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The influx of new technologies and new ways of utilizing them is a neverending challenge (and opportunity) for the interactive customer experience industry. What will they mean for existing approaches to market, and how will they change our future strategies?

That forward-looking challenge set the stage for the discussion when we figuratively sat down for a chat with NEC Display Solutions of America’s Richard Ventura. The newly promoted Vice President of Strategy for NEC, a Director-level ICX Association member, talked with us about his new role at the company, how it will affect the company’s approach to market, and the future of ICX technologies.

Strategy is a frequent, and important, topic of discussion for Ventura and other industry leaders, both for individual companies and the industry itself — so this serves as an opportunity to mine his insight on challenges facing us in the here and now and look ahead at new opportunities racing our way.

So without further ado, let’s get right to it:

1. First, congratulations, Rich, on your promotion. Can you talk a little bit about your new role at NEC and what it means for your day-to-day work at the company?

This is a pretty exciting opportunity for me as well as for NEC. The role is the Vice President of Strategy overlooking the Office of Strategic Management. The new role entails a few key objectives and ideas for the organization: The team is chartered with focusing on the strategic direction of NEC and how we align the organization, focus on our long-term strategies, look toward emerging markets, align with other organizations, and aid in the defining of the vision and direction of the company. In the end, it’s about helping NEC grow beyond our business today and focus on the future. It has been an interesting change from my previous role(s). Being able to focus on developing strategies and working toward growing the organization is exciting. Being able to work with my peers in the company and understand how actions impact each department and align thoughts and ideas to drive forward is a challenge I am diving right in to take on.

2. The idea of strategy is something you and I have discussed quite a bit in the past. How do you see your new role changing your approach or NEC’s approach to the industry?

I think it is going to expand and grow how NEC approaches the industry. Ten years ago, we started the Solutions Sales organization. The focus was on how do we sell more than just a screen or projector and how do we deliver solutions that will impact our customers and partners. Fast forward a few years and this capability has grown and has become an important aspect of NEC. In fact, over the last few years we have seen many in the industry build similar organizations focusing on delivering compete solutions in multiple applications and markets. The new role will allow me to help NEC expand our capabilities into new technologies and solutions that will deliver even more value and opportunities for our partners and customers. Taking on the mantra of delivering “beyond the screen” will allow NEC to deliver more and impact engagements and interactions with the targeted audience.

3. Staying with the industry, whether you want to call it digital signage or interactive customer experiences, what are some of the key challenges or opportunities facing the industry right now?

This industry is still growing. We have so many exciting things going on and so many opportunities to grow the market and deliver better, faster, stronger experiences. I love to use the term “chaos” when talking about our industry and business. Chaos can be good. It means we are growing and we are differentiating and delivering something new that replaces something existing. The opportunities are amazing that we are seeing: a lot of focus and opportunities around analytics, interactivity, facial detection, rules-based content delivery, smart application, integration of mobility, creating solutions that impact the way we shop, engage and traverse our daily lives. It really is almost a renaissance period for the industry. Our challenges are, how do we deliver everything? Making sure that the conversation continues to revolve around commercial technologies and using the right tool for the job are key. 5G is going to be huge to help us deliver more and be able to speed up the expansion of technology and solutions. IoT also is going to be a huge opportunity and challenge for the industry. The data coming in and the amount of it are going to allow companies to deliver even more of a personal experience and deliver more capabilities for the audience.

4. And how would you say we should address those challenges?

Strategic planning is going to be important. Education of manufacturers and end-users on standards and practical applications. Making sure that people really understand the technology, the implications of poor installations, understanding how one thing impacts another, getting beyond the shiny object. These are going to help us. And also embracing chaos and making it your friend.

5. You’ve been a guiding force in the industry for years and clearly will continue to be one going forward. What do you see coming down the road in the next few years that we should be aware of or thinking about and preparing for now?

Data! Data! Data! Data overload is coming. The world of IoT is going to expand the data. So now that we have it, what do we do with it? This is going to be really important. A dashboard is just a screen with numbers. How you use that dashboard and how it aids in the expansion of the networks and the expansion of understanding the audience is going to be huge. Along the same lines, 5G is going to really become even more important with all these data points out there delivering information to the system. Having the right data strategy will allow you to prepare for the unknown and be able to make sure your organization is ready for what is for certain coming. Remember: Embrace chaos.

Christopher Hall

Christopher Hall is the Managing Director of the ICX Association. As the former editor of both DigitalSignageToday.com and KioskMarketplace.com, he brings years of experience as a reporter and analyst of the interactive technology space to bear in his role as he works to move the interactive customer experience technology sector forward.

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