We hope you find this Q&A packed with cool insights, practical tips, and real-life examples that will make technology and AI your new best friend. Whether you’re a tech newbie or a pro, these pages are designed to give you the scoop on how to kickstart your journey and boost your business like never before.

Laurie White, President, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce

 


 

How do you utilize technology to become a best place to work?

Jill Richardson Coppolino, Chief Information Officer, Children’s Friend (JRC) Children’s Friend adopted a collaboration platform with services and solutions that allow our staff to communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever they are in a way that is flexible and easy to use. The resulting productivity increases allow our staff more time to focus on our mission: supporting the youngest and most vulnerable children in Rhode Island.

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Daryl W. Clark, Senior Vice President and Chief ­Technology Officer, The Washington Trust Company (DWC) Technology plays a critical role in ensuring Washington Trust remains a Best Place to Work. As we’ve transitioned to a hybrid work environment, technology has provided tremendous flexibility, ensuring employees have the tools necessary to do their jobs effectively, efficiently, and securely whether they are in the office or working remotely. Technology also allows our employees to provide fast, friendly, and convenient service to our customers, which contributes to high satisfaction and retention.

Robert Bush, Chief Strategy & Operating Officer, United Way of Rhode Island (RB) We strive to provide best-in-class tools that enable TeamUnited to advance our mission to build racial equity and opportunity for all Rhode Islanders. Our onboarding experience imbeds our tech-stack from day one so they are prepared for day-to-day tasks while immersing themselves in our culture and community. This includes cyber-security training with micro-training doses throughout their time with us. This regular and ongoing approach develops instincts that keep them safe online at work, and at home. 

Peter Moreau, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Amica (PM) Amica is committed to providing its employees with cutting-edge technology to enhance their work experience and ultimately improve customer satisfaction. By utilizing cloud-based platforms and staying up-to-date with the latest industry advancements, Amica ensures that its infrastructure is flexible, reliable, and readily available. This approach not only streamlines internal processes but also fosters more meaningful interactions with customers, emphasizing empathy and understanding. Investing in best-in-class technology reflects Amica’s dedication to innovation and excellence in serving both its employees and customers.

How have you virtualized your business?

PM Amica has a comprehensive approach to supporting its hybrid workforce, recognizing that employees may work from various locations and in different team structures. By providing the necessary tools, training, and technology, Amica ensures that all employees have what they need to effectively collaborate and communicate, regardless of their work environment. This support extends to managers as well, who are equipped with resources to guide their teams and address any challenges that may arise in a hybrid setting. 

DWC The Washington Trust IT team has completed a multi-year cloud migration and SD-WAN project, transforming IT service delivery. This migration has granted us access to scalable cloud services with a speed that was previously unattainable, while the SD-WAN initiative has yielded significant cost savings and enhanced network performance and resilience across the organization.

RB We migrated from on-premises solutions in almost every area a few years ago and adopted cloud-based solutions that are more reliable, secure, and accessible. File management, telephone services, finance, HR, analytics, and a host of other services make up our suite of tools that empower our folks to do their best work efficiently.

JRC We virtualized the agency by adopting a cloud migration strategy and virtualizing our infrastructure, allowing Children’s Friend staff easy access to resources, whether they’re working on-site or remotely.

How do you protect your business against cyber-attacks and natural disasters?

RB Natural disasters are intrinsically mitigated by our ability to work from anywhere with most of our systems, which are cloud-based, resilient, and accessible for remote work. This ability was uneven pre-pandemic but is certainly the case now as we are actively aid Rhode Islanders during times of disaster via our 211 information and referral services. We protect ourselves from cyber-attacks by employing a multi-layered security program that includes policies, procedures, and practices paired with multiple layers of defensive technologies. Our selection process for new tools and solutions favors those that are actively maintained by the vendor using intelligence from the community at large such that we are the beneficiaries of intelligence gained from those teams handling threats and attacks occurring all over the world. 

PM Amica is committed to the protection of its customer and employee data and has developed an Enterprise Cybersecurity Program to protect its information assets from cyber threats. The program is built on risk assessment, defense-in-depth strategies, and has access to advanced threat intelligence to insure its controls keep pace with evolving threats. 

Amica strives to “be there” for our customers, especially when a natural disaster strikes. We’ve built our capabilities on a strong, flexible, network of geographically diverse systems that can be deployed as needed across the country. 

DWC Protecting customer data from cyber threats is viewed as mission critical at Washington Trust. In collaboration with our Information Assurance team, we have implemented layered controls in alignment with industry best practice security frameworks. Regular audits by internal and external teams, along with regulatory reviews, and other third-party testing helps ensure adherence to these control frameworks. With our cloud migration, we now operate from Tier 1, geographically diverse data centers and our SD-WAN offers unparalleled connectivity options from traditional terrestrial networks to cellular and satellite options. 

JRC Protecting against cybersecurity threats is a high priority at Children’s Friend. In addition to maintaining firewalls at every site, we utilize encryption and immutable backups to protect our data. We also safeguard our network by requiring multifactor authentication (MFA), strong password policies, end-point protection, and annual cybersecurity training for all staff members. We safeguard against natural disasters with data, network, internet, and power redundancy.

What technological changes are you looking to make in the future?

RB Our near-term plans include: (a) transitioning off the last vestiges of on premises applications in favor of cloud-first SaaS solutions; (b) becoming a data-first organization across departments, processes, and solutions that inform day-to-day and strategic decisions; and (c) carefully and responsibly evolve our governance and security, as we consider and adopt AI-based tools. 

JRC Future technological changes for Children’s Friend include improvements in both availability and security of our networks and data. Short-term plans include measures that will also improve productivity: completing our cloud migration strategy and implementing Single Sign-on (SSO).

DWC The cloud and SD-WAN migration have enabled IT teams to shift their focus from system maintenance to supporting business innovation. We are strategically implementing new technology solutions to enhance the customer experience across delivery channels—making it faster, easier, and more convenient for customers to do business with us, while ensuring the safety and security of their information. We have also introduced technology to simplify internal processes so our employees can better serve one another and our customers. The ultimate goal of our technological decisions is to ensure our customers and employees have the best experience.

PM Amica is constantly evaluating ways to stay on the front end of the technology curve, and we will continue to invest in our digital capabilities in ways that make our employee and customer experience even better. We have already embraced GenAI capabilities to enable our employees to focus on the most important part of their job, being able to connect with our customers in a more human way than ever before.

For companies that want to undertake a digital transformation, what do you think is the most important first step in order to be successful?

PM A digital transformation must be part of the overall business strategy, with defined objectives in support of business goals. While a digital transformation can be an important part of revolutionizing any company’s core capabilities, it should work in concert with, and be an enabler for, the employees who ultimately serve the customer’s needs.

Digital transformation is about leveraging those technologies strategically to achieve broader business objectives. One key aspect is ensuring that employees are equipped and empowered to utilize these new tools effectively in serving customers and fulfilling the company’s mission. A successful digital transformation aligns technology initiatives with the needs and capabilities of the workforce, ultimately enhancing their ability to deliver value to customers. It’s a holistic approach that recognizes the interplay between technology, people, and the overall business strategy.

RB An important first step is to give high tech and high touch equal weight. First, fully adopt the paradigms of new platforms and why you are doing so. Then, make the technology shift. That is the key. Moving from a physical machine in our facility to a virtual environment in the cloud changes the location and connection only. Moving to cloud-based services that replace what was running on the physical machine is transformative. Moving local file shares is similar and improves collaboration, version control, and efficiency. 

JRC A digital transformation project must go beyond the technology function and begin with clearly defined objectives. Whether it’s improving operational efficiency, enhancing customer experiences, or driving innovation, having clear goals will provide direction and purpose to the effort.

DWC Successful digital transformation requires documentation and understanding of your current state, future goals, and the underlying reasons for change. The “why” should drive every aspect of the transformation. Once these elements are defined, then a strategic plan can be developed to execute, acknowledging that the path will not be linear. True digital transformation also requires a willingness for a concurrent evolution of people, the business, and its processes.

How do you view the opportunities associated with AI and how it can be harnessed in a positive, ethical, productive way alongside a talented workforce?

JRC The ethical and practical application of AI can be implemented in both business and technical processes, performing routine and complex tasks. AI can revolutionize business tasks such as writing emails, creating policies, enhancing content creation, and prompting new ideas for fundraising appeals, while transforming the way we manage complex IT networks, making them more efficient, resilient, and secure.

DWC AI is heavily regulated in the financial services sector, particularly for automated financial transactions or decisions. While we believe in the potential of AI, it currently necessitates human oversight in decision-making processes. AI excels in creative and generative content creation, enabling teams with limited resources to produce substantial work. We view AI as a valuable tool that will help us continue delivering exceptional customer service, a hallmark of Washington Trust for the past 224 years.

PM Artificial Intelligence and particularly Generative AI represent one of the biggest leaps forward in our lifetime for technology to reshape the way businesses can better meet customer needs in the future. GenAI is a tool that can reduce challenges and help make our talented employees better able to connect and empathize with our customers, especially when they most need our services.

RB AI as a general tool has been with us for years and we use it in various places to remarkable success, e.g. word processing. Generative AI is the new, exciting thing in AI. In the vernacular of the Gartner Hype Cycle, we are aligning ourselves with an ecosystem that is evolving rapidly (the boom) but are being thoughtful and deliberate with respect to governance and security being the foundation upon which adoption is built responsibly. This will allow us to mitigate the trough of disillusionment and be poised to reap the benefits as AI continues to mature.

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Cox Business

The commercial division of Cox Communications, Cox Business, provides a broad commercial solutions portfolio, including advanced managed IT, cloud and fiber-based network solutions that support connected environments, unique hospitality experiences and diverse applications for nearly 370,000 businesses nationwide. For more information, please visit www.coxbusiness.com.