How Hyper-Personalization Drives Digital Transformation with NEORIS Tech Leader Tony DeLima

Episode 103

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Often in business, you have to change your ways or risk becoming extinct. At least, that’s what Tony DeLima says. As the Head of Digital Transformation and Global CTO for NEORIS, Tony has had a front-row seat for all of the changes in industries from financial services to healthcare and everything in between. Tony has helped companies of all shapes and sizes take giant leaps forward by transforming the way they operate from top to bottom, and that always includes bringing in new and advanced technology. 

On this episode of IT Visionaries, Tony explains how these types of digital transformations happen and why they’re important. Plus, he dives deep into the role A.I. will play in the future.  

Best Advice: “Stay close to the technology. If you’re going to talk about technology and deliver value for the business, you really have to understand the technology. You have to be really passionate about that…. You really have to go to the other side and understand what the business you’re in. The business and other side of the business have to see you as part of the team. We have to go out of our ways to show the business people that we are here to help the business.”

Key Takeaways:

  • What is NEORIS
  • Discussing digital transformations
  • Best practices for driving innovation
  • The future and where A.I. fits in

Tony’s Background 

Tony’s dad worked for Shell Oil for 42 years and one summer Tony got to go and work with his dad. During that summer, he visited the data center and he came away with the question he’s pursued since: How do we ascertain the validity of a computer and know the output is accurate? From there, Tony went on to get his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the subject and took on various roles in the tech field. 

“I remember one question I had was how do we ascertain the validity of everything that a computer does?  How do we make sure that the output, what a computer tells us is correct and is accurate.”

Tony’s current role and who NEORIS works with 

NEORIS is a 4,500 person operation and Tony is in charge of driving the direction of the company through technology, managing operations, and helping clients achieve their goals. It is a global role and one that pulls Tony in many directions. 

There are a few primary industries that NEORIS works in: financial services, manufacturing, telecom and media, and healthcare. NEORIS partners with companies that are ready to take bold steps in their technology stacks and be first movers in their industry. The companies they work with are focused on having a great impact on their communities and tend to be fast-moving. Those types of customers create a value proposition that is cash positive but also creates a far-reaching impact in their communities. And, in focusing on the point of view of a specific industry, NEORIS is able to go to market in a more accurate and impactful way.

“[NEORIS clients] want to have a far-reaching impact in their communities. And those companies typically are very fast-moving. They want to make changes. They understand that, to make a difference, they want to become an integral part of a personal journey of their customers. So they’re highly focused on achieving disruption. And obviously, we love to work with those customers because they drive innovation all the way to the edge, which makes our jobs pretty exciting.”

Leading digital transformations 

Different companies still have common challenges. The biggest being how to drive an innovation culture across a company. The speed of innovation is so dramatic that it becomes difficult to create a culture where you have to rethink an organization’s old culture and the previous speed that has worked. The hyper-personalized experience is the key driver for change, and working on the culture to get there is the hardest part. If they don’t pursue the innovation track, companies can go extinct. 

There has been a belief that driving innovation means looking internally or looking in the industry. But those that actually make change look beyond their own industry and past just what others like them are doing. You can learn so much by looking outside the box. 

“We want to have an Amazon-like experience for everything we do, whether it’s working with our financial entity, whether it’s buying products and services, whether it’s working with our doctors or hospitals, but that hyper-personalized experience as a key driver for change and companies to be able to make that change.”

“We need to focus on the culture part. And we think that’s probably one of the biggest factors because ultimately if they don’t pursue some of these innovation trends, they will run the risk of being extinct….There’s always been this fundamental belief that in order to drive innovation, you have to either look internally or look at within your own industry sector. And we’re finding that those companies that truly drive innovation, they look far beyond their own industry boundaries. And they’re very passionate about looking at what’s happening in other sectors and how to adopt those lessons learned and those innovation journeys.”

What limits companies? 

Breaking down the traditional organizational structure is hard for some. Once you break down traditional structures and adopting things like A.I., big data analytics and other kinds of new tech, you are more likely to move forward. Currently, the limitations are around the appetite for innovation. Only a third of organizations are looking to create hyper-personalized, innovative experiences, so they are the ones moving forward ahead of others. 

“Companies that are forward-thinking, that have thought about innovation around artificial intelligence, big data and analytics, and a number of other areas, they do this because they are able to break down organizational structures and create a high performance, agile focus on working across organizational boundaries. And when they do that, it helps them, first of all, it brings excitement back to the job. And if you take teams from across different organizations and pull them together, they’re able to work on different problem sets and come up with some pretty exciting ideas that, that perhaps they’ve not looked at before. And that certainly helps a company spur innovation.”

What is the level of urgency? 

The urgency varies by industry and even by geography. The people NEORIS works with are at the C-level and depending on their roles and responsibilities, their focus and sense of urgency is different. When dealing with CFOs, they are looking at ways to drive innovation, but they’re worried about using automation to drive efficiency while mitigating risk. CMOs are looking to drive brand loyalty. With CIOs, it’s about how to add value to an organization, because the days of CIOs just running the IT shop are gone. “CIOs are running the technology of entire organizations and helping businesses ideate by reimagining the impossible.” CEOs are looking at risk management. 

“The role of the CIO, CTO, and their impact is now really bringing innovation to the company and saying, ‘Okay, this is what business analytics and business intelligence looks like. This is what artificial intelligence means and this is how it impacts specific use cases. Let me show you some working examples of that.’ And helping the business really ideate through what we call, thinking through and reimagining the impossible, really thinking through and breaking down traditional thought processes, traditional organizational silos and bringing about a sort of pre-disruptive products or services that quite honestly clients expect and have begun to want.”

Keeping tabs on how the digital transformation is going 

When looking at how well a company is doing on its digital transformation journey, there are a number of metrics that can be looked at. But for Tony, the biggest thing that executives should focus on is customer satisfaction. If the customer isn’t happy, it doesn’t matter what kind of transformations are happening. Therefore, reducing churn and making customer loyalty a priority are the key metrics that NEORIS cares about and works toward. 

One of the big KPIs is how do brands inspire social awareness and cultural impact. How we drive passion is coming up more every day and companies are working more than ever on fostering a community of common buyers and personalize the experience for everyone. How do we inspire creativity and social awareness and become passionate about everything we do are questions that need to be added to metrics and they are coming to the forefront of the priority list of everyone in the C-suite. 

“There are a lot of parts and pieces to where innovation is headed and every area has ways to move forward as quickly and safely as possible.”   

“The greatest equalizer of all is customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.” 

Best practices for companies driving innovation 

The way successful companies drive innovation is by breaking down the organizational structure and creating teams designed to solve specific problems in the most creative ways possible. Breaking down the silos is easier said than done, but it can have a huge effect. By doing this, you allow people to become excited about their jobs again and it allows a level of refreshed thinking that could bring dramatic results.   

How A.I. and machine learning are playing a role in enterprise solutions 

What we’re seeing now is a next generation of A.I. and M.L. In the U.S., NEORIS is working toward augmented intelligence, which is built to help customers answer fundamental questions like how do you monetize items, how do you gain valuable insights about relationships, being able to predict and anticipate the future, how do we drive innovation with everything we deliver and do it at scale? It’s a fundamental change to an entire business strategy. It’s not about creating an algorithm, it’s about how machines can augment human behavior and work. 

“AI means a rethinking of an entire business ecosystem to make human decision making far more optimal than it’s been in the past.” 

“Companies are sitting on mountains of data. How do we gather all that data to gain insights to form better relationships with the customer? 

Looking toward the future

NEORIS did significant research to look at A.I. advancement from a number of different angles. Combining those advances with other advances in human technology, a merge with silicon-based and human-based intelligence will occur. There have been advances in the last few years already, so the speed with which we bring A.I. into the human cognition or how we bring human cognition to A.I. is getting faster, and the methods are really impressive. NEORIS is predicting that computers will simulate how humans think and they will drive human decision-making. In 10 years, A.I. will be able to perform a variety of human tasks freely and a few years after that, A.I. will be even more advanced. 

Tony believes we’re way past the point of A.I. being prevalent in our daily life. Just looking at Siri and Alexa technology and how much better it has gotten in the last six or eight months proves that. We’ll see more natural advancements around language recognition and technology. We’re about to enter a new stage where A.I. becomes more critical in decision-making processes. It won’t just support the operation of the organization but will be responsible for a lot of critical decisions.  

“It’s no longer us humans teaching AI to perform human thinking and cognition. It’s about computers really simulating how humans think and drive decision making.”

NEORIS Innovation labs

NEORIS has four innovation labs scattered around the world and NEORIS structured the labs to work on specific use cases by industry. It’s not so much playing with technology as it is about looking at specific problems and use cases so that they can accelerate the use of new technologies. 

Tony says that at NEORIS, they believe companies that can look at operational and client-facing landscapes and figure out the customer touchpoints every step of the way, if you look at that entire value chain, the recommendation is to look at high customer touchpoint areas that have the most pain points and look at ways you can leverage new technology such as A.I. and accelerate and drive the business forward. At the innovation labs, they are designing solutions to do just that.

“We create the belief that technology can make a difference.”

“The nice thing about it is that when we talk to a customer, it’s not talking about the possibilities, but it’s actually showing them, ‘Hey, look how we can use these algorithms or these new graph knowledge databases.” 

Collaborating with customers to drive innovation 

When working with customers, NEORIS typically works with a cross-section of a company. Regardless of industry, in order to drive innovation, you have to work with a lot of different people within the company. That means working with top management, middle management, and staff and show how innovations can drive things forward. And, in order to bring all these people together, NEORIS holds “innovation ignition sessions,” during which they bring specific use cases to the table and have everyone work together on them.

“We do believe that as we connect with customers, as we show more value, they typically bring us in to accelerate some of these crucial strategic projects that will frankly either make or break the company.”

“Clients come to us because they have a niche strategic opportunity they need help with.” 

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Tony DeLima, the Head of Digital Transformation and Global CTO for NEORIS, joins IT Visionaries to talk about how companies throughout every industry can and should pursue digital transformation.

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