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ITechnology Interview with Doug Stephen, President, Enterprise Learning Division at CGS

ITechnology Interview with Doug Stephen, President, Enterprise Learning Division at CGS

“Using AR, TeamworkAR provides workers with visual demonstrations, real-time guidance and interactive, on-the-job training to further global digital transformation strategies and enable a distributed workforce.”

Hi Doug, please tell us about your role at CGS and how you started here?

I lead the enterprise learning, channels and TeamworkAR teams in addition to being the CGS Canada Country Manager. Prior to joining CGS in 1998, I founded my own business in the enterprise learning market. There, I led a team that created one of the first software as a service (SaaS) platforms dedicated to providing hosted learning systems to Fortune 500 companies. Taking that expertise and passion for learning to CGS clients, I lead a team of training specialists and designers for program development, as well as sales and operations. This team produces robust, agile, tech-forward, multi-approach programs that integrate across platforms, technologies and learning styles to help drive employee performance and business initiatives.

What important lessons did you learn during the pandemic months that helped you stay focused on your business?

The greatest lesson we learned during the pandemic is the need to pivot quickly. So many of our clients needed to rapidly adjust to the new environment of lockdowns and social distancing, shifting to conference calls or videos instead of being in the same room with colleagues. Fortunately, my team had already launched an augmented reality (AR) solution in late 2019 to enhance training for companies that need more experiential and immersive, hands-on instruction for equipment they may not have immediate access to, so we were well prepared.

Could you tell us more about TeamworkAR platform and how it streamlines digital transformation goals with AR capabilities?

Using AR, TeamworkAR provides workers with visual demonstrations (e.g., digital twin), real-time guidance and interactive, on-the-job training to further global digital transformation strategies and enable a distributed workforce. The platform is compatible with and available through any device and pairs collaboration, analytics and global support tools with custom content in the form of rich AR experiences. As such, it allows teams to significantly cut down the time spent on training, product rollouts and standard internal communication/adoption strategies. Today more than ever, organizations need to empower their global workforce – whether in the office, store or remotely in the field. Not only must companies capture and transfer knowledge from their subject matter experts (SMEs) and from older workers to a younger generation, but we also found that our customers were looking for something with seamless adoption – a solution that works with their existing technology, devices and platforms. For field operations, TeamworkAR will increase first call resolution, reduce returned parts and improve customer satisfaction.

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Which departments in an organization could reap most benefit from using your AR solutions?

While operations and support can primarily benefit, the the advantages of AR and mixed reality solutions run the gamut of industries and functional departments. The need for learning and development is universal, especially in organizations in which employees are widely dispersed. During the height of the pandemic we saw an even greater need from companies with remote workers, deskless workers and field workers to be able to connect with experts in a time of crisis. Workers in the field – such as utilities, telecommunications, health care, appliance repair and logistics teams – have immediate and long-term needs for AR in their everyday tasks. Sales teams also use mixed reality for demos, and in the healthcare field, medical education is being transformed by mixed reality.

Could you tell us how AR VR solutions improve employee experience management?

TeamworkAR allows for employees to work on equipment that they might not have physical access to. Digital twins are AR assets that provide exact replicas of physical equipment. Employees can interact with the virtual equipment and results are tracked using a learning record store. As companies prioritize more engaging and immersive training programs for employees, learning can be more efficient and can increase employee productivity. TeamworkAR moves beyond static digital assets, handbooks and video to take practical workplace learning to the next level, allowing co-workers to collaborate.

Healthcare services are increasingly looking at newer innovations to improve patient experience management in virtual space. How does CGS work in the healthcare industry? Could you share some examples from AR VR adoption for healthcare companies?

Similar to other industries, the pandemic affected healthcare, accelerating digital health as well as the need for tech support to providers and products in this space. One such use is combining MRI output with AR: a surgeon using HoloLens and Teamwork AR superimposes the MRI image over the patient’s body for more precision during surgery. Also, by creating a digital twin of a dialysis unit, a new employee can work on this equipment prior to gaining actual hands-on experience with a real unit. Time-to-proficiency increases threefold with this technology. Use of object recognition with TeamworkAR can provide inexperienced technicians with step-by-step instructions via AR to successfully fix equipment in the field.
In fact, a study found that 38 percent of hospitals have implemented and are using immersive technologies. By 2024, Goldman Sachs expects $5.1 billion to be invested by the healthcare industry in AR/VR technology.

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What kind of IT infrastructure does an enterprise require to fully leverage TeamworkAR platform for their various functions? What kind of services do you offer to customers who may not currently have the requisite IT frameworks?

TeamworkAR is a SaaS platform and requires internet connectivity to leverage its collaboration capability. We also understand there could be connectivity issues in certain areas; so, an enterprise wanting to leverage TeamworkAR for training and performance support can work in a disconnected fashion. We also offer services to assist enterprises in creating their own digital twins for education and support.

Your take on adoption of AI Machine learning for AR VR development in Marketing and Sales?

A good example of AI adoption involves the use of TeamworkAR to “drop” in a customer avatar into a company’s facilities. The user (a salesperson) will be able to negotiate with the avatar by leveraging conversational AI using Open AI’s GPT3 coupled with Google’s speech to text/text to speech.

One advice to every CIO or CMO looking to invest in AR VR tools for their business goals in 2022?

Use of AR and other immersive technologies in training, sales support and field services will have a return on investment (ROI). TeamworkAR users saw increases in sales performance, effectiveness and time-to-productivity. CGS research found that for those companies that have implemented AR, 43 percent saw an increase in employee productivity. In another one of our surveys, we found that in times of complicated assembly or fixes of a consumer product, 42 percent of consumers stated that they would be interested in using technology such as AR and VR, in which an expert visually guides them through steps via a smartphone or tablet allowing for a “see what I see” approach to repairing an item. From a brand loyalty perspective, for customers – whether business or consumer – the benefits of digital tools and emerging tech such as AR are clear.

Your prediction for the global virtual content management industry?

Content creation is expensive. Enterprises need the flexibility to leverage existing content in multiple delivery formats (e.g., chat, email, print, web).  Cloud-based headless content management systems (CMSs) will only expand. There is a push to make this CMS content more easily accessible. However, making enterprise content easier to access and distribute also adds a digital rights component to these assets. Couple this with cybersecurity considerations and you will see growth in the CMS field of secure, headless, digital rights applications that can handle all forms of assets including mixed realty.

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Thank you, Doug! That was fun and we hope to see you back on itechnologyseries.com soon.

[To participate in our interview series, please write to us at sghosh@martechseries.com]

Doug Stephen, who joined CGS in 1998 and leads the enterprise Learning, Channel and TeamworkAR divisions, has more than 20 years of industry experience. He was promoted to President of the enterprise Learning division in 2019, responsible for the division’s development, sales, operations and growth globally. He and his team created one of the first software as a service (SaaS) platforms dedicated to providing hosted learning systems to Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Stephen helped conceptualize, design and implement one of the largest virtual business communities supporting over 10,000 business partners, which resulted in the Gold Brandon Hall Award for Excellence. The CGS Learning team offers robust, agile, multi-touch, multi-approach programs that integrate across platforms, technologies and learning styles to help drive employee performance and business initiatives.

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For nearly 40 years, CGS has enabled global enterprises, regional companies and government agencies to drive breakthrough performance through business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services. CGS is wholly focused on creating comprehensive solutions that meet clients’ complex, multi-dimensional needs and support clients’ most fundamental business activities. Headquartered in New York City, CGS has offices across North America, South America, Europe, Middle East and Asia. For more information, please visit www.cgsinc.com and follow us on Twitter at @CGSinc and on LinkedIn.

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