Rethinking the Customer Journey
Rethinking the Customer Journey
Blending high-touch digital experiences of today’s Omni-channel customers with a service-centric approach to everything a company does yields the perfect recipe for achieving dramatic and seismic-level shifts in business performance - the kind that fuels the creation of new innovative products and services and surprises customers by delivering capabilities that far exceed their expectations.
From creating and delivering new digitally enabled customer journeys to delivering integration platforms that provide seamless access to the company's assets and services, technology is driving the transformation of traditional businesses to deliver new value in a digital era. All of this is bringing about a significant rethinking of how to transform a business to achieve realtime connections with customers.
The new generation customer requires a level of interaction never before envisioned. The implications of this for a company's business processes, and technology ecosystem that enable the connection of any device to any service, and any service to any data asset in a complex economic value chain.
By combining our strategic perspective with hardcore technology expertise, we help companies rethink and transform their underlying business processes and technology strategy to ensure an instantaneous customer experience across channels and across corporate boundaries. We help set the innovation agenda, priorities, and spend levels that are in line with the company's goals and objectives.
TRANSFORMING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
TRANSFORMING THE CUSTOMER JOURNEY
We are a privately held company formed by seasoned executives with deep industry experience. Our primary goal is to achieve breakthrough thinking in how to engage with customers. We believe that achieving this level of breakthrough thinking requires a different way to approach work and more importantly a different way of working together. Above all else, we want to find out the best way for you to engage and interact with your customers and deliver a unique customer experience. Solving problems, be it internal efficiency challenges or finding better ways to engage customers or business partners requires open and honest communication of every situation always keeping in mind that the end goal is to achieve excellence and world-class execution.
To achieve this, requires independent thinking and innovation. To achieve this level of involvement and innovative thinking means that we maintain an environment of radical openness. We encourage everyone who works with us to be both assertive and open-minded in order to build their understanding and discover the best path to exceed our customers’ expectations. In certain cases, we may even help our customers rethink their value proposition always pushing for excellence and constant improvement.
The types of disagreements and mistakes that are typically discouraged elsewhere are expected at at our firm because they fuel the learning that helps us maximize the value we bring to our customers and the societies within which we operate. It is through this unique culture that we produce meaningful work and meaningful relationships.
This Year's Critical Trends
This Year's Critical Trends
If you thought 2017 was a wild ride, then brace yourself for 2018. The year is likely to bring about a whole new generation of technologies and capabilities that will fundamentally reshape our universe. As it is, our personal lives have already been changed by a total and complete digital connection to devices, people, and things. The so-called Digital mesh is no longer a future trend - it's our reality. The way we work, play and live is now synchronized into a digital continuum that cuts across time, space, devices, and relationships that blends real-time contextual information about our behavior, needs, and wants into a personalized experience and unique digital footprint.
Looking back, 2017 will likely be remembered as the year in which technologies that not so long ago seemed too futuristic to be viable, became mainstream.
"More data, faster connectivity, better insight, greater scalability, more immersive customer experiences, architectural innovation, and hyper responsiveness are just some trends that reshaped our views of the future."
But if these change drivers were not enough, Blockchain is radically resetting our views on how we interact, manage assets, control uncertainties, exchange value, and the role traditional institutions will play in a rapidly evolving economic system and global society.
These trends are dramatically altering core business DNA and driving a rethinking of how movements and brands are created. Hierarchical structures are out the door and so are traditional management styles and collaboration strategies. New jobs, new management approaches, a growing millennial workforce, and new digitally-enabled products and services are just some of the areas that are driving companies to rethink their very existence, recognizing that failure to rapidly adapt and change will be fatal.
Disruption across all industry sectors is fueled by innovative technology capabilities. But determining how these capabilities can alter the organization's thinking about what it is and what it can be, requires a different level of thinking at the Business and Tech leadership level. If you don't understand what it means to be digitally driven, how to create new customer experiences, transform your products and services to be hypersensitive to the customer's behavior, and how technologies such as AI, Cognitive computing, IoT, and API management can enable new value creation, you are in serious trouble. Your peers are moving fast and are creating agile problem solving and collaboration teams that are rapidly reshaping their organization's view of tomorrow.
Then there is the fundamental question of value; how does a business deliver value in a new social and economic environment. What role should a business play within their industry's value-chain? Are traditional notions of products and services still valid, or should a new services-based approach be adopted to redefine the organization's strategy, purpose, and value to key stakeholders? In response, many companies rushed to create new digitally enabled products and services that leverage an API ecosystem to provide easy connectivity and leverage. Others aggressively migrated to Cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) platforms in an attempt to gain transformation momentum. Others embraced the Cloud (public or hybrid) as a platform for innovation and disruption.
While these tactics seemed on target, the implications to the organization, the underlying Tech ecosystem, data and back-office processes have proven to be ill-defined or understood resulting in disappointing outcomes in terms of capability, cost, speed, resiliency, and alignment with what the customer really wants.
The theme for this year's insights for 2018, "Rethinking Tomorrow," is based on the belief that companies can no longer afford a transformative approach to redefining their future mission and value. Rather they must be prepared to fundamentally rethink the future role of their businesses across vertical and horizontal value chains, recognizing that this should be based on a deep-rooted commitment to adopt innovative technology capabilities that customers and partners have come to expect. Anything less will disappoint and likely yield a fatal outcome.
"Several favorable drivers are set to fuel greater economic expansion and corporate growth."
A global upswing in economic activity, increased productivity and lower inflationary rates all indicate a favorable future. In the U.S., assuming that new fiscal policies yield a positive effect on corporate spending, businesses will likely improve productivity in line with a moderate increase in consumer spending. Improved economic conditions also fuel investments in startups and disruptors who will place immense pressures on traditional companies to rethink their value proposition, or, create new partnerships with lucrative startups that can help fuel innovation.
As the economy powers ahead, corporations will have to figure out how to manage a new global workforce that increasingly consists of millennials who demand new more flexible work models and more advanced digital capabilities to allow them to work and collaborate globally in ways never before envisioned. The impact of this on Tech spending and resulting innovation will be significant.
Considering projected consumer growth and a general demand for better engagement models, companies will need to invest heavily in new capabilities to a enable a new customer engagement approach - an improved Omni-channel experience, augmented reality, natural language processing, and a fundamental rethinking of the entire digital marketing strategy are just some areas that will undergo significant change.
Our list of 2018 opportunities is by no means all-inclusive. Rather it is meant to highlight the most significant trends that in our opinion are mutually reinforcing and have similar disruptive characteristics.
While Blockchain, cognitive computing, AI and other technologies are enjoying massive media attention, a continued push to redefine and recreate the customer experience will likely be a top priority for 2018. Augmented and virtual reality, video chats, and enhanced mobility will without a doubt enhance the user interface layer and customer experience. However, the impact of delivering these capabilities transcends every aspect of a company's ecosystem, including the basic understanding of what the corporate culture is or should be.
Delighting customers across every engagement point has proven to be difficult. Notwithstanding, it's the customer's experience that increasingly differentiates one brand from another. It's less about the logo, messaging and product and more about transaction efficiency, a seamless experience across all touchpoints and a feedback system that is open, transparent, and shows how the company pre-emptively meets "my needs." The feeling of being connected to a community of like-minded customers makes a difference. Having easy access to content that helps in product evaluation is a plus. Too, fostering a personalized connection helps set the brand apart. But no aspect of the customer engagement will prove to be more powerful than enabling a smooth, efficient and consistent experience across all touchpoints.
To achieve this goal, companies will increasingly focus on creating a converged digital roadmap and operating model that ensures a consistent experience across all channels including the Web, Email, Mobile Apps, Video chat, Social networks, Chatbots, and others. Too, as augmented and virtual reality continues to push the innovation edge and serving up near real-life experiences, companies will need to focus on ensuring a similar in-store experience.
Arguably, in 2018, virtual reality technologies that redefine and enhance the customer experience may start to provide a fully immersive and realistic representation of the real-world that may turn out to provide a better experience than visiting a real store.
AI-based solutions will continue to help transform and personalize the customer experience. Chatbots and virtual shopping assistants that leverage Big data will continue to deliver an efficient and rapid support experience that exceeds a human’s ability to react. Delivering predictive product recommendations, tailored content (including Video), personalized ads based on a customer buying trends or search history, optimized pricing and dynamic structuring of Web and Mobile experience should be table stakes for 2018.
In 2018 we will see further proliferation of AI into every aspect of the workplace. AI coupled with deep learning, predictive analytics, and big data will dramatically reshape how companies react and respond. More than delivering a personalized, dynamic experience, businesses will leverage AI to rethink core processes such as supply-chain, financial management, sales, and operations planning (S&OP), materials requirements planning (MRP) and others. Too, AI is poised to play a significant role in reshaping the IT organization as a whole. AI will eventually take over mundane tasks such as predictive monitoring and incident management, configuration management, and controlling the scaling of computing capacity (storage and processor capacity).
We will also witness significant AI disruption at the workforce level. AI capabilities such as deep learning, advanced semantics, Cognitive and other capabilities will drive the creation of a hybrid workplace, where workers become increasingly reliant on AI to achieve massive productivity gains. This will also result in a significant push to scale-up the workforce to leverage these new tools and capabilities.
By adopting new AI technologies, companies will undoubtedly impact their workforce. Whatever displacement may result, proper planning and training should help transform these employees to conduct newer, higher-level tasks. Nevertheless, the transition will be highly disruptive as traditional work models are reshaped.
Structured and unstructured data originating from traditional transactional systems, IoT sensors, social media, sophisticated customer-facing end-points and other sources will continue to proliferate at exponential speeds. This combined with powerful AI capabilities is set to create a perfect storm unless a comprehensive data management approach is adopted.
As discussed throughout this article, AI will play a crucial role in predicting human behavior and relaying this knowledge to every aspect of a company’s ecosystem – whether this is how content is served, supply-chain is structured or critical MRP decisions are made. Too, increasingly data is used to create new monetization opportunities and deliver new value.
Controls around data ingestion and quality management will be key. And so will the underlying architecture that enables access to core data across enterprise systems and beyond corporate boundaries. However, companies are faced with two critical strategic imperatives: data governance & stewardship and master data management (MDM).
Traditional data management no longer meets the need of businesses that are focused on extracting the highest value of knowledge by evaluating data relationships and deriving analytics that can help steer critical management decisions and the company's critical operations. In response, companies will continue to hire chief data officers (CDO) and data scientists who have cross enterprise responsibility and accountability to ensure data is properly curated, managed and accessed.
Master data management is by no means a new topic. MDM comprises the processes, governance, policies, standards, and tools that consistently define and manage the critical data of an organization to provide a single point of reference. MDM combines elements of data governance, data quality, and data integration to ensure that the right master data is presented to the right system at the right time. Companies have tackled the subject of master data management in a number of different ways. Various approaches exist including pub-sub, federated and others. However, most approaches require some level of human intervention to reconcile master data across various source systems – a process that is often time-consuming and prone to errors.
In 2018, we will likely see greater MDM automation and data discovery. Rather than creating static MDM structures, AI and deep learning will provide dynamic data management that can discover and correct data mistakes before these are proliferated across the enterprise. AI will also help in establishing data relationships and context which will further automate the process of managing data and establishing virtual golden records.
At the heart of any company's, digital strategy lies an API integration layer. In a previous article, we examined the strategies for successfully managing APIs to deliver an integrated customer journey and creating new value-added services by exposing data assets and services beyond the corporate boundary. In 2018, businesses will continue to pursue strategies to create and monetize market facing APIs and deliver new value. More than a strategy to reuse programming objects, the development of RESTful APIs will deliver on the promise to integrate and connect systems and services both within and beyond corporate boundaries. In fact, most modern-day end-points (i.e., Mobile APPs, Web-based portals) and core systems (i.e., ERP, and legacy) should rely on an API integration layer to interconnect.
In contrast to previous integration patterns that were based on a complex web of enterprise service buses (ESB) and SOAP protocols to enable the exchange of structured information, companies will increasingly rely on integration platform as a service (iPaaS) API management platforms to facilitate process orchestration across multiple software systems.
Fast forward to 2018, organizations will likely face a critical challenge in changing the organization's thinking about how it can effectively and securely expose and provide access to digital assets and transactional data that can reshape its products and services vision. Traditional silo approaches to protect and control departmental systems will represent a major constraint.
"In the end, API management will not be a technology problem to be solved but a business challenge to be addressed that requires board level discussion about what the company's long-term business strategy is or should be."
The view should be that everything the company does, whether it's a product, a service, a piece of content, structured or unstructured data should be represented through an API management layer. Increasingly businesses and software development organizations will shift their attention more towards process orchestration than development. By exposing assets and their characteristics through an API management layer, new business process interactions can be dynamically defined.
The adoption of IoT as a critical component of an overall digital strategy has steadily increased. In 2018, IoT will become even more widely adopted as businesses pursue capabilities that go beyond enhancing the customer experience, enabling better data collection or creating new revenue streams. Businesses will increase their adoption of IoT as a critical component of core operational processes. While the trend around smart home products will continue to expand, a significant focus will be placed on leveraging IoT in areas such as manufacturing, logistics and transportation management – the goal will be to adopt IoT capabilities in areas where a significant improvement in operational efficiency and cost reduction can be attained.
New connectivity options such as low-power wide area networks (LPWAN), Cat-M1, and 5G will deliver more efficient and cost-effective network coverage thus enabling connectivity to all types of devices even in hard-to-reach places.
"The greatest challenge will be in defining an IoT platform and architecture strategy for the enterprise."
As IoT becomes an integral part of a company's Tech ecosystem, the challenge to establish a cost-effective integration fabric that ties together devices, applications and big data platforms will become significant. Businesses will no longer be able to afford siloed IoT solutions. Nor, can one-off integration patterns be applied as these eventually constrain integration and become significant long-term tech debt.
Security will continue to be a concern as IoT takes on critical operational tasks across devices and machines. Maintaining devices up to date with the latest software and controls to minimize the risk of security breaches will be paramount. The risks are real as attackers will likely disrupt and paralyze IoT driven systems on a large scale.
While the meteoric rise in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that leverage Blockchain, has triggered massive media attention, traditional and startups are aggressively pursuing opportunities to launch new solutions that use the technology. These new solutions leverage encrypted, distributed ledgers that are managed across a peer network to validate trust, transparency, and accountability of transactions.
The broad adoption of Blockchain, whilst still in its early stages, will significantly redefine how business is conducted and how transactions are managed and validated globally, thereby dramatically disrupting traditional market structures and relationships. Opportunities for disruption can be found in Financial services, healthcare, supply-chain management, payments processing, insurance management and others. The impact of Blockchain technology on traditional transaction-based business models will be significant as the cost of ensuring transaction integrity is challenged. Businesses that depend on brokering transactions worldwide as their main revenue source will be forced to rethink their business models.
We will witness major investments and capital inflows from private equity and institutional investors into startups that focus on creating Blockchain-enabled solutions. Blockchain should be one of the primary agenda items for executive management for 2018. At a minimum, there should be a clear understanding of the impact of the technology and how it is likely to reshape the relationship between stakeholders within, or across an industry value-chain. Too, there should be an initial roadmap that defines adoption and impact to the company's existing business and technology ecosystem.
Cloud computing combined with virtualization has come a long way to modernize the tasks associated with dynamic resource allocation and storage management. However, software defined services (SDS) will go much further to enable elasticity across all core technology components. In 2018 we are likely to see an even greater push for Software-defined wide area networks (WAN), data centers, security services even configuration of entire virtual private cloud (VPC) instances. Considering the dynamic nature of a business and the resulting unpredictability of computing capacity demands, companies will require SDS as a core component of their overall Tech strategy.
AI will take center stage in enabling SDS automation by predictively assessing and configuring services. Dynamic resource allocation and network routing will be key to meeting the needs of the business as it scales to meet customer and core operational demands.
The trend to migrate to SaaS ERP systems as a strategy to retire traditional on-premise monolithic back-office systems will continue. However, companies will increasingly face major application integration challenges. Whether on-premise or Cloud-based, single monolithic systems that are tightly coupled will represent a major hurdle and constraint for businesses that seek to achieve a seamless and converged customer experience across various end-points and channels. This combined with the need to integrate AI, IoT and other technologies that will help create a new, differentiating value proposition will likely be one of the major challenges to be tackled during 2018.
Historically, many ERP projects are still compromised in time, cost and expected business outcomes. Inevitably business will find out that migrating to a SaaS solution does not relieve the organization of making critical decisions about how new processes and structure will have to be implemented to enable a seamless and dynamic customer experience. There is no avoiding the crucial process of envisioning new end-to-end processes such as order-to-cash and plan-to-manufacture (that leverage industry-specific best practices) while injecting critical thinking around how predictive analytics and cognitive can and should impact these processes.
Aside from the natural language capabilities that AI-Enabled ERP systems will provide to simplify traditional data input tasks, the greatest value of incorporating and linking AI to core ERP back-office systems is leveraging big data to dynamically alter supply-chain, MRP and distribution processes and structures.
Creating and consistently publishing original and creative content will continue to be a key strategy to build customer trust and brand loyalty. Content will also continue to be one of the most critical components of a company's digital marketing strategy - customers tend to attach a deeper value to a brand due to visually-rich and interactive messaging which consequently results in higher conversions.
Having a clear content management (CMS) platform strategy and plan should also be table stakes for the next year. Having a clear roadmap that defines how AI will transform the company's content management strategy will be key. AI combined with deep learning and predictive analytics to interpret and dynamically serve customer-specific content will be a key differentiator - predicting customer choices and dynamically serving pertinent content will continue to create significant brand loyalty.
Considering the need to embed content across multiple end-points and channels, companies will need to develop and/or integrate an open content management platform that provides powerful content management functionality combined with an open API layer that allows for cross-platform connections and dynamic content creation - the goal should be to minimize the number of instances of disparate CMS platforms across the enterprise.
Considering the continued trend in digital integration across platforms and organizational boundaries, businesses will face an increased proliferation of Cyberattacks. New approaches to access and expose sensitive data will continue to rise while hackers will pursue new sophisticated Ransomware tactics that could cripple a business. Social engineering threats that exploit human errors will continue to rise.
To respond to these threats and address a growing shortage of Cybersecurity talent, business will increasingly rely on managed security service providers (MSSP) to provide oversight and preemptively manage and mitigate security risks. However, this approach will only be successful if a true partnership exists between internal security teams and MSSPs. MSSPs can provide valuable insight into security threats and offer a rapid response. On the other hand, understanding the vulnerabilities and impact of business process disruption will be a task better suited for internal security teams.
Leveraging AI and predictive analytics will become increasingly useful in user and event behavior analytics (UEBA) solutions. We will witness a further proliferation of solutions and products that aim at analyzing Big data on human behavior to uncover suspicious activity and preemptively trigger alerts.
While technology and sophisticated detection and prevention techniques will reduce the risk of Cybersecurity attacks, increased focus on education and awareness training will further minimize the risk of security breaches. Security awareness should focus on educating users on security threats, vulnerabilities, and techniques employed by attackers.
Cloud services are now a key component of every company’s technology ecosystem. Driven by the increased need for data storage, a shift to SaaS solutions and the need for a more elastic computing capacity that can scale on demand, IT organizations are rapidly transforming traditional company owned and operated data centers to virtual private cloud (VPC) infrastructures.
"In 2018 companies will accelerate the transformation of their core computing environment to leverage Cloud services."
Traditional corporate MPLS network backbones will be quickly transformed into software-defined WAN solutions that are tuned to deliver global, consistent and reliable access to corporate systems and third-party SaaS solutions. Datacenter-centric networking infrastructures that were initially designed to backhaul traffic to corporate hubs will be retired and replaced by connections to service providers that can intelligently route traffic to Cloud-based corporate infrastructures across global regions while providing secured internet access with guaranteed quality of service to SaaS platforms.
Localized infrastructures that enable access to corporate domains will be migrated to hyper-converged computing infrastructures (HCI) that provide a higher level of operational integrity. Companies will continue to leverage Cloud-based infrastructure services such as single sign-on (SSO), to provide uniform access to the corporate ecosystem. The trend to reduce the level of internal “utility services” will continue, thereby transforming the services that the IT organization delivers to be less focused on "keeping the lights on" and more on delivering value-added solution engineering and integration services.
Considering the growth in the Mobile workforce, companies will continue to invest in Cloud-based collaboration services that provide seamless video and messaging capability that enable efficient and effective workforce collaboration.
With the continued proliferation of data (gathered through IoT or social listening) and the need for complex analytics, companies will increasingly rely on Cloud service providers to host sophisticated data lakes that enable real-time and cost-effective analytics and mining. Businesses will need to implement improved processes to manage and control the costs associated with the rapid surge of departmental data lakes.
Cloud services will also play a significant role in enabling new and complex IoT interactions - enabling rapid scaling of both computing and storage capacity will be key.
Next year's opportunities will be significant and impactful. Executive leadership will be faced with having to make tough choices in setting priorities and investment levels. At the same time, businesses will be operating in an environment that is fast-paced, highly competitive, disruptive and unpredictable.
Customers will continue to increase their expectations for connecting and interacting with businesses. To reshape core value, companies will have to invest in technology architectures that will be crucial to delivering innovative capabilities - justifying and quantifying the initial benefits of these investments will be challenging. Yet, companies should resist taking short-cuts and implementing window-dressing solutions that ultimately restrict and constrain the company from reaping the benefits that new technologies provide.
Maximizing and optimizing the connection and relationship between people, processes, technology, devices, and systems should be a primary goal for all businesses. However, achieving this goal and creating a dramatic and differentiating impact on how customers interact with the brand will equally prove to be a complex undertaking mostly because this is not solely a technology problem to be solved. Changing the organization's thinking about how it works, collaborates, creates value while at the same time instilling a relentless passion for delighting customers will prove to be far more difficult.
Ultimately, attracting and retaining innovative talent combined with the need to drive massive cultural change that crosses traditional organizational boundaries will prove to be one of the biggest challenges for 2018.
Anthony DeLima | Principal | Cartenia Group Inc. | firstname.lastname@example.org