WIT: Why female leaders and enterprise businesses need each other

 

By Jonathan Crowl of Mobile Business Insights

If you’re a woman seeking a career in enterprise technology, you already know it’s an uphill battle. However, times are changing for women in technology and other industries. A greater push for gender equality is taking place across all industries, with women demanding equal pay while also advocating for equal representation at all levels of leadership.

According to By The Numbers, 26 percent of professional computing occupations in the US were held by women in 2017. This push is shaping a range of opportunities for aspiring female leaders, as businesses and executive leaders work to create channels for upward female mobility. Here are the ways women are seizing new opportunities to become enterprise leaders and transform the tech industry.

The business case for gender equality

 

Many organizations are trying to increase the number of women in all positions, including senior leadership — but it isn’t out of the goodness of their hearts. Increasingly, businesses recognize the value of having women represented at all levels of their enterprise.

Several years ago, a study by Credit Suisse found that companies with at least one woman on their executive board outperformed competitors with no female board members by 26 percent. More recently, a study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics examined 21,980 companies around the world and found that companies with strong female leadership earned a 36 percent better return on equity than companies lacking strong female representation.

Yet the evidence behind the benefits of female leaders hasn’t translated into broad representation at all — or even most — tech companies. According to Business Insider, women hold just 11 percent of executive roles in Silicon Valley. But gradually, women in technology are building pathways to help aspiring female leaders advance to higher positions at their organizations.

Growing mentorship opportunities for women in technology

One of the greatest catalysts for change with regards to representation of women in technology has been through concerted efforts by current female leaders to offer mentorship to younger female workers. These mentorship roles provide much-needed guidance and career counseling to women in tech eager to advance through the ranks while navigating the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated world. According to Built in Boston, multiple female executives working in tech are involved in mentoring ambitious younger workers to support them early in their careers.

Another common thread identified among these executives: Great work is eventually rewarded. While challenges may exist in creating opportunities and being given fair consideration in a male-dominated culture, many believe that a woman who proves her expertise will eventually find opportunities at the executive level.

These efforts to build a strong resume can also be supplemented by mentorship from other female leaders. Women can also take advantage of leadership development programs targeting women as well as networking and skills-building opportunities at conferences geared toward female leadership and tech.

Developing skills in high demand

 

One way aspiring female enterprise leaders can bolster their own career opportunities is by concentrating their efforts on developing high-demand skills suited for the future of enterprise technology. While many sectors of IT report a shortage of skilled employees and hiring prospects to fill important roles within the organization, some aspects of IT operations are particularly starved for qualified candidates.

According to CSO Online, the global cybersecurity industry is poised to experience a 3.5 million-person shortfall for jobs by 2021, underscoring an urgent need to develop and hire professionals qualified to serve in these enterprise roles. Women in tech aiming for leadership roles would be wise to identify these areas of need and to begin developing a resume that makes them well qualified for these roles in the future.

In the case of cybersecurity, recent waves of attacks — combined with the proliferation of IoT technology — have resulted in rapid technology developments that haven’t been matched by comparable strides in cybersecurity. This has created an opportunity for aspiring young professionals to build skill sets that will be leaned upon heavily in the near future.

How men can help

 

As women seek leadership opportunities in a traditionally male-dominated field, men can serve as vital allies in this process. Code Like a Girl highlights a number of ways men can support female empowerment in tech. These include educating themselves on the historic inequities of women in tech — and, more generally, the professional world — and performing small acts like making a more concerted effort to retweet women on Twitter. Men can also co-sign a Decency Pledge, posted on Medium and other websites, which seeks allies determined to work for and protect the rights of female entrepreneurs.

Men also should consider how their voices can support and validate the drive for greater equity in female leadership, particularly when it comes to calling out bad behavior on social media and advocating for changes and actions that support women in their own workplaces.

Women in technology have traditionally been an underrepresented group, but business culture is slowly changing, and many companies now realize that the presence of women in tech leadership roles can have a positive impact on the entire organization. By seizing upon opportunities to develop leadership skills, young women can build a platform to launch themselves into important leadership and executive roles, bringing much-needed fresh perspectives to organizations in the process.


What do think of women’s roles in enterprise tech? Tell us about it in the comments below?

Tales from the Orchard: Apple Business Chat has the enterprise talking about iMessage Apps

 

By Daniel Eran Dilger of AppleInsider

Ten years ago, Steve Jobs announced the App Store. While its first titles were mostly games and novelties, soon major businesses began to recognize the power of mobile apps, shifting major investment from desktop PCs and web apps into iOS. This year, Apple is inciting new enterprise investment in iMessage Apps with Apple Business Chat–billed as an interactive, personal way to connect with customers while respecting their privacy.

 

Support the way users already communicate

 

Apple Business Chat enables customers to contact companies for personalized support using the familiar iMessage app. Just like personal chats, a user can initiate a conversation on their iPhone and resume the discussion on their Mac, iPad or even Apple Watch. They can get notifications when there’s a response and can communicate in rich detail, such as sending a photo or other attachment.

Unlike a phone conversation, users don’t have to wait on hold or navigate through a voice-first bot conversation. Unlike the web, users don’t have to search their way through a company’s marketing or support forums to just find an answer or get help with an order.

Business Chat also puts an emphasis on privacy: users don’t have to log in via Facebook to share a huge profile that includes everyone they know, their political orientation and all their other personal details; nor do they surrender contact information that signs them up for tons of future, unsolicited offers and spam.

One of the more interesting things about Apple Business Chat is that it involves a custom development platform. Leveraging the work delivered in iOS 10 for iMessage Apps, Apple enables companies to build interactive features that can present a choice (such as selecting a product or scheduling an appointment) or handle an Apple Pay transaction.

Some critics scoffed at iMessage Apps when Apple announced the platform with the release of iOS 10. But for the enterprise, Apple’s new chat messaging platform allows them to easily build dynamic ways to interact with their clients (such logging into an account, or performing some other task that is easier to do in software than it is to explain in words or communicate by voice; Apple’s initial example was an app for airline seat selection) using the same iOS development tools they already use to create client-facing or internal apps for iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch.

While Apple Business Chat can also be used in Messages on a Mac, there is no support in macOS for iMessage Apps (which are generally iOS app extensions). That may change if Apple incorporates the ability to execute iOS code on Macs (as it is expected to soon enable).

Apple loves development platforms

Apple likes custom third-party development for its hardware because it builds a valuable ecosystem that makes its products more attractive (think Photoshop on the Mac, or Instagram on iOS). By owning and managing the development platform, Apple can also shape users’ experience.

In the early days of the Macintosh, that allowed Apple to introduce a revolutionary leap in software sophistication with its Human User Interface Guidelines that made Mac applications consistent, intuitive and easy to learn. When it introduced iPhone, its new iOS platform similarly reshaped how apps appeared and behaved to enable Apple to deliver another radical leap in mobile computing.

Apple’s initial value-add for the Mac platform was ease of use and graphical aesthetics. More recently, Apple has focused on graphical performance (the buttery smooth animations of OS X and iOS) as well as data security and privacy (turning on encryption default and limiting ad tracking and third party access to your personal data) in a world of malware and surveillance advertising.

Apple Business Chat leverages companies’ existing customer support infrastructure (their internal customer contact centers and the Customer Service Platform they already use) and integrates these with its own iMessage platform. It doesn’t require companies to radically change how they provide customer support, but instead enhances their customer interactions with a design that’s easy to use, efficient, secure and designed with privacy in mind.

Business Chat with an approach like Apple Pay

Consider the difference in Google’s approach to messaging, which began with trying to inject ad messages into email, then trampled user’s data privacy with Buzz, then introduced a complex communications platform with Wave that it expected everyone to learn, then attempted to copy Apple’s simplicity and appearance with Allo without the same interest in privacy or encryption (because it wanted to read users’ messages).

Apple’s success with iMessage adoption stands in stark contrast to Google’s various stabs at communication initiatives. Apple’s iMessage is designed as a product seeking to be attractive, valuable and useful to its audience. Google’s efforts were all attempts to create a product for itself which it could use to monetize users.

A similar contrast can be seen between Apple Pay and Google Wallet; Google hoped to push banks out of the way to establish itself as the account for users’ transactions. Apple’s approach was to work with banks to offer a secure, private way of making payments using the accounts individuals’ already had.

Apple Business Chat takes a very similar approach to Apple Pay, requiring minimal changes from companies while adding value to the interface they present to their customers. And it integrates with Apple Pay to enable seamless, secure transactions right within a support session.

Apple Business Chat partners

Apple is already working with a series of major Customer Service Platforms, including previously announced partners LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance and Genesys, and more recently adding InTheChat and Zendesk.

By leveraging the support of CSPs, Apple can launch its vision for enhancing how customers get support much more easily than if it were trying to build out a competing business outside of its core competency. Support from those partners is being expressed in the same way iOS developers talk about the App Store in glowing terms.

Salesforce pitches its LiveMessage CSP service to businesses as a way to “delight your customers at a fraction of the cost of voice support” on its website, which highlights its partnership with Marriott using Apple Business Chat.

Meredith Flynn-Ripley, VP of Messaging at Salesforce, noted that, “Consumers today are five times more likely to message with family and friends than call them–and they expect to communicate with brands the same way.”

Flynn-Ripley added, “Salesforce is the leader in delivering conversational messaging within the world’s number one Service platform and we consistently hear from our customers that they want to connect with their customers in new ways. We’re thrilled to add support for Apple Business Chat to Service Cloud and provide new, easier ways for our customers to bring messaging directly into their CRM.”

Caitlin Henehan, the VP and GM of Zendesk Chat, similarly stated, “Zendesk’s integration with Apple Business Chat Beta will allow customers to engage with businesses on a much more personal level through Messages. Companies will be able to provide timely responses and interact on the channel that is familiar and accessible to the consumer.”

Robert LoCascio, the founder and CEO of LivePerson (which handles integration for Discover, Lowe’s and Home Depot) offered the statement, “What we’re seeing is a tremendous shift to conversational experiences, and it’s top of mind for many CMOs.”

Genesys highlighted a report by Garner which claimed that, “by 2019, requests for customer support through consumer messaging apps will exceed requests for customer support through social media.”

Apple Business Chat is like Siri with a real person helping

Apple Business Chat integration with Nuance–the original technology partner behind the launch of Siri–highlights the combination of “live agent” bots and live chats with humans that companies can use to handle incoming chat requests from customers.

Nuance calls its virtual assistant “Nina,” as describes it as “designed to deliver an intuitive, automated experience by engaging customers in natural, human-like conversations for a more efficient contact center operation.”

If a customer needs more help than Nina can provide, the chat can be routed to a real person. That’s an approach Facebook attempted with its failed M general-purpose chat-bot, until it realized that it could not actually handle the range and depth of the wide-open questions it was getting with purely automated systems.

Apple’s Siri similarly conveys (problematically) that it can answer anything users can ask, making it easy to disappoint users who have complex tasks they want to speak out to a computer, only to realize that there are constraints on what can be expected of such a system.

Apple Business Chat greatly narrows down what a person will be asking and then directs those questions to a specific company, making it much easier to handle incoming tasks and, if necessary, elevate complex questions to a person who is already familiar with handing that nature of requests for the company. It can even start the conversation with interactive, web-like navigation to further narrow down what a user wants to do.

Currently, if you ask Siri a question about TD Ameritrade or Marriott, you get a dumb response that’s not much more useful than a Magic 8 ball. In the future, Siri could connect with known Apple Business Chat partners to initiate a conversation that’s handed off to an expert.

While Apple’s current state of Siri is frustrating enough to avoid using for anything but the simplest of requests, the plumbing Apple Business Chat is building out could provide an ecosystem of customer support partners that dramatically increase the value of Siri without being confined to voice-only conversations.

A verbalized request to Siri–followed up by a combination of text or voice chat through Apple Business Chat, augmented with the interactivity of iMessage Apps that can tap into your calendar, send you to Maps, recommend an App download or set up an order with Apple Pay–offers a picture of the future of smart communications that Apple is building for its customers. It’s a lot more realistic than the wide-open promise of Siri by itself, or the premise of voice-first ambient computing in general.

Apple has some advantages to build upon with Siri, including its support for a broad number of languages, an intent to build security and privacy right into the design, an ability to go beyond just voice interactions, and deep integration with the devices people already broadly use: iPhones, Car Play and Apple Watch. Expect to hear more about the future of Siri, iMessage Apps and Apple Business Chat at WWDC18.

 

What do you think about Business Chat? Tell us in the comments below!

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