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Three Key Takeaways from NC TECH’s State of Technology

June 28, 2021

“Agility” is a word that first comes to mind when considering the takeaways from various panels presented during NC TECH Association’s two-day State of Technology conference, which was focused on the common theme of Total Experience (“TX”).

After the 14 months or so we’ve collectively experienced, it’s understandable that being agile is a key component to growth and meeting customer, as well as employee, needs. Below are just a few examples of how leaders in the technology industry are helping their organizations thrive through understanding, flexibility and innovation.

Overcoming Perceived Hurdles to Productivity

In the breakout session “Garage Methodology: New Ways of Working,” panelists discussed how their organizations leverage the original idea of IBM’s “garage methodology” to drive innovation and develop new products. The concept of agility came up throughout the discussion in terms of how it is required of teams and systems in order to scale a business.

Once a business grows to a certain size, it is subject to more regulations, such as SOC 2 compliance. But becoming SOC 2 compliant doesn’t have to hinder development or productivity. Even if a garage methodology transforms to more of a “factory methodology,” as Tim Draegen, Founder of dmarcian, put it, there is still great potential for agility and forward thinking if done right, with advisors who value progress as well. Many executives tend to think having a SOC 2 audit can limit their ability to quickly develop and compete. But with the proper roadmaps in place to maintain automation, the audit can occur behind the scenes without hindering innovation. The key is to allow your roadmaps to be living, breathing entities that can adjust as technologies evolve.

Leveraging Data for Optimal Outcome

A common theme throughout the “TX for Small + Mid-Size Companies” panel was the importance of outcome over output. When companies listen intently, measure feedback, and act on it, they earn trust and therefore experience long-term retention.

Small to mid-size companies have an agility that larger corporations simply don’t have. This agility allows these companies more opportunity to positively impact the user experience, without hindrance of a legacy system or process. “When you can pivot because there aren’t these processes in place that have been there for years that block you, you’re able to have greater impact in market you’re playing in,” said Bryce Gartner, Analytics & Business Intelligence Leader for Cherry Bekaert. “That helps you disrupt the marketplace because companies aren’t expecting it.”

Shawn Barber, VP of Product Management for Relias, agreed that once an organization understands what its users or employees want, it has to act on that. “[Successful companies should] demonstrate regular improvements that give a sense that the product or organization is constantly evolving in the right direction.”

So how should organizations leverage analytics and tools for a better experience?

First, keep it simple. Measure just a couple things that matter to your organization and that can have an impact. There’s no need to try and evaluate everything. When given too many metrics, we can often get bogged down, and it’s easy to over-complicate data.

Then once the data has been distilled, empower individuals to make decisions. Happy employees who feel empowered to deliver value equal happy customers.

Striking the Right Balance Between AI and Personal Service

The capacity of Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) and Machine Learning (“ML”) for making data more powerful and useful is extraordinary, but in many cases, the element of humanity is left to be desired. During his panel session, Brian Vinson, a Customer Engineering Manager with Google, stated that while chat bots were worth approximately $700 million five years ago, that market has expanded to $2.9 billion last year with expected growth to $10.5 billion in five more years. Chat bots’ growth most recently may be attributed to the pandemic with large portions of the population staying at home. While the use of automated interaction continues to climb, it also means there is a demand on developers to continually improve the end-user experience, finding the balance between automation and personal attention.

Another aspect of the need for companies to be nimble as they leverage AI is to take into account legal and privacy concerns when collecting data. “It can be a double-edged sword,” said Shoshana Collins, Senior Manager of Data at Red Hat. “Now that we can harness the power [of data], how do we navigate the relationship so [customers] are excited to share the data and for us to use it?” The privacy and ethical considerations that come into play when gathering, dissecting and sharing data require human judgment when developing technology in the AI and ML space.