What Does Digital Transformation Mean Now Anyway?

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Digital transformation.  It’s a catch all term for how digital technologies are changing the lives we lead, and the businesses we operate today.  To be honest, it’s overused. You’ll see it in nearly every article you now read. What’s the problem with that? As a term becomes more and more used, it fails to stop people in their tracks. It fails to engage in meaningful thought. And when the term digital transformation becomes like wallpaper, it does the technologies it seeks to promote a disservice.

So, let’s just stop a minute. Let’s unpack the term digital transformation and let’s find meaning in it again so that you can understand where it will truly help your business to progress.

Most businesses understand the term digital now. Even Cloud is a widely understood term and organisations are embracing the systems and processes that sit on them to facilitate productivity, efficiency, collaboration and relationship building.  For most organisations, it’s an acceptance that their customers also expect digital progression and the improved service levels that come with them. So for most, it’s about starting there. Then there’s the visionary stuff that is fast becoming the mainstream.

 

The Internet of Things (aka IoT) is about Cloud-based machine-to-machine communication made possible by networks of data gathering sensors. It generates data that instigates an action designed to improve efficiency. It works best when there is infrastructure in place to analyse it all.  It’s pretty limitless and is growing into new areas every day. At a domestic and immediately understood level, it could be your smart energy meter that allows you to control your energy use remotely or an alarm clock that tells your coffee machine to get going with that first cup of the day. At a city level, it could be smart roads and amenities. At a business level, it’s about the same drive for efficiency, productivity and turnover.

 

In manufacturing, new equipment tends to come with IoT sensors pre installed but the industry is also adept at retro fitting to existing equipment. BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, expects the installed base of manufacturing IoT devices to grow from 237 million in 2015 to 923 million in 2020. By then, manufacturers will spend approximately $267 billion on the IoT. Manufacturers are currently using IoT solutions to track assets in their factories, consolidate their control rooms, and increase their analytics functionality through predictive maintenance. Many IoT solutions are still basic, but we expect manufacturers to eventually implement more complex technologies, such as autonomous robots and augmented reality (AR) tools. Indeed, it’s innovations like this that usual cause growth for a country’s economy as it takes us into a new industrial age.

Insurers using IoT technologies will be able to cut costs, improve business practices and better assess clients’ risk levels. Usage based insurance (UBI) is already in play with IoT devices that track customer activity and offer discounts or rewards for desired behavior.

 

Artificial intelligence has just enjoyed its 60th birthday and it shows no signs of letting up. Digital Visionary, Kevin Kelly (you can find him on TED Talks) puts it like this. We already have AI. It’s everywhere. It’s used to fly planes, to make recommendations on Netflix or Amazon, to diagnose x rays, to go through legal evidence and even to serve you search results.  With the Industrial Revolution, we got artificial power. With AI, we are plugging in smartness and giving that power cognition. As humans, our intelligence is too dynamic. We have a symphony of over 100 different types of intelligence in our brain that forms different orchestras on a minute-by-minute basis. Sometimes, one player in that orchestra gets too noisy for the situation. With AI, you can have just the intelligence you need. So, your machinery, your programmes, your smart car can get on with the job without any distraction.  Here’s an interesting though of his. It’s not about the AI taking over. AI and human intelligence have to work together. It’s not about AI taking over. It can’t. Its profundity is found in its single mindedness. We need to continue to deliver the lateral thinking.  So, yes manufacturing may be reticent to let AI in, but the manufacturers that will excel are those that make it work FOR them, not instead of them.

 

Businesses are generating a huge amount of Big Data on a day-to-day basis. Big data is when you have enough of it that you can analyse it for insights leading to better decision-making and strategic changes. Most businesses have the data yet many don’t have the means to analyse it. Retailers who are confidently using CRM to generate vouchers and communication based on a customer’s buying habits are ahead of the game. The insurance sector is catching up fast with the ability to recalculate entire risk portfolios in minutes and detecting fraudulent behavior before it hits.  Manufacturing can identify root causes of issues and defects in near real time limiting damage.

 

Imagine a business call where you can call up remote members of the team or your clients, and engage with them in augmented reality. Unbelievably more natural, definitely more collaborative and surely something we will all want to be doing in the future. The same 3d experience that brings proper collaboration to businesses raises the game for training, for repair instructions, for showcasing products, for tourism, for interior design, for office environments. It really is limitless and whilst the glasses are currently clumpy and conspicuous, just give it time. The dominant form of this hasn’t emerged yet and whilst I find it very exciting, I suspect the mainstream won’t be ready for this for quite some time.

 

Drones remain a thing and you’ll probably have seen Amazon’s efforts to implement them.  I suspect the US will lead the way given the passing of FAA rules that make it easier for commercial interests to take to the skies.  I think there’s huge potential for manufacturing firms and the insurance sector to use drones although in completely different ways. Watch this space!

 

What will your business’ digital transformation look like in 2017?

Here’s what I suggest.

  1. Start with your strategy. Always. Never jump to technology because it excites you. Know that it meets a corporate objective first.
  2. Get an outside view of your systems, processes and corporate objectives. Chances are that you will be starting with the basics by making sure your CRM is doing what it needs to do, that your processes are intelligent and that your data is being put to good use.
  3. If you are looking at new systems, look at the bigger picture of integration of where you are now and where you plan to go. Scalability is crucial.

4 Productivity Resolutions for Business Leaders

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There’s something different about the time between Christmas and the return to work in early January.

The office environment is a little quieter, the pace is slower and people are more communicative. Inboxes are dealt with, junk mail deleted, desks tidied, to-do lists revised, outstanding tasks achieved.

Organisation brings calm. Calm brings clarity. Clarity brings vision. Visions are for sharing. That sharing brings collaboration. Collaboration brings effectiveness. Effectiveness brings productivity. It’s a virtuous wheel that often gets punctured because we are being busy fools, working at a frenetic pace to just get things done as quickly as possible. We miss opportunities for smarter thinking.

In a bid to keep the spirit of ‘tween days, you need to address the basics.

Here are our simple, often forgotten, business leader productivity tips that will bring calm and effectiveness into your day and organisation.

 

  1. Control Your Email

Do you control your email or does it control you? Here’s something worth thinking about. Email represents us. People do judge us based on our email habits. You need to be organised and responsive.  However, the trick is doing that without letting it disrupt your day.

  • Decide when to tackle your emails – twice to three times a day should do it. Once a week, try to clear your inbox, filing what’s important, deleting what is not. It’ll stop the email becoming white noise.
  • Be succinct in your emails, keep to one main point and you’ll get a quicker answer.
  • Confirmation or conversation? If your email will most likely result in a ping pong of emails or if you don’t want something in writing, use the phone instead.
  • Remember that emails are easily misconstrued. Avoid group emails unless it’s simply to distribute information. A group of people will always have differing interpretations and you can quickly lose the point.

 

  1. Control Your Diary

If you’re anything like our MD, Billy Lyle, you’ll be in demand. Everyone wants a slice of your time but you still have your own tasks to complete and clients to look after.  There are so many tools and apps to help you manage your diary better but ultimately, it comes down to this:

  • You only need one calendar.
  • Use one digital task manager and get rid of all the post-its.
  • Theme your week if you can – client meetings, research, prep, people.

 

  1. Control Your Knowledge

What information do you need each week to manage the business? When was the last time you felt able to study your area? Just for fifteen minutes? How much time do you spend finding out answers when they’re suddenly urgent? How many times have you felt poorly informed in a client situation? By being on top of your knowledge sources, you’ll identify the ones worth having and the ones to lose.

  • Set proper time aside for your management reports.
  • Build a reading list and habit, whether it’s daily, weekly or fortnightly where you commit time to get on top.
  • Schedule thinking time and objectivity will become a habit making for better decision-making and productivity.

 

  1. Control Your Meetings

Meetings need to happen; information, status, brainstorm, one-to-one, strategy, board, committee. It’s the most productive way to discuss and collaborate, to make things happen but employees dread time away from their desks.  They often come to the meeting distracted and poorly prepared.  Here’s how to make it more productive for everyone:

  • Have a clear purpose
  • Have an agenda (circulate it in advance!)
  • Have an agreed end time
  • Have a good moderator
  • Have agreed actions

It’s remiss of us not to point out the huge benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 in addressing so many of these points (and hundreds more) to improve productivity and profit throughout all sizes of business. But we’ll get back onto that in January!

For now, the team here at Redspire would like to wish you all a productive and prosperous 2017.

Are you preparing your data for Brexit?

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Regardless of which way you voted in the EU Referendum, the consequence of the planning process and the eventual exit will impact upon all businesses at one level or another.

Right now, we’re finding that more businesses are looking to protect their position with CRM providing a productivity and customer closeness advantage. Will that continue as Brexit progresses? We hope so. It’s easy to want to batten down the hatches in economically turbulent times but this is no ordinary time. Technology will continue to gather pace and change the way businesses work. Microsoft has provided us with the product, our job is to continue to make the cost benefit ratio stack up for our customers.

In the meantime, we have a lot of existing customers asking about the security of their cloud data. Here are the facts.

Digital borders are inevitable.

The United States and the European Union are still working on a new data privacy agreement, governing the flow data between the two. The  ‘adequacy’ decision is not yet defined which means it’s already tricky.  The UK will need to go through the same process with both the EU and the US as part of the Brexit preparation. Our privacy laws in the UK must meet new EU rules for businesses to be able to have cross-border data flows.

What can your business do?

You need to have flexibility in cloud options and be able to adapt to suit customer needs and comply with data sovereignty laws.

The effect is two fold.

  1. Businesses in the UK may need to look at where and how their data is being stored and shared globally. They will need to meet UK data legislation and still need to follow the EU General Data Protection Regulation (which become enforceable in 2018).
  2. Businesses based in Europe will need to look carefully at the data legislation that the UK brings in and make sure that it meets European requirements.

 

Dynamics CRM customers will be better off than most with the size of Microsoft’s cloud network and with more than 100 data centres worldwide the flexibility is there to adapt where required. Your business’ data can reside wherever legal requirements necessitate. However, don’t forget it’s who the data is about, not just where the data lives.

So, what do you need to do right now?  If you think your business will need to look at data centre locality, talk to your Microsoft Partner. Get an idea of what’s involved, who you need to involve at your end and create a plan for what needs to happen when so that you don’t get caught out with a too short timescale and fines that could be as much as 4% of your global turnover. Otherwise, trade with Europe could be off the table.

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch.

Guide to Microsoft’s UK Data Centres

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UK Data Centres


 

It’s official.

In keeping with Microsoft’s leading push for data privacy in the technology sector, it has just become the first global provider to deliver complete cloud from UK data centres. The UK is already full of businesses and organisations seeing exponential growth and efficiency through their use of Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Azure and Office 365, all backed up across over 100 global data centers.

Great Britain is Microsoft’s second biggest market for cloud-based software after the United States with thousands of customers of all sizes already using the Microsoft cloud. We truly are a digitally engaged nation.

So how is this a game changer, and how will it affect existing users?

What’s the issue?

For many organisations, the reluctance to fully exploit the opportunities associated with Cloud based software such as Dynamics CRM or Office 365 is largely down to data security. With Brexit in discussion, and the many discussions about data security in general, it has become even more of a pre requisite for sectors such as legal, banking, public and utility.

Local storage of data means that there is no grey area over regulatory and legal compliance, and ensures that organisations using it, are handling all data as sensitively and as securely as possible.

It means that organisations can replicate data within the UK for backup and recovery, reduced network distance and lower latency.

Who will benefit?

Every commercial Microsoft customer in the UK will benefit. If you are already a Dynamics CRM, Azure or Office 365 customer, and you would like to discuss where the data is hosted, you should contact your programme manager.

If you are just starting the conversation around any of the platforms, we can take it into account from the beginning.

The UK based cloud is available now for Office 365 suite of Cloud applications and Azure, the cloud based software infrastructure platform. Microsoft Dynamics CRM will join them in the early part of 2017.

The UK Ministry of Defence, Aston Martin, the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust will be some of Microsoft’s first customers for the UK data centres, citing cost savings and data security.

Should every organisation be using Cloud based software?

Cloud-based software facilitates sharpen working practices and productivity across all departments of an organization. Comparing it to On-Premise the big wins are mobile accessibility, no servers to maintain and lower running costs. The introduction of Microsoft’s new UK data centres removes the data security barrier that held back many on-premise organisations. For some, cloud is now a no brainer.

It’s worth knowing how cloud-based technology could take your communications, relationships, processes and profit up a gear.

Start the conversation today. We’re here to help.

Read more on this topic HERE on the Microsoft News website.

It’s starting with Azure and 365 with Dynamics following shortly in early 2017.

Redspire Limited Selected as Official Supplier for the Government’s Crown Commercial Service G-Cloud 8 Framework

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Redspire Limited is pleased to announce it has been confirmed as an approved supplier for the Government’s G-Cloud 8 Digital Marketplace.

Public sector organisations will now have unlimited access to Redspire’s delivery of digital transformation solutions, customer relationship management (CRM) software, consulting services and expertise as a leading Microsoft Gold Competency Partner for Cloud CRM.

G-Cloud 8 is the latest iteration of the Crown Commercial Service’s purchasing framework that enables UK Public Sector organisations to select, and purchase, Software as a Service (SaaS) and Specialist Cloud services, from approved supplier, Redspire Limited.

The G-Cloud framework, is a pre-approved list of suppliers that offer cloud services via an online Digital Marketplace portal reinforcing the government’s commitment to making it easier for suppliers to sell their services whilst enabling a faster and simpler process of cloud based IT procurement. Central government, local government, health and education administration, defence services, housing associations and emergency services can take advantage of faster, easier access to innovative IT solutions and products straight from their suppliers.

“We are delighted to become a G Cloud supplier for the UK Government’s Digital Marketplace. It offers Redspire an excellent opportunity to offer extensive citizen service delivery, digital transformation services, dedicated SaaS services and specialist cloud services. Redspire can also offer full-lifecycle application support and maintenance services.” says Billy Lyle, Managing Director, Redspire Limited.

For more information about Redspire, its services and its presence on G-Cloud 8, Click Here to get in touch with us, or visit the Digital Marketplace service listings:

Software as a Service:
Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Education Licenses

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online Government Licenses

Redspire CRM Support Pack – Microsoft Dynamics CRM Support Service

Redspire Digital Transformation – Channel Shift Delivery and Citizen Service Management

Redspire Digital Transformation – Citizen Service Management through self-service Portals

Redspire Education – Student, Staff, Faculty and Stakeholder Management through self-service Portals

Redspire Limited: CRM for Education – Academia

Redspire Limited: Upgrade and Cloud Migration for Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

Redspire’s CRM Plus service, agile CRM implementation at a fixed monthly cost.

Specialist Cloud Services:
Redspire CRM Service Pack – Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services

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Brands ‘must engage in new and different ways’

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Businesses have been urged to take a fresh look at how they engage with consumers.

According to Nick Turner, consumer business digital lead at Deloitte, brands need to look beyond marketing as a means of engaging with their target audience.

Instead, he told Travolution that firms need to make sure they are communicating in "new and different ways".

Mr Turner said technology can be particularly advantageous in this regard, as it can ensure all consumer interactions across various channels and touch points are tracked and integrated.

"They can help with identifying failure points and guiding real-time, targeted responses," he commented.

"For example, you will see a number of businesses contacting you if you dropped out of their site whilst making a purchase."

Mr Turner also insisted that firms must make sure employees at every level are aware of the "role they play in serving consumers".

This, he said, can empower them to make correct decisions on how best to deal with anyone who is unhappy.

Businesses were then advised to be mindful of the reputational damage that can ensue if their social media channels are not properly managed.

Mr Turner suggested that firms set up social command centres so they can find out what people are saying about them on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

He said this approach would also enable brands to share positive stories beyond their existing customer base and reach "those who are just about to start their search for a product or brand".

Mr Turner added that if a company is looking to launch a content marketing strategy, it should make sure any material inspires and informs customers rather than presents a sales pitch.

Firms were told that equipping people with the right information enables them to "move independently through the shopping journey". 

Mr Turner said this could in turn bolster trust and brand loyalty, but stressed that this is a "sequential process that can't be short-circuited".

Customer engagement white paper

Retailers ‘must consistently fine-tune approach to marketing’

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Retailers have been encouraged to make sure their approach to marketing evolves over time.

According to entrepreneur and web developer Dario Zadro, many aspects of engaging with consumers are consistent and timeless.

However, he told Business 2 Community that the actual operating environment for retailers changes on a regular basis.

Therefore, Mr Zadro believes companies in the sector must alter accordingly in order to stay ahead of factors such as demographic shifts and wider retail trends.

"Retailers must consistently fine-tune their marketing approaches by understanding demographics and the variables that influence consumer decision-making," he commented.

Mr Zadro noted that consumer markets have evolved a great deal in the last five years, partly because new technological innovations have established themselves in the mainstream.

As a result, he believes retailers might benefit from comparing and contrasting today's operating environment with conditions in the recent past.

He stated that this would make recent developments and how the marketplace has altered far more apparent.

Retailers would therefore be able to alter their customer engagement strategies in line with these changes.

Businesses could support these efforts by using customer relationship management software to extract meaningful insights from the data they possess, such as information on their core demographics and people's various tastes, habits and preferred means of communicating with a company.

Mr Zadro added that today's communications environment has led to consumers being bombarded with lots of messages from organisations every single day.

This, he stated, means that messages regarding individual products can easily get drowned out. As a result, he has suggested companies focus on branding, as this can have more of a long-term impact on customers and help them convey their core values and principles.

For instance, Mr Zadro suggested that establishing a brand as a "trusted resource" could create relationships with people that encourage them to transact with that firm on multiple occasions.

"To be most effective reaching modern consumers, each aspect of an organisation’s branding strategy must link to the next, creating continuity and trust among consumers," he advised.

Customer engagement white paper

What’s standing in the way of effective digital customer engagement?

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In order to ensure that your company is effectively engaging with its customers digitally it is important to remove as many obstacles to this relationship as possible.

Problems can include a shortage of digital talent, which executives perceive as the greatest hurdle to effective engagement, particularly those at smaller organisations.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software offers an ideal way to remove barriers to digital engagement, including talent shortages, by providing a system for interactions with new and existing clients.

Warc, a specialist in advertising best practice, recently cited a study of 850 executives carried out by McKinsey as demonstrating how skills shortages, internal structures and a lack of understanding may hamper digital engagement efforts.

Digital engagement with consumers is becoming more important and CRM is a means for companies of all sizes to access effective methods in a flexible, cost-effective and scalable way.

While the McKinsey poll discovered bosses are aware of the importance of digital customer engagement and perceive it as a strategic priority, ranking as the leading digital trend among respondents, a series of hurdles prevent firms from achieving their goals in this area.

Employing CRM can provide a roadmap for success for companies keen to enhance digital customer engagement, simplifying processes, improving planning and increasing the accuracy of forecasting.

Investing in CRM could significantly improve a business's bottom line, as the McKinsey research discovered more than one in three respondents predicted digital would fuel at least 15 per cent of their organisation's growth during the coming three years.

In addition to highlighting problems attracting digital talent, many of those questioned also stated they do not feel enough investment is being made by their firm in big data and analytics in order to meet targets – an area where CRM systems can really give companies a competitive edge.

Another problematic area was internal structures, in particular within larger organisations, where a lack of flexibility prevented new digital opportunities from being fully exploited.

By investing in a CRM solution, these obstacles can be overcome, with flexible systems able to respond to changing market conditions and systems tracking and measuring the success of campaigns so they can be adapted and improved.

Customer engagement white paper