Digital in Action Wrap-Up

Vera Nyajure

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WITI-NYC held its second event since it's February 2016 re-launch, on April 26th 2016 at WeWork Bryant Park. The event, titled "Digital Strategy in Action: How to make sense of the meaning found between people and technology, and businesses" was generously sponsored by Cognizant, whose team worked tirelessly alongside WITI-NYC leadership to make the event a success.

WITI-NYC's regional director Diane Chang, started things off by giving a brief overview of the group's vision and mission for women in technology in New York. She then handed over the reins to Ariscielle Novicio, Regional Alliance & Sponsorship Chair, the MC for the evening who thanked, everyone for coming out, Cognizant for sponsoring the event and WITI president David Leighton who was in attendance from California. David who spoke about WITI's mission, and their continued support of women in technology before he introduced Stella Alvo, WITI's Public Relations & Social Media Chair who once again thanked Cognizant before introduced Sean Middleton, COO, Emerging Business Accelerator at Cognizant. Sean gave a brief overview of Cognizant and its growth which has contributed to its collaborative relationship with its 500 customers in banking, healthcare, insurance and financial services industries. Along with his colleagues

Carly Burton, N.A. Director, Product Realization & Design Research and Kipp Lynch, Global Head of Design Research, Sean engaged the audience in a discussion on Digital Strategy. It was clear that they all are passionate about the work they do and that one of their drivers is to truly make life better by creating solutions to complex problems and delivering value to the consumers.

In an age where "digital" has become a buzzword associated with anything and everything that is seen as the latest and greatest in technology, Cognizant is dedicated to making "digital" meaningful through its Digital Engagement Practice (DEP). Established in 2015, DEP is a part of the Cognizant Digital Works, a multi-disciplinary business unit which aims to create large-scale business transformation by combining the power of social, mobile and cloud technologies to solve complex business problems for their clients. Sean pointed out that technology has become transparent such that, you do not have to see it for it to affect your life and this is the exciting thing about digital transformation. He emphasized the need to look at the bigger picture by not just focusing on the technology or problem but looking beyond it. He gave an example about GE instrumentation used to predict when an airplane engine may fail. We should think beyond the point of failure and think rather about the ecosystem that exists around engine failure so that the problem is addressed proactively. It means that thought and planning must occur around the optimal time to service the engine, planes must be scheduled to ensure that one is available to take the place of the one that is down for servicing, staff must be scheduled to ensure the servicing of the plane is well timed and executed, tools and parts are available for the job and study of air travel patterns in order to know the best time to complete the job in light of the engines hours of service before failure, among other considerations. A well designed technology must always involve a multidisciplinary team in order to ensure that all processes are accounted for.

Carly shared that in order to properly execute a digital strategy, businesses must have the consumer at the core of their planning so that the technology is useful from the consumer's perspective. It therefore means that, while thinking of how to move the Internet of Things (IOT) from passive to active in order to solve more complex problems, companies need to also be aware of and solve for the challenges presented by the idea of security around the end user. Kipp added that it is not just about sensing, but about sense-making; no one needs a digital coffee maker, but the Fitbit (and similar devices) have taken off because they've created a community to motivate each other. Data that isn't connected to processes is useless therefore companies should think carefully about what data they need to collect and how to use it to enrich the user's experience, educating consumers so that they can make correlations between the data and its usefulness to their experience. Another example given was that of a heavy-duty equipment rental company which had sensors installed on its bulldozers and was collecting data. It wasn't until they analyzed the data and realized that the equipment was being misused - hence the frequent damage to them, that they were able to reduce their costs by; holding the renter's accountable for broken equipment hence encourage proper use, lower insurance rates due to reduced claims and banks are more open to lending because the equipment is not likely to be written off.

The example above shows the ripple impact to various industries and indeed shows how the right technology makes life better for us all.

Carly discussed the work she did with 10-15 year olds from several countries to understand how they imagine a future world as completely networked users. They spoke about drones that transport excess food to where it is needed, train platforms that are sensing and can tell the riders which car would be best considering whether they have a stroller or bike to allow for ease of onboarding and egress. All these point to a desire for frictionless living and can be extended to other aspects of our lives. Another thought shared by the Cognizant team is that human science analysis needs both desk and field research to get the full picture. In addition, irrespective of the job, employees become more engaged and excited in low- and hi-tech jobs when they can attach meaning to what they do.

While many are talking about digital detox, our speakers encouraged us to think about digital empowerment!There were many great take-aways from the event. However, the speakers' passionate discussion clearly conveyed that digital is about more than technology. It is about mobility, habits, economy, lifestyles with value creation and the right data at its core.