How digital companies are mastering the art of being different
Why businesses are installing codeless application fabric platforms to span their enterprise; to personalize their customer experience and drive out the final bastions of human-in-the-loop process wastage.
Differentiated experiences customers notice
It’s about the small things. The ease at which, as a customer, you can apply for a loan, register for a service, pay a bill. These are characteristics of ‘the craft’ of running a digital business that sets businesses apart from their rivals today.
For the most part, the customer experience improvement agenda has shifted from the very front-of-shop to the no-mans-land space that resides between websites and back-office systems that power common core business processes.
Note: There are some exceptions to this rule. 3D visualization of products is one of those; where customers today, in search of a richer online shopping experience, are finding value in solutions that empower them to personalize their own products using powerful 3D imagery and thoughtfully designed product feature selection journeys.
Read how firms are using 3D to drive customer engagement here.
Applying technology innovation to marginal gains theory
It’s about what Dave Brailsford (the coach that took the British Cycling team to Olympics success and, in doing so, made history) called marginal gains. This means bringing attention to detail on the customer experience that applies ‘1% improvements’ to every nuanced step of the customer experience. This, to ensure that customers can find and get to what they want faster, simpler, better.
Some examples of this? How about offering customers the ability to use their Facebook and Google accounts to register for a service, providing a voice bot to answer questions without asking customers to type anything into a form, or giving customers the ability to track delivery from order placement to the door!
As mentioned, while the focus of the customer experience started with swishy websites and intuitive landing pages, competition has driven customer experience into the back office nowadays. The challenge for some organizations is that more often than not, back-office processes are powered by slow-burn enterprise IT systems or, worse still, spreadsheets and SaaS tools that aren’t good bedfellows.
What is a Customer Experience Strategy? Learn more here.
The battle to out-innovate competitors
What we’re seeing presently in some industries — like financial services and retail — could be best described as a digital innovation gold rush. There are so many places where new forms of digital technology can fashion a small improvement that capable firms are employing internal fast-track tech teams to grab fistfuls of this new goody bag of tech to start eradicating human-in-the-loop process steps.
While there’s no lack of enthusiasm in these teams, areas to improve, and no shortage of tech to innovate with, there are challenges. These mostly originate from leadership teams uncomfortable with change, officers that might be viewed by some as conflicting priorities — such as to protect the business continuity risk profile of the business, and the time immemorial cultural and behavioral barriers that hamper any enterprise change.
Fusion teams are displacing DevOps teams to upscale digital innovation in the enterprise. Learn more here.
Another drawback to innovating customer experience in the back office is how data and processes are managed today. As dev teams look to gather existing and third-party data together, they frequently discover that data quality is not what it should be in enterprise IT. Furthermore, a splurge of new SaaS tools adopted over the past decade, means there is no unified ecosystem of data in place; no single version of the truth for important data tables that determine organization structures, process designs, roles, policies, user groups, etc.
Customer Data Platforms and Cloud Application Fabrics — the future of customer experience
Where the state of the art in customer experience innovation is moving to a new battleground for technology in the clouds. Digital leaders know they can innovate faster, and show meaningful returns, only when they can truly harness enterprise data to show meaningful improvements. This is causing digital leaders to explore smarter ways to make sense of customer data (learn about Customer Data Platforms here), harvest data; and build applications designed to perfectly fit customer experience needs.
Enterprise Application Fabrics are cloud platforms used to create a unifying digital canvas across your enterprise to the interplay between internal systems and the bigger digital world. These ‘as a service’ cloud platforms leverage data from pretty much everywhere and bring together data management, applications design, and operational governance into a single technology toolkit. The dedicated players in this market, each offering varying stages of maturity include Encanvas, Appian, OutSystems, Mendix, and ServiceNow, with further solution alternatives being provided by the leading enterprise platform providers, including Microsoft, Oracle, and SalesForce.com. The general direction of travel promoted by these vendors is to hyper automate back-office processes and cut operating costs while improving customer experience.
Application fabrics represent a new genre of enterprise software formed around low-code or no-code principles whereupon the design of applications, and much of their deployment effort is augmented without the need for scripting and coding skills. This means applications can be developed rapidly, by small teams of IT and business stakeholders (a.k.a. Fusion teams), and deployed at scale by IT architects. Design look and feel aspects are pre-determined by enterprise IT user experience teams to ensure that applications designers need only focus on the 40% of app characteristics and data dependencies that are truly unique to the app being created.
Adopting an AppFabric for your business is a decision to invest in creating a differentiating customer experience
Businesses are moving to application fabrics from the previous soup of SaaS solutions, slow-burn enterprise core business systems, and spreadsheets to fill and automate the void between websites and delivery systems. They are making a choice to make their processes ‘different’ to competitive rivals, instead of accepting the vanilla process enablement solutions that came before, to make every enterprise work in the same way.
It means that tools such as chatbots, AI-based decisioning, sensor networking and IoT technologies, blockchain, 3D visualization and virtualization, software bots, and other modern digital componentry can be ingested into business processes without major re-wiring.
With the adoption of application fabrics, we could be looking at a very different kind of competitive advantage. Advances in the enterprise architecture like this — that meld data organization with applications design into a single toolkit that spans all enterprise activities — present new agility opportunities for customer experience chiefs. It means they can make substantive enhancements to processes over time, and implement them faster, at a much lower cost of change. Using no-code editing of applications — and fusion teams that harvest ‘how-to’ knowledge from the business stakeholders that really know their subjects — leaders now have the means to constantly tweak every cog in the customer experience until it is performing to its optimum.
Of greater importance perhaps is this: the use of software bots means that every step of the customer journey is recorded as digital data insights that can be used to expose new customer value, buying trends, expose process bottlenecks and shortfalls; to ultimately create smarter, more automated, and more competitive businesses.
Ian Tomlin is a marketer, entrepreneur, business leader, and management consultant. His passion is to help make great ideas happen. Relentlessly optimistic about the potential of technology for good, Ian’s 30+ year career has focused around the intersection of strategy, technology, and marketing. He writes on subjects including enterprise computing and organizational design. He also works as a consultant and advisor to the executive teams of PrinSIX Technologies, Answer Pay, and INTNT.AI, helping to rethink their marketing in order to tell their brand story.
Ian has founded a series of successful businesses including NDMC Ltd (2003), Encanvas (2006), and Newton Day Ltd (2019). He has written books, articles, and guides on brand, digital transformation, enterprise applications, data science, workforce management, and organizational design. He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.