17 February 2016

The Three Pillars of Technology Innovation: are we capable of achieving the omni-channel?

Don’t technology trends feel like they change as fast as fashion trends? You know what I am talking about. Yesterday’s ugly is today’s chic. Orange is the new blue. Even bell bottoms come back every quarter of a century.

Is this a cycle or some type of evolution that bounces between regression and progression?

Computer_Innovation.jpgLet’s take a look at the advance of computing.

I remember mainframes being the pinnacle of technology in the 1970s-80s. Workstations had no processing power because everything was held in the client server.

From the 80s to the late 90s, technology was decentralized with distributive computing. Now the server and the mainframe held equal power. Everyone could share their ideas – no longer was all the information stuck in one individual place.

By the time the new millennium rolled around, we were kicking around the idea of network computers and terminal servers. Let’s make the workstations simple and easy to administer, the IT department said. Doesn’t that sound familiar? We went back to giving the client server all of the computing power.

This certainly didn’t last very long as hardware costs dropped off the cliff. Why buy a network computer that had a peanut for a brain when you could pay 50 bucks more for a workstation with a quad core CPU? Since everything was run browser based, both the server and the client computer again had the same power.

Fast forward to today. I have one word for you: cloud. With the movement to the cloud, we can go back to cheap workstations that run exactly one application: the browser. The cloud is a cluster of hundreds of thousands of servers, and it can host applications that can be displayed on our laptop. So, yet again, the power is with the server and not the client computer.

The Three Pillars of Technology Evolution

At any given time, the current trend is driven by balancing three pillars: business condition, intangible support and tangible/physical support. It applies to fashion. It applies to technology in general. It also applies to customer experience management.

1.) Business Condition: Ideation

Business condition refers to idea conception, industry regulations and cooperation. Simply put, it’s when someone comes up with an idea and is able to implement it with the help of an organization’s resources.

Let’s take the cell phone for example. In order for anyone to bring this idea to reality, they had two choices: they could wait for the software and hardware to catch up or they could run with the idea of wireless communication using the best physical technology available.

Those first generation phones were larger and heavier than a mag light. Motorola may not have brought the concept of convenient handheld wireless phones to life entirely, but the organization made plenty of money being the first.

TableGraphic.gif2.) Intangible Support: Software  

Intangible support is the software, methodologies and computer science that acts as a support to an organization pursuing a better customer experience. It is essential to supporting the other two pillars.

Speech recognition is an example of when software is leading the other pillars. The idea conception, to recognize speech and make the machine more human, is the tallest leg of the table. The software has the capability to bring the idea to fruition, but the hardware is not there yet.

Think about how Siri can recognize what we say. To do this, you must have a mobile connection that transmits your request back to a large data center. It is then interpreted, processed and the answer is transmitted back to your phone. The server is doing 99% of the work; your hardware – the phone – may lose connection or you might use up all of your data. The software is ahead of the hardware.

3.) Tangible Support: Physical Infrastructure & Hardware  

Tangible support is comprised of physical infrastructures. It ranges from furniture to hardware/machinery and networking/internet. It could be computer hardware, mobile infrastructure or internetworking infrastructure.

An example of when the hardware rises above software and ideation is the laptop. We have the latest architecture – quad core CPUs – in our laptop, but this is overkill for the average user who mainly uses their computer for internet, email, and word processing. We are boring our hardware with a lack of idea and software. Everyone wants the best and buys the most expensive laptop with the best hardware and then they fail to utilize it fully.

What height do the pillars have to be to innovate and trend set?

Those three pillars are interrelated, but they can and always will be evolving at different rates. Current trends are formulated when the evolution has brought the three pillars to the same height. Think of the current trend as a table top sitting on the three pillars. If one pillar is taller than the other, the table top will just slide off and hit the floor. Chances are, the three pillars are always going to be different heights. Waiting for the three pillars to reach an equilibrium and place a table top on them is sometimes impossible.

Trends form when trendsetters drop the two taller pillars to meet the lowest pillar, pegging the height of the pillars to the lowest common denominator. Any attempt to form a trend with a pillar shorter or taller than the others will most likely crash and burn.

Modern Omni-Channel Customer Experience – Are all Three Pillars Tall enough?

Omni-channel holds its weight as a buzzword in the customer experience world (no one really knows how it’s spelled). While we formerly communicated in person by phone or mail and then advanced to have self service, chat, SMS, phone, email, web and are now going back to one omni-channel, we are not regressing – we are progressing. This one channel is universal – it connects organizations and individuals around the world. It simplifies communication internally and externally and enhances a customer’s connection with the organization. To bring the omni-channel to life, we merely lowered the taller pillars at any given time to formulate a stable trend: a successful customer engagement strategy.

Now the question of the day…is omni-channel a stable trend? It’s simple. If you know where all three pillars are in your organization today with the strengths and weaknesses in each pillar, you can strategically reach a stable trend, and therefore a workable omni-channel. In the same token, if you over-estimate the status of any of the supporting pillars, the omni-channel strategy will crash and burn.

I will leave you with some food for thought: the intangible support is the shortest pillar today when it comes to omni-channel. Software, services and process in support of omni-channel lag behind concepts, buzzwords, hardware and networking. In order for you to formulate a stable omni-channel strategy, you will either have to be the one to advance the intangible support, or play it safe and lower your business condition and tangible/physical support to meet the intangible support.

So, what is your omni-channnel strategy?

Authored bY

Jeff Kuochan


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