Portal - March/April 2021

Digital Transformation


By Ray daSilva, IAM Mobility Exchange

Ray daSilva

The January 2021 issue of the Portal magazine may very well become a collector’s item. That issue will be remembered as the last hard copy of the IAM publication that used to physically mail six times a year to 170 countries around the world; delivered to your office wherever you were located. Future issues will still cover the same global distribution network and the same number of times per year, but IAM’s decision to make the inevitable transition from print to digital publishing will make the digital version of the Portal accessible to you any time, on any computer device of your choice, from this time on.

In fact, what you are reading now is the first totally digital issue of the Portal magazine. There will naturally be a few IAM members who will not welcome this latest manifestation of the digital transformation age in their association. There remain many who still prefer leafing through the pages of a magazine and enjoy the creature comforts it brings. I understand the tug-of-war between printed materials and digital media—and there is a good case for each—but I happen to be among those who welcome the innovations and possibilities that digitalization, also called the online leap, brings.

This print-to-digital transition is not the first for IAM; the first one happened a few years ago with the IAM Directory.

Remember the days when IAM published and distributed the eagerly-anticipated Member Directory every year? I’m sure some of you are still holding on to the last edition or two, and still use them. Something like “you’ll have to pry them out of my cold dead fingers” may not be a farfetched thing to say about people’s continued attachment to the massive book of names and addresses. But it’s an attachment to something static, limited, easily rendered obsolete, and always in a hurried need of the next updated edition. What is true and always has been true of printed directories is that by the time they are published, the information has already become outdated. The data that makes a directory valuable changes quickly. There are always new companies to add, permanently closed businesses to remove, addresses and phone numbers to change, qualifications to edit, staff movements to keep track of and record, etc.

In the old IAM print directory, the information was listed in one rigid order—by country and city. The search was one-dimensional. You could call it an annual snapshot in time. That snapshot view might have sufficed when the pace of change was manageable and linear, but the convergence of a number of factors has catapulted us into a new age of accelerations marked by exponential change.

The online successor of the IAM directory came about three years ago with the launch of IAM Mobility Exchange (IAMX). What we now have with IAMX is a robust, fully digital and therefore incredibly versatile and highly accessible universal directory of members and service providers in the moving, relocation, logistics and mobility services industry. It has all the advantages offered by the digital format. IAM member companies edit and update their profiles to reflect the most up-to-date changes and developments in their company. Users can use and share IAMX with anyone nearby or in other places of the world at any given time, on any device. Searches in IAMX are enhanced with filtering capabilities, validated qualifications, and links to resources and reference data. In this age, when speed and instant accessibility are everything, IAMX delivers the information you need within minutes.

Embrace It

I sometimes refer to people who do not manage change nimbly as NIMBL, an acronym for the classic naysayer’s usual response of “Not in my bloody lifetime.” It is true that there are people who think they can run out their work life clock without having to adapt to these changes. It’s one way to approach it, but it’s not a smart option. Not for most of us, anyway.

For most, there is no other option but to adapt—or even better, get ahead of the changes and lead the transition. Acceptance of this age of rapid accelerations starts with an understanding that change is relentless and growing at a breathtaking pace. For those of us charged with the responsibility to guide and lead our businesses, an understanding of the role of technology and how it can be leveraged is not something we can just leave to the young. We, ourselves, need to embrace technology as an ally, and stop fighting it like an enemy.

Now that we have built a firm technological foundation under IAMX together, let’s take a little time to brainstorm where we can go from here.

What If?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are permeating every aspect of our lives. Yes, there are legitimate concerns about personal privacy that must be managed, but what if IAMX could learn from your search, filtering, and connection choices to make your experience smoother and more efficient? What if IAMX could anticipate and predict your needs based on previous interactions, enabling it to present search results that are most meaningful to the way you do business?

Machine learning along with algorithms could automate some aspects of qualification verification, the premise of the IAMX Validation program. If the expiration or review date of a qualification is approaching, the system could learn to link to source data to confirm and make the update automatically. So, rather than a content manager reviewing certain qualifications once every six months or once a year, the system could monitor itself in real time.

Take the Federal Maritime Commission license, for example. The process of review is currently a manual one requiring human review of the license issuances and revocations monthly as the data is published by the FMC. The day will come soon enough when the system will not need manual assistance. If this sounds a bit ambitious, it really is not, as IAMX is already connected directly to more than 50% of its validation sources through direct internet links. The barriers to achieving 100% connectivity are rapidly being eliminated.

Standards and Sharing

IAMX continues to endeavor to become the Universal Service Provider Directory for the Moving and Relocation Industry. Part of that vision relates to establishing IAMX as a standardized, shared industry resource. For the small to medium-sized entrepreneurs that make up the bulk of our industry, sharing directory, contact, qualification, and compliance information with all of their industry colleagues, associations, and customers remains a significant and ongoing effort.

One small address, phone number or qualification change means repeated communication attempts to inform their trading partners, membership associations and customers. RFP responses and approval processes require redundant provision of information, documentation uploads and form submissions.

Financial tech solutions like Plaid make it possible for banking information to be shared across different platforms, eliminating inefficient processes. Here is one example. A person applying for a mortgage or business financing is usually required to submit three months’ worth of statements from each of their bank and investment accounts. If you have multiple accounts, this used to involve a lengthy task of collecting, copying and mailing. Then it changed to collecting, scanning and uploading. And then, to downloading and uploading. There have definitely been improvements, but it’s still a chore to submit all the requirements. Now, with Plaid, organizations can connect with financial institutions to access documentation through secure, standardized connections. What used to take hours has become a five-minute exercise to authorize credentials between the user and Plaid.

IAMX has already laid the foundations for the use of such technology to improve efficiency between member companies, but as we have mentioned so many times before, technology is not the biggest challenge. Changing mindsets—including overcoming suspicions and inaccurate perceptions—requires leadership and a conscious decision to choose collaborative leverage over competitive advantage.

If you are not ready to fully embrace the changes, at least keep an open mind about the benefits of digital transformation. We can start right here, right now by giving this first digital issue of the Portal the open mind it deserves.