• Sun. Nov 29th, 2020

Dimancherouge

Technology

Innovation Inc: Walmart’s AI vendors, Securus Tech’s digital overhaul

We often highlight stories of digital overhauls that enable faster business growth, deeper operational cost cuts, and more seamless interactions with customers. 

But there’s another component to transformations, too: reputation. 

Walmart, for example, is investing heavily in technology, both as part of its epic battle with Amazon for retail dominance and from a desire to be viewed as a software behemoth. The company works with a slew of outside vendors, but is developing many of applications in-house, as well — like its recent express delivery option. The overhaul is so robust that some Wall Street analysts believe Walmart’s stock should be treated more like that of a tech company.

In the case of Aventiv Technologies — the parent-firm of prison communications company Securus Technologies that’s backed by billionaire Tom Gores — new CEO Dave Abel is relying on a digital overhaul to rebuild a tattered public image. 

Securus has faced heavy criticism over the past few years for the costs it charges prison inmates to use the services, which lawsuits allege is sometimes as high as $15.99 for a 15-minute call. But Abel is promising sweeping changes and Securus poured an additional $30 million into its tech budget — on top of the $50 million it already spends annually. 

“We believe that the incarcerated community is worthy of the investment of capital. We believe they’re worthy of technology,” Abel told me. “Part of our transformation has been convincing and demonstrating to the leadership of our company and within our company that digital transformation has the opportunity for us to refocus personnel in the organization to create greater value.” 

Abel says the company reduced the average call cost to 15 cents a minute, a 30% cut from earlier rates, and it provided 26 million free calls during the coronavirus pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped some customers from spending hundreds of dollars a month to talk to family members.

Below are a few other stories that you may have missed from the last two weeks. As always: If you’re interested in receiving this biweekly newsletter and other updates from our ongoing Innovation Inc. series, please be sure to sign up here.

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