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Solving problems for customers remains focus of DX



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Customer data and customer experience can unlock both revenue gains and cost savings for companies.

In fact, analytics and a customer-centric focus allows companies to “build customer loyalty, make employees happier, achieve revenue gains of 5 to 10 percent, and reduce costs by 15 to 25 percent within two or three years,” says McKinsey.

In a recent survey by global communications company Mitel, almost three quarters of businesses report over 50 percent progress in improved customer experience thanks to their digital transformation efforts. Yet significant barriers remain, like legacy infrastructure and business misalignment.

Mitel is working through this digital transformation firsthand, building up their own internal capabilities as well as advocating for clients that are disrupting established business practices.

To find out more about how customers should be the focal point of business transformation, DX Journal spoke with Wes Durow, Chief Marketing Officer of Mitel.

DX Journal: How is digital transformation affecting business at Mitel?

Wes Durow: “More and more of our customers are choosing to switch to a subscription model. And in that world, response matters. When you buy something every seven, eight, nine years, you’ll sign a longer contract, you’ll probably put up with some ups and downs.

“But when you’re paying on a monthly basis for a service, you want short contracts, you want immediate response time, you want to have a stream of new features pushed out to you as part of your subscription. So we’ve gone through a pretty substantial transition in terms of how we wire up our own company, that does business across 100 countries across the globe so we can have that kind of response.”

DX Journal: What is the CMO’s role during digital transformation?

Durow: “Marketing should be an extension of a company’s strategy. Our vision for the company is to make communications and collaborations seamless. Today people have lots of tools to communicate and collaborate with.

“My role as CMO is really to make sure that what we communicate and what we take to market reflects in each of our customers, not only what they expect today, but lays the groundwork for what’s required tomorrow. That’s really just lining up our strategy with customer expectations and how we speak to the problems we solve in a way that makes the most sense for our existing customers and those prospects whose business we hope to earn.”

DX Journal: How is the change in perspective towards the empowered customer, driven by new technologies, impacting marketers?

Durow: “As marketers, you’re always about thought leadership, and you think ‘Oh, I’ve got to come up with the next big genius idea.’ It has kind of flipped, because the next genius idea is really being driven by the customer.

“Thought leadership now is really defined by how customers are using this technology, and how do we make it simple for them to do so, and how do we make it repeatable and easy to manage.”

DX Journal: How can companies better market their digital transformation efforts to their customers?

Durow: “The people that do a great job marketing it talk about what the different outcome is.

“The best companies that are really driving digital transformation and how this goes to market speak very clearly about the problems that are solved, and do it in a way that demystifies the technology. It doesn’t make it feel like they have to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to get there. People want to leverage what they’ve got, have someone knit it together for them and do it in a way that helps solve a business problem.

“While the problem may be unique by vertical or even business, there’s a common thread across all of them. And if you just listen or seek to understand, you can sort through that. People aren’t really buying technology, they aren’t buying a solution, they’re really just buying a business outcome.”

DX Journal: Does AI assist this process, or is it just another challenging technology that companies must face up to?

Durow: “I think they all snap together. If you’re a company, you’re going to figure out, ‘Hey, what can I automate that’s going to be most valuable to my customers?’ And my ‘customers’ could be internal colleagues, or people that write cheques.

“The first thing you’re going to figure out is, ‘How can I automate every single thing I can?’ Then within that, you’ll to start looking at patterns. Because you want to make sure that where there’s human interaction, that should be the most high value experience.”

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Connection Silicon Valley bridges Canadian business and world-class innovation



Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley
Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley
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Joanne Fedeyko, CEO of Connection Silicon Valley, is serious about putting Canada on the map when it comes to innovation.

“I’m incredibly passionate about helping Canadian companies be successful,” she told DX Journal in an interview. “Their success equals success in Canada. Ultimately, what I want to see is Canada on the global innovation stage as a major player.”

For Fedeyko, a native of Northern Alberta, that means creating a bridge between Canadian business and the vibrant culture and approach of Silicon Valley. Through her work with Connection Silicon Valley, she helps Canadian startups, scaleups and corporate clients connect with all the exciting opportunities happening in one of the world’s greatest innovation hubs.

Connecting to the Valley

All of Connection Silicon Valley’s work is to encourage Canadian entrepreneurs and investors to branch out in their thinking a little more and gain a global perspective on their innovative projects and practices.

“I connect startups and corporates into Silicon Valley’s rich tech and innovation ecosystem to help them build and scale their business,” Fedeyko said. “The core of the work that I do is very custom and curated.”

Fedeyko dissects what companies might need, problems they might solve, or who they might need to connect with. “It’s all about custom connections.”

For startups, the biggest thing is funding and investors — but networking with other CEOs and founders can be a huge benefit. Speaking to the right Silicon Valley veteran can help founders determine things like pricing for their product, or even how to avoid a few pitfalls other CEOs have encountered in their previous experiences.

For corporate clients, Fedeyko organizes trips where Canadian companies speak with investors, startups and thought leaders. Through these two-day trips, Canadian companies can learn best where businesses are investing their resources, and get a sense of how to future proof their brand in light of developing technologies.

“When people come down to the Valley, light bulbs go off every single time,” she said.  “It’s eye-opening to see the ecosystem, the pace, the energy, the urgency, the plethora of technologies, and the collaborative nature. People have to see it, not just read about it, in order to grab some of the DNA that exists in the Valley.”

HQ2 helps put Canada on the map

Attitudes and perceptions of innovation in the Great White North are changing, both within and outside Canada.

With Toronto making the shortlist for Amazon’s HQ2, there is a realization that the world is increasingly looking closer at Canada’s immigration policy, its stellar post-secondary institutions and its AI expertise.

Fedeyko says there’s been a subtle shift in how Canadian businesses approach Silicon Valley innovation, but that Amazon’s interest in Canada has been the biggest moment of realization she’s seen so far.

“I think Amazon is one of the best things that could have happened to make Canada wake up.”

The attention and competitive potential of Amazon has shifted the territory for Canadian businesses on the world stage. As the world’s attention turns towards Canadian entrepreneurs and founders, Canadian companies are looking to connect with the excitement of innovation hubs like Silicon Valley, and American founders are looking to get better acquainted with the vibrant world of Canadian tech businesses. That’s where Connection Silicon Valley comes in.

Not a lot of people are doing this kind of work specifically for Canadian companies. For Fedeyko, it’s a question of passion. “I’m really doing it because I love my country and I want everyone to have the same sort of opportunities to connect with Silicon Valley like I do every day.”

Connect with Connection Silicon Valley in Toronto

Part of the Valley experience that Connection Silicon Valley is bringing to Canadians comes in the form of innovation immersion sessions. On April 24, Connection Silicon Valley is hosting a dinner for director-level business leaders to share an open dialogue about how disruption is changing the shape of business, and what’s holding companies back from embracing transformative change. Get your ticket here.

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Canada uses blockchain to make research grants more transparent



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The Canadian government has begun trialling blockchain technology as a way to improve the transparency of research grants. The National Research Council (NRC) is currently using an Ethereum-based system to publish funding information in real-time.

In a blog post, the NRC explained how blockchain technology could help to make government contracts more transparent. The blockchain’s public ledger means data recorded on the system is unalterable and open to everyone. This provides transparency into the workings of government, which in turn promotes trust.

Public-private partnership to drive pilot

To implement the trial project, the NRC has partnered with Canadian blockchain SME Bitaccess. It’s also working with the Industrial Research Assistant Program (IRAP), a body that generates a large volume of transactions each year and which would benefit from improved transparency.

Using funding from the Build in Canada Innovation Program, the NRC and Bitaccess are piloting a blockchain record-keeping system for the IRAP’s financial activities.

The program is part of the Canadian government’s wider efforts to improve transparency and utilize modern technologies. The NRC will be responsible for investigating how the blockchain could be applied to other areas of government. If the pilot proves successful, Canada could begin using blockchain more broadly to preserve public records and maintain transparency.

The trial is described as the first “real-use case” of its kind for deploying blockchain tech inside public institutions. The NRC said it expects to acquire “constructive” insights into how blockchain could be used by government bodies. Many tech visionaries see blockchain as crucial to the future of business but it’s still a new concept to most official organisations.

“These are early days yet, but the experiment is expected to provide constructive insight into the potential for blockchain technology and how it may be used for more open and transparent function of public programs,” said the NRC. “This experiment also marks an important step forward for the technology and a commitment by the Government to support emerging Canadian innovation.”

From cryptos to conservation

The blockchain is currently best known as the infrastructure supporting cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. In this scenario, the blockchain records every transaction on a decentralised public ledger. As the blockchain is immutable and distributed across computers around the world, the data stored within is always secured against external tampering.

These qualities are also what makes the blockchain concept attractive to organisations that need to store data transparently. The Canadian government’s initiative is just one example of how the tech could be used. Other recent blockchain-based projects have included schemes aimed at sports fans and unsustainable practices in the tuna industry.

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Publicis Groupe partners with Microsoft to build new AI platform for 80,000 employees



Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella (left) and Publicis Groupe CEO Arthur Sadoun announce AI partnership
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Publicis Groupe has announced it is partnering with Microsoft to create a “disruptive” AI platform to digitally transform its operations. The organization will define the platform’s architecture, with Microsoft then providing the tech to build it.

Called Marcel, Publicis Groupe intends the AI-powered network to achieve three main aims:

  • Curation of insights
  • Providing employees access to these insights
  • Connecting staff to boost problem solving.

Together, these tasks aim to deliver efficiency improvements to the company’s internal operations. Publicis Groupe currently employs more than 80,000 people who will use the new platform to connect with each other and organize information.

How it works:

Marcel will curate Publicis Groupe’s collective knowledge acquired through its business operations. This information will then be available to employees, allowing workers to access all the insights harvested by the company.

For example, an employee looking for info in one business might be shown an insight that was originally created in another operation. If it’s relevant to the task, Marcel will still present the data to the employee.

Marcel will also make individual connections between all 80,000 Publicis Groupe staff. This is intended to let employees access relevant support resources as and when they need them. As soon as a staff member encounters a problem, they could use Marcel to find an employee capable of providing immediate assistance.

Marcel to run on Azure

The platform is a sizeable initiative that Publicis Groupe believes will transform the way it operates. The design of the system is already being readied for Microsoft to implement using its cloud resources and AI capabilities. Marcel will run on Microsoft’s Azure cloud network with integrations into Office 365 for business insights.

“Marcel is a crucial step in Publicis Groupe’s commitment to radically change our industry, for the good of our clients and our people,” said Arthur Sadoun, Chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe. “It’s why we’re thrilled to be able to draw on Microsoft’s ground-breaking talent, capabilities and resources in artificial intelligence, to build the platform of the future, today.

Publicis Groupe has been preparing Marcel’s architecture for several months. It first unveiled the platform last year while it was still in the design phase. The appointment of Microsoft as the project’s technical partner means Publicis Groupe is now progressing towards the introduction of Marcel to its employees and clients.

The finished solution will be developed over the next few months. Publicis Groupe and Microsoft will present it at the Viva Technology show in Paris in May.
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