“Organizations need to look into changing work and how people work and what we understand by ‘work.’” – André König of AppFusions

André König recently rejoined the world of digital customer experience following a lengthy hiatus. And what he sees is a market still focused on achieving incremental, rather than sweeping, change.

“I remembered a lot of my experiences at Accenture in 1999–2000 working on projects for Fortune 500 companies using Lotus Notes and SharePoint,” he said. “Twenty years later, it seems to me that we’re still working on the same issues, whether it’s using DXP, DWP, etc. — so many of the solutions are all working from the same starting point.”

König is director, North America and Europe at AppFusions, a role with a focus on sales and business development go-to-market. He joined the company in March after previous stints as a management consultant, and as an entrepreneur, with three start-ups under his belt.

Technology and Innovation Drive Emerging Markets

After receiving multiple degrees in economics, König started his career as a management consultant, mainly with enterprise customers, for 15 years.

“My interest in technology dates back to Accenture in 1998, when they sent me to coding camp to learn SQL and C++ and enterprise integration,” he said.

An interest in investment banking led König to an MBA and later evolved to entrepreneurship and the founding of his own companies. One of his startups, Opentopic, was a marketing solution for healthcare, which leveraged AI and was among one of the first IBM Watson partners. “I was using emerging technology, but it was not a choice to specifically use emerging technology,” he said. “I’ve always been attracted to technology and to innovation, which are the two things that drive emerging markets.”

AppFusions is a sponsor of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 4 through 6 at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Chicago.

We spoke with König for his thoughts on the impact of emerging technologies like AI and blockchain on the digital customer experience; the relationship between digital customer experience and digital transformation; and the changing nature of work itself.

Implement Use Cases, Not Functional Solutions

CMSWire: What shifts have you seen in the market over your career? What has sparked your interest in working with emerging technologies like AI?

König: What I’ve seen over the past two decades is our willingness to change increase. That’s happening alongside the rise of technology in use by consumers and within enterprises. Over time, I’ve seen all it can do, like moving from fax and a dial-up modem to the internet, while also gaining an understanding of technology as it becomes a part of our lives.

I’m one of those true, maybe crazy, believers, that technologies like AI and blockchain will transform our lives fundamentally. Many people have not woken up to that yet. There’s also a lot of misunderstanding around AI.

Organizations have to educate themselves about AI and blockchain. These technologies exist and are already impacting everyday lives. We don’t understand the full impact of these technologies yet, for instance, their impact on how we work.

Some companies may already have a large AI group, they may also be experimenting with blockchain, but they need to democratize those technologies enterprise-wide. That’s when real change will happen and those technologies will start to benefit everyone.

CMSWire: How do you see digital customer experience evolving as technologies like AI, AR, IoT, machine learning, personalization and VR become more sophisticated? How should organizations prepare to adopt these technologies?

König: There is a lot of power around these technologies and their ability to change things. Eventually, they will no longer be new technologies, they will just become a reality. The focus will be less and less on investing in and relying on the individual skills we’ve studied, like sales and marketing, and will more be on finding the right set of data, analyzing that data, and then taking actions based on that analysis to make a positive impact.

One change will be how we engage with each other. Think what we do now — we’re typing or we’re talking on the phone. We’re already using digital voice in the home with smart speakers and digital assistants. We’ll see a lot more use of voice in all types of customer engagements, since the tone in which you say things adds more context to what you’re talking about. We’ll also use more virtual reality and visualizations of data in our engagements.

Organizations need to look for what’s coming next. This represents an opportunity to not only research newer technologies, but also to understand how these developments will fundamentally change things. It’s about feeling it’s finally time for real change, not just incremental change. Organizations need to look into changing work and how people work and what we understand by "work."

The main difference compared to perhaps 15 years ago is that technology change then was all about its impact on an individual or their team or their company. But a lot of what’s happening right now is bigger than how and when you’ll bring that technology into your own organization. So, organizations will often need to take a step back and look at the big picture re:change and then determine if the climate’s right for them to move ahead with adopting technologies.

CMSWire: What advice do you have for organizations as they start rethinking digital customer experience as part of a larger digital transformation initiative?

König: Digital transformation and digital customer experience are one and the same thing. That’s how we look at things at AppFusions with our AlohaCloud platform —it’s a framework for you to use to engage in digital transformation and then you can work with all kinds of tools, including business intelligence and AI. Instead of starting from scratch, it allows you to start 18 months down the track.

All these technologies — digital experience, digital workplace, the "digital transformation" technologies, etc. — they’re all trying to do the same thing: make a more intelligent enterprise. It’s about using tech to be more effective, to be more efficient, and to save more and make more along the way. It's about doing business better, period.

CMSWire: Are there integrations with business areas that organizations neglect to put in place when pulling together digital customer experiences? Why is this and what are the drawbacks to the organization and to its customers?

KönigWhat we see are customers trying to implement a piecemeal strategy. It may only focus on sales or on marketing, or it may involve AI or blockchain.

And therein lies the challenge: modern emerging technologies have great inter- and intra-dependence in IT, especially for scaling and security. They are core enterprise architecture.

We say "Don’t do this." Implement a use case instead. Design thinking is critical to establish a strategy and ward off failure in our opinion. 

As an example, we are working with a large franchise. They collect data from their 1000s of world-wide stores, analyze that data, and then distribute the data back to the field, providing industry trends analysis, demographics, logistics and supply chain details, menu models, site, mobile app, and operations metrics, and more. 

The distributed real-time data strengthens the intelligence across their enterprise and remote stores, to allow them to be overall more competitive in the market. 

CMSWire: In your Twitter profile, you mention being a sailor. What has been your most intense sailing experience so far? Do you see parallels between the skills used in sailing and those needed to create digital customer experiences?

König: Sailing is a real lifestyle for me. I didn’t choose it, I got chosen by it. I’ve competed in major championships, I’ve been in storms, and, sadly, I’ve seen people get injured. All of that has been very intense. But I think the most intense experience was the first time I ever skippered a boat, which was for a week in the Caribbean with eight people on it.

As the captain, the experience is very much like running an enterprise. You’re responsible for keeping everyone safe, well fed, and hydrated, and for making sure that they all have a great time. It’s also about teamwork. You have to learn to take yourself out of the equation. You’re all (literally) in the same boat and you have to work as a team to get through the experience.

The skills in sailing are similar to creating digital experiences since you need to collect large amounts of data and then act on that information. In sailing, you must know about the current and predicted weather and currents. You need to learn how to engage in a lot of one-on-one communication to ensure that you can provide a great experience for everyone onboard. You also have to gain a full understanding of how people interface and work with each other.

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit.