Communications

The Latest

24 May 2022: ActiveCampaign has acquired email delivery service Postmark and email authentication DMARC Digest to improve its sales and marketing communications features. With the integration of Postmark, ActiveCampaign users can send transactional emails through a drag-and-drop tool to engage more non-technical users. On the other hand, with the DMARC Digests feature, users can easily identify sources that are sending unauthenticated emails that result in DMARC failures. 

Why it’s Important

Email marketing tools are evolving rapidly, with platform features that support greater usability. In addition, allowing recipients to reply to transactional emails, such as Postmark’s feature, can help improve recipients’ engagement with the organisation.  

Similar to other Cloud analytics vendors, IBRS expects more mergers and acquisitions among customer experience automation firms. It projects more features using no-code technology to be integrated for a streamlined email building process. This will help marketers and non-developer teams to create, maintain and analyse their marketing campaigns while simplifying their workflows.

However, these drivers also mean that more email automation is on the way. In turn, this means more scrutiny of email quality, trust and delivery.

Who’s impacted

  • CMO
  • Sales and marketing teams

What’s Next?

Organisations should look at how their digital marketing can improve customer engagement. No-code/low-code platforms help cut down the time to build campaigns and also create better analysis of marketing initiatives. However, they must not only leverage new technologies and integrations that optimise each customer’s touchpoint, but also consider compliance regulations, customer analytics and engagement to accelerate return on investment (ROI) in lead conversion.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Reduce Email Overload to See a New World Order
  2. Measuring Marketing return on investment

The Latest

10 May 2022: Microsoft Research has introduced an advanced prototype of PeopleLens for young learners with visual impairment at the University of Bristol. 

The solution uses augmented reality eyeglasses tethered to a mobile device to identify people and track their direction and distance from the user. Using artificial intelligence (AI), the solution registers people in the system through facial recognition and alerts the wearer in real-time by identifying the person and their distance and direction through spatialised audio. To protect privacy, facial images in the system are not stored as photographs but as vector numbers to represent identities. The technology is not yet commercially available, but does provide hints at what the near future will

Why it’s Important

Education is something of a laggard in the application of AI, especially in Western economies. 

However, innovations such as PeopleLens provide a glimpse (pun intended) of what is possible. Using AI in education is expected to grow quickly, but where and how it will be applied is as much a matter of economics as it is technology. 

The cost of AI at scale can be a prominent issue in this case. AI computation may be inexpensive in cases where requests are relatively small, but costs can quickly add up for applications that require millions or even billions of transactions. In addition, releasing new AI algorithms is still relatively expensive, due to the high cost of investment in research and design, as well as expenditures for the development of prototypes, complementary equipment and software. Hyperscale Cloud computing helps reduce these initial expenditures, but training is still required. 

Therefore, the business cases for an AI initiative must be carefully weighed against the potential future scale versus the value to individuals. In short, does it scale economically?

In a recent IBRS interview with an Australian Microsoft Azure specialist who developed an AI model to detect improper Microsoft Teams usage among students - such as cyberbullying, aberrant behaviour and inappropriate content sharing platforms - the transactional cost was not feasible, even with the aggregate value of securing children from harassment online. Since the Teams environment hosted hundreds-of-thousands of users, each producing scores if not hundreds of messages daily, the total cost of running the solution was not a viable commercial option.

In the case of PeopleLens, on the other hand, the number of transactions per individual may be relatively high, but the number of transactions as an aggregate is relatively low. As such, it is potentially an example of where the value returned is acceptable when compared against the cost. 

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Innovation managers
  • Education policy strategists
  • AI solution development teams
  • Product research teams

What’s Next?

Industries that are planning to leverage AI effectively and at scale should ask for examples of how different AI-powered solutions are being justified.  

For most organisations, AI will be leveraged as features from within SaaS solutions, such as SalesForce's Einstein and Microsoft's use of GPT3 inside the PowerPlatform. 

However, for those looking to create new applications that leverage Cloud and ML capabilities, transactional volume should be carefully considered early in the planning stage to accrue the most value from the investments in research, design, development and production in the long run.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. All Together Now! Hybrid Work, Technology, Diversity & Inclusion
  2. Innovation: Taking action in 2018

The Latest

10 May 2022: Microsoft has integrated the Z-code Mixture of Experts (MoE) models to Translator and other Azure AI services to improve the quality and accuracy of its translation capabilities. Through the Z-code MoE, the models can speed up language translations on Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and PDF files. 107 languages are currently supported. 

Why it’s Important

Pretrained ML models now produce faster translations with consistency and help human translators reduce their workload, especially for repetitive writing and translation tasks. IBRS has observed that hyperscale machine translation has already progressed in terms of computational efficiency. Capabilities such as Z-code save runtime costs by using parameters that are only relevant for specific translation tasks.

However, to match (or sometimes surpass) the quality of human translators, genre-specific translation engines trained specifically on different types of content must be employed. The generic models offered by the hyperscale Cloud vendors are often insufficient. 

Genre-specific machine translation engines involve training highly nuanced models. Solutions such as those from Omniscien Technologies, for instance, provide far more accurate models that can be curated. In addition, these specialised models also allow for the translations to run on an organisation's own infrastructure, which is a consideration for organisations that need to translate sensitive or private content without digressing from the context of the original text.

Who’s impacted

  • CEO
  • Corporate communications teams

What’s Next?

Machine translation services will eventually make their way into the daily life of most people, much like how global positioning systems (GPS) have been integrated into mobile devices. 

Currently, free machine translation tools such as Google Translate and Bing Translator are not nuanced and far less accurate when compared to the output of human translators. Translation apps such as SayHi, allow speech-to-text translation in real-time while Papago and Waygo feature image recognition that automatically translates text on pages, signs and screen. However, these still cannot produce highly accurate translations based on context and language registers.

As such, translation at a basic level (word-for-word, literal) is not good enough for all use cases. For example, translating medical information, patents, user manuals or outputs for e-discovery requests requires a much higher fidelity of translation that must include referential, cohesive and natural-sounding output. For these cases, consider specialised machine translation solutions alongside (and possibly complementing) the more general offerings from the hyperscale Cloud vendors.

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Can IBRS provide information on the establishment and maintenance of multi-lingual Web sites?
  2. Software Agents Maturity Model
  3. Managing cultural diversity

Conclusion:

A low-code Centre of Excellence (CoE) is not just about getting people to use low-code platforms. Rather, it provides leadership, support, training, and best practices that address innovation and continuous success within the organisation. It is crucial for an organisation to establish a CoE, especially when the need to concentrate expertise is fundamental to reduce operational and knowledge silos in the workplace.

A CoE provides recognition and authority as the centre of management competency in the organisation. By delivering best-practice methodologies, standards, and tools to enable teams to effectively deliver projects, it can best support business outcomes (sales, services, etc.) as well as ensure compliance and business integrity. By aligning the CoE’s goals with that of the organisation’s, processes can be more easily improved or changed to meet the demands of a post-COVID-19 environment, where agility, compliance, and business integrity are essential.

Conclusion: Don’t be the last organisation to assess the trajectory of email and other electronic communication strategies and solutions. As awareness of CO2 emission sources grows, communities and governments will be considering both large and small changes to achieve a net zero emissions target by 2050. New challenges will be presented to measure large industry specific Greenhouse CO2 emissions and smaller seemingly innocuous sources such as email.

Moving forward, upcoming generations will challenge the use of email as the primary communications channel and opt for more flexible, integrated communications channels. The tools will focus on aiding collaborations within and outside the organisation, and streamlining email overload. Much of this has already started, with vendor integration seeing emails as one element of a multi-functional approach to electronic communications. Digital marketing, customer relationship management, singularity workflows, workforce management, and project management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) developers are all embedding emails, chat, social media, Agile Kanban boards, and emerging communication methods within their products to engage future generations in the way they experienced prior to joining the workforce.

The Latest

16 August 2021: Zoom is best known for its video conferencing solution, which set new standards for ease of use and quick adoption, which in turn saw its usage skyrocket during the first months of COVID-19 lockdowns. The firm’s brand is now so ingrained that staff often refer to video conferencing as ‘zoom calls’ and the public use the terms ‘zooming’ and ‘zoom me’, even when Zoom may not be technology in use. Unfortunately for Zoom, its strong brand recognition with video calls often obscured the breadth of its unified communications (UC) ecosystem.

Zoom is attempting to reposition its brand as an end-to-end UC platform. The topics for its planned Zoomtopia summit, scheduled for the 14th of September, are clear indicators of where Zoom will focus its efforts in the coming year: 

  • Public sector
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Financial services

IBRS recent interviews as part of the Cloud economic study found these four sectors have all been particularly impacted by COVID-19 in terms of service delivery volume and increasing expectations on multichannel (if not omnichannel) experiences. So Zoom’s targeting makes sense. 

Why it’s Important.

The requirements for UC are shifting from internal standardisation (cost optimisation, ensuring staff can communicate efficiently and switch between communications modes) to external flexibility (delivering services using end-points that the public have on hand). It is for this reason that both Microsoft Teams and Zoom are finding their way into call centre strategies. It is not just that these video communications technologies fit within a larger communications ecosystem, but that the majority of the public are familiar with the services and likely have clients already installed on their devices. The mature wave of UC, which IBRS introduced 14 years ago, is moving from the trailblazers into the mainstream.

Who’s impacted

  • User experience / customer journey teams
  • Development team leads
  • Customer service teams
  • Call centre teams

What’s Next?

There two key triggers for replatforming an organisation’s UC environment, or at least introducing a new UC platform:

  • An overhaul of call centres, possibly in conjunction with CRM modernisation.
  • Replacement of legacy PBX or VoiP solution

 

Related IBRS Advisory

  1. Unified Communications: the future is full of MUC
  2. Unified Communications: Justifications and Predictions
  3. Special Report: Using Lessons from Activity-Based Working to Redefine the Post-Pandemic Workplace

Conclusion

Whilst many enterprises have successfully implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) mobile policy, many have put this in the too-hard basket fearing a human resources (HR) backlash.

Revisiting the workplace mobile policy can reduce operating costs associated with device loss, breakages, and unwarranted device allocation. IT service delivery operating costs have been increasing annually as more sophisticated and expensive handsets hit the market. Meanwhile, mobile applications are creating increased security concerns which add to asset management and monitoring costs.

Now is the time to take stock and transform the organisation’s mobility space by creating a shared responsibility with staff. Mobile phone allowances are fast becoming the norm with a multitude of different models now being adopted. Choose the one that delivers cost savings across the board as there are both direct and indirect costs associated with each option.

Conclusion:

Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives information and communication technology (ICT) leaders to look at new ICT applications with the promise of greater benefits. Many organisations then fail to maximise the value of their existing applications and Power BI is no exception. Hidden under a Microsoft enterprise agreement, organisations and staff are often unaware of Power BIs full capabilities.

Excel still remains a default position for most data analytics. The main reason is familiarity and flexibility to construct, but it has limited access to data warehouses making it less efficient as a business intelligence (BI) tool. Complex problems require multiple spreadsheets to capture and analyse data from multiple sources. Changes are often tedious and time-consuming.

To generate meaningful business insights, ICT leaders need to initiate the use cases and upskill staff with BI tools such as Power BI which are capable of agility and real-time value add.

Conclusion:

For many years Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have faced endless questions about whether Microsoft (MS) and other suppliers meet the requirements for an enterprise-grade solution. The main components of the office suite (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) and the Windows operating systems for desktops and servers, has been de facto standards for most organisations for many years.

With Microsoft’s success with Azure (Cloud and infrastructure), Dynamics (enterprise resource planning (ERP)), Office 365 (collaborative workplace platform) and the PowerPlatform (analytics and low-code workflow development), MS is now competitive in almost every aspect of the enterprise solution space. Your organisation’s approach to determining the value proposition for any supplier is the same as it has always been – maximum gain with minimum pain. The MS offering in both terms of capabilities, service support and security has matured significantly and now offers a much-improved value proposition that organisations should consider.

Conclusion:

COVID-19 has presented a number of challenges for business and the underlying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in particular. These challenges have presented both as crisis and opportunity but all have been compelling events. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, ‘never let a good crisis go to waste’. In each case, this will only be possible when the lessons learned are properly investigated and documented, allowing evidence-based decisions to ensure organisations improve the way business is done.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to the way business is done, how employees contribute, and how customers interact. Taking the time to evaluate performance, document the lessons learned, and to improve your business decision processes is invaluable. Applying the technical and business lessons learned from the period of this pandemic will add value for many years to come. It will allow your organisation to reinforce successes, avoid possible errors, and potentially improve its position in the marketplace.

Conclusion: The need to see value from an enterprise architecture (EA) framework is essential, if for no other reason than to justify the cost. However, the business benefit of EA is not just the cost. It will also provide reduced risk and improved agility for the business in its use of ICT.

Many organisations struggle with how success or failure of EA should be measured. This paper provides the reader with guidance and advice on what to measure EA against and how that measurement could be presented as a key performance indicator (KPI).

In establishing KPIs for the EA framework your organisation has adopted, both business and ICT will jointly have a better understanding of the value EA brings to the enterprise, and be able to provide governance on the continuous improvement of your EA framework to achieve even better value.

Conclusion: Many organisations have integrated enterprise architecture (EA) into the business processes, whilst many have not. To some, it is a religious argument as to why the ICT group even needs to have people with ‘architect’ in their name; for others, the EA group is the watchdog of the system, ensuring both new capabilities and changes to existing capabilities will be fit for purpose.

Like most things in business, the cost versus benefit analysis to justify why any activity is a priority is essential before committing effort and resources to it. EA should be no different. Organisations should complete a business case assessment to justify why EA is necessary for their business model, and what form it should take.

In doing so, both business and ICT will jointly have a better understanding of the value EA brings to the enterprise, be able to manage expectations on what EA can deliver and judge its effectiveness.

Conclusion: As a result of COVID-19, has the criticality of web presence for your business changed? Is your organisation now exposed to threats and risks that previously were a lower order concern? Are there advantages to be gained in the realignment of the organisation’s web strategy?

IBRS recommends organisations assess the vision statement for its web presence. Once the vision is clear, review the framework for delivery and sustainment, the processes, and the roles and responsibilities for online web services, as a result of the impact of COVID-19. The purpose of the review is to ensure your organisation leverages the strengths and opportunities of the organisation’s online presence resulting from the impact of COVID-19.

Conclusion: More than one-third of businesses globally claim to have an omnichannel strategy, which is often predicated on the use of digital channels and platforms1. However, in this quest to leverage digital channels, many organisations are rushing to create omni-enablement plans that look good on paper, but in fact, fail in practice.

This paper covers the three measures that organisations can take to successfully evolve their multichannel foundational investment (walking) for sustainable future omnichannel enablement (running).

Conclusion: Organisations that are nearing the end of life for their current voice platforms or have a compelling event to hinge the replacement of their voice service, need to review their use of voice before replacing the technology. IBRS recommends organisations look to leverage voice as an application to operationalise the processes within the organisation, and improve customer satisfaction.

Today the newer technology offerings allow your organisation to get a better return from voice. However, the use of these new technologies will impact business processes and offer greater innovation for your customer interaction. It will not be a simple replacement of boxes.

The key is understanding the power of voice. It is now an application driven by smart software. Businesses need to assess their use of voice to determine the cost benefit of the changes in the technology stack now on offer.

Conclusion: It is no longer viable for telecommunication providers to simply offer Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks for voice connectivity or Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) links to connect office and data centre locations. Nor does it make good business sense for the telco or for the customer.

The modern architectures of Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), mixed with the need to maintain on-premise for critical elements are key components that support most digital strategies. Using older telecommunications architectures with fixed connections and physical infrastructure for routing and switching can be costly, and can stifle agility and therefore productivity.

However, modern telecommunication architectures bring an ability to virtualise connections and network switching. The abstraction of these capabilities allows dynamic management of the services providing substantial agility, as well as potential productivity gains and cost savings to the customer.

Conclusion:

A successful low-code Centre of Excellence (CoE) is composed of people across multiple disciplines in the organisation, each with assigned roles and responsibilities based on domain expertise. The CoE team structure supports effective collaboration that champions continuous improvement1 in the enterprise. However, roles and responsibilities vary depending on an organisation’s budget, and needs as it eventually grows into a matured CoE.