Blog | February 28, 2019 | by Matt Clark

Symposium Speakers Address How Technology Has Transformed the Workplace

The Corcentric Symposium is a unique annual event that addresses a wide array of disciplines, from medical to economics to technology to politics and more. The goal is to provide new perspectives in our attendees, to provide a new way to look at our businesses and our lives. Through the years, we have had speakers as diverse as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush; Billy Beane of Moneyball fame; renowned journalist Bob Woodward; SEAL team 10 “Lone Survivor,” Marcus Luttrell; cybersecurity expert, Keren Elazari’ and Super Bowl winning coach, Jimmy Johnson.

The theme of this year’s Symposium was “See Beyond,” a statement that encourages our guests to question the status quo and believe in what could be. There has rarely been a more appropriate time to encourage this kind of thinking.  Unless you’ve been living and working off the grid and in the forest, your life and your work have been have been heavily impacted by technology. With that in mind, we invited three notable speakers to weigh in, not only on how technology is changing everything but how humans still fit into the formula.

Michael Treacy, President and Founder of Treacy & Company – Treacy’s presentation, “The Back-Office Evolution,” addressed the direct impact technology and the Internet are having and will have on back-office functions and headcount. The author of Double Digit Growth points to Amazon, noting that although B2B is much more complex than B2C, customers still want that Amazon-like experience. What makes Amazon so successful is its simplicity for the buyer – easy ordering and easy payment.

The first step in creating a similar experience occurs in the back office with process improvements, using digital solutions to reduce operational costs, speed up response times, and improve the quality of outcomes. Companies need to look at policies that drive complexity and assess whether or not they add value. If not, those policies need to go. Treacy believes that, in the next decade, most order/ship/bill/collect functions will be managed by “plugging in” to transaction utilities either internally or through third party providers.

The shift to buyer/seller portals is the very essence of B2C e-commerce but it has taken a significant step in B2B as well. Corcentric’s customers have realized significant savings in cost, time, and efficiency through automation and portals that provide full visibility and let both buyer and seller work out each step of the process without additional human intervention.

Terry Jones, Founder of Travelocity and founding Chairman of Kayak – Jones has certainly capitalized on using data on search and buying behavior to create disruptive and successful businesses. Now he speaks to groups on the current and future states of artificial intelligence, or AI. At the Symposium, during his presentation, “Demystifying Artificial Intelligence,” he told attendees that most of the data that exists is unstructured data, far beyond the ability of humans to consume and create order. AI can take huge amounts of unstructured data and create order out of it, figure out trends, and offer solutions. However, Jones notes that over half of all companies do not have an AI strategy.

Yet AI is actually a part of many people’s lives. If you talk to Siri or Alexa; if you get your music selections recommended by Pandora, then you are experiencing AI. But AI is as valuable for businesses as it is for consumers. Companies that have implemented AI throughout their enterprise have enhanced performance, made better decisions, and have freed up workers to be more creative. They use AI for predictive analytics, process automation, and customer engagement.

The ultimate goal of AI is deep learning or machine learning, where AI becomes self-aware and more intuitive; but as of this point, we have only seen about 5 percent of what AI can and will do.  Jones informed the group that ethics needs to be a factor in future development and that it is vitally important for government to create AI legislation.

Bill Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Innovator – Although Taylor addressed how digital technologies and new business models are creating more choices, and how established ways of working are less effective than ever, he also points to the real, intrinsic value of human involvement, especially when it comes to leadership. All of these new technologies can make employees at every level feel insecure and uncertain. In an age of uncertainty, Taylor told the group it is vital to have a definition of success for your business that allows you to stand for something special and inspires others to stand with you. As he said, “Don’t let what you know inhibit what you can imagine” or, as the phrase for our Symposium states, “See beyond.”

To illustrate what he was talking about, Taylor used examples of businesses where leaders took those organizations and brought them to the next level. In all of these examples, it is clear that the first job of leaders to convince colleagues and employees that in today’s world, playing it safe is the most dangerous position to take. The businesses he cited include Umqua Bank in Portland, a community bank that went form six branches to 300. They did this by totally transforming the banking experience and becoming an involved member of every community where a bank exists.

He also talked about Quicken Loans which is hiring 600-800 people a month. Although technology is the core of their business, leaders at Quicken are just as interested in the culture they create. They have eight-hour boot camps every month to make sure that everyone from the highest level on down are all moving in the same direction. Every Tuesday, from 1PM to 5PM, is set aside as “bullet time” where the people involved are expected to learn about the future and work on it.

Domino’s was his final example and cited the CEO Patrick Doyle, who focuses on innovation as much as he focuses on pizza. This is a technology-driven transformation, with 400 of the 800 corporate employees involved in app development and data analytics. Taylor related how Doyle stated that failure should always be an option. That can be difficult to accept; but failure is how people learn and the best way to ensure eventual success.

What all of these speakers address is that there is no stopping the continued growth and advances in technology; that what successful companies must do is embrace the technology, learn how to best utilize it to guarantee success, and never forget the human component.

See how Corcentric’s solutions can help transform your workplace.