Jonathon Hensley, CEO, reflects on his inspiration and the rollicking success of Emerge Interactive over the last two decades. In an exclusive Entrevista with MobileAppDaily, he delivers his view on the investments in the healthcare industry and provides valuable insights on the significance of User Experience and AI today.
1) It has been over two decades since Emerge Interactive commenced business. What has the journey been like and what all changes did you observe?
Emerge started as a strategy and technology consulting business, and has since grown into a full-service digital product consulting firm. Along the way, we evolved many times to meet the needs of the market, crossing into digital marketing and the innovation space, but quickly learned that our passion lies with digital products, and the customer experiences and operational efficiencies they enable.
Since the beginning, we have been inspired by the incredible people developing new technologies all around the world and the possibilities they unlocked. This has fueled a passion and unrelenting curiosity to understand how technology transforms the ways in which people live and work.
That passion and curiosity continue to drive the company today, as we work to help businesses harness technology and bring new products to market. Our work focuses on helping leaders define the value they want to create in a succinct and tangible way; where to focus, why, and what it will take to achieve that outcome.
There have been so many changes and shifts over the last twenty years but two major things I think are important to call out. When we came into digital product space it was the wild west. Every business was exploring or watching to see how digital would change their industry. Then the shift started to happen where we entered the era of the empowered and connected consumer. This is still something many companies are struggling to deal with as they are looking at how they modernize. We used to hear a lot of stories about how those that couldn’t evolve were being disrupted. Now the narrative has changed. Digital is well established, an essential part of any organization and integrated digital products and services are next. The challenge is with the boom of digital today leaders have a much larger and complex landscape to navigate.
We have dedicated ourselves to helping market leaders navigate this new landscape and deliver digital products, web, mobile and IoT, often essential to a client's digital transformation.
2) Emerge Interactive is into a lot of business verticals. Which one does it find the most challenging and at the same time invigorating?
We’re currently investing heavily into the healthcare, manufacturing, technology and finance sectors. Right now out of those verticals healthcare is definitely the most challenging but we see an urgent need and opportunity to improve the patient experience.
Too many healthcare organizations look to their close competitors to identify what to do, benchmark their efforts, and validate that their thinking is sufficient. Like so many other industries there is an assumption that if a market leading is doing something then it must be a best practice. However the reason that they can do what they do is precisely because they’re the market leader. To find true success, differentiate, drive essential performance goals and make a lasting positive impact requires to step back.
We’re seeing a wave of progressive healthcare leaders across the country who want to make a lasting impact and understand there are significant shifts in thinking that have to be embraced, adopted, and supported. One of the biggest opportunities in healthcare specifically is the mobile patient experience. We see a chance to make an impact and improve the lives of millions of patients and their families. This is incredible and inspiring and motivating to the Emerge team.
3) How has the partnership with Aruba Networks worked out for Emerge Interactive? Did it augment its business operations?
The partnership with Aruba Networks has been very successful for both parties. Emerge is a value-add partner to Aruba’s hardware offering, delivering custom software that leverages Aruba’s Meridian indoor wayfinding technology.
The technology partnership between Emerge Interactive and Aruba enables our clients to scale mobile engagement. By leveraging Aruba beacons, sensors, and the Meridian Mobile Engagement platform, we are ready to design and develop innovative wayfinding and location-aware apps, along with venue-specific, custom solutions for a host of clients, customers, and contexts.
We have been fortunate to support Aruba as they continue to make seismic changes in how patients and hospitals provide networking and digital solutions to their populations. Our partnership has also presented the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of building smart offices and campuses to support employee performance, safety and wellbeing as we look at how to best bring people back to the office or factory.
4) In your company’s clientele, it has worked with names that are Fortune 500 regulars to emerging startups. Is there a standard go-to approach for every client or is each one dealt with differently?
Every client is unique. The only consistency across Fortune 500 and startup clients, is the essential need to build alignment. To build any success product it requires team, organizational and market alignment and the process needs to adapt to help a client achieve this. Without alignment you don't have critical insight to navigate through the product development lifecycle, internal processes and political landscape. The most successful digital product companies in the world understand this, and it’s this valuable expertise that Emerge brings to the table.
Our clients are leaders that are looking for a progressive partner that has an extensive depth of expertise and experience. These capabilities include product strategy grounded by your business vision, critical design thinking, and enterprise to consumer technology.
Building an effective product team and operationalizing things to scale requires a few key things. No silos. No outdated working models. No processes for process sake. No reinvention. We are brought in to ensure the strategy is sound, tackle challenges head on and never fall in love with the solution, instead always staying focused on where real value is being created for the customer. This thinking can make the difference between a startup getting off the ground or a fortune 500 client being able to make smart and measurable decisions towards achieving clearly defined outcomes.
5) Is there any unique technology that Emerge Interactive uses? If yes, our users would be delighted to learn about it.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) are finally becoming commonplace in the United States. The most adopted system is Epic MyChart, with 40% of medical patients in the country using their system. We are excited to leverage the Epic MyChart EHR in our Patient Experience Mobile Application Platform and provide a single access point for patients to manage their appointments, get indoor navigation within hospitals, access medical records, and leverage telehealth services.
The continued adoption of BLE technology is not just unlocking things like wayfinding but new industrial IoT based products. We work with several industrial companies, who build heavy electronics and machines that previously required a human to be physically present at the device to make any changes to its configuration. By leveraging BLE enabled mobile apps we are able to shift the device control to any smartphone within range of the BLE radio. This makes managing those devices significantly safer for the workers without adding additional hardware cost.
6) What are the value propositions that Emerge Interactive offers?
We empower marketing leaders to achieve extraordinary business outcomes through customer-centric digital products.
To accomplish this we focus on products anchored to an organization's mission, that drive by increasing customer engagement and retention. This includes looking at supporting the people, developing the processes, and integrating the systems that allow clients to produce consistent results.
We provide a fully integrated project model - allowing us to support client’s target outcomes at every stage of the product development lifecycle.
This allows us to help our clients make better decisions, move faster, enhance their capabilities to deploy the people, processes, tools, and resources at the right time.
7) What are the growth drivers for Emerge Interactive?
I love this question.
We are at the epicenter of digital transformation and see three major growth drivers that include customer experience, employee engagement and digital product/service delivery. As industry continues to innovate, as we all adapt to new social and economic realities, these three areas are going to become more essential than ever before.
Our service offering will also continue to evolve as we help clients to map the entire customer journey and shift into continuous engagement, prioritization and improvement. Clients are looking for more ways to proactively address clients needs and market demands and this will become an essential service offering.
8) How important is User Experience in your view? What are the key points a developer/designer should remember during the development process?
User Experience is critical. Success is going to be dictated based upon how well you solve a customer's problem. Someone’s experience determines adoption, value of use and retention of any product or service. The greater the competitive landscape or the number of substitute solutions the more important user experience becomes at every level of detail.
Every successful customer experience design initiative starts with bringing together the right team. A team that is focused on delivering value to the customer. People that can step into your customer’s shoes; taking an outside-in customer-centric approach to deliver better products, services, and experiences. Successful customer experience design is also equally about achieving results and is grounded in support of the business strategy. This alignment enables companies to see significant benefits like:
- Improved market position relative to their competitors
- Lower customer acquisition cost
- Increased product or service adoption
- Lower cost of ownership
- Fewer customer complaints
Designs and developers need to remember that they have a key role in helping to define the right solution not just building it. Everyone on a product team has a personal responsibility to be clear on the problem, the intended outcome and how progress will be measured so we can continuously improve the value of our solutions for customers.
9) An article reported a few months earlier that Diffbot entered into an official alliance with the European Journalism Centre to tackle fake news. Isn’t that a great thing? What impact will Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have on our lives in the coming years?
Today Machine Learning (ML) can help us make small decisions, such as what news is real or not. But soon ML will be able to make larger decisions for us, such as what car to buy, what career to choose, or who to marry. Soon our lives will be heavily AI optimized, and it will be interesting to see if this brings the world closer together or creates new barriers that we cannot foresee yet. Ethics in AI will continue to become a larger concern to society, especially since only a small percentage of people is training--or even understands--the ML algorithms, and therefore is effectively controlling the larger population.
10) They say a CEO’s journey is full of inspirations. Who are the people who have inspired you majorly?
I got into the digital product space inspired by the incredible people developing new technologies all around him and the possibilities they unlocked. I have continued to find incredible inspiration though from every facet of life. Five of those people are:
- Dan Cable
- Stephen MR Covey
- Bill Gates
- Ben Horwitz
- Steve Jobs
I also draw an incredible amount of my inspiration from the people I have the fortune to work with every day. I ask myself everyday what I can do to support them. The talent, thoughtfulness and dedication each person brings to his/her work is incredible.
11) What is the single greatest piece of advice that you have gotten?
My freshman year of college I met someone who shared this quote with me.
“In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” ― Abraham Maslow
It is one of the greatest pieces of advice and wisdom I have ever received. And I’m still close friends with that person 20yrs later.
- Emerge is a value-add partner to Aruba’s hardware offering, delivering custom software solutions.
- According to Jonathon, to build any successful product it requires team, organizational and market alignment, and the process needs to adapt to help a client achieve this.
- Emerge Interactive leverages Epic MyChart Electronic Health Records (EHR) in their Patient Experience Mobile Application Platform.
- Customer experience, employee engagement, and digital product/service delivery are the three major growth drivers of Emerge Interactive.
- According to Jonathon, designs and developers need to remember that they have a key role in helping to define the right solution, not just building it.
- Jonathon believes that our lives will soon be heavily AI optimized.
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