How Well Do You Understand the Digital Enterprise?

Most of us think we’re pretty savvy when it comes to knowing what makes today’s innovators and business greats so successful. But do we really? What do you think makes a successful company?

When I think about the organizations dominating the market in creative ways—the businesses that most entrepreneurs would like to emulate—they all have one thing in common: they’re “digital enterprises,” companies that use technology in innovative ways to gain a competitive advantage.

Have a go at our digital enterprise quiz and see if you can guess the names of these four well-known companies, and what makes them so successful as digital enterprises:

Q1: This company uses the key elements that make up a digital enterprise, including data analytics, contextually-aware services and social feedback to enhance their overall subscriber experience. Its IPO in 2012 was the biggest in technology, and one of the biggest in Internet history, with a peak market cap of more than $104 billion.

A key characteristic of digital enterprise models is the use of data analytics to continuously improve your methods of customer engagement. A big driver of Facebook’s ongoing success is that it tailors each user’s suggested pages or Likes by analyzing their preferences.

Q2: This company started out in a garage in 1998. It is now officially the site with the most traffic in the world. Need another clue? Today, it makes the bulk of its revenue from a technology that essentially makes it easier for advertisers to see what customers want to buy, based on the words they use across its platforms. 

As consumers have become more sophisticated, Google has evolved from being a straight search engine to the world’s largest advertising platform. It was also an early champion of mobile technology.

Key to its dynamic digital enterprise business model is the mobility and adaptability that Google demonstrates – this obsession leads to better internal business processes, such as the streamlining of communication channels between different departments. In turn, this has a positive impact on the end customer experience and enables companies to keep up with the constantly-evolving demands of consumers.

Google’s recent announcement of “Alphabet,” a new parent company under which Google will sit, further illustrates my point around adaptability: The new structure will give Alphabet companies the independence and flexibility required to develop their own brands and to respond to consumer expectations at a quicker pace.

Q3: This revolutionary app-based service has disrupted a 100-year-old industry, resulting in vocal protests from the incumbent market leader in the UK. It did this partly through a faster and more efficient ordering process. By mid-2015, the service was available in 58 countries and 300 cities worldwide.

Uber’s app-based “transportation network” service has completely revolutionized its industry. The model, built from the ground up using cloud technology, has also led to an improvement in customer service in the industry as a whole, as competitors are forced to change their strategy.

Like the other companies listed here, Uber also uses social feedback to enhance the quality of its service. Social feedback allows senior executives to listen to customers and fully understand the potential pain points of their business, in order to combat them before they materialize and damage the company’s bottom line.

Q4: This company’s warehouses are so big they could hold more water than 10,000 Olympic pools; its supply chain is so efficient, it can commit to 1-hour delivery times in London. Not sure? If I told you it’s piloting drone deliveries, I’m sure you’ll realize it’s…

…Amazon.

Amazon’s original online bookshop business model was revolutionary at the time. It continues to remain the market leader in e-commerce by incorporating other elements of digital enterprise models, such as automated service delivery, contextually-aware services and consumer analytics discovery triggers. For example, Amazon’s analysts can identify what you’ve been buying and tailor your ‘suggested buys’ as a result.

Using a combination of the different elements of a digital enterprise keeps established businesses like Amazon–as well as newer market entrants like Uber–market leaders in their respective fields and allows them to appeal to an increasingly tech-savvy consumer.

From Uber to Twitter and even Starbucks and Dominos, the list of successful digital enterprises is vast. Today alone, you have probably interacted with at least 10 of them.

We are truly operating in the era of the digital enterprise. It’s clear that any company looking to remain at the forefront of their industry needs to adopt some, if not all, of the attributes we attribute to digital enterprises–from an innovative business model to extreme data analytics, or contextually-aware services that lead to a better customer experience.

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A Day in the Life of James Bond: Why Today’s CIO Is on a Very Similar Mission

When I finally got around to seeing Spectre, the new James Bond film, I came away thinking, “There’s a lot we can learn from that man.” And I don’t just mean how to look good in an expensive suit while scaling buildings and dangling off helicopter runners… James Bond can teach us a lot about the digital transformation journey.

There are a lot of similarities between the life of a CIO or CTO and that of our favorite secret agent. Wishful thinking, you say? Allow me to elaborate.

While Bond’s affinity for state-of-the-art gadgets and fast cars places him in sticky situations, they always seem to end up getting him out of trouble, too. You could say that Bond has a love-hate relationship with technology. And that’s a reality I think many CIOs are facing today.

In Spectre, *plot spoiler* it turns out that everything that had been inhibiting Bond’s chance of love and happiness all these years was the grand plan of one, all-powerful, evil villain. Using all the skills and tools at his disposal, Bond manages to outmaneuver him.

In many ways, CIOs are experiencing a very similar scenario when it comes to their mission to achieve digital transformation. They too are beset by the same inhibitors, many of which are the result of previous technology investments or decisions that seemed to make sense at the time. Now, these technologies act more like antiheroes from the past, and are often the reason a business can’t move forward.

Like Bond, today’s CIOs have the opportunity to find happiness in the form of becoming digital enterprises. By piecing together what the inhibitors are and getting to the root of their own business challenges, they can take care of their technology demons once and for all and move on with the next, exciting chapter. So, if I could be James Bond for a day, here’s where my mission would take me:

  • Information silos stop data being shared across departments, which prevents the delivery of the type of experience that customers expect today: Information silos create a disjointed view of the customer and, as a result, service falters and the company becomes blind to up- and cross-sell opportunities. Can you imagine if Bond didn’t have access to all the data and intelligence of the Secret Service? It’s what allows him to plan his next move and CIOs should definitely follow his lead, by breaking down unnecessary internal information silos.
  • Mobility needs to sit at the heart of every business’ strategy: From the very beginning, Bond relied on mobile–using his High Frequency Transmitter in the first Bond film, Dr. No. In the same way, CIOs who don’t prioritize mobile will find they lose sight of their mission very quickly and struggle to keep pace with the action.
  • Manual processes limit what organizations can get out of their other enterprise-wide investments: Without automation driving the back office, CIOs will constantly spend resources physically connecting processes that span the rest of the business. The great thing about Bond is that he never has to think about any of the back-end stuff (do you think that without Q automating and ensuring the back-end runs smoothly, Bond would be able to use all his gadgets to such great effect?) Similarly, CIOs need to ensure they have back-end automation in place so the business can concentrate on using technology in innovative ways to gain competitive advantage.
  • Monolithic systems must be upgraded: Legacy investments that are preserved for too long are often hugely detrimental to the modern goals of business, and create two massive problems. First, maintaining them takes a huge amount of time and energy, leaving little room for investment in the true innovation that drives digital transformation. Second, trying to modernize on the back of a monolithic system is similar to dressing your car with a spoiler, when what you really need to do is look under the hood and service the engine. While there’s no doubt Bond has always driven the flashiest cars, can you imagine if he was still expected to triumph in a high-speed car chase driving the original Sunbeam Alpine Series II from Dr. No? Sure, it still looks good and would get him from A to B, but it definitely wouldn’t stand up to expectations today.
  • Cybersecurity is key: In the latest film, Bond fights a cyber-villain who has a vision to replace the double 0’s with cybersecurity. For businesses today, cybersecurity remains at the forefront of business strategy and technology decision-making. For organizations working toward digital transformation, the first step in creating a digital security strategy is understanding exactly what it is that a potential hacker would be interested in. From there, the CIO is in an informed position to build a strategy from the ground up.

What Our Predicted 2016 Trends Reveal About the Future of Business

At Avaya, we’re always looking forward. When creating a road map for the future of the company and the benefit of our customers, my team and I look ahead to anticipate the communications needs of tomorrow.

Last year, we predicted that midmarket companies would move to more cloud-based solutions; video would become a formidable channel; and Web chat would play an increasingly pivotal role in delivering omni-channel support. Do these trends sound familiar? These are all very real business conversations happening today. As we enter 2016, we couldn’t help but ask ourselves yet again, “What’s next?”

We thought long and hard about the trends that businesses should expect to see in 2016. Interesting conversations led us to an even more interesting question, “What do these projected trends say about the future of business?” We concluded that the world revolves around the customer now more than ever. As a result, when making purchasing decisions about communications tools and technologies, there needs to be a greater emphasis on customer use cases. Ask yourself, “What specific use cases am I solving for?”

We identified key trends to look for in 2016, and each says something really exciting about where the enterprise is heading:

More networks lean on Fabric

The increasing volume of data and bandwidth utilization from the burgeoning number of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and “smart,” connected devices such as healthcare devices, home security systems and appliances, vending machines, check-out stands, etc. will drive traditional networks to the breaking point. Mesh topologies and Fabric-based technologies will become increasingly attractive as the answer for cost-effective solutions that can accommodate the capacity needed and flexibility required for the constant changes in network traffic. Decades of client server architectures are coming to an end.

Customer contact centers become more flexible and connected

Omni-channel access/pre-routing will gather momentum as smartphones become the interface of choice for customers. This means much more efficient handling of customer inquiries, leading to greater satisfaction, lower costs for balancing and distributing incoming customer communications over multiple locations, and easing IT operations for the business.

The percentage of people connecting to an enterprise will continue to be increasingly digitally dominated from browsers and mobile applications, which will drive specialized ways of serving those customers from the customer experience (CX) perspective. This dynamic will also drive customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing-oriented projects for the more innovative companies.

As customer satisfaction scores for video within the contact center outrank other channels, we will continue to see more video deployed as an option to increase customer engagement. Video capabilities enhance the ability to develop the personal relationship with a customer, establish trust more quickly and allow agents to better understand the customer’s need, which can lead to improved time to resolution.

Enterprise-grade WebRTC gains momentum

Enterprise-grade WebRTC conferencing from desktop and mobile browsers will speed the ability for participants to join common virtual areas without launching separate applications.

Automotive telecommunications will become a fast-growing customer contact center channel

With sensors and telematics systems becoming more common in automobiles today, information on vehicle usage and driver behavior is more readily-available, providing an opportunity for manufacturers, dealers and OEMs to forge closer relationships with customers, increase loyalty to their brand and increase margins. Specifically, sensor-based reporting on car maintenance and usage enables more convenient, proactive services for car owners, alerting them to upcoming maintenance, repairs or safety issues. Sensors and telematics also provide opportunities for tie-ins with insurers, such as safe driver discounts, not to mention access to a myriad of other services.

Further proliferation of wearable technology will drive customer satisfaction

Over the next four years, sales of wearables worldwide are predicted to increase almost eight-fold from last year. The explosion will make the most important device we carry – our smartphone – even more significant by expanding its role as our personal hub by serving as a proxy for our wearable tech.

But a less talked about, must-watch dynamic is the evolution of wearables in in the workplace, beyond the contact center. As headset and communications technologies continue to evolve, new wearable technologies hone in on special applications for workers who need hands-free access to information and communications capabilities. For example, a remote healthcare worker could use communications-enabled wearables to video call with city-based surgical teams when operating on a patient.

The “guest” experience in sports and hospitality gets connected and smart

Analytics for sports and entertainment will no longer be just about the athletic performance. Fan analytics − or the analysis of data collected from fans across several touchpoints − will help venues measure, optimize and monetize the fan experience.

And with Facebook’s release of Oculus, we can expect to watch the virtual reality scene play out for sports fans. The technology will provide the red button experience both in the stadium and at home. For example, using just a smartphone, fans could choose 50+ camera angles to watch the game from while still in their seat. This could include views from the goal, corner flag or the umpire’s hat, even the players’ shirts. The hotel room will be an extension of your home as – with your permission – it will know your context and provide all your usual connectivity.

Connected Government will become the new normal

Connected Government will emerge, embracing social media through multimedia communications. Text-to-911 will ramp up quickly, but fade just as fast, as citizens embrace total immersion in Face2Face911 through video and pictures from their broadband-enabled smart devices.

They try really hard, but messaging apps will not replace email

Email is a communication tool that by now is simply part of doing business worldwide. Unlike messaging apps, email has structure. There are subject lines, the ability to reply to one or many, the ability to categorize, create folders, and the list goes on. The basic structure is, for the most part, consistent between email providers. Furthermore, a Gmail user can email an Exchange user and so on. While messaging apps are trendy and fun to use socially, they are the newborns of the written communications world who have no organization skills and  a lot of growing up to do.

Hybrid/private clouds remain the business critical application workhorse for next 5 years  

Going to the cloud has many benefits, but it can lead to some new challenges that businesses need to consider. As solutions move from homogenous, monolithic technology to heterogeneous technology running on layers upon layers of cloud infrastructure, customers get increasingly concerned about cloud security and accountability for service delivery/support of the full solution. Customers will demand accountability and value from their “point” vendors, requiring strong relationships and mastery of the infrastructure implications, which includes the cloud applications, as well as the network and desktop/mobile devices that serve them.

Customer relationships rule for vendor differentiation, as support increasingly relies on self-service and self-healing systems   

The value-add of contracted support is becoming less visible as leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems. As a result, vendors need to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to intentionally work to maintain the human factors of the service event to overcome the depersonalization that may result from increasingly technical solutions by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.

Why Failure is More Important than Success

Businesses, leaders and entrepreneurs have long been obsessed with success.

Billions of dollars are made from how-to books, speeches and guides–all glorifying a no-fail path. For a long time, failure was considered the worst of F-words to a company, and “failure is not an option” could be heard echoing down the hallways of the enterprise.

That’s what makes the latest business trend all the more fascinating.

The spotlight that used to shine on success has shifted to success’ evil twin sister… failure. Now, not only is failure an option, it’s the option of choice − celebrated, embraced, even encouraged.

Why Fail Now

“Fail often, fail fast” is likely now the second-most repeated mantra in Silicon Valley (just behind Steve Jobs’ “stay hungry, stay foolish”).

Granted, the most astute visionaries have long understood the importance of failure. Take Thomas Edison, who tried more than 9,000 designs before coming up with a working version of the lightbulb, or Dr. Seuss, whose first book was rejected by 27 different publishers.

Nowadays, the stigma around failure has lessened, and the best business leaders are becoming more and more comfortable with failure:

  • Nine out of ten startups fail, according to Forbes.
  • Using agile software development practices, many engineers quite literally “sprint” toward failure.
  • And live events like FailCon and Startup Funeral celebrate tech world failures.

But simply failing frequently is a failure in itself.

In the best fashion of failure, every misstep is considered a learning opportunity, a way to understand how to effectively translate failing into a future success:

  • The 10 percent of startups that succeed do so because they failed behind the scenes many times, in smaller ways, before − not after − launch, and grew better.
  • Agile development is often considered the new essential for Web and mobile app development, precisely because it encourages quick experiments, failure and, most importantly, the adaptations necessary to achieve success. Agile software development “sprints” help the team find out if there are problems at an accelerated pace and make adjustments as needed. The sooner failures are found, the less time – and money – is wasted.
  • Conferences that celebrate failure do so to recast the notion of failure and encourage knowledge sharing. Events like FailCon and Startup Funeral show the tech world that it doesn’t need to bury its failures silently; instead, it should eulogize them, learn from them and fail better next time.

Failing Smarter

The challenge for leaders is just that: failing smart. The best business decision makers will harness failure. They’ll recognize that there is no point in failing (whether it be often, small, fast, forward or any which way), if you fail to learn.

Businesses are steadily moving into a software-only world, and software development kits give companies the tools to quickly write apps to solve fundamental business pain points. Rather than paying a vendor millions of dollars to stand up massive, proprietary software projects, small teams can build apps quickly, test them with users, measure success and iterate on what they’ve learned.

That’s the opportunity inherent in Avaya Engagement Development Platform, the software development kit that embeds business communications in virtually any workflow automation app.

Consider these use cases:

  • A large, nationally-recognized university launched a parking payments app that will send a text message to the student when his or her parking is about to expire. Engagement Development Platform was embedded inside, and powered the text message.
  • A large sales team had a challenge—their salespeople would get calls from numbers they hadn’t saved on their smartphones. The salespeople would pick up the phone cold, and spend the first 15 seconds trying to figure out who was calling them, and why. Engagement Development Platform linked those incoming calls with the company’s cloud-based CRM system, pushing relevant customer information to the salesperson. Now, they could pick up the phone with a warm greeting and the context they needed to be successful.
  • Avaya recently won a Thomas Edison Patent Award for Innovation for an application that permanently eliminates the need to dial long strings of numbers to get into a conference call. That capability is currently available inside Engagement Development Platform as a “Snap-in”—a modular, reusable snippet of code that’s easy to embed in any app.

Engagement Development Platform is simple, powerful and automatically preconfigured for scalability, enabling faster, more flexible development cycles.

That flexibility empowers our customers — from universities to approximately 95 percent of Fortune 500 companies — to fail forward quickly. Engagement Development Platform shortens time-to-innovation and time-to-business, allowing Avaya to act as a catalyst to its customers’ success.