Author: Pamela Yates

Managing Digital Transformation

Managing Digital Transformation

Digital transformation will impact every part of your operation. While having access to the appropriate technologies is part of the story, there are changes that are needed right across the organisation. Various commentators believe it starts with a fundamental concept of being customer centric. Most agree that success is dependent on the ability to manage the complexities of organisational change, process improvement, technology integration and content management. In our experience there are a range of innovation strategies that clients use.

· Incremental Improvement

o Essentially continuous improvement to existing products and services

· Adjacent Innovation

o Enhancing your offerings with new services using new technologies

· Transformation

o Reinventing the organisation to take advantage of new technologies adding new markets and new services

For some this is a major reinvention, where they are making changes to all areas of their business and reshaping their business model to take advantage of the latest technology. BCITO for example are delivering more and more of their training services through digital channels. While they recognise that face to face interaction is important they have been able to develop additional digital communities for those in secondary schools looking for a future in the building industry for example. While a stable and effective technology platform is critical to their success, it is the ability to translate the opportunities and implement change throughout the organisation that bring the rewards.

Other organisations are implementing projects adjacent to their existing environment, creating new services or building digital relationships with existing clients. Many of our iMIS users are managing more and more contacts with their members though digital channels. A by-product of a digital relationship is the valuable data that can be mined to better understand individual requirements and wants. This enables our iMIS clients to be able to tailor communications to specific needs of their members and engage directly with individuals to deliver the appropriate services in a timely manner.

And then there are those that are making incremental improvements to their existing products and services. They are taking advantage of the digital environment to enhance their services and delivery models.

Whatever digital strategy is in place, there is a sense that these technologies are disrupting the status quo in a way we haven’t seen since the arrival of the internet. While it is a little unnerving and daunting it is also exciting. Each month we are seeing more and more change, from scooters on our streets to automatic reimbursements of tax overpayments. Often it is only in looking back that you see the magnitude of the change we are experiencing. What will our world look like in 2029?

McKinsey have written a very realistic article on the ups and downs of digital transformation. They say “Digital transformations are even more difficult than traditional change efforts to pull off. But the results from the most effective transformations point to five factors for success.” We would suggest you read this article if you are managing or working on a digital transformation strategy. Unlocking success in digital transformations

If you need help with your digital strategy or projects do not hesitate to contact us.

Do you have the right project manager for the right project?

Project management can be a complicated business. Each project is unique and experienced Project Managers will get a gut feeling about how the project will proceed, but it is good to be able to look at a project from a logical perspective.

If the business is clear on what they want, and how to achieve it, the business case is strong, and the outcomes are understood and accepted by most of the organisation, then you need a good Executor. The Executor will drive the project changes through the organisation, using a structured and disciplined framework informed by a comprehensive business case. The Executor will follow the strategy, deliver clear benefits and stay within the boundaries of the project.

While it would be wonderful to have such certainty with all projects, there are some where the business pursues opportunities that lie outside the existing strategic boundaries. These “green fields” opportunities are untested and while the changes may be very beneficial to the business there is an obvious risk that the project may not be successful. For this sort of project, you need a prophet, who can articulate the “grand vision” with support from the leadership team. They need to be able to convince the organisation to make a leap of faith and provide a roadmap to the future.

As for the gambler style of project manager, they flourish with projects that are part of the overall business strategy but lack trustworthy data or evidence that the project will be successful. Some digital programmes will fall into this category. Sometimes the project may go under the radar until there is enough proof that the business outcomes can be achieved. The gambler is willing to work in this type of environment, essentially knowing that the opportunity the project pursues is a bet.

Lastly the expert project manager is best where a project challenges existing strategy. They have solid evidence that the project should succeed but rely on the business members listening to their advice. The expert can analyse and articulate well-supported arguments for change and the business has the capability and foresight to act on their guidance. This article from the Harvard Business Review provides an outline of each of the styles, and examples where the style of project manager has been successful in a range of organisations.

At Zephyr we are very aware of the need to find the right person for the role. If you are looking for a project manager of any style give us a ring, we have a wide range of skilled people on our books.

Serverless Computing

The “Big Three” cloud vendors; Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are major players in this arena. Serverless architectures are application designs that incorporate Backend as a Service” (BaaS) and “Functions as a Service” (FaaS) platforms which are invaluable to software developers.

BaaS serves as the middleware that provides developers with ways to connect their Web and mobile applications to cloud services via application programming interfaces (API) and software developers’ kits (SDK). While FaaS provides a platform allowing customers to develop, run, and manage application functionalities without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing and launching an application.

MartinFowler.com has an article which provides an in-depth look at serverless architecture.

What does this mean for your server in the cupboard? The “lift and shift” model where your applications are magically transferred to the Cloud may result in some functionality not being available. Using a web service such as Azure or Google can be very effective and cost efficient but there is a need to review your applications, especially if they have been tailored for your environment, as the software developer may have written in calls to a specific server.

Here at Zephyr we reviewed all our own applications and have moved some to the Cloud using the serverless computing model. Others we are rewriting to take advantage of the BaaS and FaaS environment. It is a great learning curve when you work on your own systems and has meant that we have been able to manage the same process for our clients, avoiding all the pitfalls of course. We recognise that taking advantage of the serverless computing model has significantly reduced operational cost as pricing is based on the actual amount of resources consumed by an application, rather than on pre-purchased units of capacity. It has also reduced the complexity of our applications, which is aids in problem detection and solution. We are aware of our increased reliance on our vendor, but our experience has been positive. To discuss further contact Graeme graeme.mcinteer@zephyr.co.nz

What sort of Business Analyst are you?

Most people are familiar with the traditional business analyst role. According to Wikipedia “A business analyst is someone who analyses an organisation or business domain and documents its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology.”

Technical business analyst

The technical business analyst on the other hand is the bridge between business and technical teams. Often the technical teams are not familiar with the business language or the business issues to be addressed. The technical business analyst must be able to communicate business issues to the technical teams, in terms they understand and appreciate. Working closely with the business analyst they come up with solutions to business problems and communicate with technical teams on how to implement them. Sometimes this is seen as the system analyst role, but the while the technical business analyst understands the broader context in the business of business changes, a systems analyst will focus on the systems development.

Technical business analysis is quite a complex role. Some companies end up mistakenly looking for business analysis skills when their current issue could best be solved by technical business analysis skills.

The role of technical business analyst can only be appreciated after business analysts has executed its duties of identifying business problems. It is from there that the technical business analyst would take the business requirements developed by the business analyst and develop them into technical artifacts.

A technical business analyst has often come from the IT organisation and built their business skills working within projects. With familiarity and experience in systems analysis, system and enterprise architecture, they are capable of working with technical teams on their terms. While it is not necessary for them to be able to design the new models themselves, they need the knowledge of systems to input to the development and review process.

If your project is struggling with the interface between business requirements and the systems development a technical business analyst may be exactly what you need.

There are several good articles on technical business analysis role from the Modern Analyst website.

If you are looking for a business analyst of any flavour give Debbie or Louise a ring at Zephyr. They are very happy to help. debbie.wheeler@zephyr.co.nz and louise.laurenson@zephyr.co.nz

Developing Your Skills or those of Your Team

If you have been around the IT industry for a while you will know that the environment is always changing. Keeping abreast with the latest developments or ensuring you and your team have the skills to effectively work with new technologies can be difficult at the best of times, but if you are busy just managing the needs of today it can be tough. This is especially hard if you work in a small or medium-sized organisation, where you may perform the roles of recruiter, trainer and team leader. Below are some ideas and tools which may help.

If you don’t know where to start, this article from Mindtools may help. It provides a process and structure to understand and identify the skills you and your team may need to work on. Using training assessment tools and advice on how to manage “on the job” training alongside other training programmes will help you build and manage a training programme which meets the needs of the team and keeps the business running at the same time.

For those trying to understand the skills required for certain IT positions or revising your CV and wondering if you have covered all the skill sets appropriate to the roles you play, this link may help. The Balance Careers.com has provided technology skills lists for a wide range of IT roles and can be used to identify skills gaps or ensure you have fully documented your capabilities in your CV. This was last updated in February this year so is reasonably up to date.

Finally, if you are looking at which roles and skills are top of mind today. This article from CNBC.com has the results of a major LinkedIn study which analysed hundreds of thousands of job postings to determine which skills companies need most in 2019. (Admittedly it was based on a study in the US.) It found that employers are looking for workers with both soft skills and hard skills. The top 4 skills sets were:

  1. Cloud Computing
  2. Artificial Intelligence
  3. Analytical Reasoning
  4. People Management

This article also provides links to on-line learning opportunities in each of the top 25 skill sets. If you are looking to develop your skills this should be of help.

Also remember if you are looking for a skilled contractor or consultant, please contact Debbie debbie.wheeler@zephyr.co.nz or Louise louise.laurenson@zephyr.co.nz

Leveraging Managed Services

Over the past 5 years the managed services environment has grown as many organisations both small and large grapple with the advances in technology and the pressure to continually innovate and upgrade their products and services. For small and medium organisations having the right skills and technical expertise on hand is expensive and time consuming. Hence the reliance on MSPs who have the expertise, technology and tools to manage not only the network but the end user requirement.
While the clients are looking at innovations in their own industry, MSPs must be looking at the trends in the services they are offering and ensuring that their clients are getting the most from their MSP relationship.
The Cloud environment continues to be a key focus area, as the advantages and opportunities of outsourced application and data management are immense. It is expected that MSPs will have an increased emphasis on security, as the growth of cyberattacks continues. This reinforces the need for security solutions which not only defend the client’s environment but also enables fast recovery where needed. As many IT services are being automated, it is essential that the MSP takes advantage of these efficiencies. This enables MSP teams to focus on using their technical expertise and people skills where they can get best leverage for the client.
Here at Zephyr we have developed a questionnaire to assist clients to get the best from their MSP. This Business Advisory Guide will arm you with 24 revealing questions you should ask any MSP before giving them access to your company’s network. Contact Tony Dorman our Managed Services Manager, he is very happy to share this guide with you. tony.dorman@zephyr.co.nz or you can download straight from our website. (Hint it’s in the side bar).

Choosing the wrong MSP to support your network can be incredibly frustrating and expensive, and could end up costing you in downtime, data loss and expensive repair bills, not to mention the headaches and frustration!
For more information here is an interesting article about the trends to watch in 2019.

Take advantage of the 90-9-1 Rule

In the 90-9-1 rule the 9% are the active users. They frequently comment on posts or articles or in forums. They share ideas and have debate. They engage in back and forth discussion and give their opinions, but it is the thought leaders (the 1%) who are strong advocates of your community, product, and brand.
The 90% are the lurkers. They see and read posts from time to time, but you never really hear from these people. They just consume and they often fall in line with the opinions presented by the other two smaller segments. They might occasionally make a comment on an article or post, but they are first and foremost consumers of information.
Lurker is a negative term with unsavoury connotations and drives the impression that an entire segment of the site community are passive observers. As the basic principle is tested with the progress of the internet the ratios are changing, and various researchers and commentators have created new terms for each group. Lurkers have become learners or consumers. They may:
• download and share content elsewhere in their own network;
• observe and learn from the dialogue going on in the community;
• encourage others within their own network to join and explore the community; and/or
• learn about the community while observing and in turn make meaningful contributions over time.
These behaviours and types can inform your community management approaches and strategies. It also seems that community members often move from one set of behaviours to another at different times due to varying interests or workload demands. It’s useful to think of all your community members on an engagement journey.
It seems that the ratios may be changing over time. There are some commentators who are saying that while the basic principle is valid the ratio may be more 70-20-10. But most agree that the lurkers or learners are influenced by the participators and thought leaders. So, it is important to nurture both of these segments.
Modern Analyst has an interesting article for Business Analysts
Collaboration Incontext has an article which translates the 90-9-1 model into some new approaches.

Australian Anti-Encryption Laws – what does it mean for Kiwis?

Firstly, what is an anti-encryption law? The legislation allows law enforcement agencies to compel companies to hand over user information, even if it’s protected by end-to-end encryption. If companies do not have the ability to intercept encrypted information, they can be forced to build tools to do so. The Australian government has argued that the powers are necessary to defend its citizens against terrorism and crime. The Verge has an interesting article on the pros and cons of this law, including the reasons why there is so much criticism from both technology and corporate leaders.
Forbes also have a blog which identifies the inherent weaknesses in the Australian government’s reasoning for this law and provides an international perspective of the problem.
So, what does this mean to the many Kiwi businesses and some government agencies who have outsourced IT to cloud computing services in Australia to take advantage of economies of scale offered by a range of Cloud providers. In January we posted a short blog which linked to an article by Richard McManus on Newsroom.
The NZ Herald also wrote an article on the implications of the new act on New Zealand companies.
There have been some amendments made to the bill in February, but it seems that we need to “watch this space” as we await advice and guidance from the NZ Government. There are some commentators predicting that there may not be an exodus of NZ companies leaving Australia based Cloud providers, but major providers of Cloud based services may be taking a second look at Australia as a base for their operations. This may bode well for New Zealand.
And for a link to our previous blog regarding the Australian Encryption Law go here

Lessons Learnt or Opportunities Lost

“The measure of a successful lessons learnt exercise is not the number of “lessons” identified but the relevance, quality and impact of the recommendations that you can pass on to future readers.” The BA Times has an interesting article about the Lessons Learnt process.

Most project team members are familiar with the process to identify, document, analyse and store lessons learnt. But if the organisation through the Programme Office does not have a central Lessons Learnt register, it is very difficult to analyse lessons learnt across projects. This results in repeating the mistakes of the past and losing the opportunity to make changes to the way projects are run to avoid problems in the future. Every new Project Manager should be provided access to the Lessons Learnt register and use the knowledge to inform the project plans. This is doubly important for those Project Managers who are new to the organisation. The Lessons Learnt can provide an insight into the organisations culture and values.

A new learning environment needs to be endorsed throughout the company and sponsored by executive management. A process of analysing lessons learnt across projects over the past six months, identifying how to ensure mistakes are not made again, and reporting to and requesting support from Senior Management is crucial. Project Managers and project teams should understand that it is their responsibility to review previous lessons learnt and questions asked if similar mistakes are repeated. Process and procedures should be implemented to make sure that the lessons are used or that the project manager is held accountable for a recurrence of a lesson that was learnt in a historical project.

Retaining project knowledge and establishing a continuous improvement effort are vital activities for a Programme or Project Office. Keeping costs low, schedules on time, and activities closely monitored is critical, as mistakes and rework are costly. The benefits gained by mining the value of lessons learnt can help avoid the risks involved in reworking projects and in repeating the same mistakes or problems continuously. This must be of value to all organisations.

The PMI have an interesting article on taking the lessons learnt to the next level.

Your Holiday is Essential

Many of us have our work and social lives out of balance and get caught up in the monotonous 9-5 routine. Heavier workloads, tighter deadlines and threatened job security all adds to the pressure to perform to the highest standard – even if this means shying away from taking necessary breaks from work. Taking some time to yourself, away from the office, is crucial and can even improve your performance when you return to work.

Scientific studies across the globe have shown that taking a break can reduce stress by removing you from an environment you associate with stress and anxiety. The effects last beyond the duration of the break and include the alleviation of some of those stress-related physical complaints such as headaches, backaches, and heart irregularities.

It has also been proven that holidays improve your productivity. Professional services firm Ernst & Young conducted an internal study of its employees and found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation time employees took, their year-end performance ratings improved 8 percent. When you’re more productive, you’re happier, and when you’re happier, you excel at what you do.

And if restless nights and disrupted sleep are a common complaint because you have too much on your minds. Researchers say, that holidays can help interrupt the habits that disrupt sleep, like working late into the night or watching a backlit screen before bed. We know that lack of sleep leads to less focus, less alertness, impaired memory, an increased likelihood of accidents and a decreased quality of life.

So, consider your holiday as an investment. According to Forbes “Giving yourself time to fully disconnect and recharge makes it possible for you to perform at your best once you’re back at work.” And if you are still not convinced Forbes have put together an interesting article on some ways to prepare for and enjoy the break. Happy Holidays.

Taking Advantage of a Quiet January

Many of us are aware of the major steps taken in the field of data analytics over the past few years. With access to large amounts of data, and the capability to use data and analytics to solve business problems, skills in this area are becoming increasingly valuable, whatever your background or position in an organisation.

As a term, data analytics predominantly refers to an assortment of applications, from basic business intelligence (BI), reporting and online analytical processing (OLAP) to various forms of advanced analytics. There has been a proliferation of self-service infrastructure and tools designed to automate many of the technical but repetitive tasks involved with data cleaning, preparation and analytics. This means that staff are increasingly able to carry out complex data-driven operations such as predictive modelling and automation without getting their hands dirty coding complex algorithms from scratch.

You may not be looking at data analytics as your core capability but understanding the principles and basics of data analytics is of value whether you are a business analyst or project manager. So, if you are looking at upskilling in the area of analytics the following on-line courses may be for you.

Forbes have identified their top free on-line courses. (Sort of free, you may need to pay for certification). And we suggest you read the reviews. Some are more digestible than others!

IBM has a range of free data science courses which introduces you to Data Science from a practitioner point of view. The courses discuss topics such as data compilation, preparation and modelling throughout the life-cycle of data science from basic concepts and methodologies to advanced algorithms. It also discusses how to get some practical knowledge with open source tools.

Then there is MOOC which provides you with access to courses from the likes of Harvard University to Google.

Project Resilience

With PMI certification and other project management disciplines being the guiding light for many projects, it is assumed that following a correct set of processes, procedures, tools and techniques will ensure project success.

Unfortunately, the environment we work in is always changing and project teams often deal with risk, uncertainty and complexity, which was not foreseen when the project began. Being obedient to frameworks needs to be supported by a way to manage the risk and uncertainty.

Cranfield School of Management were commissioned to look at the necessary actions the Project Manager should establish to maintain a state of Project Resilience. Here is a precis of their findings.

Ensuring your process continues to be resilient means being proficient in the art of:

1. noticing indicators of an ever-changing environment

· Be very alert to things that go wrong or indicate negative consequences;

2. realistically interpreting these indicators and bring them together to form a ‘big picture’

· Do not accept simple answers but try to validate the facts;

· Rule out doubt by unambiguously connecting the broad organisational goal and the team work;

· Rank expertise higher than hierarchy.

3. preparing for the effects of these changes

· Anticipate possible and unexpected failure and ensure resilient responses;

4. containing and even exploiting the effects of changes in the environment

· Remember not all changes are negative and some changes will make a positive impact on your project;

5. recovering from unforeseen events and quickly restoring project capabilities.

· Get back to business as usual as soon as possible.

According to Cranfield this guide should be seen as a set of principles that are complementary to conventional wisdom in project management.

Read more about this!

Are You an I or a T?

With personality profiling hitting the news recently, the “I” or “T” perspective seems very simple. But it does make you think about where you sit on the spectrum and whether you want to move.

In essence “I” shaped individuals have very strong capability in one or two areas of knowledge, but their skills and competence in other disciplines or the more social and collaborative areas are limited due to lack of training and experience. Although depth of experience is highly valuable, effective collaboration in disciplines like design benefit from individuals who have combined this with a range of applications in different professional environments. I-shaped people can excel in many workplaces, but typically not in those demanding high levels of collaborative working.

T-shaped professionals are characterised by their deep disciplinary knowledge in at least one area, an understanding of systems, and their ability to function as “adaptive innovators” and cross the boundaries between disciplines.

Apparently, the terms “I” shaped and “T” shaped came from McKinsey as they used it to define the type of consultants they needed. Forbes believes that both types are essential in any organisation. It is assumed that T people are better at fostering the diverse connections and conversations that bring exceptional ideas to the surface. But “I” shaped people in collaboration with “T” shaped people can provide the expertise needed to capitalise on the new ideas.

If you think you are “I” shaped and want to move to be “T” shaped, the advice is to broaden your horizons and take on an expanding range of projects. Make sure to develop those cross-project skills such as:

* Process Management

* Agile Methodologies

* Quality Assurance

* Data Management.

And finally, be open to learning more about the “soft skills” and take opportunities to build communications, collaboration and empathy capabilities.

For more information go to the TSummit Page from Michigan University

Choosing a Browser

With Chrome turning 10 this month, it seems like a good time to look at why Chrome is so popular and what other browsers are on the market to choose from. While choosing an operating system often locks you into the environment, you may be switching between browsers and not really see much difference. But are you using the best browser for your needs?

There are a range of browser reviews most of which put Mozilla Firefox and Chrome at the top of their list, but it seems that it depends on what you require, what operating system and which device you generally use. The right web browser can make a huge difference to your everyday browsing – whether your priority is faster performance, better security or more flexibility through downloadable extensions.

Mark Coppock at Digital Trends has done some research since the arrival of the latest version of Chrome. His blog has not only identified the top browsers and where their strengths and weaknesses lie, but also outlines the latest features in release Chrome 69, developed to celebrate their 10th birthday.

His advice is “You can read all the stats, benchmarks, and speed tests, but the right browser for you is the one that feels right.”

But if you are wondering whether your browser is right for you, here are some key pros and cons of the most popular browsers from Tech Radar, which may help you decide whether you are using the right one.


* Fast performance

* Infinitely expandable

* Best mobile integration

* Resource-hungry

Mozilla Firefox

* Very fast

* Light on system resources

* Works well with older applications

* Strong privacy tools


* Excellent Turbo mode

* Integrated ad-blocker

* Features a built-in “Stash” for saving pages to read later.

* Fewer plugins than rivals

Microsoft Edge

* Very fast

* Built-in reading mode

* Not backwards compatible


* Incredibly customisable

* Creative interface features

* Not the fastest

For more detail

Picking a web browser isn’t like picking your operating system or smartphone. Switching between browsers is comparatively easy — in fact, by the time you finish reading this, you could download each major browser, and have a play to decide on which is best for you.

Slow is the new Fast

Slow is the new Fast

Watching the recent amazing rescue scenes in the caves in Thailand reiterates the slow is fast motto. SEALs have a slogan “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” So, the next time you are in the middle of a fast sprint, take time to breathe and get to know your inner tortoise. It will help you focus on the task ahead and ensure that rework is reduced in the future.

In his book Endurance, astronaut Scott Kelly’s story of his year aboard the International Space Station, he recalled: “Slow is efficient. Efficient is fast. Slow is fast.” It’s a translation of an old Latin tag, festina lente, “hurry slowly”. It means that trying to do things too fast often means you waste time going back to correct your mistakes: the fastest way of accomplishing something is to work carefully and methodically.

Do you sometimes feel we never have time to do it right but we always have time to do it over? The problem could have been avoided with a slower, more careful approach. In our business where agile sprints are the order of the day, there are times when speed needs to be compromised by attention to detail. A quick solution may be fine for the immediate future, but down the track another development dependent on the earlier solution can be impacted by a poorly thought through short-cut.

Fast thinking works is great in a well-known context. You save time when you don’t have to deliberate over details and nuances to make informed decisions. But, in more complex, unfamiliar circumstances fast thinking can lead to extremely poor decisions. Jumping to ill-founded conclusions because of pressure to achieve the short-term goal can lead to longer term issues.

If you are a software developer you may find the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman valuable.

Who is the Resource Investigator on your Team?

Who is the Resource Investigator on your Team?

Whether your team manages a project or “business as usual” outcomes, the role of a resource investigator is something you may want to consider. It assumes, quite rightly, that the world around us continues to change and there may be new opportunities to explore and exploit which will make your team more effective or efficient. This role requires someone to make external contacts, to explore and exploit, to develop ideas and to enthuse others.

 The research of Dr. Meredith Belbin led to the development of Belbin Team Roles, nine clusters of behaviour that individuals adopt when participating in a team. One of the roles identified is that of a Resource Investigator.

Resource Investigators are natural communicators, able to establish rapport quickly, to extend the range of the team’s useful contacts and partnerships. They are best placed to go out and discover new possibilities, whether within the organisation or externally. They can then report back to the team and together they can decide whether to capitalise on new developments. Without them, the team risks stagnating – becoming too inward-looking and inefficient.

While you may be unable to appoint a dedicated Resource Investigator, it may be a role which one of your team can pick up. A Business Analyst for example who is outgoing, inquisitive, persuasive and affable would be able to take on this responsibility.

There are, of course pitfalls in the role. Resource Investigators thrive on the excitement of the new and lose enthusiasm quickly, wanting to move onto the next big thing. And if their recommendations are not robust they can waste the team’s time with some of their ideas.

But, research has demonstrated that teams with a wide range of complementary behaviours consistently outperform those that are more homogeneous when dealing with high risk complex issues. The role of the Research Investigator is one that should be included in the mix.

Mind Tools has a very good outline of the Belbin Team Roles.

Read More!

End of Advertising as we know it?

Advertising meets Artificial Intelligence

Advertising is such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it is hard to imagine a future without it. But with the arrival of social media there has been a major change in the advertising spend. It is predicted that AI will have an even greater impact on advertising as many purchasing decisions will be made by your own personal assistant such as JARVIS from Iron Man.

If you are receiving a barrage of unwanted, unnecessary and irrelevant advertising messages, whether through television, social media or on your selected movie channel, then this will give you heart. We know that advertising is becoming more tailored to our perceived needs. Just search for an item on Google and suddenly you are bombarded with ads for similar products each time you go to a news or social medial site. But there is so much information out there, and often you have little time to digest and decide on your purchase. Buyer’s remorse can be the result. Artificial Intelligence can filter the information and provide you with the best offerings for your requirements.

Soon, it is predicted that 80% of the advertising process will be automated with more personalised individual offers, engaging through any device you use. Is this farewell to standard TV and newspaper advertising? We hope so, but it means that you will continue to find personalised messages everywhere you look on-line.

Gartner says that next year 20% of user interactions with smartphones will take place via virtual personal assistants. And that is only the start; AI is going to have a major impact on our purchasing decisions. Imagine a future when you simply say to your personal assistant “I’m low on toothpaste, buy me some.” In less than a second, it considers all the options, the pricing, the published client-satisfaction reports and perhaps, it also evaluates your genome to understand exactly which flavour formulation is likely to excite your taste buds. And, finally it completes the purchase. The alternative will be smart toothpaste packaging which knows when you are about to use the last squeeze and automatically adds toothpaste to the grocery list and sends it to the supplier, so you never run out and no more toothpaste ads!

We have many questions? Do I really want to pass my buying decisions on to my personal assistant? I enjoy the researching and selection experience; how will that change?

Artificial intelligence is evolving quickly with developments around the world making use of the capabilities that are beyond our imagining. As AI becomes pervasive in our lives the way we display and consume advertisements will change with it.

Read More.

Why I’m Still a Fan of the Old Fashioned ‘Snail Mail’ Newsletter

I have a friend holidaying in Italy (lucky thing) and have been following her travels through Instagram. It is wonderful to see all those fabulous places on-line. Then last week I received a postcard through the mail. Remember them, a cheesy photo of a location and then enough room to say “having a great time” on the back. But it is the postcard that brought the most joy. I now have it sitting above my desk and gaze at the beautiful Mediterranean as it is wet and windy outside. There is something personal about receiving mail which cannot be replicated on-line.

While I enjoy browsing the internet, following the news and keeping in touch with friends on-line, I find something very satisfying about the printed medium. I prefer hard copy books and magazines rather than e-reader versions. It is very relaxing to put away the technology, grab a coffee and sit down with a new magazine. I think this may be a generational perspective, but if you have been to the library and seen the young children absorbed in a book, maybe the tactile and tangible characteristics of the paper and ink will continue to appeal into the future.

As a communications specialist, I know that email and social media are very effective communications channels, but when overused become tiresome and irritating. It is also very easy to hit delete on unwanted email, or to forget them if they drop below the screen. Paper based communication can compliment the on-line environment. I create a bi-monthly business newsletter which is printed and posted to a wide audience. While there are some that prefer to receive the newsletter on-line, most are happy to get a personally addressed envelope in their mail and enjoy the hard-copy version. We know that some will be discarded immediately, but many will be shared with others, the most positive outcome.

It is interesting that major retail organisations continue to invest in brochures and flyers, regarded as junk mail by some, as part of their advertising campaigns. There must be a continued audience for all that paper stuffed into letter boxes across the country.

For me, I love to get communications through the post, except for bills of course. There is something touching about a card or letter that makes a connection that emails, Instagram, Facebook etc. cannot emulate. Next time you are on holiday send a postcard to your nearest and dearest, I am sure they will thank you for it.