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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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Investment

What SaaS-ification means for customer-business relationships

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Wes Durow
Photo courtesy Wes Durow
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Marc Andreessen once famously said that software is eating the world. And with the rise of cloud technology and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, it appears as though software might also be eating traditional revenue and service models of large enterprise companies.

“More and more of our customers are choosing to switch to a subscription model,” said Mitel Chief Marketing Officer, Wes Durow. “And in that world, response matters.”

A telecommunications company with customers in more than 100 countries, Mitel touts itself as one of the fastest-growing cloud communication providers. Speaking to DX Journal after the SaaS North conference in Ottawa, Durow said the move to cloud is changing how companies engage with customers, and businesses need to be aware of how customer relationships shift with the rise of as-a-service models.

“When you buy something every seven, eight or nine years, you’ll sign a longer contract and probably put up with some ups and downs,” said Durow. “But when you’re paying on a monthly basis for a service, you want short contracts, immediate response time, and a stream of new features pushed out to you as part of your subscription.”

Companies are quickly adopting as-a-service (aaS) offerings because of major cost savings and simplified integrations.

With cloud computing, for example, companies can dramatically reduce the physical footprint and cost required for in-house IT infrastructure. But when you engage a vendor and pay for services on a monthly or short-term basis, the nature of the business relationship can change as a result of many more touch points.

“The move toward Software as a Service or SaaS-based solutions has been well documented across customer, employee and financial data applications,” said Durow. “The unified communications segment now has more than 10 percent of the North American market choosing Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solutions versus on-site options.”

Mitel says UCaaS customers represent more than one million total users for the company, and that it has “substantially” more private cloud users.

“As customers move from intermittent transactions toward monthly UCaaS subscriptions, we have had to change how we design, deploy, bill and manage these services,” Durow said. “Further, we are also growing our customer success organizational capability so we can counsel and support these customers, in partnership with our channels where pertinent, to help guide them forward as they seek to add new features or intersect UCaaS capabilities with other SaaS services.”

Durow believes that responsiveness will be a key success metric for anything offered as a service.

“It’s all built around this transition from a transactional relationship to an experiential relationship,” said Durow.

Multiple industries are embracing the new service model. A recent Navigant Research report finds that Energy-as-a-Service has the potential to reach a global market of $221.1 billion by 2026. ServerWatch reports the Infrastructure-as-a-Service public cloud market is blowing up and revenues could scale from $16.8 billion in 2015 to $22.1 billion today.

For Mitel, acting on rising demand required the company to embrace a wide array of new technologies. The company used Salesforce for both internal and external tasks. They also rewired operations using Workday and adopted chatbots to boost demand-gen and service support processes.

“In our category, the number one differentiator for a brand is responsiveness,” Durow said, adding that the central focus with as-a-service offerings is the customer and their needs.

“The best companies that are really driving digital transformation speak very clearly about the problems that are solved, and they 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.”

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Professional Services

Understanding the legal risks of deploying AI in businesses

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Carole Piovesan, Litigator and Team Lead on AI, Privacy, Cybersecurity and Data Management group at McCarthy Tétrault
Carole Piovesan, Litigator and Team Lead on AI, Privacy, Cybersecurity and Data Management group at McCarthy Tétrault
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing an array of opportunities and challenges to businesses. Not least of these new changes is legal risk.

DX Journal spoke with Carole Piovesan, Litigator and Team Lead on AI, Privacy, Cybersecurity and Data Management group at McCarthy Tetrault, to find out how AI will affect businesses, who should be addressing the legal risks AI poses to society and how the legal practice itself is being affected by AI.

DX Journal: To what extent does AI pose a legal risk to enterprises looking to incorporate this technology?

Carole Piovesan: Since there’s a lot of talk about AI, let me start with a very short definition. AI is an umbrella term that encompasses different processes such as natural language processing (like Siri), image recognition, machine learning and deep learning. The “AI” that draws a lot of attention these days – both negative and positive – is usually machine learning and deep learning, both of which involve self-teaching and self-executing systems.

AI offers a lot of opportunity for businesses looking to improve efficiencies and cut costs. Depending on the purpose of the system, however, it can present certain legal risks.

For instance, AI systems require lots of data to train systems on how to accurately perform a certain task. Access to data is largely governed by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act which sets parameters for how to legally access, store and use data, among other things. Companies need to understand how to comply with privacy legislation to avoid reprimand or sanction. In addition, amassing huge quantities of data could lead to competition issues around data monopolies, among other things.

Then there is the issue of liability where a system does something it shouldn’t have done or doesn’t do something it should have done. In self-teaching and self-executing systems, questions arise as to who should bear liability for harm caused by the system. This leads to the corollary issue of proof. The pathway to a particular output for these systems is notoriously difficult to understand.

There is a whole movement around increasing the interpretability of AI systems, particularly where systems are used in matters that directly affect human life such as medical diagnosis and criminal law.  

DX Journal: Which industries are likely to be most affected by the legal risks that AI brings to businesses?

Piovesan: I wouldn’t think of it as industries that will be most affected by AI, but tasks. Every industry has the potential to be affected by advanced technologies including deep learning systems. The idea is that AI systems can perform routine, repetitive tasks better, faster and cheaper than humans. Every industry has processes that are repetitive in nature and that can be improved by AI.

That said, in the near-term, industries that are expected to be deeply affected by AI include transportation, medicine, law, insurance, accounting, manufacturing, retail, financial services, among others. Sectors that are less obvious but that are benefitting from AI include oil and gas, and mineral extraction, in which AI is being used to more safely and efficiently extract natural resources.

DX Journal: What should businesses focus on as they begin to onboard AI tools?

Piovesan: Depending on the purpose and complexity of the technology, business will want to develop a better understanding of AI technologies, as well as risk management strategies for incorporating more sophisticated technologies into their operations. Increasingly we’re seeing an interest in creating legal assessment tools specific to AI technologies. 

DX Journal: Who is addressing the legal risks created by AI in society?

Piovesan: Many different actors have a role to play in ensuring safe, beneficial and productive innovation. I would say that provincial and federal governments need to kick-start a dialogue with the academic and private sectors around issues specific to AI technology. One critical area for greater discussion is with respect to the interpretability of AI systems, and requirements for explainability for systems used with direct impact on human rights and well-being.

The EU and UK are examples of jurisdictions that are undergoing regular consultations to inform a possible regulatory framework on AI. Canada has also done such consultations but I think more is needed.

The academic and private sectors are tasked with advancing innovation but, as we have seen with the 2017 Asilomar principles, for example, they can also lead in defining appropriate standards and codes of conduct to promote responsible and productive research and innovation.

Canada is well-situated in the AI field. Some of the foundational thought-leaders of deep learning are based in Canada. We have tremendous academic talent here.

Plus, the federal government announced $125 million in research and development focused AI and nearly $1 billion over 5 years to promote innovation superclusters.

These announcements made international headlines which is important to show the world that Canada is the place to be for research and innovation (not to mention we are known for having the second largest tech sector outside Silicon Valley).

Finally, Canada is a well-respected international player and AI is technology will require a coordinated international approach, especially with respect to data sharing and in the military and defence contexts. Canada is very well placed to add-value to any international dialogue on AI.

DX Journal: How is AI changing the legal practice itself?

Piovesan: AI presents tremendous opportunity in the legal profession. As lawyer become more exposed to and comfortable with the technology, we will increasingly incorporate AI into all aspects of our practice.

The law firm can use AI to streamline internal processes such as mandate scoping. By understanding how much a typical piece of legal work costs, law firms can more quickly and accurately estimate new work that is similar in scope.

At my firm, McCarthy Tétrault, we’re using AI in M&A due diligence work. In so doing, we’re able to complete due diligence for an M&A transaction in a fraction of time and for a fraction of traditional costs.

AI is also being introduced on the litigation side through systems that can complete legal research of concepts. It is also being used in e-discovery to increasingly categorize documents and predict relevance.

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Financial Services

KPMG says blockchain ‘critical’ to industry, joins advocacy group

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Photo by William Bout on Unsplash
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KPMG has joined the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance as a corporate member and has declared blockchain as “critical to the industry,”

Blockchain is gaining momentum across different industries as its benefits start to become clear. The concept of a distributed and transparent ledger gives businesses a way to improve efficiency, cut down waiting times and open new revenue streams.

KPMG is the latest major firm to publicly commit to furthering adoption by joining a working group.

The Alliance

The Wall Street Blockchain Alliance (WSBA) is a non-profit trade organisation that’s working to advocate the introduction of the blockchain in financial services markets worldwide.

KPMG said it’s joining the group so it can work with leading blockchain experts and help to promote use of the technology within the finance industry. It’s pursuing several long-term goals, including an improved customer experience and reduced operating costs.

“Blockchain is maturing toward the production phase and it is clear that it has the potential to dramatically impact financial services by improving outcomes critical to the industry such as cost of operations, capital consumption, customer experience and in some cases new business models and revenues,” said Eamonn Maguire, global leader of KPMG’s Digital Ledger services.

KPMG’s decision to join the WSBA will give the alliance more visibility as it develops standards for blockchain use within the financial markets. A common set of standards will allow for those within the industry to collaborate on a shared blockchain platform.

Current members

Existing corporate members of the alliance include Calypso Technology, RiskSpan, OTC Exchange Network, BlockEx and blockchain analytics platform Blockchain Intelligence Group.

The addition of KPMG will provide a direct bridge between the predominantly tech-centric existing members and the industry that the alliance intends to transform.

“We look forward to collaborating with them, as our global members and indeed the world, begin to implement blockchain innovations across financial markets and beyond,” said Ron Quaranta, Chairman of the WSBA.

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