Technology

Open Systems Technologies launches digital consulting division

OpenDigital aims to transform consumer relationships by creating ‘symbiotic’ relationships with businesses.

February 9, 2018
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OpenDigital Mike Lomonaco
Michael Lomonaco said OpenDigital was formed to address the human element of digital transformation in business. Photo by Johnny Quirin

OST recently launched a new division centered on digital consulting for businesses to successfully implement new technology.

The division, named OpenDigital, was seeded by VisualHero, a design studio OST acquired in 2016.

OpenDigital was conceived to address the human element of digital transformation in business by asking what a company’s needs are before implementing new technology into a given business model.

“Technology can do anything we want it to do, but if people aren’t willing to use it, then so what?” said Michael Lomonaco, OST director of marketing and communications. “It’s understanding what human qualities and behaviors you’re trying to solve, then understanding what the technology looks like.”

One example is OST’s relationship with Illinois-based trucking company Navistar. The company was faced with a shortage of drivers as well as issues with safety and vehicle productivity.

Navistar wanted to solve these issues with an “internet of things” solution.

Over a two-year period, OST helped Navistar implement its own internet of things system, named On Command Center (OCC), to link over 300,000 trucks via a sensor in the engine of each vehicle. The sensors allow the company to track a vehicle’s location, external conditions and other information while reducing downtime for drivers.

“When a truck is connected, we’ve seen an 80 percent reduction in catastrophic failures,” Navistar CIO Terry Kline said.

“Their original problem was, ‘How do we improve the lives of our drivers?’ In that space, we helped them from a digital infrastructure kind of perspective,” Lomonaco said.

Andy Van Solkema, chief designer of OST and founder of VisualHero, explained digital integration is transforming all companies — food, appliance, automotive manufacturers, etc. — into software companies.

From an external perspective, it means new products have software embedded in them, similar to Navistar’s OCC sensors. Internally, it means companies are hiring employees with tech experience to lead development.

“GE, as an example, they have hired hundreds of software developers and designers to reorient around that. They historically used to be heavily engineers,” Van Solkema said. “Locally, you have someone like Steelcase who has done that, as well.”

He said the advent of digital also has changed the business/consumer relationship from a linear to a cyclical model. Businesses in the past would identify a need, make a product to suit the need, market the product, and unless the product failed, they may never have a relationship with the customer.

Now because of digital, companies are creating a “symbiotic” relationship with their customers, not just with new technologies, but also with potential behavior.

“The usability of a product or how they use your data becomes an extension of your relationship with the company. It’s about trust, it’s about value creation,” Van Solkema said. “As a consumer, I have a choice, and I’m going to choose a relationship with a product or a service that I can trust and has value to my life.”

Van Solkema gave the example of cloud storage, by which businesses can collect and manage data on consumer behaviors. He explained it creates a symbiotic relationship because the products and services businesses produce drive customer behavior, and in turn, the behavioral data collected drives the behavior of businesses.

“On the other side, if the user experience isn’t delightful, people won’t use (the product), so the data won’t be good,” he said. “If the user experience is good, you have more options, you create more use.”

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