A new era of computing is upon us.
The retail industry is driving what is being called omni-channel behaviour. Whereas in the past we might have thought people would shift completely to interacting on either physical channels or digital channels, the trend is now both at the same time. In the retail arena, people are surfing for information and opinion about products on their smart devices whilst browsing in stores. This might be on a store’s website or more likely elsewhere on the social media space. This presents an opportunity for very targeted and personal interaction with the consumer. Understanding the context of the customer in terms of where they are, data you know about them, and what is going on in their environment – creates a valuable data set that can enrich the transaction (either physical or digital) that the customer wants to make. Simple examples include pro-actively sending a discount coupon for a purchase.
We are at a new tipping point in our demand for rich features from the systems that we engage with. There is a confluence of technology that when combined can create some powerful architectural capabilities. Combine this omni-channel behaviour and the empowered consumer’s expectation of technology, we are driving a new generation of IT systems. Systems of Engagement will be designed for real-time collaboration of knowledge equipped users across a variety of devices integrating seamlessly with the traditional Systems of Record.
In the same way that Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) was the key enabler for delivering effective Systems of Record (SoR) the Omni-channel Architecture (OCA) will be the key enabler for delivering effective Systems of Engagement (SoE).
Omni-channel Architecture has a number of characteristics. It has the capability to track to great levels of detail the context of the end-user access – the location, motion, who they are, what are their preferences. Technology has now advanced so that insight can be gleaned about the transaction a customer is trying to achieve, on top of the core data needed for the transaction. Omni-channel architecture shapes the scalable software systems that form the basis for business platforms that enterprises can use to develop business ecosystems.
As the Elastic Enterprise informs us, the successful companies during the financial crisis were those that transformed their business and operating models. They scaled their operations by creating ecosystems rather than relying on traditional partnerships and re-seller agreements. They built business platforms that supported automated contractual relationships that have enabled global reach and moved them into adjacent markets.
Omni-channel architectures are just as much about designing channel systems to the API as they are to the User Experience. The “API economy” has emerged as a significant channel revenue stream. Cultivating an operating model and innovating business models around platforms should be part of the strategy definition. The new digital economy API is for OCA as Business Service was for SOA.
Omni-channel architecture is needed to support an enterprise’s potential in developing business platforms. Platforms will offer meaningful APIs, consumer and front-office applications all built around a consistent view of enterprise data across a cohesive set of brand values (i.e. something is consistently free or not free across all channels). By bringing together the features of mobile devices, data analytics, social media integration and cloud computing infrastructure an enterprise can establish a powerful technology foundation. It becomes a change ready infrastructure that can accommodate automated scaling as the ecosystem grows. It exploits novel data combinations that can influence product, service or content transaction processing in the context of the unique end-consumer (human or system).
Systems of Engagement are upon us and stand out enterprise architectures will be those adopting Omni-channel Architecture thinking.