When I moved to a new home, I used a telecom provider’s website to set up my new account and order the configuration of my new cable TV and internet equipment. The equipment arrived quickly, but setup was complex and, I soon learned, would require a technician. Further, they didn’t configure my service package properly. Scheduling a technician and sorting my service agreement meant venturing deeply into the world of this telecom provider’s support services.
The killer part of this experience is the long-term fallout resulting from careless data management and the automatic opt-in to a marketing program I didn’t want to be part of. They misspelled my last name as “Frickle” instead of “Fricke.” Worse, I began receiving junk mail and telemarketing calls with my name spelled “Frickle” from companies they sold my information to! I was not a happy customer, and this was the exact opposite of what I’d consider an optimal customer experience. Unfortunately, until recently, this type of experience was all too common.
The 2020s: The decade of demand for superior customer experiences
I believe that the 2020s will see a dramatic increase in the quality and sophistication of the services provided to enterprise customers. The companies that become leaders in their respective industries will be those who delight their customers in new, unexpected ways. We’ll see greater emphasis on the ease of customer engagement and feedback. More resources will be devoted to product and services research. Upgrades, add-ons and replacement offerings will all be tailored to a customer’s preferences.
I expect that customer experience in the 2020s will involve fewer misdiagnoses, fewer errors, faster or even preemptive fixes, and heightened focus on customer privacy and confidentiality.
All of these exceptional customer experiences will be powered by IT, specifically data and applications. And the data and applications required to deliver these experiences will reside in a variety of locations, platforms and software stacks — in other words, multicloud environments.
Innovation opens doors to leadership
Ongoing innovation in cloud technologies along with new operating models will open opportunities to lead the charge to high-quality engagement and superior business results. Multicloud is at the forefront of architectural consideration, driving a new level of strategic flexibility, agility, economic optimization and access to innovation. Gartner believes multicloud will be the dominant IT architecture for the 2020s; analysts expect more than 75% of midsize and large organizations to have adopted a multicloud strategy by 2021.
Processing of the right data at the right time
Much of the discourse on multicloud revolves around public and private cloud connectivity, container infrastructure, integration and management at the infrastructure level. Certainly, these levels of the stack are critical and ongoing innovation is a good thing. But most multicloud discussions leave out the higher-value layers of the stack, namely data and applications deployed across these multiple clouds and back into data centers. New operating models such as DevOps, DevSecOps, multicloud-as-a-service deployments and system reliability engineering practices extend up the stack into these domains. In fact, at these layers, these operating models are fundamental to successful IT, customer engagement and business results.
Why is it so important that applications and data be integrated in multicloud IT? Because good customer experiences, and the intended business results, depend on the management systems, data stores and applications where the business is codified and intelligent processing is executed.
What is multicloud integration and what is its value?
Cloud computing has further decentralized and dispersed the applications and data that a business is based on. The Internet of Things (IoT), 5G and edge computing have furthered this trend to the literal end of the world and beyond. This diversified set of platforms, deployment patterns, operating models and locations of data and applications requires a multicloud integration approach. By bringing together the right applications and data, at the right place in the right business moment, businesses deliver the best customer experiences and business insights.
The solution to these integration challenges may be to combine integration-platform-as-a-service (iPaaS) to supply the connectivity required at this level of the stack along with API management to manage the diverse interfaces that are the integration endpoints. Further, according to Gartner, you must address these four areas:
- Personas (constituents): Integration specialists, ad hoc integrators, citizen integrators and digital integrators
- Integration domains: Application, data, B2B and process
- Endpoints: On-premises devices, the cloud, mobile devices and IoT devices
- Deployment models: Cloud (potentially across multiple environments), on-premises, hybrid (cloud and on-premises) and embedded in IoT devices
Gartner predicts that by 2022, at least 65% of large organizations will have implemented a multicloud integration platform to power their digital transformation. This means that in the relatively near future, many enterprises, and even mid-market companies, will be stepping up their edge-cloud-on-premises integration game to advance the speed and reach of their business and customer engagement capabilities.
The applications and data supporting the business are in a variety of IT environments, from public to private clouds and from your enterprise out to the IoT and across your value chain. Hence a multicloud integration strategy and execution are critical to customer experiences and business results. Optimal timing (the right data, right processing, right business moment), cost (efficiency and speed of delivery), agility (ability to change quickly) and quality all are characteristics of a great customer experience and well-run value chain built on hybrid IT and multicloud integration.
What should you do?
All businesses experience process bottlenecks and error-prone choke points. These bear assessing to understand why and how IT in general and, more specifically, integration of applications and data across your value chain, might alleviate these pain points. Examples of these pain points include:
- Customers and prospects have a complex set of automated steps to navigate through phone interactions to get answers or reach a live person; worse, they must enter data more than once
- Surprise inventory stockouts
- Errors and inconsistent customer data available to different applications and customer touch points
- Price and offer arbitrage openings across channels to the same customer or partner
- Long cycles to get business results, customer trends and insights to decision makers
Any of these can impact the quality of your customer and stakeholder experiences along with the ability to optimize your business. Gaining a deep understanding of causation and potential solutions across technology and operating models gives a business an advantage over competitors not engaged in maximizing customer experience.
- Identify business process pain points holding you back from top-notch customer experiences.
- Craft a vision and a design of what your ideal customer experiences would be.
- Identify the IT applications, data, infrastructure and integration points supporting these processes.
- Assess the supporting IT surfacing the technical work required to implement this new customer experience vision.
- Design a modernized IT.
- What remains in a private setting?
- What moves to a public cloud?
- What moves to a cloud native model?
- What integrations are required and what integration architecture best supports that?
- Design DevOps process, tools chains and training program
- Implement in stages
- Use DevOps processes and tool chains to drive implementation and continuous innovation.
Addressing customer experience pain points with these methodologies and technologies can lead to stronger relationships with your customers, value-chain partners and others in your industry. Had my telecom provider leveraged multicloud integration on modern deployments, I would have received my equipment quickly. It would have been easy to set up. And once installed, the configuration would have been correct. People wouldn’t have manually mis-typed my name and information from the web application into the CRM, and it wouldn’t have been so obvious that they sold my information. In an integrated multicloud world, I might have been a delighted customer.