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Top 10 Impact Optimize2019 Sessions


August 22, 2019

Key Points From This Year’s Top Breakouts And Demos

Impact Optimize2019 wrapped up for this year to great success. We took to Chicago’s Navy Pier for the one-day summit; designed to bring the very best thought-leaders in digital transformation together to share the latest techniques and strategies in the industry.

After the success of last year’s inaugural event, for this year we increased the size of the event ten-fold, with nearly 1,000 business professionals, decision makers, and leaders in attendance.

With almost 70 breakout sessions, presentations, and demonstrations, there was plenty going on for attendees this year. You can read our top takeaways from Impact Optimize2019 here.

We looked at the post-event survey feedback and data and taken the liberty of rounding up the 10 top sessions (in no particular order) that stood out the most to our patrons.

1. Branding and Marketing with a Digital-First Strategy

Hosted by Jamie Judkins, ES99 Director of Sales, and Stacie Thompson, ES99 Director of Creative and Strategy, this session explored how businesses can utilize digital strategies to improve their brand and looked at best marketing practices for reaching out to key audiences.

  • Digital is the new word-of-mouth: The way decisions are made in the professional world have changed dramatically as digital technology has become pervasive over the last 10-15 years. People rely less and less on personal networks and more on digital networks to assess brand value, meaning the stakes of having your brand viewed the way you want it to be have risen.
  • Take control of your brand: Have awareness of how your brand is seen and which platforms you can control your image on. In this breakout session, fewer than 20% of attendees were aware of how their brand is viewed. Take control by consistently managing your outgoing brand messages and be aware of everywhere your brand image—good or bad—resides.
  • Branding vs. Marketing: Your brand should be passive and speak for itself. Be sure to solidify what you brand message is before you market it—don’t put the cart before the horse. If you’re spending time trying to convince people about the quality of your service, then your brand isn’t speaking for itself.

2. Experience Microsoft Teams and Discover the Possibilities

Zach Terry, Senior Channel Manager at Brainstorm, Inc, delivered his seminar on communication, specifically how Microsoft Teams and similar unified communications platforms can improve collaboration channels with organizations.

  • Increase collaboration: Positive about change; work more effectively as a team and not as individual departments.
  • Streamline: Users believe they will eliminate 77 weekly emails using Teams.
  • Hard cost of not changing: Storage costs, duplicate apps, support costs, training costs, security costs, eDiscovery costs.
  • Soft cost of not changing: Speed to market, innovation deficiencies, and employee engagement all suffer as a result of not updating the ways your organization communicates.

Improved cross-department communication is one of the primary considerations decision makers have to make when undergoing a digital transformation project. A unified platform like Teams helps SMBs drastically increase the capacity of their communications channels and collaborative ability.

3. Creating a Culture of Digital Transformation

Impact Networking President, Dan Meyer, was the host for this session. He looked at the need for a company to embrace a positive and proactive culture as an integral part of the digital transformation strategy. Impact’s own journey since its founding in 1999 was used as an example of how important culture is to DX.

The essential characteristics that constitute a good culture are:

  • Employee recognition: Give credit and recognition when it’s due. Employees are much more willing to engage in the future of a company that values and respects their efforts.
  • Rapid career advancement: Give employees the opportunity to progress quickly within the organization. With digital transformation comes new growth opportunities for staff.
  • Teamwork: Better teamwork within organizations is a central part of DX strategy, preventing silos and creating an environment that is more open and collaborative.
  • Trust: A crucial aspect of digital transformation; people at all levels need to be on-board and trust that the digital transformation project will benefit them and their processes.
  • Communication: Getting across your vision for digital transformation is vital to its success. It’s equally important to have a foundation of communication that allows decision makers to be open to feedback from employees using new and upgraded systems.

Poor culture and resistance to change is a big obstacle to digital transformation, so spending the time and money to put in place a positive culture of change is vital.

4. How Virtual Desktops are Empowering the “Work from Anywhere” Revolution

Nerdio’s Adam Citron, Senior Partner Sales Executive, gave a seminar on modern digital workplaces—specifically the phenomenon of employees working remotely and the rise of “bring your own device” policies that organizations are increasingly using.

Citron focused on how to implement strategies for businesses which weren’t yet ready for virtual workplaces and lacked a BYOD program.

The main considerations for SMBs are:

  • Leveraging technology: IoT technology means connecting a distributed workforce is an integral part of unifying a digital workplace
  • BYOD policy: Create a policy regarding BYOD use within a company. What kind of data can be stored; what apps are allowed; which websites are accessible; whether camera or video capabilities are enabled on-site.
  • Security strategy for remote work: BYOD means a host of new security challenges, with many new devices sending and receiving company data, devices need to be correctly configured and protected to operate within the system.
  • Create a communication network: Aid the process of “work from anywhere” to be as seamless as a traditional on-site workplace by using software across the company to allow instant communication between employees.

With smart devices and Internet of Things technology becoming an integral part to many modern businesses, it’s imperative for SMBs to understand how to make better use of devices in their companies. 7 billion IoT devices are present in workplaces, a number which is expected to triple by 2025. Remote work and BYOD policies are already an important aspect of the workplace that small businesses should be seriously thinking about.

5. Why is Change Management Important in Digital Transformation?

Connected Arrows CEO & Managing Director Patricia Jones led a breakout session on the importance of change management in digital transformation and how it can make or break a strategy.

Businesses which have successful digital transformation strategies often have one thing in common: a comprehensive change management plan to help guide their organization.

Jones recommended three courses of action that those in leadership roles should take when undergoing a DX strategy:

  • Consider how to communicate effectively: Having the right leadership from decision makers at the top is vital to ensuring the success of a change management project. Communicate your vision clearly and effectively to everyone who will be affected by the digital transformation.
  • Mitigate resistance: By changing the status quo, there will inevitably be resistance from people who are more comfortable with familiar processes. Prepare your workforce for change by training them to use new systems and on-boarding them properly—if a digital transformation isn’t improving the workflows of employees, the strategy isn’t working.
  • Calm fears that can be a roadblock to change efforts: Certain employees, for example, may feel threatened by the introduction of new automated work processes that complete previously manual tasks—they need to be assured that the transformation will help, not hinder, them.

6. 4 Habits of Digital Transformation Titans

Joel Beasley, author of Modern CTO and host of the top technology leadership podcast of the same name, gave a breakout on common habits that successful organizations almost universally displayed in their digital transformations.

  • The right culture: Engineer a culture that is accepting of change and willing to embrace the new technologies that a digital transformation project will bring to a business. Determine if you have a culture that accepts change or if you need to work towards that culture first.
  • Empower people: Allow employees to thrive in an environment where they can become more valuable; both personally and to the organization.
  • Humble and outcome driven: Digital transformation is a long process. Stay focused on established goals and keep one eye on the future. Decision makers should ask themselves who to invest in for the future.
  • Vision & discipline: Discipline is the ability to hold onto your vision. This applies to every stage of the DX process—consistency over intensity.

7. Avoiding the Potholes on Your Digital Transformation Journey

Matt Urmston, VP World Wide Sales Engineers at StorageCraft, presented a breakout session on the common obstacles that businesses run into with their digital transformations. An alarming amount of organizations fail to meet expectations when executing their DX strategies, often because they don’t have a comprehensive plan for success in place. The key potholes are:

  • Fear of change: Staff can be reluctant to change existing ways or fearful that automated processes might threaten their position.
  • Lack of education: Employees who haven’t been thoroughly on-boarded onto new systems will be frustrated that the digital transformation isn’t benefitting their day-to-day work.
  • Cybercrime: A data breach can be disastrous for a small business, and the frequency and severity of cyberattacks are increasing among SMBs. Having a good defense against cybercrime is a top priority.
  • The starting point: Have a clear and understandable roadmap for your digital transformation. Too much, too soon can hinder the project—have achievable milestones and goals.
  • Failing to address scalability: Many SMBs use cloud solutions because they are uniquely scalable to a business’ needs. It is common for a small business to overspend on servers they don’t need and end up significantly harming their bottom line. If you’re unsure about scaling your services correctly, be sure to speak to an expert who can recommend what you need.
  • Rapid increase in cost of downtime and data loss: Downtime is costly and painful, particularly for SMBs who can’t afford to lose operational capacity. Having a plan in place for disaster recovery and business continuity is a must.

Businesses which over-extend themselves find that they are unable to cope with the litany of new challenges that have to be managed in a newly digitalized company; specifically, those of cybersecurity, change management, and training.

8. Business in the Social Age. Are You Ready to Go Online?

Jeff Rodgers, ES99 Sr. Marketing Specialist, and Alex Locke, ES99 Account Supervisor, aimed their presentation at SMBs looking to incorporate social media strategies into their marketing plans.

As many decision makers are aware, having a social media presence is a one of the key pillars of modern businesses’ marketing efforts. Here are some key takeaways from the breakout:

  • Sales enablement: Selling directly through social channels is a growing trend. Platforms like Facebook Stories and Instagram Stories allow you to bridge the gap between consideration and purchase, shortening the sales funnel drastically.
  • Artificial intelligence & machine learning: Predictive engagement and AI changes how we can leverage social media for marketing with chat bots; automated messaging; and machine learning A/B testing.
  • Providing value: Great engagement comes from great content. Social media marketing depends on the delivery of value before you ask for business.

9. What Will You Do When Disaster Strikes? A Business Continuity Demo

Eric Torres, Channel Development Manager at Datto, gave his breakout session on business continuity, a topic which has gained momentum in recent years due to the growing cyberthreats in the small business space.

  • People are the biggest threat to the security of a business and poor cyber hygiene can cost an organization huge losses.
  • Ransomware is a pressing issue: SMBs paid out a total of over $700 million last year alone. Infected computers lead staff into uncomfortable decision-making positions, wherein they often pay up.
  • Downtime caused by cyberattacks is incredibly costly, with 80% of SMBs losing on average $20,000 for every hour of downtime.
  • Having a disaster recovery strategy in place is a top priority for digitally transforming organizations.
  • SMBs are relying more frequently on cloud-stored data to restore their data after significant breaches.
  • Companies are pursuing digital transformation on a rapid scale. With this comes prominent cyberthreats, meaning a comprehensive plan for data security, disaster recovery, and business continuity is essential.

10. Accelerate Enterprise-Grade App Development With Mendix

Jeffrey Goldberg, Senior Platform Evangelist at Mendix gave a live demonstration of the low-code app platform.

  • Cost-saving: SMBs can develop enterprise-wide solutions for workplace processes at a fraction of the cost of hiring a professional software developer to build from the ground up.
  • More involvement: Low-code platforms like Mendix effectively allow solutions-focused business professionals to be heavily involved in the app development process.
  • The rise of citizen developers: Bridging the gap between full-stack developers, business engineers, and business analysts without disrupting existing DevOps cycles.
  • Agility: Every aspect of software development is faster. Apps can be created faster, feedback is received immediately, allowing developers to respond quickly to any desired changes. This is as opposed to handing off a project to be developed, only for a build to be received down the line which doesn’t align with the objectives of project.
  • PaaS: Because Mendix runs in the cloud; backups and load balancing can be managed through its Platform-as-a-service model—with the additional bonus being that hardware and infrastructure capabilities are much less of a concern.

Want to Learn More?

Thinking it’s time to talk to someone about your company’s IT? Fill out a Request Demo form  to speak with a sales rep about any of these sessions.


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