January 14, 2016

IBM Chimes In on the State of Technology Today Ahead of ITEXPO

With ITEXPO Ft. Lauderdale now just days away, excitement is mounting about the presentations and presenters that will be there.

TMC was fortunate to catch up recently with Amber Armstrong, Program Director of Commerce, Mobile, and Social Amplification for IBM. She’s based out of Austin, Texas, and was asked for her insights on tech, UC and other topics sure to be top of mind at the show:

TMC: Is technology changing business for the better?

Amber Armstrong: Despite the challenges technology presents for businesses, particularly related to data overload and matters of security, we are headed for a better future thanks to it. As we enter the Cognitive Era, our tools will be able to provide us with insights and guidance that will allow us to cut through the surfeit of data and focus on the right information for the task at hand, and we’ll be able to do so with increasing confidence that our sensitive information will remain secure. The addition of cognitive capabilities to those tools will give us even more and faster access to other people’s knowledge and expertise, and what we share with them in return will have greater reach and impact. Technology may cause challenges, but it’s also the solution to those challenges, and organizations that are technophobic will be left behind.

TMC: Have we finally reached an inflection point with Unified Communications adoption?

AA: As a society we have reached that inflection point, though some laggers remain. Leading organizations have realized that a unified communications platform is no longer even a differentiator; it is simply the way business is now done – no longer the way to get ahead, but the way to stay in the game. Collaboration drives speed and sparks innovation. The benefits necessitate it and workers demand it. The holdout companies who refuse to adopt unified communications thus cannot compete in terms of productivity and efficiency, nor will they be able to retain their best workers or recruit adequate replacements.

TMC: Should social be a major initiative for all businesses?

AA: Social is incredibly central to our business.  In many cases, it is the most frequent way that our customers experience our brand.  Our ability to engage customers on the social channels that they choose to use in the way that is appropriate for that channel determines how that customer experiences our brand.  Businesses do not have the ability to opt out of social. Their customers are talking about them on social daily.  If they want to keep those customers, businesses have to listen, analyze, and engage with those customers. 

TMC: How are collaboration software/services helping workers today?

AA: Collaboration tools and social technologies are already bringing together people around the world with unprecedented ease, resulting in unparalleled efficiency. They let us access the right people and information at the right time, and uncover crucial information that just a couple of years ago would have stagnated on somebody’s laptop or in someone’s inbox. As cognitive capabilities make the tools smarter, they surface what’s important to us as individuals and let us focus on what’s important instead of just what’s urgent. This makes us not merely more productive but more effective.

TMC: Should mobile devices have integrated software allowing for separation of business and personal apps and data?

AA: I believe that this is something that each company will have to decide for itself, but in my opinion, yes. People live on their phones and this will become even more true as younger generations enter the workforce. It is unrealistic to expect that people will use a phone for just work or just personal purposes. Instead of fighting it, companies’ resources would be much better spent making sure that company apps and data are kept separate so they can be more rigorously vetted and secured.

TMC: How is cloud computing shaking up your product/service offerings?

AA: Cloud has become an essential way of doing business. It’s allowing business leaders to rethink everything, including designing and delivering product and service offerings but also engaging partners and customers. For example, global companies are moving relationship management systems to cloud centers in another part of the world to respond faster to that region’s customers’ needs. We’re already at the point when 44 percent of enterprises are now relying on cloud computing to launch new business models, and we’ll continue to see cloud adoption grow rapidly.

TMC: How is Big Data changing the way you conduct business?

AA: Big data and the insights we can gain from it are letting us act with precision and confidence. Once again ‘cognitive’ comes into play – cognitive systems take data, analyze them, derive insights, make recommendations, and learn from the results. As those recommendations get better, we can make more informed and therefore better decisions. We can reach out to people at the best time for them, with information we know they’ll be interested in, using the platforms and channels they prefer. This automatically makes our messages more effective than they’ve ever been.

TMC: What technology has had the greatest impact on your ability to perform your job in the past year?

AA: The tool that has most benefited me personally at work this year is IBM Verse. I switched from my previous email solution to IBM Verse in June and life just hasn’t been the same. Verse incorporates IBM Connections, which enables me to have a very social experience inside of email. Changing email systems was a bit intimidating as email is so central to how I accomplish my business results.  I find I’m better able to prioritize email and spend more time on other work now.

TMC: What has been the most impactful development or trend in 2016 that is changing how industry players need to do business?

AA: Cognitive is the obvious answer but since I’ve addressed that quite a bit already, I’ll speak about the bundling of tools that operate synergistically to add even more value to collaboration and social activities. A single, integrated platform for collaboration and communication applications and services fosters a culture of sharing – whether that be feedback, opinions, information or insights. That sharing leads to productivity, effectiveness and innovation. If an organization is using disparate tools for collaboration and communication, addressing this should be a top priority for 2016.

TMC: What are you most looking forward to at ITEXPO Ft. Lauderdale?

AA: I’m most looking forward to sitting in on some of the amazing sessions. The agenda is packed with great content.  We often don’t step back from the day to day hustle to plan for the future. Attending ITEXPO will be my opportunity to do just that.

TMC: Why should attendees come to your session or visit your booth?

AA: Attendees in my session will learn how to build and maintain an audience in a social world.  Often people think social media is where you blast out information and hope that the right people hear it.  I’ll provide some insights into how to reach the right people at the right time – leveraging your brand, your employees, and trusted external influencers.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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