protection, where data and operations are encrypted in the memory and isolated from the rest of the system resources and software components.
  • Microsoft will be sharing the Open Enclave SDK to develop broader industry collaboration and ensure a truly open development approach. The open-source framework allows developers to build a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) applications.
  • Red Hat will provide its Enarx to the consortium.  – an open-source project aimed at reducing the number of layers (application, kernel, container engine, bootloader) in a running workload environment.

Mortensen said, “like other open-source initiatives, this would allow businesses to contribute and further develop Confidential Computing. This, in turn, can ensure further uptake and the development of new use cases for the technology.”

 

How Data Security Efforts will shape up

 Confidential Computing is a part of a bigger approach to privacy and data and we may see other possible developments around AI, in distributed computing, and with Big Data analysis.

“Initiatives that can be seen as part of the same bucket include Google’s “Federated Learning” where AI learning on data is distributed privately. This allows Google to apply AI to data on the users’ devices without Google actually seeing the data. The data remains on the user’s device and all that is sent back to Google is the input or learning that the data has provided” said Mortensen.

 

 

Consequently, Confidential Computing seems to ease matters for data security at this point and the collaboration expects the results will lead to greater control and transparency of data for users.

Let us know your opinion on the Confidential Computing Consortium in the comments.

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Innovation in the Workplace Soon to be Pervasive

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The adoption of new digital and data-centric technologies is transforming the workplace and making it more productive. The concept of the workplace has evolved over time, and it is no longer tied to the tradition of working from a fixed physical location. Rather, the workplace has expanded its horizon and has evolved into a wider virtual environment empowered by technologies such as smartphones, wireless connectivity, virtual and augmented reality, collaboration tools and a range of productivity technologies.

Innovation has continued to revolutionise the workplace. It has been 40 years since digital technology transformed the back offices of large organisations; 30 years since the PC revolution revolutionised the front office with productivity tools such as word processors and spreadsheets for all information workers; just 20 years since the Internet became a common business tool and; the smartphone, particularly the iPhone made its way into the workplace.

Each of these waves of technology contributed towards workplace transformation and has made way for the new wave of transformation – through emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and newer business models (as-a-service and cloud-based delivery of personal productivity tools).

Organisations are being driven towards a “Mobile First” strategy to empower their “Smart employees” – no longer thinking of migrating their web apps to mobile apps, as and when required. They are looking to implement and develop mobile apps first. In the global Ecosystm Mobility study, only about 2% of organisations indicate the absence of a Mobile-First strategy and this is a good indication of the transformation that lies ahead.

Adoption-of-Mobile-First-Strategy-Vision

 

To be able to implement a Mobile-First vision, become a Smart Workplace and for a seamlessly integrated environment, organisations will need to invest in multiple technologies simultaneously.  These include:

  • Collaboration tools: Software and tools that help individuals in the workplace to collaborate and work together on a project in a smart and efficient way with shared data and resources – irrespective of their locations. Although the concept of collaboration is not new, technologies such as AI and Cloud allow for greater collaboration. This has driven leading players in the market to also offer Cloud solutions. Microsoft is a good example, where Cloud brought added features and services to their MS Office suite to match the requirements of an evolving workplace.
  • Social media: A technology that was popularized in the consumer space evolved into a major collaboration and productivity technology for enterprises. This opens up the possibility of incorporating sophisticated analysis tools, many of them driven by AI technology, leveraging social networks. Using social media in the workplace has also improved employee experience, as it enables the employees to interact in similarly efficient ways in the workplace, as they do in their personal lives.
  • Workflow and content management: Digitalisation is opening newer avenues, simplifying the way work gets done and exploring ways to improve existing processes and workflows. Workflow and content management systems have improved the way employees produce and manage business information thus making processes more efficient, cost-effective, and secure.
  • Mobility: The advent of smartphones, wireless networking, and mobile applications have enabled employees to work from any place and any time. This has expanded the workplace boundaries and employees can stay connected with the work while on the move.
  • Unified Communications: There are multiple channels of communication – voice, data, image, video – open to employees today, depending on the level of communication required to perform their jobs. Organisations are increasingly implementing one integrated corporate communication system.

 

Workplace innovation is already pervasive in customer focussed industries. However, workplace innovation is also combining with other emerging technologies such as AI and IoT to transform workplaces in supply-chain intensive industries as diverse as Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics, Energy & Utilities, and Mining & Resources.  As this trend continues, we will start to see even more innovations to our places of work.

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The Digital Revolution: Impact on Enterprises

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While talking about the paradigm shift that we are seeing in the industry today, I like to use the analogy of space exploration. The aim is to make space an extension of the earth through its use in communication, tourism and for mineral exploration. This is an entirely new paradigm on how all the investments in space technology and transportation are being made – by private industries as well as by governments of major economies.

Similarly, technology is no longer a business enabler – it is now a catalyst to create and capture new value streams and to create sustainable differentiation. The relationship between customers and enterprises is now a two-way street. Customers are not just using products and services but feeding information and critical insights back to the enterprises on a real-time basis. Now, even B2B enterprise businesses must be seen more as a B2B2C.

This new paradigm has brought technology to the core of every business and is forcing enterprises to transform the way they run their businesses.

 

The Multiplier Effect

Enterprises have to look at technology with a fresh new lens now. So far, they have had to cope with any emerging technology in isolation. Now they are being hit by a number of technologies – agile network, cloud, data analytics, intelligent technologies –  each of which has its impact. But what makes it transformational is the interplay of these technologies. Big Data analytics, AI and IoT has taken in isolation can definitely impact an organisation. But when the three work together, they have an exponential impact on an organisation and on it’s Digital Transformation (DX) journey. This has two clear impacts on businesses.

 

Impact on Enterprises

 

Expanding Role of Business Functions. As organisations embark on their DX journeys, they are likely to increase technology spend. Even though some budget would go into upgradation of IT infrastructure, a larger portion of the budget is likely to go towards digitisation, business applications, cybersecurity, and intelligent technologies. These projects would require the involvement of multiple stakeholders. And consequently, a higher proportion of technology spend will be controlled by the business functions – and this proportion will only get. Let us take AI as an instance. The global Ecosystm AI Study shows that only about a fifth of AI projects now are being funded by IT. Multiple other stakeholders are involved in emerging technology projects – the key department being where the solutions are being deployed.

Building a Transformation Roadmap. Ad-hoc implementation of technology will no longer be a viable option. What enterprises will need is an interdisciplinary model of work to attain the most value out of their transformation through technology. This should lead to a clear roadmap – that melds technological capabilities with business requirements. And mind you, each organisation’s roadmap will be distinct and unique.

Wider organisational functions will have to be engaged and aligned. Managing budgets and new business models simultaneously comes with a set of its own complexities. In my opinion, a Balanced Scorecard and Lean Approach is the way ahead for organisations as they approach Transformation.

 

Irrespective of the size of your organisation, you have to focus on the three main building blocks necessary to implement transformation:

  • Defining measurable business objectives that are aligned with the organisational goals and aspirations
  • Assigning transformation owners for each of the key functions identified for Transformation
  • Using structured program management using Lean principle and the Balanced Score Card approach

Understandably, an interdisciplinary model of work and a structured program may not be easy to implement. I discuss the complexities of introducing the new wave of technology in my report.

If your organisation is embarking on a DX journey or if you wish to discuss your ongoing DX roadmap, leave a comment below or connect with me on the Ecosystm platform.

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The acquisition of CloudCherry will bolster Cisco’s contact centre offerings

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Cisco announced their plans to acquire CloudCherry to bolster their contact centre portfolio. Launched in Chennai in 2014, CloudCherry is a customer experience (CX) management startup that helps organisations understand the various factors influencing CX. CloudCherry has employees in Chennai, Bengaluru, Singapore and Malaysia, besides the US and their team of around 90 employees will join Cisco’s contact centre solution practice as part of the acquisition

Using artificial intelligence (AI) as the underlying solution to CloudCherry’s open API platform allows for various customer data sets from  CRM systems to other communication touchpoints in the contact centre to be analysed in real-time for the organisation to deliver a personalised CX. When agents can understand what is taking place in real-time and when the contact centre team has one integrated point of data injecting analytics, improving the ability to drive greater loyalty and eventually higher revenues.

Some of CloudCherry’s offerings are:

  • Measuring customer journeys. CloudCherry provides the opportunity to follow the customer across 17 different channels, driving contextual real-time conversations with customers on the channels they choose. It is important to understand the micro journeys  – for example, their customer PUMA sells products online and in physical stores and may have two micro journeys in addition to an overall customer journey map for:
    • Online customers
    • In-store customers
    • Blended customers
  • Predictive Analytics. Their predictive engine is based on customer feedback, their actions and their purchasing data. With advanced predictive analytics, CX teams can derive what is needed to increase the ROI.
  • Questionnaire builder. They have the capability to respond to feedback collected from surveys in real-time. There are set conditions for survey questions so that when triggered by customer response, the concerned employee or department is quickly notified regarding it. For instance, when a customer gives a low rating on store cleanliness or staff behaviour, an alert can be immediately sent to the concerned employee to follow up and take corrective action. At the same time, even positive feedback can be noted in order to recognise and reward employees.
  • Sentiment Analysis. This helps organisations tap into machine learning and deep learning to identify customer sentiment associated with open-text responses and brand conversations.

These are just some of the applications and tools the CloudCherry platform offers to their customers.

Leading with data will be critical to driving personalised CX

CX decision-makers and buyers of contact centre and CX technologies have an important role to play in the next few years to look at re-inventing how they view CX. This means re-looking at the ways they have been running contact centres in the traditional way and making investments towards the cloud, machine learning and predictive analytics.

  • By having rich analytics, mobile conversation through the app can be richer. A Mobile-led CX approach is key in today’s world where most people spend hours on a phone.
  • Issues can be prevented before they happen if in-store transactions are monitored and dissatisfied customers can be identified.  The organisation has the ability to reach out to the customer through any touchpoint to mention proactively that they are aware of the issues that just happened and what they can do to help solve the negative experience. Proactive notifications demonstrate how a brand takes it, customers, seriously
  • Leveraging AI as the underlying platform to understand customer behaviour is going to be the next battleground for CX vendors. The challenge so far has been that many organisations have invested in several data and CRM tools from various vendors. When agents have to view customer information, they are dealing with data in an unsynchronised format. This explains why when we contact a contact centre, we sometimes have to repeat ourselves and state the problem we are facing. Or worse than that, the agent has no idea that we had a problem a week ago and spoke to 2 agents. These frustrations are real and still happen today.
  • Contact centre of the future will not be reactive but proactive in helping understand customer sentiment in real-time to make the necessary adjustments and actions needed to solve the issue the customer is facing. The deep analytics platform for CX also means that agents will be empowered with information and bots can be placed to help agents say the right things or make suggestions to customers. The use cases to help deliver personalised CX are enormous.

 

Ecosystm comment

This is an important and good acquisition for Cisco. Cisco has a vast set of customers globally and in the Asia Pacific region in the collaboration, voice and contact centre space. This acquisition marks how they are investing in enhancing their existing contact centre portfolio to use machine learning, cognitive and predictive analytics to alleviate their offerings. The contact centre is a key part of Cisco’s larger collaboration portfolio.

According to the company, Cisco products support more than 30,000 contact centre customers and more than 3 million contact centre agents around the world. Vasili Triant, VP and GM of Cisco Contact Centre solutions mentioned in a blog recently that the acquisition will augment Cisco’s contact centre portfolio with advanced analytics, journey mapping and sophisticated survey capabilities whether their customers are using Webex Contact Centre in the cloud or their hosted and on-premises solutions.

The market for predictive analytics and customer analytics in the contact centre and across the CX segment will be big and we are at the beginning of a new era of organisations using data as the platform to deliver a new way of engaging with customers. CloudCherry offers a CX management platform that uses predictive analytics to derive insights for contact centre agents.  The market for deep analytics is becoming an important area of investment for organisations as a way to decrease customer frustration. It is by applying analytics before, during and after the call that will allow contact centres to deliver a personalised CX as was mentioned in my last blog. This is the reason why a data-driven culture will be key to driving rich outcomes for the contact centre. Contact centres will have to lead with analytics so that every experience across every single touchpoint the customer has with the brand is analysed and observed in real-time. We will see many contact centre vendors and players in the CRM space acquire companies with capabilities like what CloudCherry offers.

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IoT and its significant role in Customer Experience

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Organisations are increasingly focusing on customer experience (CX), and it is overtaking pricing and product development as the key brand differentiator. The global Ecosystm CX study discovered that improving customer satisfaction is the key business priority across industries – even in industries that have not had a traditional focus on customers such as Manufacturing and Construction.

 

IoT is already impacting CX

We should keep in mind that IoT customers are not just those who enjoy the advantages of a Smart Home or the patients that share health and wellness data from wearables and medical devices with medical professionals. IoT customers are also the Maintenance Director of a Manufacturing plant floor, the Field Service technician using a predictive maintenance application, the Purchasing Director, the Marketing Director or the Product Director who use sensor data from connected products around the world in an intuitive and easy-to-use platform to improve usability or to sell more.

IoT can improve CX on multiple counts

Let’s see some examples:

  • The right IoT sensor and actuator can boost customer satisfaction. For instance, by installing intelligent IoT sensors in the physical store environment, retailers can collect contextual data such as sound, temperature, or traffic patterns and will uncover how physical elements of a location correlate to customer satisfaction.
  • IoT devices like wearables or smart home devices with good features improve the quality of life and have revolutionised CX.
  • Effective IoT connectivity management is key to a successful IoT deployment. IoT connectivity enriches communication with customers too. The sensors and IoT devices that are inbuilt into products can feed data back regarding usage patterns and even detect problems. This data can be used to the manufacturer’s advantage allowing them to send across personalised communication to customers.
  • IoT platforms with Artificial Intelligence (AI) components facilitate analysis of the ways customers are interacting with their devices over time, and helps identify frequently and rarely used features, allowing the building of better devices and applications fitted better to customer needs.
  • IoT applications like condition-based monitoring allows the prevention of failures before they occur rather than waiting for problems to arise first. Connected devices can schedule predictive maintenance, detect issues before they debilitate functionality and diagnose problems accurately. When connected to a powerful AI-based workforce-management solution, companies can optimally schedule a technician by balancing skills, asset location, parts, technicians’ locations and traffic.
  • IoT aids CX through faster Customer Service/Customer Support. Intelligent IoT devices itself could communicate an issue to a support team, even if the customer is unaware of one. Based on this information, a support team could then take several pre-emptive actions, which could include either notifying the customer or even rectifying the issue before the customer is affected. IoT sensors may be able to predict problems before they surface. Perhaps a piece of equipment exhibits certain symptoms before it breaks down. If the IoT device could send an alert to an engineer warning them about the potential problem, the equipment could be fixed before the problem leads to any downtime.

Designing an IoT Product Strategy centred around CX

Here are some points points to keep in mind when designing IoT products with a better user experience.

  • The data that you havee gathered from the usage of your products can be used to develop new products. You can figure out what part of your products can be improved upon and then pass on this information to your product development team.
  • Never introduce a User Experience (UX) based functionality that does not comply with the core values that the IoT product aims to provide.
  • Since IoT-enabled devices come equipped with several sensors, they can easily capture loads of data regarding product motion, biometrics, air moisture, temperature, weather, etc. The product should be designed in such a way that the device makes optimum use of this data to learn deeply about the user and start taking smart and automated decisions on its own.
  • Focus on making it easy for the customer to personalise the interface of smart products.
  • Think beyond the usual interfaces that are based around screens. Combine with other technologies like AR, Voice Recognition, etc to obtain the desired output functions.
  • Your IoT device design should make things simpler and not introduce more complexity into the equation. They should be designed in a way that it involves a minimal amount of training.
  • Design with the intent of keeping machine-to-machine interaction at the maximum and autonomous behaviour at the minimum.
  • Place the centre of control in the hands of the users. The interface design should make them feel like they run the show. One of the best ways to do this is by enabling remote user interfaces.
  • Get information about the time gap between procuring a product and using it, and the date when the product is up for replacement.
  • Combine IoT and AI for a better CX.

 

IoT is no longer in its infancy. The technology is here, available and ready to help organisations connect better to their audiences. There are already millions of users enjoying the benefits of and working with IoT devices. The possibilities of improving CX via IoT are indeed monumental. To keep up with market expectations, IoT vendors must be convinced that IoT will have tremendous positive impact on their relationships with their customers.

IoT vendors should be transparent and inform customers that they are using their usage data to optimise the design of products and services and to significantly improve customer satisfaction.

What are your views? Let me know in the comments.

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Industrial-applications-of-drones
Industrial applications of drones

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In an industrial backdrop, drones are forming a core part of automation. Drones are Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that can be controlled remotely or can fly autonomously with defined coordinates working with onboard GPS and sensors. The basic functionality of drones is to collect specific information about an environment and relay it back to the controller.

Industry 4.0 sees several use cases for drones. UAVs are the next-generation technology for industrial sensors and IoT. Industrial drones operate under difficult conditions – in regions where humans cannot physically inspect the environment such as in hazardous or hard to reach areas. While they are primarily sensors, they are also being programmed to act of the information gathered.

 

So what are the industrial applications of drones?

 

Some industries are more enthusiastic about the application of drones. In the global Ecosystm IoT Study, organisations that have implemented or plan to implement IoT in the next 12 months were asked about the adoption of drones for asset management.

Current-&-Planned-Adoption-of-Drones-Top-Industries

 

Construction

Industrial IoT is opening up opportunities for construction organisations. IoT devices have the potential to increase efficiency of construction sites and drones are one of the devices that can enhance safety and site operations. Instead of deploying heavy machinery and expensive tools, drones offer the capabilities to survey industrial sites to providing greater accuracy to building maps, QC processes, documenting project details – while reducing costs and project duration.

KIER, a construction and property group in UK is utilising drones to capture project progress, take 360 photographs and use it for photogrammetry (using photographs to model real-world objects and scenes). The benefits that the company reports include digital asset management and data insights, which in turn lead to cost reductions.

Drones will become an integral part of the Construction industry, to a large part because of safety and compliance requirements – and the industry needs to be prepared for it. UK’s Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB) has launched a training course and program for industrial drone operators to attain and develop the skill to safely fly drones and operate industrial equipment that has specific operational hazards and constraints.

 

Energy and Utilities

This is another industry group that can benefit in a similar way from drones.  Drones can perform hazardous jobs otherwise performed by humans such as surveying transmission lines, inspecting plant boilers, monitoring the health of solar panels, assessing storm damages and even repair faster. The industry has been traditionally using helicopters but drones are a lower-cost alternative – both for procurement and maintenance.

It is easy to see why Laserpas, one of the largest Utility Asset Management Companies in the EU is using drones for their workflow automation initiatives. Laserpas surveys power grid infrastructure, including power lines, transmission towers, adjacent areas and so on, with the help of drones. The drones are gathering data for AI-driven data analysis to increase the efficacy of their high-precision monitoring solutions

Laserpas is by no means alone –  AT&T is using drones to avoid service disruption through aerial monitoring of towers, replace faulty parts and create portable cell towers in mission-critical areas.

 

Government

Perhaps the earliest adopters of drones were a military defence in several countries. However, the use cases in Government are not restricted to that – it involves public safety and logistics in several Government agencies. They have become the means for agencies to gather data – both for situational awareness and scientific purposes – in a more efficient manner.

The ability of UAVs to cover large areas in a short time is helping emergency teams in search and rescue operations. The example from UK where a man involved in a crash was rescued from freezing temperatures by police drones, is a case in point. The emergency unit equipped a drone with a thermal camera that was able to locate the man in a six-foot deep ditch more than 500 feet from the crash site. There are examples of Public Health as well.  In a municipality in Spain, mosquito control programs are using drones to conduct surveillance in likely breeding sites that are hard to reach. Once larval habitats are identified, drones are also programmed to spray pesticides to the area. Transport drones are also being used by Public Health agencies. Ghana’s government uses drones to supply blood and other critical medical supplies to remote areas. It has had a positive impact on the nation’s overall medical supply chain and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority have plans to create an air corridor for the drones to prevent collisions with larger aircraft.

Perhaps the biggest use case for drones in Government will come from public safety measures. The Washington State Patrol has built up a fleet of 100 drones and using them for maintaining law and order in the state and for wide range of purposes including surveillance of armed and barricaded suspects and search and rescue operations. This will probably see a higher uptake than other solutions in Government.

 

Hospitality, Retail and Logistics

Though the adoption of drones in these industries is not yet as widespread as in others, there is tremendous potential in inventory and supply chain management. Walmart has conducted pilots on drones for warehouse management which has now been moved to implementation. Using drones reduces the need for heavy assets such as forklifts and conveyor systems.

UAVs are the best new way of tracking inventory using tracking mechanisms such as RFID and QR-codes UPS has set up a subsidiary that uses drones for delivery.  Companies such as DHL, Amazon, and Google are developing and experimenting with drones to speed up delivery, especially for lightweight consumer goods. Drones not only help with inventory management but also ensures last-mile delivery.

The Hospitality industry has gone beyond logistics in their business application of drones. Examples are broad including creating marketing videos for properties, aerial site maps to help guests and staff members navigate sprawling grounds and surveillance. Drones make it possible to create a 3D virtual environment for security teams to monitor hotel perimeters, parking lots and outdoor venues effectively. This is more economical than hiring a full-time security crew for surveillance cameras and 24/7 monitoring. The Seadust Cancun Family Resort has a lifeguard drone that helps real lifeguards by supplying safety equipment and emergency floatation devices.

 

Agriculture

Drones are a major component of smart farming techniques and operations where farmers can benefit from real-time information about large tracts of land.

“An ‘eye in the sky’ by way of a drone, can save days for farmers and help them in checking stock, crops, and fences, battling weeds, and even mustering cattle. Simultaneously, they can provide data to help farmers make more informed decisions around applying fertilizer, disease detection, and about managing health and safety on farms,” says Jannat Maqbool, Principal Advisor Ecosystm(Read Jannat’s Report on IoT in Agriculture: Drivers and Challenges)

Yamaha is working with farming communities in several countries to use UAVs to spray weed killers. Drones are utilised to spray the crops applying small quantities of pesticide or fertilizer to crops, orchards and forested areas. GPS coordinates create flight paths to aim for maximum coverage.  This is leading to process automation in Agriculture – an essential component of smart farming.

 

Drone have started to prove their worth in various industries across applications and organisations across the globe are working to integrate drones into their operations. As laws mandating them to become clearer, more industries will look to leverage drones for automation.

Which are the other industries that will see a steady uptake of drones in the near future? Tell us your thoughts.

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