Sunday, July 5, 2015

Cloud and the Omni-channel Customer Experience

We are truly living in a connected world.  Today I checked the weather on my computer and paid some bills before checking my email on my phone en route to my SUV.  Once I sat down, my SUV automatically connected to my phone and minutes later showed an incoming text from my daughter, whom I called back via voice command.  She texted me her order for a meal I bought via an app while waiting in a parking lot, and returned home to watch a video she created earlier in the day, by mirroring her phone with the TV.

Impressive to say the least.  Remember NONE of the solutions I used were designed by or bought from the same company.  Yet amazingly they meet my need, to help me make the most of my time.  In our connected world we have the opportunity to always be busy, to cram as much as possible into our daily life.  Mobility, eCommerce, Social Media, Collaboration all let us take advantage of those previously lost moments in time, whether waiting in the car or sitting at the airport.  And at the foundation of all of this technology, which is able to work so seamlessly together, is cloud computing.

While my consumer oriented world is full of neat new toys, the world of retail is trying to figure out how to play a bigger role; not just Retail as in stores, but retail as in producer/consumer interaction including banks and healthcare, automotive and high technology.  I haven't seen a business strategy or talked to a C-suite executive in retail the past three years without the topic of Omni-channel finding it's way into the conversation.  An Omni-channel Customer Experience is a simple concept: the creation of a common look and feel across all channels through which a customer interacts with a company.  Simple in concept, yet frustratingly difficult in reality, but companies know their customers expect a consistent experience.  CIO's know whoever delivers on the promise best has the opportunity to create some daylight as they pull ahead.

Why is omni-channel difficult to implement in a single company yet already a thread holding my personal life together?  The difference is cloud computing.  Each of the solutions I used today was built in the last five years on a cloud foundation.  However cloud continues to prove elusive for corporate America, and for numerous reasons.  There is simply no way to build an omni-channel customer experience and avoid cloud computing, yet focusing on cloud computing won't deliver the experience nirvana either.  It's easy to understand why CEO's to CIO's are frustrated.  It's the enigma of modern IT: all the data, compute and storage one could possibly ever need, and nothing put together in a way that makes it truly useful.  It's the cost of holding on to outdated models content to reap the benefits of one technology generation without considering the next.  Companies today are islands; islands of applications and data if not servers and storage as well.  Data in isolation is almost worthless in today's world of Real Time Analytics and Big Data.  And making it all the more frustrating, you can't hurry cloud, you just have to wait.

Cloud Computing is the single most important technological shift which has happened in Information Technology.  For the first time it's not about a domain, such as the network or data or applications.  Cloud is about everything, from technology to taxes.  Like the artillery shell that's a degree off when fired, those who get cloud wrong will simply miss the mark, measured in cost in the short term, but ultimately measured in customer satisfaction and solvency.


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