The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Alexa Gagosz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melissa Bouchard is the CEO and cofounder of Fusion3 Consulting, a technology firm based in Coventry, R.I., that helps businesses shed their reliance on email.
A graduate of Rhode Island College, Bouchard previously served as the senior director of operations for Carousel Industries in Exeter, R.I.
Q: Other than overwhelming inboxes, how can email cause disorganization in a business and for its customers?
Bouchard: Email can be a tool for communication, but it’s a horrible tool for managing requests of any kind in a business.
Think of a business across any sector. At the root of IT departments, customer service, and project management is that everyone is receiving a request from someone else — whether it’s for internal issues or external interactions with customers. These requests come in the form of questions, service inquiries, or some sort of support. Lots of businesses have disjointed systems that are completely run through the use of email where you can’t track where you left off, it’s difficult to track how long it took you to fulfill it, and you can’t really effectively collaborate with others.
Q. So what role does Fusion3 play in helping these businesses?
A. We help implement their entire organization onto a single, unified platform that breaks down a lot of the organizational silos. We do this using the ServiceNow platform, which is a digital transformation suite of applications that helps with workflow. We help businesses with workshopping the product, mapping their needs, development, user testing, and post-production support.
Q. What kinds of businesses are you typically working with?
A. We’re primarily working with tech companies, and those in the energy and utilities sector in and around Rhode Island. But we’ve also worked with retailers, manufacturers, and pharmaceutical industries.
Q. You’re also personally involved with different organizations that promote women in technology sectors. Why is that important to you?
A. This sector needs to be better represented. The gender gap in technology and innovation isn’t a new topic, but when you look around this space, we’re still facing a lot of the same challenges we did 10 years ago. When I look at the majority of prospective and current customers, the big leaders are still largely men. Women might be in charge of a division, but for the majority of tech companies, they don’t come close to making up 50 percent of the decision-makers. Both myself and Lanre Elujoba [the managing director of risk at Fusion3] make it a point to attend and speak at the Women in Tech conference series annually.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you face at Fusion3?
A. The economic conditions are a bit unique at the moment, particularly when it comes to the tech sector. There’s been a significant increase in what people expect for salaries, which is driven by the high demand but lack of talent that’s experienced in this space to support customers. The talent gap and shortage is driving wages above what I would say is the typical market rate in our space. Finding a balance between affording those salaries and still charging a reasonable rate that customers are willing to pay because they are also dealing with inflation has been a challenge.
Q. It seems as though the fears of the U.S. going through a recession are easing. But has product and internal business investment in the tech industry started back up again?
A. I think a lot of companies have still been a bit more mindful in their spending habits than they were previously, and particularly around this region [of New England and in Rhode Island]. I think a lot of folks are still waiting for an official recession, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. We are looking to grow. In the next six to eight months, we’ll be introducing a new technology product that is a bit more positioned to support smaller- and medium-sized businesses instead of just ServiceNow, which tends to cater to larger enterprises. I think that’s going to be impactful for us since we’re also a small business and understand the challenges others our size face.