Open, Mobile Engagement Powering the Customer-Driven Revolution

The idea of digital convergence is not new. CIOs have been on a quest to create a converged IT environment for decades.

“Convergence is the dream for CIOs,” says Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, a Silicon Valley-based research firm focused on the future of work. “It’s the promise of a 360 degree view of the customers in a fully synched environment that drives them.” Fifteen years ago, this vision might have seemed like a business utopia — now it is within our grasp.

The adoption of cloud technology and the merging of IT infrastructure with telecommunications and consumer electronics have fundamentally changed how companies and their customers interact. “Software as a service enables companies to adapt to change more quickly and to offer a richer customer experience,” Mueller says.

These advances are leading to further innovations, including Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity and complex data analytics that let businesses identify customer trends across all of their data streams. This is humanizing the customer experience and making it possible for a company to give its customers what they want before they even realize they want it, says Harry Strasser, former CTO of Siemens and current executive partner of Digital Convergence, a management consulting firm focused on technology transformation in Munich. And this is just the beginning. The next wave of convergence will be even more disruptive. As assets ownership is superseded by customer ownership, this convergence and digital platforms become an imperative.

Open to agility

Companies have an opportunity today to build on the convergence of these communication platforms to further engage their customers and create efficiencies across their operations. But they need the right internal digital infrastructure to make that happen. Digital enterprises require agility to adapt to the demands of mobile-empowered consumers. There is no point in transforming the top layers of the business when the foundations are cracking under the pressure of old systems like client-server technology and closed software that have been patched together in an (often failed) effort to converge rigid systems. The business can only move at the speed of its slowest support component.

If businesses today want to truly move convergence forward, they need to rethink what convergence means to the business and strip away all unnecessary, clumsy and cumbersome infrastructure protocols and hardware that stand in the way of agility. A key step is the move to an open-development platform, Strasser says. “Having an open-innovation environment is a leading driver of the convergence process because it provides companies with the opportunity to create an ecosystem where multiple players can work together.”

Such environments enable a “publish and subscribe” application-development process built as a set of micro services talking to one another or talking to other applications. In this environment, no single application or developer assumes any esoteric protocols or programming or storage requirements; they are free to adopt whatever platform or programming language that makes the most sense for the ultimate user experience. Such environments enable creation of secure communication and notifications between applications and objects that cannot be readily achieved in a closed environment. They are also more scalable.

Leaders drive change

It’s an attractive vision, but hard to attain, especially for companies established enough to have legacy systems and those complacent with proprietary rules and siloed business units. “For open mobile engagement to work, you must first get buy-in from top management,” Strasser advises. They need to create a new corporate culture that prioritizes open teamwork and collaboration for people and technology. “Without leadership buy-in, this will be a loss-making endeavor.”

Companies also need to work with external players to adopt an open-mobile cadence for their development processes and to tap into the expertise of those who understand how to harness the benefits of open engagement for better customer engagement. One common practice for larger firms looking to establish a more nimble technology infrastructure is to launch accelerator programs whereby they work with smaller vendors and start-ups to jointly achieve innovations.

This kind of transformation, one that requires change in how companies think about and use their technology infrastructure, can be difficult — but those that successfully navigate it will be rewarded with significant bottom-line value and increased customer loyalty for decades to come. It’s thrive with open mobile convergence or die from sclerotic systems.

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