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July 31, 2018 General

The Future of Business Technology: Integration and Intelligence

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By Kevin Cook

My daughter was eating a bowl of ice cream in our kitchen yesterday. She used her smart phone to talk to her boyfriend who was on vacation over a thousand miles away. She propped her phone up against a flower vase and turned on the camera. A second later, his avatar popped up on the screen: a three-inch tall guy sitting on my granite counter top, eating his own bowl of rocky road in real-time. They chatted about their day and laughed at their siblings. This is their reality. Augmented reality (AR).

Although this is the new normal, it blew me away.

I attended a lecture on artificial intelligence (AI) as a college student in the 80s. It was cool, but there wasn’t enough data to build AI models at that time. Today we have peta-bytes of data that come from salespeople, field service technicians, our legacy systems and even devices being used by our customers – and way-cool technologies like AR, AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) can now be used with common business systems like CRM, marketing automation and ERP.

But in order to derive maximum value from these technologies and create a modern, end-to-end business system, they must have the ability to integrate and interact with one another. Simply put, your marketing automation must be connected to your CRM and your CRM must be connected to your ERP – and you must be able to push and pull data between them.

A great example of a company that has mastered integrated and intelligent business processes is Hitachi.

Hitachi installs HVAC systems with built-in sensors that send information back to a monitoring service in real-time. This “real-time telemetry” sends out fault notifications to service technicians so they can respond to potential problems before machinery actually fails. That’s how they use the IoT to get real-time data to business systems.

So, here’s what happens next. Hitachi’s service technician gets an alert on her mobile device, and depending on the severity of the alert, schedules an appointment into her day. She arrives on scene and flips down her HoloLens headset so that she can read a repair manual ‘hands free’ on her eyewear and still work on the machinery. She finds she needs support from Hitachi’s home office, so she uses hand gestures to place a voice over internet protocol (VOIP) call to a support technician via the HoloLens. They solve the problem, fix the unit before failure, and close the support case together. That’s how they use AR to help people work faster and with better precision.

A report of the appointment is automatically sent to Hitachi’s ERP system for invoicing and record keeping. Finally, Hitachi notifies a salesperson that his or her customer’s equipment had a fault and that an upgrade might be in order. That’s how they use AI to inform a salesperson who would otherwise be out of the loop.

This is a real-life situation that reflects the need for modern, unified, intelligent and adaptable business systems. Sadly, most businesses aren’t building out systems like this because they seem costly and new technology can be risky and hard to understand. To that first point – yes, a hundred units of HoloLens headsets is expensive, but not every company needs a hundred HoloLens headsets. To the second point – I hope to continue helping you understand these new technologies in the next part of this series.

In the meantime, wondering how you can create a modern, unified, intelligent and adaptable business system within your company? Contact me and let’s work it out together.

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Kevin Cook

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