In 2019, we worked with a customer who owns and operates a mine in Mozambique to help them identify their key business objectives and advise them on how to succeed on these. Throughout our discussions with them, we defined the below key objectives:
Over the past few years there has been a major increase in organisations adopting digital tools. With serious cost and efficiency gains to be generated, the benefits of transitioning to digital ways of working are no great secret; and companies are now consistently seeking to streamline with varying degrees of success.
Digital Transformation (DX) is primarily a people thing, technology is second!
DX is not a one-off project, change needs to become a cultural norm. It's a commitment to embark on a DX journey, a bottomless fuel tank of continual change, the route unknown, but the destination is categorically value creation. You need to be restless, and adopt a constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. If DX was approached as a one-off project, I would be sceptical of the success of such a project!
Which Technologies? - Don't build your house on quicksand!
You must have the right Digital Transformation (DX) infrastructure in place before you start to play at the application layer.
The three pillars of DX:
Who is best placed to lead the Digital Transformation (DX) project? - One person cannot deliver the project... but one person can wreck it!
The project leader must be a well-respected individual within the organisation, and must have executive support from a board director, ideally a CFO, CIO, COO or CTO, although there are potential flaws with all:
In part one of this two part blog series, we looked at why "bricks-and-mortar" retailers are embracing Digital Transformation in order to compete with the new breed of online retail giants.
In part two, we look at the specific challenges Digital Transformation is throwing up for the high street, and how these challenges can be addressed.
Attending the British Legal Technology Forum (BLTF) in London last week highlighted the increasing importance and emphasis on Digital Transformation (DX) within the Legal sector.
In recent years, Cloud has become popular with organisations due to its simplicity, accessibility and relatively low-cost. Using Cloud, you can avoid many of the difficulties and expenditures that come with operating your own infrastructure, and - because it's easily accessible from anywhere - Cloud can give your users much more flexibility than on-prem legacy infrastructure.
Manuela is the founder of the CX consultancy CXellence and has been working with prominent organisations across private and public sectors to help them improve their customer experience focus and capabilities (www.cxellence.com).She is a multi-award winner and CCXP certified executive business leader with a strong track record of over 15 years of experience in leading and transforming the customer experience for the FTSE100 international organisations she has worked for during her corporate career in Financial Services and Retail.
From your perspective as a CX expert, what would you say are the main challenges retailers are facing in 2019?
My personal view is that many retailers have not taken seriously enough what is happening in the sector and the fundamental changes in consumers' expectations, which are defining the way they want to shop. Firstly, customers now expect the ultimate convenience, in terms of ease of access to what they need through online 1-click purchases, real time click & collect or seamless cross-channel interactions. Secondly, they want immediate gratification, where the prompt availability or delivery of products at the best prices is taken for granted - compounded by very low levels of tolerance for bad service or poor quality. Thirdly, they have developed a 'me' mentality, expecting a personalised and relevant service, tailor made to who they are and what they need. Finally, all this is augmented by the fact that the internet has given consumers power by democratising information, providing them with access to product choice, information and ratings, so if you fail to meet those expectations, they will shop elsewhere.
These trends have been either underestimated or misunderstood by many retailers, like the recently collapsed Maplin, Toys'R'Us and House of Fraser, who seem to have made three big strategic errors:
Do you feel that bricks-and-mortar retailers are 'behind the curve' when it comes to the adoption of technology?
Probably yes, as they have been hiding behind the perceived strength of their high street presence. Many have developed online capabilities to replicate what customers can do in store, without truly rethinking how the two channels should be redesigned and seamlessly integrated to deliver a complementarily improved customer experience. Only offering online purchase and click & collect services is not enough to optimise this.
But also, many retailers are very slow in rethinking the role of the store within the omnichannel shopping experience. In a world where they can select and buy everything online, customers often go to stores to complete what they cannot do online (at least yet) to finalise their purchasing decision, like touching and feeling the products, assessing quality or fit, asking technical questions, planning or visualising the end result etc. However, most stores still offer only a crammed display of products lined up on dusty shelves, without enough expert staff or the type of experiential immersion or educational overlay customers expect.
What are some of the limitations you see in how retailers are currently using technology? (For example, adopting technology to reduce costs rather than empowering the customer experience, or only selling their products rather than added value.)
Many still don't even get the basics right, with clunky purchase, delivery or collection processes, which are the result of poor stock, data or service management. Who wants to wait for weeks for an item to be dispatched, then stay at home a whole day for the courier to show up? But also, the lack of clear customer-centric strategic focus means that they are not able to explore the opportunities presented by technology to revolutionise the shopping experience, both online and offline, to meet those expectations of convenience, immediacy and personalisation.
Can you give an example of a retailer who is using technology to its full potential to improve its customer experience and add value?
I do not think anybody is using technology to its full potential yet. However, some organisations have used it well in some areas. For example, Argos, who as an old-fashioned catalogue-based retailer was at risk of ending up in the list of recent casualties, has cleverly evolved its business model to transform the store into an extension of the online experience, to cater for some of the reasons I mentioned above - immediate collection, product inspection, easy returns, while maintaining wide choice at good prices. They also improved accessibility, by creating small collection points within partners' premises in high traffic areas like supermarkets and stations. Simple and functional, but effective.
How do you see the role of the physical store evolving in the future - and do you agree that physical stores will fail without incorporating the Omnichannel experience (AR, AI, ML)?
No, I don't think they will fail because of that, but they will not prosper neither. As I mentioned before, I believe that physical stores need to offer the immersive and relevant experiences customers expect. Whether it's Lush's explosion of the senses or Lego's engaging environment, or it's IKEA's physical or AR home recreations, the store is no longer only about selling products, but it also needs to sell experiences and facilitate the customer journey. Using that type of technology is not essential, but can definitely help with improving the customer experience.
How can retailers introduce AR, AI and Machine Learning in order to leverage data and improve the customer experience?
Using that technology in the right way within physical stores can add an extra level of interactivity, personalisation or audience engagement, e.g. through touchscreen display content, virtual reality experiences, immersive product demonstrations or AR stands. The key is to introduce these as solutions to clearly identified customer needs rather than as stand-alone gimmicks or marketing campaigns. These capabilities are equally important online to deliver rich, relevant and interactive content or transform conventional websites into immersive VR experiences.
Where do you see the industry going forward, both this year and beyond?
Unfortunately, I believe that there will be more casualties in the sector, as too many retailers are not rethinking strategically enough the complementary role of physical stores and technology to meet customers' expectations and improve their experience. They need to understand that stores and websites are no longer only about selling products.
I also believe that technology will be increasingly used to create rich, interactive and immersive experiences both online and offline. It will enable retailers to play on the senses and stimulate and engage customers in a much more immediate and personalised way. It will also enable them to teach and educate customers, and to communicate with them in more effective ways, translating complex information into insightful and easy to understand content. The added value and experiential benefits delivered by the right use of technology will enable these retailers to deliver rich and differentiated customer experiences, and therefore drive sustainable value growth.
The conversation was kicked off by guest speaker Steve Deakin, Head of Development and Operations at Lloyds of London, discussing his experiences of Cloud and the client perspective. Next followed Nick Robinson, Systems Engineering Manager at Palo Alto Networks, who provided a view of real world innovations and shared Cloud success stories that he has seen from his clients across EMEA.
Here is a high level summary and description of the quick wins that were discussed:
Horizon Scanning & DevOps with an AGILE mind-set
A debate for another day
#Azure #AWS #CloudPatterns #Cybersecurity #OWASP #NCSC #DevOps #HorizonScanning #EthicalHacking #Digital Transformation
"SD-WAN is an exciting, transformative technology that can do a lot of amazing things for your business – but it needs to be used correctly."
By 2019, 1 to 2 million roles within cyber security will be unfulfilled. That's a figure that should strike fear into the heart of even the most stoic of business people. The threat of cyberattacks is growing quickly, and there aren't enough skilled people in place to control the wildfire.
This global cyber security skills crisis isn't exactly a new problem, though. Over the last 2 years, 40% of cyber security roles remained unfulfilled, despite an increase in job postings of over 74%. This is a problem, then, that's been smouldering in the background for a long time, and consequently now has the potential to create some serious destruction.
Although there is a growing understanding of how vital cyber security is, organisations still don't necessarily understand exactly how fundamental it is to the success of their companies. Just look at cyber security budgets, which usually account for only 25-30% of an organisation's total IT spend (according to the IDC.)
With the number of attacks only growing, this is clearly not enough money. Every time a company gives an employee a take-home device, they're exposing themselves to a lot more than 25-30% of the total security threats!
Even if there were enough people applying for cyber security roles, the relatively meagre budget allocated to cyber security by most organisations still wouldn't be sufficient to hire all the cyber security professionals they need.
What with the lack of applicants and budget allocation, many companies are now choosing to outsource their cyber security teams. By the time we get to 2020, it's likely that most organisations won't have their own in-house cyber security skills.
For most companies, the best way to plug the cyber security skills gap is to call in organisations that offer an offsite security service. Even better, they can call in an organisation which provides the cyber security element on top of other useful offerings, like network and virtual data centre services (conveniently).
Going this route is making organisations' total IT spend more efficient.
This is because you don't have to invest in the infrastructure. By outsourcing, you can be flexible with the scope of the estate. You are also going to get better quality responses from analysts because they are keen to make sure you want to maintain the service.
These analysts add an extra dimension to the organisation – you don't have to hire them but they're there. To cut a long story short, if and when the big alarm goes off (and something goes wrong), there's always someone there to help fix it. An outsourced security team is probably going to give your organisation a lot more value than the 25-30% you're currently spending on your IT budgets – their expertise will really give you more bang for your buck.
And crucially, you can switch this service on and off as you wish. The job of a Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) is to be there to protect what really matters - when it matters.
Anyone can buy the tools to offer a cybersecurity service. You can buy a firewall quite easily - just pop onto the internet and order one. But the value lies in knowing what the output means – and which next steps to take. Your recently purchased firewall isn't going to do you much good if you don't know what it's telling you. Therefore, most organisations need to bring in expert cyber security monitoring and advisement in order to get the best use out of their technology. And who wouldn't want to do a better job whilst saving money?
As highlighted by a Retail CIO roundtable discussion held by Exponential-e, in order to compete with e-commerce "bricks-and-mortar" retailers will have to personalise their in-store experiences - and they'll need to do so with the aid of Digital Transformation.
In part one of this two part blog series, we look at why the high street needs Digital Transformation to survive and prosper.
According to the latest PwC report, about 14 shops are closing every day in the UK as the high street faces one of its toughest seasons in five years. It’s no secret that the convenience of online shopping has been challenging retailers for some time now. With the world of technology ever changing, retailers need to adapt in order to keep up with both their immediate competitors and the wider industry.
When N3 contracts expired in March 2017, NHS Digital was faced with the challenge of replacing it. The idea was to replace a long-term single supplier contract with a marketplace of network options.
In many ways, thanks to technology, it has never been easier to connect people. For the recruitment industry, this is particularly pertinent, as meaningful connections are precisely the foundations on which the industry is built. After all, people don’t trust companies - they trust other people. In our digital age, however, the industry faces a host of technology-based challenges.
By nature, recruiters always strive for effective communication; in a world where it’s so easy to hide behind a screen, they understand the need for a personal touch and taking the time to meet face-to-face. However, the very technology that now connects us is also in some ways to blame for our workforce seeming more disparate than ever.
For example, candidates often might not work near a recruiter’s office - indeed, they might be an ocean away - so video interviews have become increasingly popular over coffee-conversations.
Unfortunately, these are easily scuppered by poor connectivity, as offices within the sector tend not to have particularly complex IT environments. This means that recruiters find themselves stuck with legacy landline phones, turning instead to FaceTime on their iPhones to conduct interviews.
Problems also arise when it comes to communicating with clients. Customer service is key, but it can be difficult to deliver when the internet speed is too poor to handle Google Hangouts. For an industry that trades on professionalism, a crackling line can cause untold embarrassment. What’s more, the common practice of sharing files insecurely through shadow IT can cause all sorts of compliance issues. To recap, shadow IT describes IT solutions used within an organisation without the approval, or even the knowledge, of IT decision-makers; in our post-GDPR world, it’s easy to imagine the ramifications of its use if left unchecked.
With the UK recruitment industry growing rapidly yet recruiters simultaneously struggling with the quality of hire and talent scarcities, it’s clear that recruitment firms must maximise productivity and efficiency of its people and operations in order to remain competitive. This is where the value of Unified Communications and telephony service, underpinned by a robust and reliable network, becomes most apparent. Equipped with these tools, recruiters can carve out new ways to communicate with candidates and clients alike, future-proofing their business in the process.
This is especially important when considering how the recruitment industry is a barometer for the global economy; when there’s a slowdown in recruitment, there’s a slowdown coming in the relevant sector. As such, a people-first approach with technology at its core – one that promotes the importance of effective human interactions while harnessing the power of technology – is vital not only for the recruitment industry but also companies across all sectors throughout the world. With the right IT support network in place to facilitate this, siloed technologies no longer need to get in the way and prevent recruiters from doing the job they do best: bringing people together through unparalleled professionalism.
Software Defined WAN, or SD-WAN for short, is the new big thing in business networking. Everybody’s talking about SD-WAN, and about what it can do for businesses.
Well, there’s no doubt that SD-WAN can do a lot for your business; in fact, we’ll be talking about exactly that in part 2 of this 3 part blog series. But before we do that, we need to talk about what SD-WAN can’t do.
Right now there’s a popular misconception among businesses concerning SD-WAN – a misconception fed and sustained by headlines and marketing hype - that could lead them to take damaging shortcuts in incorporating SD-WAN into their business.
SD-WAN is a technology with great potential. It allows you to monitor and manage network performance, for example, while you can use it to centrally control policies and prioritise applications - and that’s just for starters. What SD-WAN isn’t is an adequate replacement for good networking in of itself.
But here’s the thing: private, business-grade WAN/MPLS is expensive (or at least is perceived to be). And – since the headline on the typical SD-WAN article will be something like: ‘Save 40% on your networking with SD-WAN!’ – SD-WAN is perceived as cheap.
It’s no wonder that for SMEs, the ‘SD-WAN is a magic box!’ myth is an attractive one, since – unlike larger enterprises with resources to burn – SMEs are less inclined (and able) to pay for full SD-WAN integration.
... that's an attractive prospect for any organisation. However, while large enterprises can afford to fully integrate SD-WAN with their network infrastructure, SMEs are easily tempted by the myth. No big surprise, either, that some SD-WAN vendors are telling these SMEs not to waste money on an expensive MPLS when you can get something just as good by buying a cheap broadband connection and plugging it into an SD-WAN box.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Bingo!
Think about your broadband router at home. Silently running in the hallway, green signal-light flashing inconspicuously. Seems fairly harmless, doesn’t it? You basically forget it’s even there.
Most of the time, it will run fine; the lights will remain green. Sometimes, it will slow-down, or even stop working. This happens maybe once or twice a week. You don’t ring up your service provider because it’s unlikely to cause too much damage.
But imagine that humble, harmless home router sitting, not just in your business but at the centre of your business. Suddenly, seeing a light go red instead of green will send a shiver down your spine. A drop in speed now has real financial repercussions. And an outage? Even worse.
And then there’s security…
If plugging the internet into SD-WAN really did make consumer-internet as secure as business-internet, business-internet would become obsolete. This isn’t going to happen, however: a pseudo-MPLS service running on the Internet will never be able to replace a good network.
Yes, it’s true - business-grade internet is expensive. But it’s expensive for a reason. Unlike consumer-internet, it’s fully managed, with SLAs in place to ensure against latency and packet loss, and underpinned (if you pick the right service provider) by intelligently designed networking using nothing but the best technology.
SD-WAN can compensate for some of these shortfalls, but not entirely – or even adequately.
Will you save money in the short term by opting for an SD-WAN box over a business-network with an underlying physical bearing? Sure. But in the long term, going for the cheaper option might end up costing you a lot more.
When you truly understand what SD-WAN is (i.e. not a magic box), you can save money in the long term, too. At Exponential-e, our approach to SD-WAN is to take good, solid network underpinnings and insert SD-WAN into them, using the technology intelligently in order to make networks more efficient – which saves money and boosts revenue.
I’ll demonstrate some of the ways we might use SD-WAN to improve a network in the next blog in our series. In the third part, we’ll look at some real-world instances of SD-WAN being applied intelligently to networks.