EuroComm18 Interviews: IBM’s Silvia Cambie on putting corporate communications at the center of digital transformation

Prior to her talk at EuroComm18, Silvia Cambie, Europe Leader for Watson Workspace ISV at IBM spoke to the IABC EMENA team about how technology is changing the communications function, and how we can harness tech to improve what we do in our workplaces and organizations.

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself Silvia?

A: My background is in business journalism, followed by corporate communications. I have always been passionate about technology and was an early adopter of social media. I joined IBM a couple of years ago and started off in the enterprise collaboration space. At the beginning of the year, I began focusing on one of our AI brands, Watson Workspace, a workflow platform powered by AI. I am building an ecosystem of app developers and business partners around it.

Q: So how can technology help us today?

A: Firstly, technology can simplify the way we work. It gives communicators more time for higher-value activities. Essentially, technology is automating pedestrian, repetitive actions so that we have more time to dedicate to the advisory part of our job.

One of the main challenges communicators have been dealing with in recent years is technology adoption. Rolling out new tech to employees has proven one of the most difficult jobs. Now, thanks to automation and the streamlining of simple tasks, communicators can focus on the human aspect, on their ability to broker change and make innovation happen.

Q: Where does big data fit in to all of this?

A: Big data is essential for AI to thrive (by the way, at IBM’s we call it ‘augmented intelligence’ rather than ‘artificial intelligence’ as we believe in its power to augment human intelligence and create a real partnership between humans and machines). AI is based on machine learning. The more data you have to train the system, the better.

The amount of data around us is constantly growing. Eighty per cent of the data out there is unstructured, meaning it is not in databases or spreadsheets. It’s in videos, sound, tweets, emails… It’s data from wearables and the Internet of Things sensors. We need AI to help get value out of this data so that it can support business decisions.

Q: How do you win over a communicator who looks at technology negatively, especially in terms of job security?

A: Technology gives us the chance to position comms differently. It can help us move our profession up the food-chain. My message to a communicator worried about their future is: try to understand what digital transformation is really about and the change it is likely to bring to your company and start playing an active role in it. I see two main tasks for comms, and internal communicators in particular, going forward. One is advising senior management about what technology can do for their communication processes and information flows. There isn’t a single company out there that is not in need of rethinking them. It’s an opportunity for communicators to become trusted advisors. The second is telling employees the story of the change new technology like AI or blockchain is going to bring.

Q: What do you want attendees to take away from your presentation?

A: I hope I’ll be able to pass on my excitement about what’s happening at the moment. In tech terms, there’s never been a time like this. We are experiencing an acceleration with four major technologies hitting the mainstream: AI, blockchain, cloud and quantum computing. All of them are going to impact the way a company communicates, both with its employees and the external world. I am a firm believer in the responsibility professional communicators have to help shepherd this change. In my presentation I will share some ideas that should help EuroComm participants prepare for the task ahead.

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