Enabling the mobile enterprise for an omni channel experience

It is now more than business as usual to have Customer Experience start with Mobile Experience. Smart organizations are building “omni channel” solutions to provide a consistent user experience across multiple channels, realizing that mobile may be the starting point of the customer journey. Organizations that have invested in mobilizing employees and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives highlight the move in this direction. While we are seeing a lot of debate around what strategies to adopt in order to complete a successful BYOD or Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) roll out, what remains overlooked is how employee-facing apps, especially mobile point of sale apps, can be built in alignment with the omni channel strategy. The discussion of enabling omni channel experiences on employee facing apps boils down to the discussion of enterprise Mobile Architecture that is capable of delivering a consistent user experience regardless of whether the customer touch point is on a consumer facing app or an employee facing app.

Challenges of providing an omni channel experience
The pivotal capability to provide a consistent omni channel user experience lies in the ability to leverage data from multiple channels, analyze the data quickly and use that intelligence to serve up the user experience. Several organizations are already making rapid changes in this direction, by consolidating customer facing systems into the same technology platform instead of maintaining them as siloed systems. However the challenge seems to be to enable a consistent experience across customer facing channels and employee facing channels.

There is a dominating school of thought that argues that architecture for employee facing apps needs to be different from that of customer apps due to the nature of data that flows through both sets of applications. Another reason for this argument is the difference between security techniques that are used to secure the connectivity between the two different type of apps and mobile backend. However, the more important question here is whether this school of thought is in line with the objective of providing a consistent omni channel Customer Experience regardless of the channel.

As the lines between sales and service continue to blur, and employees use mobile devices to service customers at the store, field, door-to-door or over telephone, the real question is how far organizations will go with the objective of providing consistent user experience with two architectures for employee facing and consumer facing systems. Several enterprises have been using methods that move data back and forth between employee and consumer facing systems to serve up the customers with intelligent and predictive treatments. However, that approach fails to acknowledge the fact that customers move very swiftly between multiple channels including store to mobile, mobile to web and web to store. The idea of moving data between systems to achieve omni channel experience comes at the cost of lost opportunities, because by the time the systems move data, analyze data and are ready to serve it up intelligently, the customer has already completed the purchasing process and moved onto the next area of interest. For example, if a customer checks out a specific product on his or her mobile phone app and then quickly walks into the store, the employee who processes the purchase using the employee point of sale tablet needs to be aware of this customer’s specific interest in certain products, which may not be that easy and straightforward with disparate systems and architectures.

Omni channel is not just about transforming the existing customer facing channels
The point to drive home is that enterprise apps can no longer be classified into two broad categories including employee facing and consumer facing apps. Considering a third category of apps called employee facing consumer-enabled apps helps to look at the problem in a manner that addresses the omni channel requirements within an employee facing app, addressing the security requirements of an employee enabled app. While the industry has made a few steps forward in breaking down the barriers between different customer engagement channels with the focus on omni channel strategy, it is now time to break down the barriers between employee facing apps, customer facing apps, sales oriented apps and service oriented apps. The advent of API management platforms and API analytics now makes it possible to build the omni channel architecture that cuts across employee facing, consumer facing systems, sales and service apps across multiple form factors. When organizations plan their digital transformation exercise, they need to start looking at several dimensions of consistency in user experience and not just limit to rationalize the experience among the existing consumer facing channels. Both consumer and employee experience on current channels as well as future digital channels including connected devices, needs to be considered while organizations go about digital transformation. Organizations that take a narrow approach to omni channel transformation will find themselves in the midst of another expensive transformation exercise few years down the line when the channels themselves start to look different. Again, API management platforms provide the necessary toolkits to extend the omni channel discussion into all these dimensions. What becomes key is how the toolkit is optimally leveraged to address the different facets of the omni channel problem.

The article was originally published on CMS Wire on April 29, 2014 and is re-posted here by permission.

Ansar Kassim

Director of Customer Experience and Global Head of Mobile Solutions, Virtusa. Ansar's areas of specialties are mobile solutions, digital transformation and omni channel transformation. At Virtusa he advises clients on how to leverage existing legacy infrastructure to provide a transformed next generation digital experience to both customers and employees. Prior to Virtusa, he was the Chief Architect of omni-channel transformation for the largest telecom service provider in United States and also spear headed the development of a large self-service mobile app that attracted industry-leading user adoption. Ansar has filed several patents on his name and is now focusing his research on how enterprises can be digitally transformed and is ready for the next wave of changes in technology.

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