Being Flexible and Scalable
Simply put, everything is becoming technology and everything is integrated to everything else. There are very few areas remaining any longer which can be described as point solutions. The implications are that it is very easy to become clocked by complications and dependencies. Release cycles become longer because testing is longer to make sure everything works with everything else. Deals and risks are increased in complexity and the infrastructure operations team needs to be masters of everything, both on premise and in the cloud. All of this, when the demands of the business are to go faster, and to not mess anything up. Now do this globally.
Any solution we consider moving forward needs to be created and offered with these challenges in mind. Flexible architecture, scalability and integration accelerators are key. It goes without saying, but it must be said anyway, that security protocols must be flawless.
Technology providers also need to evolve. Nobody has time to teach solution providers what their business is all about—they need to come prepared and be thoughtful about how their solution might achieve a meaningful difference in a sea of point solutions. In fact, they should not even bother offering point solutions—they should partner with others or become a part of larger eco-systems that are already integrated together to provide business value. What I am talking about is rare, but when we see the odd technology provider that “gets it,” we leap at the opportunity to make something work and they become long term partners. It takes time and investment to “know us,” but we simply don’t have time for those that don’t.
“Brick and mortar is merging with online and digital omni-channel commerce is not only an opportunity, but quickly becoming a requirement to retain market-share”
Comprehensive Data Integration
This is still on our never-ending bucket list, what we understand very well is that there are no shortcuts. Customer data is critical to any organization and it must be handled with extreme care and with systems and governance policies that are capable of evolving as quickly as this data evolves. It’s easy to begin collecting customer data, it’s another thing to care for it properly, and yet another thing to leverage it. It’s critical for the CIO to be concerned about the protection and governance of this data, because few others will and data compromises are too costly. It’s a tricky thing, as you even need to worry about customers who have been hacked elsewhere, and defending against attackers that are now using legitimate customer credentials to impersonate our customers. In other words, we need to not only protect our systems, but need to protect customers who have been less careful with protecting themselves elsewhere. That’s part of the admission price for engaging on the digital front with our customers.
Staying One Step Ahead of the Rest
Flexible architecture that allows for global scale and local customization will give companies a competitive edge. Easily said, hard to do. More specifically, our industry (retail) is going through a fundamental business model transformation. Brick and mortar is merging with online and digital omni-channel commerce is not only an opportunity, but quickly becoming a requirement to retain market-share. This involves many technology components and it is critical to choose the platforms and architecture carefully so that flexibility is a core attribute of the technology. This includes choice of Ecommerce platforms, payment and loyalty systems, identity management and data architectures. New integration technologies that are becoming available will also help provide a competitive edge.
Communication and Collaboration Is Critical
Within the enterprise, there are several key solutions still missing that would make our jobs much easier. The first area is what I would call collaboration and communication tools. Everyone still has too many meetings, too much email, too many sources of information, and despite that…too little communication and collaboration! This challenge is amplified when teams are distributed globally (which is necessary for other reasons). If we solve this, we might solve world peace. Joking aside, it’s a massive pain point. To do great things, communication and collaboration is critical and the available productivity solutions in the market don’t yet cut it. The second area is related to the first: portfolio management, resource and roadmap planning. What is available is either too complicated to use and maintain (so the tools always get abandoned after set-up), or nothing is sophisticated enough to manage all of the facets and people involved with these projects, especially in the area of dependency management. The default that 80 percent of companies adopt is to abandon the complicated programs and just do this with whatever the project leads are comfortable with. Not consistent and certainly not ideal.
There are multiple trends affecting our business, but two which stand out in a big way: personalized digital experiences, and omni-channel commerce. Everyone knows that retailers are collecting information from their customers—what they buy, how often they come in, what digital and physical behaviors they exhibit. Most customers are open to retailers leveraging this data, but only if it is in a non-creepy, value added way. In fact, many are now expecting brands which they frequent often to “know me.” That means sending them relevant and thoughtful communications and offers—not mass communications. Done well, it’s a welcome and fruitful level of engagement. Done poorly and it can end the relationship quickly.
We are all spending more time looking at our mobile devices and in digital channels like Netflix and YouTube every day. Our kids spend staggering amounts of time in these channels. Those are the channels where they need to be engaged by us. These are the new channels of commerce and the new areas where our customers will have a “digital customer experience” with our brand. Making that experience quick, personalized, complete and secure requires that technology teamswork seamlessly with the marketing, operations, legal and finance teams to pull it all together. Most of this must be orchestrated by the technology team, so fundamental evolutions in the leadership, talent and infrastructure must occur. Traditional IT structures will not accommodate these critical business model shifts. It’s an exciting opportunity for technology leaders that embrace this.