Making waves: How 4 Chicago companies stay ahead of industry trends

by Alton Zenon III
July 12, 2019

In business and the world of technology, individuality is key. Providing value that no one else in your market can while staying abreast of industry trends is no easy feat. And when those two ambitions are accomplished, a startup can make serious waves that ripple throughout the professional world. We spoke to leaders at four Chicago tech companies to learn how they’re setting themselves apart as innovators in their fields, as well as which trends they’re watching now.

 

Focused Labs team in machine shop

Focused Labs provides a variety of services to enhance its clients’ tech capabilities, which include custom software creation, cloud migration and platform deployment. CEO Austin Vance said using a custom form of DevOps has allowed the company to generate wins for itself and its customers. 

 

How has your company set itself apart as a leader in your industry? 

We apply the same product-driven rigor to cloud migration strategy that clients are already applying to develop their applications. We call this approach product-driven DevOps. It stems from the fundamental connection between how apps are built and deployed. Both are required for an organization to recognize the most value from their cloud investment. Our workshops and process unearth existing applications that are the most valuable to migrate first. We work together to decompose, containerize, and make workloads cloud-native. This ensures that your cloud migration strategy is in service of those priority workloads and can show ROI fast. 

Our success is predicated on treating both application development and the infrastructure they live on as part of the same delivery process. Through DevOps, we continuously release awesome software that both delights end users and brings viability to the business.

The lines will blur between product code and infrastructure, and the industry will refocus on customer and business outcomes.”

 

What do you think will be the next big tech trend in your industry, and how do you plan to stay ahead of it?

Individual developers have a greater responsibility to the products they build and the customers they serve. DevOps has pushed down the walls between the products software engineers build and the customers they serve, but that model involves engineers applying a higher level of craft to both the software they build and the infrastructure they deploy on. Increasingly, the lines will blur between product code and infrastructure, and the industry will refocus on customer and business outcomes.

We know that giving your developers great infrastructure and processes to deploy to is critical. That’s why we treat infrastructure and platform as a product. The users are your developers, and those developers need to have the autonomy to choose, deploy and run the technology that suits the ever-evolving requirements of your business. 

 

CarrierDirect team working in a conference room

CarrierDirect offers strategy consultations and builds custom technology solutions for carriers, shippers and third-party logistics companies in the transportation field. Vice President of Strategy TJ Travelbee said in the future, he expects tech will drive a big shift in the logistics industry. 

 

How has your company set itself apart as a leader in your industry?

Our consultants are known for driving change and solving hard problems. On the tech side, we use our own agile methodology to translate the client’s business models and niches into software that transforms their company.

One of the most compelling aspects of CarrierDirect today is the work we’re doing with integrated service design. By packaging our platform technology with consulting services, we’re providing a new kind of experience and value that our clients have never seen before. 

A winning strategy needs the right combination of model innovation, human-centered design and smart technology decisions.”

 

What do you think will be the next big tech trend in your industry, and how do you plan to stay ahead of it?

We see a big tech trend coming for transportation and logistics, and I would describe it as an amalgamation of several disruptive forces. Taking cues from consumer expectations like ride-share and next-day delivery, there is a lot of pressure for transportation companies to operate at peak efficiency just to keep up. Legacy technology alongside economic forces like driver attrition and fuel pricing can make or break carrier fleets of all shapes and sizes. That’s a big part of why this industry is so ripe for disruption. A winning strategy needs the right combination of model innovation, human-centered design and smart technology decisions. 

 

Strong Analytics team chatting

As a consultancy, Strong Analytics offers companies of all sizes infrastructure and processes solutions backed by data science, AI and machine learning. Co-Founder and Data Scientist Jacob Zweig said staying on top of a newly emergent industry development led to the company creating an entirely new platform. 

 

How has your company set itself apart as a leader in your industry?

We bring custom AI and machine learning solutions to companies in a wide variety of industries ranging from automotive to gaming, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and many more. This breadth of experience gives us a great perspective on where opportunities exist to quickly and effectively change an organization. Whether it’s a six-week proof of concept or a longer term engagement — we quickly help our clients understand how to plan, evaluate and execute as they move from their current state to state-of-the-art.

We quickly help our clients understand how to plan, evaluate, and execute as they move from their current state to state-of-the-art.”

 

What do you think will be the next big tech trend in your industry, and how do you plan to stay ahead of it?

One of the biggest emerging trends in our industry is leveraging dynamic reinforcement learning-based systems that make decisions, and then to act and learn from the outcomes of those actions. We’ve worked with companies to apply reinforcement learning to real-world problems, including one-to-one multi-channel marketing, personalized medication dosing, and ad bidding and buying. The challenges of applying this technology at scale with enterprise customers led us to build Strong-RL — a platform aimed at accelerating the process of developing and deploying robust reinforcement learning-based applications.

 

Palette Software team at dinner

Having worked with names like Deloitte, BMW, Volkswagen and the NCAA, Palette Software offers companies purchase-to-pay automation software and other financial tools. Vice President of Americas Operations Mike Cichy said AI will continue to develop in a way that will further enhance processes for companies, leading to time saved and money earned.

 

How has your company set itself apart as a leader in your industry?

We are providing solutions that automate business processes to meet challenges companies face every day. Our best practice approach employs multiple technologies that allow organizations to transition from paper to electronic data at a pace that fits their particular situation. Our environmentally sound solutions create a reduced carbon footprint by eliminating much of the paper involved in B2B transaction processing.

Second, our cascading matching engine automates the process of routing all invoice data while perfecting the match between product orders — a complex task that eats up resources and is typically done manually. Third is our ability to provide global solutions for clients with international processing centers and multiple enterprise resource plans. Multiple languages, currencies, and tax rules are accommodated naturally  — saving customers the expense of having to invest heavily in customized development or multiple systems.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will evolve to further enhance straight-through, no-touch processing of business transactions.”

 

What do you think will be the next big tech trend in your industry, and how do you plan to stay ahead of it?

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will evolve to further enhance straight-through, no-touch processing of business transactions. As trends are identified, systems will be able to identify and handle complex accounting tasks such as auto approvals and G/L coding. This technology will offer companies additional time to handle more critical business operations and client interactions. That means improved profits and higher customer satisfaction levels.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog9 open jobs
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Dev + Engineer
Operations
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CarrierDirect
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Developer
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CarrierDirect
Chicago
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CarrierDirect
Chicago
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CarrierDirect
Chicago
Developer
new
Strong Analytics
Chicago
Data + Analytics
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Strong Analytics
Chicago
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Focused Labs
Chicago
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Focused Labs
Chicago
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CarrierDirect
Chicago

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