Sometimes, it’s a good idea for converged communicators to take some time to learn from others in this fast-changing field. That’s what happened Friday at the Tech Coast Conference, held at FSCJ’s Advanced Technology Center near the Downtown Campus. Hundreds of participants attended the conference, which included Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown and executives from a host of major institutions: IBM, Microsoft, Crowley, JEA, the LPGA, Brooks Rehabilitation, Regency Centers, and EverBank, to name a few. The event also included presentations on a host of topics, from the highly technical (robotics and network security) to more general-purpose issues closely aligned with the Converged Communications program (social media, business development, entrepreneurship, personal marketing tactics).
A few highlights of interest for converged communicators:
- IBM’s Dr. Ben Amaba highlighted the transformations wrought by the convergence of SMAC technologies – social, mobile, analytics, and cloud – in the industry. Technology is bringing stunning changes to the market, including a 300% rise in the number of connected devices. In comparison to the automobile or radio, which did not gain worldwide market penetration for decades, the smartphone was able to reach 60% market penetration in about two years, a virtual object lesson in Virilio’s concept of dromology. To achieve success in this rapidly-changing field, Amaba said it is necessary to “turn insight into outcomes,” finding ways to make new ideas practical and profitable. This involves learning from related industries and constantly validating processes to stay on the right path.
- Microsoft account technology strategist Paz Efrat emphasized the rapid growth of cloud technology, which promises lower costs, higher speed, and benefits through economies of scale. He indicated that 70% of corporate chief information officers expect to use primarily cloud services by 2016. Although communicators likely will not have the technical challenges of coordinating these systems, their increasing significance – and the need to explain their advantages to prospective customers and clients – makes a basic understanding of these principles critical in the corporate world.
- A panel discussion from local chief information officers raised several interesting points. LPGA CIO Jack Sumner explored the topic of gamification, discussed at length in DIG3286 (Assembling Digital Media). In an innovative employee relations practice designed to increase employee engagement and improve internal procedures, workers are encouraged to explore a virtual environment filled with information about the company, receiving rewards for making suggestions. EverBank CIO James Hughes discussed the adoption of online banking by growing numbers of consumers, requiring specific skills in writing, editing, and design to produce an effective visual interface for the new digital banking environment. Regency Centers CIO Dale Johnston described the effects of mobile technology on the market for commercial real estate, enabling companies to add value for customers. And Brooks Rehabilitation CIO Karen Green elaborated on the challenges of managing health care IT in a swiftly-changing legal environment. She discussed data security and legal matters, while also mentioning the complexities and potential ethical challenges required to communicate with patients about potential problems without spreading undue alarm or issuing unneeded alerts.
- Bucketwish.com marketing director Raquel Steffens discussed the applications of social media in today’s business world. Undoubtedly, social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, and more) are becoming a significant part of daily life – on average, millennial consumers spend almost four full days each month connected to social media in some form. With many choices available, she said that it is better for a company to choose one or two social media vehicles and use them well rather than trying to take on everything at once and abandoning the project altogether due to burnout. It’s also valuable to use analytic tools (whether free tools or third-party applications) to understand what topics draw interest and drive response.
- The afternoon’s entrepreneur panel studied various issues relating to startup companies and their challenges, a particularly useful discussion for converged communicators going into GEB4152 (Technological Entrepreneurship). The Logica CEO Angel Torres emphasized the importance of making sure that early adopters of a new product aren’t frustrated – if these users are satisfied, the company must be prepared to expand production exponentially if necessary. Profile Gorilla CEO Ed Baldwin said that a business owner needs to be able to show multiple options for making money with a product, or else conversations with banks or other potential sources of financing will be short. Omnition Analytics president Kishore Nair reminded prospective business owners that money equals power in a company, so entrepreneurs must be very careful about who is investing money in their businesses. Moment Strong CEO Liz Pierce described the rewards of building a business from the ground up, particularly the emotional benefits of watching a product have a positive impact in the lives of customers.
- Small Business Resource Network director Nancy Boyle gave a presentation on starting and running a new business, including a 25-question questionnaire to help attendees assess their readiness for entrepreneurship. Her message stressed the importance of market research to understand the target audience, careful business planning to foresee potential problems, the processes involved in securing financing, and the role of hard work in attaining success.
- Finally, some words of wisdom on motivation from longtime Jacksonville advertising and marketing director Robin Shepherd:
Fear and arrogance: Somewhere between the two is the fuel that keeps you going.