How Will 2020 Effect Businesses?
Dan: Yes, it is the tip of the wand and it's 8:30 right now. In the studio with me I've got Vince and I've got Sam. Good morning guys.
Sam: Good morning.
Vince: Good morning, how are you?
Dan: I'm good and we were talking to Vince earlier because he's the Chair for this year for the Fort Walton Beach Chamber Of Commerce. Congratulations on that and it's going to be a very busy year for you Vince. I'm sure.
Dan: Not to mention the fact that Bit Wizards is always busy and Sam I'm sure... Well, you've been busy because you've been out of town working sometimes and-
Sam: That's right. My new year's resolution is to be less productive this year. Do less, less more.
Dan: That's good to tell your boss right now. Perfect. That's going to help you out in the future. I can tell. The raise for Sam just got nixed. Let's get it going guys.
Announcer: Bits Wizards bits and bytes.
Dan: Bits and bites.
Sam: Well, since it's a 2020 ethic we need to talk about the top technology trends to watch in 2020 and it's interesting too. I'll tie this back in, but this is Bit Wizard's 20th anniversary. We have been in business for 20 years here on the Emerald Coast and-
Dan: So, you started obviously in 2000.
Sam: Yes sir.
Dan: Very cool man. Congratulations-
Sam: Thank you. It's a big celebration for us this year.
Dan: And so, how many people did you start out with when you first started?
Sam: It was just Louis and I.
Dan: Just the two of you?
Sam: Working out of the house. Yeah.
Sam: We opened up a little office over there in Shalimar built by Bob Anezzi down there by where the Shalimar Diner used to be.
Dan: Okay. Oh, that was a cool place.
Sam: Yep and we were right there in the back in those new buildings and then we grew from there and went in 2007 to the Bank of America building and now we're over here on Memorial and Mister Neighbors and NBI Properties remodeled that building for us and brought it up to class A office space spec and we've been in there since. So, excited about being there.
Dan: So, how many employees do you have now?
Sam: Well, we're just under 50. I think we're 48 right now.
Dan: Wow, that's amazing.
Sam: So, two people starting today in fact.
Dan: And you guys just don't work in the local area, right?
Sam: That's correct. We've got folks in Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa as well. So, yeah.
Dan: Man, you guys have done so well. Congratulations.
Sam: We've been fortunate. We've worked hard and I think I said in my speech at the chamber on Friday, I said, " Running a business is hard. It really is, but you got to have ruthless persistence in your endeavor. You got to embrace change and it's just about grinding it in, grinding it out, doing it. Servicing the customer, doing what needs to be done."
Dan: Yeah and like you said earlier, if you're not improving, you're falling behind.
Sam: Well, that's an absolute.
Dan: I know you've said that before. So, obviously that is part of your business plan.
Sam: Absolutely and so, that's why we want to focus in. For 2020, small businesses are looking at increasing their spending on tech tools and we want to understand where they're going and what they're doing and it really focuses down to three areas. One, they want to improve the customer experience, enhancements and insights and that means things like mobile, web, data analytics and self service portals. They want to improve operations and technology, improve operations with technology by investing in collaboration tools to improve the workspace and communications and operations within their own business and then they're looking to manage the IT services as a strategic enabler to sort of weave that into the very fabric of business.
Vince: That's right. Technology is only getting more integrated into businesses. It doesn't matter what line of business you're in anymore. It is now a must have. It doesn't matter if you're just... Whatever you came up with, whatever your design is, even if you came up with your own custom woodworking, whatever it is and you're selling them, well, you need to be selling them online and you need to have some sort of a customer experience and so, that means you have to be thinking from an IT, from a technology perspective more than even just IT, but just technology in general, how this is going to apply to your business and so, as we're looking into 2020, we've been looking at the trends for small, medium sized businesses, usually typically under 100 employees and just saying, " How much are they intending to invest into their technology?" And about a third of it is probably going to be new hardware. You've got to buy new computers because that old Dell, you have to hand crank it to get it started at the front-
Dan: Hit it a couple of times and then push the button four or five times and finally it will get going. Yeah, for sure.
Vince: Another third of that goes towards software because a lot of people are probably still running software. The bit was just wrote back in 2000 when we first started, right? And things have changed quite a bit since then as well, but the remaining third of that is going more towards managed services where instead of having to figure it out yourself, you have somebody else take care of this for you and then also to house it in cloud based services and the point behind that is I don't have to have this in my office anymore. I don't. Just because I'm starting a business doesn't mean I have to now invest in servers and racks and all this stuff because I can let somebody else put all of that upfront investment into it for me and that they can secure it and all I have to do is lease a little bit of space from them, whether that's the software I'm going to use or the hardware that I want to use.
Dan: Yes. It's amazing with the software that you were talking about, still cloud-based.
Dan: Not all software has to be in your computer.
Vince: That's absolutely right. There's a big conference going on right now in Las Vegas at the CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, and I watched even just yesterday, they would demoing some amazing stuff you can do in Photoshop. However, it's using machine learning, which means it's all going up to the cloud. It is using the power of hundreds and thousands of CPUs in this big data farm and it's crunching your little picture and bringing it right back down to Photoshop again and do miraculous things that you would have taken hours and days worth of work for someone to sit there and do by hand. Now you have all of that at your availability through the power of the cloud.
Sam: And I might add to that, that the Consumer Electronics Association is actually a customer of Bit Wizards. We help them build their website and helped them get ready for the conference this year. Basically we had three, four software engineers working on helping them revamp and update the site and added some new features and functionality into it that allow them to better service the customers that utilize them. They're up in Washington DC. So, I've been up there many times to talk with them.
Dan: Well, that is amazing. You really are getting around, aren't you?
Sam: Oh absolutely. Yeah. You'd be surprised the number of places that we touch. Our most recent project with Anheuser Busch has been pretty phenomenal and you're going to see these kiosks out at the local Buffalo Wild Wings at some point here in the future and when you see them you're going to know that Bit Wizards built them and-
Dan: It's a kiosk?
Sam: Yeah. Basically what-
Dan: For Budweiser?
Sam: Yeah. We helped Budweiser build with another company called RN Engineering and we helped them build a kiosk for Stella Artois and basically what it does is it takes the Stella chalice and you put it inside the kiosk and you use the user interface and the software that we built to figure out whether you want an engraved wrap around the outside of it, put your own little mark on it and you could put up to three lines of text on it and we built that and it's really cool. We're going to... Anheuser has allowed us to take one of the machines. We're going to have it at our 20th anniversary and our awards dinner this Friday out at the Island and we're going to let everybody cut their own little chalice there and take a memento home for this event.
Dan: Wow, that Sam, that's remarkable.
Sam: Isn't that cool? **crosstalk** It's very cool.
Dan: That is awesome.
Sam: Yeah, it's neat stuff. I'll have to let you... We'll have to make you a chalice and bring one over and let you check it out. It's pretty cool. I don't know how many of you drink Stella, but it's funny. A couple of the engineers, that's now become their favorite beer. In fact, I traveled-
Dan: Stella's a good beer though.
Sam: I traveled with one of them up to St. Louis just before the holidays and every place we stopped he had to have a beer on the way home. So-
Dan: Of Stella, of course. **crosstalk** Right. Did he have his chalice with him?
Sam: He didn't bring his own chalice, but-
Dan: All of a sudden Stella's the beer all the manly men have at Bit Wizards. I like that.
Sam: But with the technology trends that are going on, we work hard with our clients to help them make judicious choices when it comes to their technology investment and it's not just technology for technology sake, but to meet a business purpose and we consider technology to be a strategic and a competitive enabler. So, this is why each quarterly is part of our managed IT services. We have a virtual CIO service and so, like big businesses do annually and quarterly, we help small businesses plan their IT investment strategically to enable them to remain agile and competitive in the market.
Vince: So, the same way a lot of businesses maybe outsource their HR, right? But you're not big enough to warrant having your own director of HR and all that and so, you can outsource that to another service and they will advise you on what to do when you think you've got an employee that's been showing up to work drunk or something like that, right? Because this is a legitimate problem that I had a colleague in another state of mine in the same industry said that they were dealing with this and how are they going to deal with it because they're not big enough to have HR and so, fortunately our director of HR, Mallory, was fantastic and she offered up some of her advice, but a lot of people outsource that because you need someone who's in that business that knows what they're talking about to help cover you and we do the same from an IT perspective. We don't expect everyone to stay up to date with the latest of what's happening at CES in Las Vegas right now or even to-
Dan: That's what you do.
Vince: Right or to look at someone's business and say, " This is where we want to go and how can we get it? How can we use technology to get there?" And that's where our managed IT services kicks in where it's not just we have a help desk. It's not just the way of making sure that you have antivirus and backing up your computers. The value really comes in having access to this knowledge and this customized crafted bespoke plan for your business specifically going into each quarter. Where are we going this quarter? Where are we going in the next six months, the next year, next five years? And helping to plan out those hardware costs, the software costs and even looking at how can we use the power of the cloud to move us in those directions?
Dan: Yeah. Just real quickly, oftentimes people and I'm guilty of this, a lot of people are like, " Hey, I can do it myself."
Dan: Well, you do it yourself, you don't know where to start. Honestly. With you guys, you're up to date with everything. You already know where to start, where to end. I mean, you just keep it going.
Vince: I agree and there's definitely a lot to be said for I can do it myself and there's that phrase, " Well, I know enough to be dangerous," right? And I run into that a lot.
Dan: I bet you do.
Vince: But the scariest part is always when you don't know what you don't know and so, our focus is heavily on security. It's heavily on optimizing and making sure that you get the most bang for your buck when you do spend money on technology.
Dan: Absolutely and I know you have some long sleeves on right now Vince, but partially rolled up, but we want to find out what's-
Announcer: Biz Wizards, what's up our sleeve?
Vince: So, what's up our sleeve today? I wanted to talk about something, maybe just a little bit less tech and a little bit more at home, which is the retail apocalypse. You've been hearing about this, about brick and mortar is going away and that we have a lot of retail here in Northwest Florida and so, I'm here to tell you that there is not a retail apocalypse. It's a lot of hype and a lot of BS. The reality is that retail is not dying. It's just changing and so, as I mentioned before you have to embrace change and what we've come into is what I call an experience economy. So, to give you an idea, why do people go to Starbucks, right? They go to Starbucks to get the experience and the ambiance and to speak Starbuckian with the language.
Dan: Oh, yeah. Well, you got to have a cup too.
Vince: Oh yeah, and you've got to have the cup.
Dan: Yeah. You got to be cool.
Vince: Well, and it's an experience, right? And so, we're in an economy where people have short attention spans. They want what they want right now and so, what does that mean? Well, that means that our small businesses, our retail need to change, right? They need to change a little bit and they need to think differently because that change is inevitable and they need to embrace it and it's more about the customer experience and what does the customer want then what you want to provide and what you want to do and so, the first thing that I tell people is to provide an experience, right? When you go into a small restaurant or a small store or something like that, customers want to be able to have investigated you beforehand. You got to have an online presence, right? It's both, right? In some cases in retail they call it brick and click. You want to be remarkable, right? You want to be somebody that stands out. I make a joke about the turd in a punchbowl. A turd in a punchbowl is going to stand out, but in retail-
Dan: Well, yeah. I think it probably would. Probably makes it smell funny too.
Vince: But in retail, you want to stand out. You want to be remarkable. You want to see me go, " Damn, that place was awesome." Not just the service-
Dan: I agree-
Vince: But it was something unique or different that you provided to drive people to your store. Your place-
Dan: And you think about places that are successful and you think about that exactly when you were there.
Vince: Yeah. They're unique and they take you back and whether it might be something nostalgic or an experience in your family, people want experiences when they shop, when they buy, when they do things. The other thing I tell people is that besides giving customers unique products and services, you need to embrace technology today. The newer market people are tech savvy. I mentioned that they're going to go online and check you out first, but when they're inside of your store, they want to know what's going on and by embracing technology, you can also utilize that technology to gain insights about your customer and then change your store layout or what you do by doing that. Things like RFID tags where you tag certain things or you track where the customer goes. You use the location based services on the phone to see how they're going through and how they're doing different things. You can grain great insight into the mind of the customer and adapt your business and your business model in order to provide that experience and to stay two or three steps ahead of your competitors. So, embrace technology and be digital first because that's where people go first, right? They're going to if-
Dan: Especially when you're selling products, right?
Vince: Oh yeah. Well, even if you're just-
Dan: Because I think that's the people that probably feel the most threatened to sell products because restaurants, I mean we have restaurants that you have to go eat someplace, but when it comes to products. For example, the Auto Parts Store. Well, you can go to Amazon and buy lots of auto parts, but if you can go online to your neighborhood Auto Parts Store and you can see the inventory and you can order online and go pick it up at that store and I've done that and that's a great thing.
Vince: Well, it is because it allows the customer to do their homework beforehand, right? And self-serve in some way shape or form. It used to be when you went to your dishwasher or your refrigerator is being repaired, there was a refrigerator or dishwasher repair dude and he had this thing of manuals along the wall that only he had. Right now you've got that information at your fingertips. The consumer has that and so, they could go look that information up. They could come in and say, " Hey, I need this," and then they've already come 60% of the way through the buying process. Now it's yours to own that sale and take it from there and you do that, providing that extra customer service and having had that electronic data and information to them and experience prior to them even coming into your store.
Dan: Yep. They've done their homework and you take it from there because you already know what they've been looking at.
Vince: Another one that I tell people is to be social. I hear a lot of business, " Oh, I don't want to do social media," blah blah blah. Their privacy and all this. Well, the simple fact of the matter is the demographic, the young demographic that's up and coming, they're now... We talk about the millennials all the time. I think that's a lot of garbage. They're no different than any other generation. They think a little bit differently in the way that they do their social causes and stuff like that, but they are highly, they are digital natives. They have been connected their entire life and they get their buying cues socially from other people, right? They share that information. I mean, you've all seen a picture of somebody taking a picture, a selfie of their food and posting it on Facebook. Come on. Think about that. You look at that, that's free advertising, right? Figuring out a way to embrace that and engage that customer and bring them in and the underlying theme here is that is technology. You've got to do it with technology. You've got to embrace these things. We've got to. Here on the Emerald Coast, we're slow to adapt, right? We're five, six, seven years behind where everybody else has got it going and all of a sudden when we adapted, it's already been around for a little while. We need to be forward thinking in how we adopt some of these things. I'm not saying be it the very tip of the wand or the tip of spear, but you need to be-
Dan: Close to it, huh?
Vince: Close to the front, right? If you want to stay competitive in this market.
Dan: Yeah. That's very good. That's a very good point.
Sam: It used to be that the front window of your store was the most important thing and so, mannequins and displays, they were a career for somebody on how to set up-
Dan: On the street what you got.
Sam: Window display. That's exactly right. Now people are looking at your place of business before they've ever even stepped within 100 feet of the business itself and so, the store front has now moved to a digital realm and so, embracing that technology is critical because people are already able to make decisions before they even show up at your door and so, the technology utilizes... It's partly there to how you present to the world, how you can become remarkable to the world, but it's also, as Vince was saying, to be able to even optimize and hone your own process so that you're not spinning your wheels wasting money and wasting time on something that is really something nobody's interested in or something that's not having an impact on your client base. Instead, you can take some of the analytics that are available to you. You could just write everything down on a piece of paper, on a ledger and just keep track of your findings that way or you could take advantage of BI, Business Intelligence programs that can actually show you trends or show you which are the better products that you are able to move or what's resonated well with your client base? How you as a business can stand out and be unique and be remarkable because Vince and I were even talking about this on our way here, that the retail apocalypse is oh, these big online, whatever, they're putting everybody out of business, but when you say that you're sort of throwing off some of the responsibility there of that you as a business owner, you as an entrepreneur have the opportunity to stand out in ways that these big companies could never do. You can pivot in ways that it takes them forever to turn that giant ship and as a small business you have multiple opportunities and the amazing thing is the same technology that's available to them is available to you as a business owner. Also, there's nothing stopping you from having a remarkable web presence. There's nothing stopping you from being able to have great analytics and see what worked well for us, what doesn't work well for us? For our employees. There are even just services online that you can get that just keep track of your employee happiness level. How are they doing and how can we come up with reward systems for our employees when they do behaviors that benefit the company? So, embracing these different types of technologies will give you that cutting edge, give you that advantage over top of some of these big online retail that we think are going to put everybody out of business. In fact, I'm sure in many ways we have an advantage in a small area or in small, medium sized businesses that they don't even have.
Dan: You know what's amazing? You guys are great IT. Obviously you're great **inaudible** IT, but you understand business as well and that's what I think people really should understand is that you're really good at IT, really good at websites, you're really good with computers, are good with all of that, but you understand business just as well, which is pretty amazing.
Sam: And I think that's the key point is that again, it goes back to you don't want technology for technology's sake. It really isn't. I've got somebody that I know that likes to talk to me about how they like to lock down the computer and I said, " All you've done is effectively done is turn that computer into a boat anchor." That is a tool that people use to do things, to get things done and technology is an enabler in business the same way and so, we take a business first approach to how we do things. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's a core fabric, there's core things that you have to do, but overall there has to be a business reason to do it and ultimately you're there to service the customer and you want to find new ways to service that customer and help them to make a good buying decision and choose you.
Dan: Good point. Well, I think it's time for the bewitching.
Announcer: Bit Wizards from the spell book.
Sam: So, today's term. We always did this part of the show we talk about from the spell book. Really what we want to do is take a few minutes to demystify some technical geek speak things you might hear if you're listening to the business news on the radio or you're listening to... You read the newspaper and you'll see some terminology out there that you think, " I've seen that around before," and we try to talk about some of those things. Today's term is big data. Big data, which is... Or should I say data? I don't know which one is... Which one is correct? [ crosstalk 00:22:33]. Big data though, but this refers to large amounts of data so big that it's hard for us as humans to wrap our heads around, where would we even start analyzing those kinds of numbers? And that's where technology really kicks in and you're talking about, I'm talking where it's the big data where it's able to analyze thousands of people per second accessing a website, let's say or so, when Google is able to monitor and say how many people are using Google right now, the amount of servers that are just handling the incoming requests from people is just mind numbingly huge and so, trying to make any sense of that data is incredibly tough because there's just so much stuff. There are things like census information, social information and that's where the power again of the cloud starts to come in. There's even a career field now called data mining, which is the people whose jobs it is to make sense of these large, huge sets of data and try to gather some BI, Business Intelligence, out of it and make some predictions and see some sort of models and be able to take those numbers, crunch them, analyze them, and then we'll take action steps from that information, which typically is a lot of work, but it pays off really well because you may be able to sit down with an individual client and say, " Hey, what did you like about the experience you had in our business day and what didn't you like?" But trying to do that over a huge set of numbers is a lot harder.
Vince: And they have another area. They have data scientists, which is another area where they come in and they take a look at that and they look at these large data sets. They figure out ways to put it into a model and then they get the computer to use AI or artificial intelligence to learn from these trends to give us insights. In terms of what goes on and this is really important because when you talk about retail, how do we gain insights into what our customers do? I know some of the largest retailers, Stein Mart is a customer of ours, Belk is a customer of ours, Bells is a customer of ours, they are looking at ways of tracking what customers do, their buying habits and how they do that. They're collecting all this information in their stores in order to provide a better experience within the store. Where do I position certain products? Where do customers usually want to go? Things that used to be a store manager, look at it, go, " Hmm, I think I saw Joe come in over here. So, I'm going to move this over there." Now they've got real data, actionable insights and one of the key things that Bit Wizards does and I want to point out is that you mentioned that we focus on the business, but we have multiple disciplines. We have software engineering, we have digital marketing, we have managed services and we have cloud infrastructure and so, one of the things that we'll do is we go in and we can help you take that collected customer data and mind you, you're collecting that customer data. Collecting that data comes with big responsibility. You have privacy and other issues there. So, we want to make sure that data that you collect is secure, it's in the right place, but we also want to take it so that you can create actionable insights, things that we can do like storing that data in SharePoint and then utilizing something like Power BI to provide you a dashboard to give you real time information about what's going on within your business. Now these things aren't set up overnight. They take some time to do and you've got to gather the data and structure what you want in there, but that's some of the types of services that we can do to take it beyond just the typical managed IT services and take it to the next level when you want to grow your business and you really want to gain that insight and make good customer decisions.
Dan: Just to be clear because I think I know what a dashboard is. A dashboard basically is just a screen with all the information that you were just describing on that screen so you can select what information you want to access. Is that right?
Vince: Yeah. Think of it like when you go up on the website to look at the markets and you can see real time exactly what the NASDAQ is doing or the S&P 500, think about having something like that for your business right there where you can see what's going on. It could be something as simple as I've got a sensor that detects every time a door opens and closes inside of your business and you know exactly how much traffic that you have. Now if you collect that over 30, 60, 90, or 365 days in a year, you can go back and look at maybe I need to set my store hours a little bit different, right? Maybe I need to open a little bit earlier or maybe I need to open a little bit later because my customers tend to just come into my retail store or my restaurant at a different hour or different time. It can be something as simple as tracking what are people buying? What are they buying the most of in real time, right? So, hey. I'm about to run out of thus and such. I just got a notification. Let me go ahead and order it and make sure that I've got it inside my store so that the people will buy it or looking at macro trends. People often do a lot of impulsive buying. So, if you think about it, we talked about putting up a billboard during the whole healthcare crisis and when we did that, we were going to put up a sign or a billboard that said, " Bit Wizards. Because you don't have $264 million to build a website that doesn't work," right? It's taking advantage of different conditions and really trying to sell them and to appeal to people on an emotional level. With that, I think we want to call out one of our existing customers. I want to give a Bit Wizard's thank you and a shout out to our customer BEC Partners. They're an innovative real estate property management and insurance services firm with offices in Pensacola, Tallahassee, also Jacksonville now and all of the greater Southeast. They're forward thinking, fast paced, rapidly growing firm has embraced technology as a strategic enabler. Thank you to Justin Bec and Reed Rushin for choosing Bit Wizards. Provide managed IT services for BEC Partners and thank you to the whole hardworking team there allowing Bit Wizards to serve you. We love working with BEC.
Dan: I know you guys do a great job. I'm sure they appreciate all of the things that you've done for them. no doubt it's helped their business.
Vince: Oh, absolutely.
Dan: No doubt.
Vince: Absolutely, but that goes back to you've got to be forward thinking in your business and you got to be somebody that's embracing change and so, if you embrace change and you're forward thinking, get the right people in there, you can go a long way and you can make a lot of money and do well as a business.
Dan: You guys are great. We have to cut it there. We are out of time. We could go on for an hour. We'll be back again next Tuesday. Thanks, Vince and Sam for coming in from Bit Wizards. The tip of the wand and we'll see you again next time.