Technology, brands join forces | Inquirer Business

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MDI CEO Myla Villanueva (third from left) is joined inside The Ark—a new retail and banking hub concept by UnionBank—by strategic director of brand architecture firm Bonsey Design Bhavit Bhatt, UnionBank customer experience manager Julian Aboitiz, UnionBank deputy center head for consumer finance and chief user experience officer Ana Aboitiz-Delgado

In these exciting times for digital technology, only “the strong-willed and creative will flourish.”

Such is the assessment of Myla Villanueva, chief executive officer of IT infrastructure and services provider Micro-D International, Inc. (MDI), when it comes to how companies should approach their digital transformation (DX) strategies. The best way to do so, she says, is to combine design, physical space, and a brand’s aspirations—or what MDI has labeled the DX trinity.

“One cannot exist without the other,” Villanueva emphasizes. “For example, if one does design transformation without understanding the brand promise, it is just a technological process. If one does just the physical [space], then it is just user interface or interior design—just an aesthetic exercise. When brand, physical, and design come together seamlessly, a powerful customer experience is at once delivered. That is when a transformative experience happens.”

As head honcho of MDI, Villanueva leads the company as it continues to innovate its IT solutions, its practice for the past 30 years.

The difference, says Villanueva, is that in the past, the company simply provided clients with technological solutions; now it’s all about finding the right kind of tech tools to help companies go digital without losing their brand promise.

“We look at business models and consider brand aspirations, as industries blur into each other. For example, banking is now into technology and connectivity, albeit differently and through financial inclusion, while telcos are now into payments and media,” she explains. “You have fintechs, startups and webscale companies all going after the same set of consumers. Media is converting into hybrid models. It is an incredibly exciting time. Those who don’t transform will fall behind.”

The challenge lies in how companies can integrate their back-end systems with their front to bring their respective brand aspirations to life, says Villanueva, an IT entrepreneur who founded app development company Wolfpac Mobile Inc. and broadband wireless company Meridian Telekoms, both of which have been acquired by Smart.

One tangible example of the effectivity of the DX trinity is MDI’s latest project: The Ark, UnionBank of the Philippines’ newest banking hub which it codeveloped with the IT firm, on Ayala Avenue in Makati City.

Combining MDI’s research—which revealed that people highly disliked queueing in any bank—plus Unionbank’s brand aspiration “to be the leading digital bank by designing a brand experience like a tech company that has a banking engine” (as communicated to MDI by Unionbank president Edwin Bautista), Villanueva and her team came up with a bank branch with a more efficient system, thanks to the help of digital tech.

“One evolution introduced in the Ark was the incorporation of all banking transactions into one touchpoint. Instead of waiting in line, one is met by an ambassador who helps [the client with his or her] deposit, withdrawal, loan or credit card in a very relaxed environment, with transactions completed in no time. Technology enables this,” explains Villanueva.

“The efficiency in time is, for me, very valuable,” she adds. “Doing something that was once a chore, and converting this into something efficient and in a beautiful environment really changes the banking experience.”

It’s this kind of transformative experience which Villanueva advocates as she and the whole MDI team continue to help more companies cope with the country’s evolving business landscape.

She points out one important factor when it comes to tech innovation: humans.

“Look at other innovation pioneers, like Apple or GoPro. Every groundbreaking technology today should take into consideration the human element and interaction and how it complements its surroundings,” she says. “Remember that it is always a human being that is served by that technology. Thus, user experience and value realization must always be the primary [focus].”

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