Technology executives gathered in Silicon Valley to discuss digital transformation and the future with thought leaders from many industries who are leading the charge. Here are the key takeaways from this Technology Leadership Forum.
Client Experience Is the New Focus
In all industries the focus is shifting from products to client experiences. Dr. Ken Washington, Vice President of Research and Advanced Engineering described how Ford Motor Company – whose founder put the world on wheels with the personal automobile – transformed its business by rethinking the client experience, shifting from a product mindset to one of user experience. The vehicle is becoming their platform for delivering experiences and building a digitally connected, open source ecosystem with modems in every car. Today Ford is redefining how they move people and packages from one place to another by partnering with technology companies to adopt game-changing strategies like smart sensors, biotech, cloud computing, internet of things, robotics, machine learning and more.
Salesforce’s Adam Seligman, who is Executive Vice President of the Apps Cloud, affirmed this client focus and said, “That is how we think of our platform; the client is the center of everything. This whole business game now is about connecting with your clients in all new ways.”
Digital Transformation Presents Opportunities
As thought leaders described artificial intelligence, chatbot, app, blockchain and fintech innovation, it was impossible not to recognize the vast opportunity that digital transformation affords our industry. Arvind Krishna, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research believes that artificial intelligence is the next major revolution, citing many reasons to embrace a digital platform including lower cost of doing business, less human error and shorter processing times. According to Krishna, “For those of you in the business of being a provider of trust, consider how much more value you can provide by leveraging the entire history of digital exhaust. As opposed to those who think that large financial institutions are going to be impacted by fintechs, I think the opposite is true. I think that if large financial institutions act fast and aggressively, there is a huge unlayering of value that they can provide to clients in a way that smaller firms (fintechs) cannot.” Artificial intelligence, chatbots, apps and blockchain unlock the value of the data within a digital platform.
“How can you harness data to deliver added value to clients?”
Progress Is Achieved In Small, Incremental Steps
With so much opportunity, it is easy to become paralyzed. However, Sam Ramji, Vice President of Product Management at Google underscored the importance of building a digital platform for the future while concurrently running your existing business. The ENVISION discussion facilitated by Hewlett Packard Enterprise discussed the importance (and challenges) of being an ambidextrous organization, maintaining the old while embracing the new. Discussions focused on developing the minimum viable product (MVP) and adjusting or abandoning ideas as you go in order to create a new platform.
Panel discussions supported this conclusion, affirming the importance of conducting small experiments and delivering incremental value as the way to move forward and build a platform. Open source and enterprise computing were also solutions for innovating faster because you depend on the power of the crowd to bring quality pieces of the platform together.
Openness and Interoperability Are Imperative for Success
Throughout the event, discussions focused on thriving in a digital economy and there was a clear and common theme: Application Program Interfaces (APIs). Embracing APIs increases efficiency through internal reuse as well as external sharing. Google’s Sam Ramji said, “The most important thing about open source is not that it’s open and free. It is that it represents co-innovation.” In fact, Washington informed the group that Ford is creating standards of communication and APIs that they share with even their competitors to help advance the industry as a whole.
Sanjiva Weerawarana (Chief Executive Officer) of WS02 said, “With sharing comes responsibility.” It is important to deliver a valuable service to consumers. If value is not apparent, you must investigate and evolve the service. Many examples of this type of sharing were cited throughout the forum. Peter Leong, Director of Cloud Computing Engineering at BNY Mellon demonstrated some the of the key APIs his team is building in the Silicon Valley Innovation Center to help streamline operations, including a chatbot that delivers real-time data to sales professionals the instant they begin a client conversation.
Digital Transformation Requires Change on All Fronts: People, Process, Platform
Dan Schatt, Chief Commercial Officer of Stockpile said, “Once you move to the platform method, everything becomes possible,” as he described how his company is consumerizing stock by putting brokerage properties onto a gift card, which everyone knows how to use. He believes the platform gives us all a chance to be partners in innovation and said, “Fintechs are not disruptive; it’s the opposite. This is an opportunity to come together.”
“There is a path forward,” said Seligman. “There is a way to include more people in the software development process. Think about your platforms. The trend of low code platforms is an incredible opportunity. I don’t want to build a platform where people have to know MISO and Kafka and Lambda and Python and Angular and all this stuff. If the bar is this high to ride the ride, most of your staff will not be able to ride it and you will have a hard time hiring people to do it. That is why BNY Mellon’s platform is incredibly important in giving you services you can use without having to build them yourself. But I also think it shows you a way forward to cross the divide and meet clients’ and employees’ needs.”
“Are you approaching digital transformation holistically, developing your people, processes and platform to deliver the best client experience possible? ”
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