Voice technology is gaining mainstream acceptance thanks to the new voice based devices from the leading companies like Amazon, Google. Simultaneously Artificial Intelligence [AI] is becoming more efficient in identifying user intents. Many industries are experimenting with the devices and AI powered abstraction layers to identify areas that they exploit to deliver superior customer experience.

Image Source – Voice Control

According to Google, 20% of the searches are already by voice and they expect this to increase to 50% by 2020. Quantum leap in voice accuracy is another trend that is seen by the technology analysts over the last couple of years. The fast adoption of the voice activated devices is helping industries on a faster learning curve for the devices and accuracy. From the users perspective, at least 2 in 5 users say that voice activated devices are essential to their lives.

Some of the industries that are dabbling with this technology are retail, banking and financial services, insurance and healthcare. It is also predicted that soon industries will be looking at voice first strategies.

Banking & Financial Services

Voice is the new channel banks are exploring to add to the plethora of channels. Why conversational banking now? Aside from the trends pushing banks towards this new channel, banks are always on a quest to make their services and offerings more and more personalized. The next question everyone is faced with is how they can go about introducing this channel. This requires good understanding of their customers and how well their staff is trained to handle introduction of this new technology.

The smart speakers e.g. Echo, Google Home, Apple Home pod, etc. are being used as effective marketing channels in many industries. The starting point for banks can also be this, where skills or services are offered either via the smart speakers or voice assistant embedded in existing bank apps to deliver relevant information to the customers. This would help in keeping the customers more engaged with the bank, and progressively the voice skills can be evolved to handle more complex processes.

Today banks are expected to play the role of someone who takes care of the financial well-being of their customers. Personal Financial Management [PFM] is the way banks are keeping their customers engaged. Many see PFM as digital banking. The channel for this need not necessarily be restricted to portal, web or tablet, and this can be further extended to new channels like voice. This allows banks to start giving tips or education that is valuable and relevant to keep the customers more engaged with the bank and ultimately drive them towards more profitable actions.

Insurance & Healthcare

One of the biggest challenge Insurance industry has been facing globally is how to make consumers better understand the products they offer. This is why the prime channel to sell these policies today is via agents. But as we all know this channel has its own limitations from availability, time bound, limited access and finally knowledge of agent himself. With advent of smart voice assistant services using smart speaker industry can sure put this concern to rest, if done right.

Voice being most natural & common media to communicate, this channel can provide the required learning right at the time required. Like when buying a policy, consumers can be educated of policy coverage or during a claims servicing phase, the process can be explained easily and various liabilities etc. explained as requested by consumers. The voice as a channel provides ease of use for day to day transaction. The overall experience from this channel can be more than other channels combined.

Another good use of this channel would be in Healthcare industry which will benefit both consumers and providers side. While consumers benefit from ease of use from added channel the provider side can achieve excellence not only on the clinical aspects but also save lot of time they spend after each consultancy. A virtual voice assistance can help patient check-in and can assist doctor look up past medical records and test results.

One of the biggest concern/risk in Healthcare Industry for adoption of this channel will be privacy. The adoption strategy should weigh out these risks and leverage technology and Standard Operating Procedures [SOP] to mitigate them.

Key KPI’s

One of the success criteria of this channel depends on how well corporates/organizations are able to create a dialogue for its customers, where the system is able to respond in context to the customers. Final aim should be to pass the Turing test via this channel. This should only be an aim and not a limiting factor to open this channel up for their customers.

Security is another criteria that would determine the adoption of this channel. As a rule of thumb all the security protocols that apply to the other channels used by the bank would have to be built-in to the voice channel as well.

Finally the new channels should seamlessly integrate with all the other channels, so customers have an omni-channel experience. Organizations have created this experience with their existing channels. The new channel should just be an extension to this experience.

Technology Adoption

For an organization convinced about the business case of using voice as a channel, can begin with the development of a ‘voice application’ targeting any smart speakers.

Application development can be done on platforms like AWS Lambda/DialogFlow, which support code written in Node.js [JavaScript], Python, Java [Java 8 compatible], C# [.NET Core], Go, etc. Organizations IT team can decide the right technology in line with their technology stack.

The ‘voice application’ needs to interface with the back-end systems, especially the core platform in order to fetch the right response to users’ queries.

However, in the absence of any UI, the approach to authenticate a user becomes crucial, but can be decided based on the organizations policies followed in web portal & mobile app. In most cases, multi-factor authentication would be enough to comply with the security policies.

About the Authors

The article has been co-authored by Aparna Pallavi, Head Digital Banking – 3i Infotech; Sanjay Pathak, Head Healthcare & Insurance Solutions – 3i Infotech and Meghashyam Simha, Head, Mobility & Automation – 3i Infotech.

Today we must learn to be fast, fair and slow, all at the same time. Project management professionals across geographies, are not immune from these changes. Traditional construction management methodologies are also being replaced or reinforced with new tools and technology.

Image Source – Housing

In the last decade, there has been a tectonic shift in the way the real estate and construction industry is evolving in India. With the Indian construction market set to be the world’s third-largest construction market by 2021, it is imperative that Indian Construction and Design professionals up their ante in terms of delivering technologically advanced solutions.

The industry has seen sporadic improvements but in essence it largely remains a people-intensive industry as compared to the more developed parts of the world. Companies globally look at anywhere between 1~3% of project costs as the budget for software technologies to create cost and time efficiencies, which is a far cry for India.

While traditional project management models focused exclusively on the delivery of products and services, newer project management models are increasingly focusing on achieving results by interpreting the business strategy, providing effective risk assessment and deriving a solution. By embracing continuous innovation in technology, new age PMC firms are going digital by adopting ‘Cloud-based’ storage services and ‘end-to-end’ project management software solutions. Let’s look at some of the prominent technology tools which new-age PMC firms are using in India today.

Building Information Modelling

BIM is a 3D model-based process for creating and managing project information. The building information model is a digital description of every aspect of the build, and objects in the model can be linked to related information such as quantity, images, specifications or manuals. This technology benefits construction professionals by helping them create better plans, produce faster results, and stay within budget. BIM started slow in India. However with the advent of Smart cities, IoT, VR and AR gaining ground, BIM practice is witnessing a strong revival.

CCTV Monitoring

CCTV installation on-site is one of the best ways to protect a site from undue hazard. They help to track events across the site in more than one place at a time. CCTVs on-site also manage thefts and help to monitor employees at work. Client located offsite are now able to get a real-time view of their sites in the smartphones itself.

Unmanned Airborne Vehicles

Drones or UAVs are extensively used today to monitor the construction work for large and complex sites.  They help the Construction management team to have visibility of the workforce operating at heights and keep the site EHS complaint. Analytic software in Drones can help to do thermal mapping and land surveying. It is still not that prevalent in India but will gain ground once the legalities of their usage is formalized.

Project Portfolio Management software

Web based cost effective Project management software is being used extensively to streamline the construction process and increase efficiency. Usually, most of the online software caters to requirements such as maintaining and creating construction schedules, resource allocations, monitoring usage and generating reports.

Cloud-based Document management software

Cloud-based document management system helps to keep all the project related documents in an easily accessible organized manner. It also makes collaborations between teams easier and there are chances of easier recovery of data if it is lost. Most importantly such software has the ability to track deliverables and make the users accountable with well-defined workflows.

Online Conferencing Applications

Considering the fact that large projects have stakeholders located in different geographies, these online conference tools are a boon to PMC firms to bring the team together at an agreed frequency to resolve open issues. Most of this software allows documents to be presented in various formats for quick reference. Virtual meetings are the new reality.

Procurement software

Procurement software contributes to automating the entire tendering process in a project. Such software nowadays is integrated with the Client ERP system and support e-bidding process flows. The workflows are well defined with the necessary checks and balances in place. It helps to maintain transparency and a clear audit trail behind for all orders released against a project.

Web-based Collaboration tools

In any project, collaboration is essential to ensure that all the teams head in the same direction and create an innovative environment. Collaboration tools with real time chats, posting features and group messaging options enable teams to communicate with each other, access information and increase efficiency rapidly.

The flow of real-time information to every team in a project is vital. Amongst the deluge of data, tools which control and analyze the information will become popular. Technology today can create algorithms which help us to take decisions. Every day we are witnessing newer applications and gadgets coming in the market to aid construction professionals. The key is to be aware about the latest advances in technology and adapt them in an innovative and effective manner.

About the Author

Arnab Ghosh is the Director at Synergy Property Development Services. You can find more about him here.

Although artificial intelligence may have once been thought of as nothing more than a sci-fi trope, it’s actually a legitimate technology that’s already changing how companies across a wide range of industries do business. Any professional who could benefit from enhanced data analysis and pattern recognition could theoretically take advantage of this technology.

Image Source – AI

Digital marketers are no exception. AI has the potential to revolutionize sales tactics through techniques like chatbot marketing automation. That said, many people still don’t fully understand this technology, or what it can do. That is why it’s important to learn more about it. By familiarizing yourself with AI’s capabilities, you are more likely to see how the tech can be used to improve your marketing strategy.

Introducing Machine Learning

Many AI programs rely on machine learning to function. Essentially, machine learning refers to an AI’s ability to develop specific problem-solving skills by referring to established data points.

For example, machine learning allows AI to analyze previous data sets from the stock market. As the AI learns thorough reviewing past trends, it’s able to make more accurate predictions about the stock market on its own.

This means AI is likely to make more and more key business decisions in the near future. Marketers can leverage this power to boost the success rates of campaigns.

Machine Learning & Customer Behavior

Again, machine learning involves analyzing data sets to learn a skill or generate insights. That’s why it can play a major role in any task that involves learning from consumer behavior.

There are currently many different channels that could potentially provide consumer behavior data. Social media conduct, search history, purchase history; all may offer information that can help an AI develop more accurate customer profiles.

This is very significant from a marketer’s perspective. According to a 2016 survey, 80% of marketers agreed that customers were more responsive to personalized content. Consumers want marketing content to be tailored to their specific needs and preferences.

Thanks to AI, offering that kind of individualized experience is easier than ever. AI can analyze customer behavior data much more efficiently – and thoroughly – than a human. Marketers will use it to more effectively segment their customers into separate groups and profiles, allowing them to target those clients with the most relevant content possible.

AI Content Curation

Stronger list segmentation isn’t the only benefit AI offers marketers. The technology also has the capacity to analyze reporting on topics ranging from sports and pop culture to science and politics.

Combine this quality with AI’s ability to generate detailed customers profiles, and it’s easy to imagine that marketers will soon rely on AI to provide customers with the information that’s most relevant to their interests. This helps automate one of the more essential components of any digital marketing campaign.

Chatbots

AI-enhanced chatbots offer many potential benefits to digital marketers. Along with taking over customer support duties, chatbots can reach out directly to customers via existing platforms like Facebook Messenger, alerting them to relevant promotions, new product announcements, and more.

Because AI has the ability to learn from customer behavior, a chatbot would know exactly when to reach out to a given customer for the best possible results. It will also know precisely what type of content it should provide.

Looking to the Future

In all likelihood, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what AI can do for digital marketers. What is clear, however, is that it’s poised to offer major benefits. The marketers who embrace its potential early will stand out from the competition, offering their customers the kind of marketing experience that would be impossible without AI.

About the Author

Rae Steinbach is the Freelance Editor at Snaps, a mobile messaging platform connecting brands to millennials. You can find more about Rae here

The transformation in the world of technology is happening at pace which we have not experienced in the past. Implementation of new cutting-edge technology is moving out from a drawing board stage to being practiced by organizations across the world. As more and more organizations undertake the process of digital transformation to offer tech enabled products or services, IT roles and skills is undergoing radical shifts, something which we are already observing. This will affect the tech job scenario as we move into 2018 and beyond.

Image Source – Job Trends

In-demand IT roles have started to shift towards including positions focused on advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence [AI], Augmented and Virtual Reality [AR and VR], and the Internet of Things [IoT] along with exciting positions within cyber-security, cloud computing & network technology.

Through these observations we have identified the following as some of the key job roles companies require as they transform their businesses and processes for the future:

Cyber-security Analyst – This individual will manage risk for organizations through use of relevant tools and techniques to gather vital end-point and network host data with the goal of identifying vulnerabilities.

Network Engineer – This role will encompass coordinating between cloud and traditional networking resources to make a business’s communicate efficiently. They will need to know how to map technical network elements [e.g. router, an edge device, a micro-datacenter] to a company’s business needs.

Vulnerability Assessment Manager – The role of a penetration tester has matured.  Today’s pen tester does more than hack a server or use fancy security tools. Today’s pen tester takes a responsible approach and conducts strong, comprehensive tests to identify – and correct – unacceptable risks.

Technical Support Specialist – Gone are the days when the help desk professional fixed PCs.The world needs more tech support specialists than ever before: today’s tech support engineer helps manage increasingly complex issues involving data management, authentication and network troubleshooting.

Machine learning engineer – Machine learning use sophisticated programming such as R and Python to develop AI machines and systems that can learn and apply knowledge to perform tasks. These professionals will also work with complex datasets and algorithms to convert machines to intelligent machines.

Network Analysts – Businesses are investing more heavily in their networks as IoT is fast becoming critical to manufacture tech enabled products. A growing number of ‘things’ need to be connected in an efficient way, and that’s going to be a major driver of demand there. Network analysts in the coming years will combine their technical skill set with an understanding of how to apply it to provide real-time trending information on network traffic, and what those insights means for the business.

Cloud engineer – Almost all businesses are mobbing their on-premises systems to cloud and are choosing a hybrid approach, with multiple vendors. In the coming years, cloud engineers will need to create solutions which are mix of multiple technologies. Gone are the days when an Amazon engineer only worked on AWS or Microsoft engineers only knowing Azure.

About the Author

Pradipto Chakrabarty is the Regional Director, CompTIA, the voice of the world’s information technology industry. CompTIA is dedicated to advancing industry growth through its educational programs, professional certifications and public policy advocacy. You can view his profile here

At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.

Digital transformation in its simplest form means the use of technology to radically improve performance & reach of enterprises. But it does not merely stop at that. As technology becomes a permanent fixture in everyday life, the best organizations combine digital technologies with strong leadership to bring about real transformation.

Image Source – Digital Evolution

Business and IT leaders are eager to fully utilize key digital technologies such as analytics, mobility, social media, IoT, Machine Learning and smart embedded devices to vitalize their customer relationships, internal processes and value propositions hence, bringing the much needed digital evolution.

Even though the digital transformation is a long journey with the gradual evolution of the organization, there are a few key elements which are to be taken care off while beginning the transformation endeavor. Implementing advanced digital technologies, improving customer experiences, transforming internal processes, re-evaluating and designing improved business models and bringing to the fore your key value propositions are some of the key elements of a digital transformation exercise.

Digital Evolution is more of a business evolution than a technology initiative. It has created a rapidly changing business environment and has compelled companies to rethink nearly everything they do. Pro-actionary approach along with quick adaptability and flexibility is required for an organization to stay on the leading edge of the digital landscape.

This is a time of Digital Darwinism – an era where technology and society are evolving faster than businesses can naturally adapt. Therefore, as companies look at moving business platforms and technologies, corporate leaders face an endless list of initiatives to consider, prioritize, evaluate, validate and implement. The challenge is to ensure that their priorities are aligned wisely. Without any strategic direction, every single attempt to evolve digitally can end up disjointed and ineffective.

Mr. Ashok K laha [Image Source]

It’s no surprise that digital evolution is an ongoing wave of new technologies and capabilities that are coming at us at an unprecedented pace. The major one being the data revolution which has emerged as a new weapon in the industry in the recent years. It is being generated, combined, recreated and consumed at significant levels which are facilitating changes within the organization.

But the question to be asked is Are companies investing in the right technology for their Big Data needs in addition to the training of marketing and IT personnel?

Given the speed of evolution and scope of impact, an organization needs to fully understand the opportunities to be gained and lost, spot important trends and identify its competitors in order to evolve along with the world and its gadgets.

Cyber security is another major concern when we talk about digital evolution. The world currently deals with approximately 2.5 million cyber security threats per second. Most of the business leaders are reluctant to innovate due to cyber risks. However, these risks are worth dealing given the plethora of opportunities that digitization offers. Else, sitting on the sidelines and not responding to the market conditions and threats will become the fastest way to extinction.

With the new Modi Government at the helm, we as a country are making great strides in digital transformation. Reforms like demonetization, GST, and Digital India will act as stepping stones in helping the country’s businesses and economy to digitally enable and transform them.

Digitization is a gift to the organizations though it takes investment, agility and relentless focus to stay ahead. The road to digital evolution is far from easy but it carries great incentives for businesses and customers alike. The digital industry could be an important vehicle for change and it could provide the opportunity for India to dramatically expand its role and influence in the global economy enabling it to become a powerhouse of digital innovation.

About the Author

Mr. Asoke K. Laha is the Founder, President & CEO of Interra Information Technologies. Interra Information Technologies has been a leader in the Information Technology Industry since its founding in 1996. Headquartered in California, the company’s operations and sales network spans across multiple countries. You can learn more about them at www.interrait.com. You can also connect with Interra Information Technologies on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

In an increasingly digitized world, we are all becoming extremely vulnerable to misuse of personal, professional and even national security data and what needs to be done. It is alarming yet not a surprise to see another mass scale ransomware attack just weeks after the havoc created by the Wannacry ransomware.

Image Source – Malware

To start with, the genesis of both these attacks appear similar. Both of them uses the Microsoft vulnerability called EternalBlue for which Microsoft had issued a patch. In both cases, they attacked institutional computer networks, which we unsecured – the NHS in UK and now the Ukrainian Government.

However, there is a slight but important difference. Usually in case of ransomware attacks, the demand is made from users and the email for communication is unique to each user. In this case it is observed that there is a single email ID that had been provided to all the affected users for communication. This email ID was since suspended by provider. This alludes to the fact that either the hackers were amateurs or more dangerously this attack is not a ransomware and was not unleashed with the intention of merely extracting money, but to destruct important data.

These new mutations of malware are increasingly getting more and more capable and complex in terms of the speed and reach. We are observing that the malwares are spreading automatically across interconnected networks more freely and with minimal or no human intervention. This, also is different from ransomware of earlier versions, which we more topical and pointed – say an individual hospital system. The free lowing nature of the current ransomware is particularly scary since we have limited control or predictive mechanism to guess which networks will be affected next.

As of now, the effects in India has been observed at the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust. This can be explained as one of the largest private enterprises to get effected is Maersk, the leading shipping and container corporation whose systems in all likely hood is interconnected with the networks of the JNPT. Having said that it is impossible to predict the next network where the ‘worm’ will sneak in. Also, the Petya ransomware is more fluid than Wannacry as the latter was linear and had one way to move from network to network. Petya has the capability to evaluate multiple options and can use another option of attacking if one fails. It is indeed quite petrifying to imagine a situation is it infects the national service such as the Defense, Police, Financial Institutions and UIDAI.

Considering this, it is clear that prevention is the best form of attack. It should be the responsibility of all computer and internet users – institutional as well as individuals to be aware of the threat and also be prepared for a future attack. Through CERT-IN [Computer Emergency Response Team of India] the Government must issue a ‘what to do’ advisory on prevention tactics to enterprises and individuals. We observe that most of ransomware attacks use ‘end users’ as entry point. The end user might be an individual or a user in an institutional environment. In most cases there is nothing that user can do as these types of ransomware are typically executed through ‘drive-by downloads’ in which legitimate website and browsers are infected. Some of the key action points that can be followed are through basic IT housekeeping such as keeping antivirus software updated & having URL CHECKERS. Also it is recommended that individuals keep only those plug-in’s and add-on’s that are absolutely necessary and used regularly.

Finally, it is high time that system administrators within enterprises and government agencies should have updated defensive security skills. Institutions and governments need strong cyber security and cyber-defense strategies. Cyber-defense capabilities, particularly, is an important mandate as hacking becomes extremely easy and pervasive and IT administrators should know how to ‘defend’ their systems.

Off late, I have been facing lot of issues with my Airtel DTH service & after repeated complaints there has been no actions taken by Airtel. The worst part is that every time when I call them, I have to repeat the entire Ramayan about the the issues that I am facing i.e. There was no one-point contact to look into my issue. The crux is that “Customer Service has become more important than before especially after the advent of Social Media where any information can spread like wild-fire !!!”. The end result was that “I finally gave up Airtel DTH”; as you might have rightly guessed the focus for this article is “Customer Service“…

Today, we have a guest article from Julie Robert who is a B2B wholesale trade & B2B marketing expert. She writes frequently on the topics related to UK Wholesalers & Wholesale supplies. She gives us some tips on how to maintain excellent customer service & how to convert your one-time customers into repeated customers.

It is an undeniable fact that no retail and wholesale trade can exist without customers. For a business’ success, it is important to work closely with your customers to make sure what you are offering to them is what they want and is according to their demand.

Increasing competition forces entrepreneurs to pay more attention towards a strong customer service that helps in bringing your customers closer to your business and satisfying them. Following are a few pointers that can make your customers feel valued and help you measure and manage customer satisfaction.

Focus on direct dealings

Direct dealing with customers is the most important yet the scariest and the most stressful experience for entrepreneurs, if they are not used to this. When you are working on a special project, you must meet your customers face to face to know their requirements and demands from your offers. The process gets easier with every meeting.

Be confident while meeting your customers and ask them what their needs are and what kind of solution they seek from you. The meeting over time makes it easy for you to propose a solution and close a deal.

Keep your customers well-informed

How annoying is it to wait for days to get a response for an important email or query? Customers do not understand that it is difficult for you to deal with a number of queries within a few hours so you have to manage to at least email or call them back to satisfy them that you have received their queries and you will contact them back with a solution as soon as possible.

Even if you are busy working on another project and cannot cater to a particular set of customers, you can assure them that their issue is in your knowledge and you are working on it.

Define customer service policy

Another annoying thing for customers is when they have any problem but do not know who to turn to. You are likely to lose a customer, if you pass him from person to person without solving his problem. To avoid any such situation, you must define a sound and a comprehensive customer service policy so that both your employees and customers know exactly what to do at each stage of inquiry.

Make sure your customer service policy is visible to your employees and your customers also have access to it so that both parties know what to do and how to proceed at each stage.

Keep your promises

The most important factor that helps you run a successful business is honouring and fulfilling your promises. Experts suggest entrepreneurs should always deliver to their customers and do exactly as they promise. Never disappoint your customers. It is essential to keep your customers connected to you.

A valuable customer service can help you achieve your targets and you must practice this art continuously though it takes time and effort to master. Treat your customers well and keep them connected to your business and they will surely want to buy from you again.

About the author

Julie Robert is a B2B wholesale trade and B2B marketing expert. She writes frequently on the topics related to UK Wholesalers & Wholesale supplies.

I am sure there are many other tips to make Customers Happy & Delighted, if you are aware about any such “Mantras”, please leave them in the comments section & we would include them in the main article.