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Digital Main Street carves a digital footprint for businesses



Digital Main Street
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Businesses have a lot to gain from the variety of new and developing innovations in digital technologies. Innovations like online stores and data analysis offer business owners tangible advantages in a world full of digitally-savvy customers.

Yet some business owners still lag behind when it comes to bringing their workplace into the digitally-minded space of the 21st century.

Digital transformation should be the ultimate goal of business owners wanting to compete in a world that is ever more digitally focused.

“It’s no longer ‘if’ we should do it,” says Digital Main Street (DMS) Program Manager Darryl Julott, “you can’t think that way anymore.”

DMS is a program designed to help aspiring businesses go digital. Led in partnership by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, DMS is supported by Canada Post, Google, Mastercard, Microsoft, Rogers, Shopify and Yellow Pages. The platform works to connect businesses with vendors like Say Yeah, a consultancy company that helps businesses take the big digital leap. By working alongside Toronto’s Business Improvement Areas to reach out to individual business owners, DMS is helping to push companies and small operations in the right direction. And the data shows that this kind of effort is just what businesses need right now.

According to a Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses survey, business owners understand how necessary the shift to digital is — 85 percent of respondents replied that going digital was either very or somewhat important to their business. But those best intentions haven’t translated to a lot of innovation yet: the number of businesses surveyed that are using mobile applications sits at just 32.9 percent; while the number of business owners using online listings with other digital marketplaces or an online shop for their products hovers around just 13 percent.

Discussing the resistance some owners have to making the move to digital, Julott admitted that with some more established businesses, “It’s hard to gain their trust.”

In order to bridge the gap between main street and digital vendors with valuable, innovative technologies, DMS places a high emphasis on outreach and personal interactions with Toronto’s 82 Business Improvement Areas — organizations authorized to improve businesses and community in their area — and the local business owners.

DMS will deploy a Digital Service Squad, a core staff of students and recent graduates who help local businesses find new digital solutions. Providing door-to-door outreach and personable, dedicated service for those looking to transform their operations allows DMS to tailor its services to the needs of main street.

“There’s no one solution fits all,” admits Julott. “That’s why it’s so important that DMS and the squad are able to listen to local businesses and give them what they want.”

The biggest investment when it comes to going digital, according to CFIB’s study, is the time it takes to adopt the new technologies.

DMS looks to make the process of digital transformation less time consuming by offering businesses a simple assessment tool that asks the user questions in order to provide a digital audit and a digital transformation roadmap. The roadmap starts with the simplest task to offer the business owner the most immediate results. If basic tasks are tackled, then there’s the option to go ahead with larger projects offered by DMS vendors.

The DMS site also shares case studies and profiles of local businesses that have had success through the platform in order to provide business owners with a collective pool of practical experience.

Of course, things are constantly changing — and that is especially true for digital innovations in business.

In order to promote ongoing education, DMS launched DMS Academy, a series of talks featuring thought leaders eager to share their knowledge with the business community.

The next DMS Academy event will focus on setting up an online store with DMS partner Shopify, and will take place at the Shopify headquarters in Toronto on Tuesday, May 9th, from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

The future of DMS is about perfecting the platform and showing other municipalities how helpful organized interaction between digital vendors, business associations and businesses can be. With more businesses looking to make the shift towards digital, but not entirely sure of the lay of the land or which tools could best help them, Digital Main Street fills a pressing need for cities and their business owners.

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The importance of data access for digital initiatives

A new report from MuleSoft found that just 37% of organizations have the skills and technology to keep up with digital projects.



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In a global survey of over 1,700 line of business employees in organizations with at least 250 employees, MuleSoft found that just 37% of organizations have the skills and technology to keep up with digital projects.

The resulting report — The State of Business and IT Innovation — reveals four key ideas that IT leaders need to know in order to drive digital innovation forward.

These four key findings are:

  • Collaboration is key 
    • 68% of respondents believe IT and LoB users should jointly drive digital innovation.
  • Keep up the pace 
    • 51% expressed frustration with the speed at which IT can deliver projects.
  • Integration challenge
    • 37% cite security and compliance as the biggest challenge to delivering new digital services, followed by integration (i.e. connecting systems, data, and apps) at 37%.
  • Data access
    • 80% say that in order to deliver on project goals faster, employees need easy access to data and IT capabilities.  

“This research shows data is one of the most critical assets that businesses need to move fast and thrive into the future,” said MuleSoft CEO Brent Hayward

“Organizations need to empower every employee to unlock and integrate data — no matter where it resides — to deliver critical, time-sensitive projects and innovation at scale, while making products and services more connected than ever.”

Want to read through the whole report? Download it from MuleSoft

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Where is the financial value in AI? Employing multiple human-machine learning approaches, say experts

According to a new study, only 10% of organizations are achieving significant financial benefits with AI.



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AI is everywhere these days — especially as we work to fight the spread of COVID-19

Even in the “before times,” AI was a hot topic that always found itself in the center of most digital transformation conversations. A new study from MIT Sloan Management Review, BCG GAMMA, and BCG Henderson Institute, however, prompts a crucial question:

Are You Making the Most of Your Relationship with AI?

Finding value

Despite the proliferation of the technology and increased investment, according to the report, just 10% of organizations are achieving significant financial benefits with AI. The secret ingredient in these success stories? “Multiple types of interaction and feedback between humans and AI,” which translated into a six-times better chance of amplifying the organization’s success with AI.

“The single most critical driver of value from AI is not algorithms, nor technology — it is the human in the equation,” affirms report co-author Shervin Khodabandeh.


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From a survey of over 3,000 managers from 29 industries based in 112 countries — plus in-depth interviews with experts — the report outlined three investments organizations can make to maximize value:

  • The likelihood of achieving benefits increases by 19% with investment in AI infrastructure, talent, and strategy.
  • Scalability. When organizations think beyond automation as a use case, the likelihood of financial benefit increases by 18%.
  • “Achieving organizational learning with AI (drawing on multiple interaction modes between humans and machines) and building feedback loops between human and AI increases that likelihood by another 34%.”

According to report co-author Sam Ransbotham, at the core of successfully creating value from AI is continuous learning between human and machine:

“Isolated AI applications can be powerful. But we find that organizations leading with AI haven’t changed processes to use AI. Instead, they’ve learned with AI how to change processes. The key isn’t teaching the machines. Or even learning from the machines. The key is learning with the machines — systematically and continuously.” 

Continued growth

While just 1 in 10 organizations finds financial benefits with AI, 70% of respondents understand how it can generate value — up from 57% in 2017.

Additionally, 59% of respondents have an AI strategy, compared to 39% in 2017, the survey found. Finally, 57% of respondents say their organizations are “piloting or deploying” AI — not a huge increase from 2017 (46%). 

One of the biggest takeaways? According to co-author David Kiron, “companies need to calibrate their investments in technology, people, and learning processes.”

“Financial investments in technology and people are important, but investing social capital in learning is critical to creating significant value with AI.”

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Bringing DX to the food supply chain in a pandemic

In a new paper, supply chain stakeholders share how COVID-19 has affected the transformation of the sector.



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There’s little doubt that COVID-19 had a profound effect on the food supply chain.

As one example, just think back to roughly March of this year, when virus transmission was rapidly picking up speed. Remember the reports of food and beverage companies only producing their most popular or essential products? Or how it would take slightly longer than usual to restock certain products? What about the rush to integrate — or quickly improve the efficiency of — digital and e-commerce. 

Panning out a bit, think about food safety and quality professionals. The need to stay safe — and in many cases, stay at home — meant performing the very hands-on job of monitoring, auditing, inspecting at a distance, i.e. digitally. 

When the food supply chain was hit by storages, delays, breakdowns, and lockdowns, the end result was — like in so many sectors — a rapid digital transformation.

As The Food Safety Market — an SME-powered industrial data platform dedicated to boosting the competitiveness of European food certification — elaborates in a new discussion paper, “technology has played an important role in enabling business continuity in the new reality.”

The paper — Digital Transformation of Food Quality & Safety: How COVID-19 accelerates the adoption of digital technologies across the food supply chain — features industry experts from companies like Nestlé, Ferrero, PepsiCo, McCormick & Company, and more discussing the effects of the pandemic on the supply chain.

A few highlights from the paper:

  • John Carter, Area Europe Quality Director for Ferrero put the issue of food access into perspective at the start of his interview:

“The production of food defines our world. The effects of agriculture on our daily lives are so omnipresent that they can be easy to overlook; landscapes and societies are profoundly influenced by the need to feed our growing population. But much has been taken for granted. Only occasionally are we forced to consider: ‘where does our food come from?'”

  • Ellen de Brabander, Senior Vice President of R&D for PepsiCo provided insight on the cost benefits of digital transformation:

“The need for customization is a big driver for accelerating digital transformation and moving away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach. This means that the cost to develop and produce a product must be lower and digital technologies provide a clear opportunity here.” 

  • Clare Menezes, Director of Global Food Integrity for McCormick & Company brought up one area where digital tools need to go:

“There aren’t any areas where digital tools “fail”, but there is a need for tools that ‘prove out’ predictions around where the next integrity event will play out and how it could lead to quality or food safety failure. These tools are an obvious candidate for AI given the number of PESTLE factors that might come into play.” 

Want to read all of the interviews? Check out the paper here.

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