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Your Mobile Initiatives Should Really Be OmniChannel Initiatives

It’s hard to walk more than ten steps through the typical enterprise IT cube farm these days without running into yet another team immersed in their firm’s latest mobile initiative. So why do experts like Forrester’s Jeffrey Hammond advise firms to pursue OmniChannel initiatives instead?

In his blog post The Best Way To Develop Mobile Apps? Don’t Develop Mobile Apps!, Jeffrey argues (emphasis added):

“… it’s time we broadened our focus and shifted our efforts toward building modern applications. Mobile apps are an important component of a modern application architecture, but only part of the whole picture.

So what’s a modern application? A modern application is OmniChannel … designed to work across tablets, smartphones, phablets, heads-up displays, automobiles — and, yes, desktops and laptops. They are designed to anticipate new client demands and new methods of interaction, including voice, touch, mouse, and eye tracking. Modern apps may start with a consistent cross-channel experience, but they quickly move beyond that to a cross-channel and a channel-optimized interface.”

Jeffrey goes on in his post to detail five more qualities of modern applications (they are elastic, API-oriented, responsive, organic, and contextual), but I think the most critical mind-shift is to understand why OmniChannel. Executing a mobile initiative is about recognizing that lots of people are using mobile devices, and supplying apps for those devices. OmniChannel initiatives are much more customer-centric:

  • Who do we aim to serve? What are they trying to accomplish?
  • What journey do they take across various touchpoints, including mobile, to accomplish those goals?
  • What capabilities do we need to deliver across those touchpoints to support that journey?

Once you make this mind-shift, you recognize that some of the most critical capabilities you need to deliver are not about mobile per se, but about how all the pieces fit together, such as:

  • Enabling the customer to start at one touchpoint and finish at another, such as click-and-collect (a.k.a. buy-online, pick-up-in-the-store).
  • Retaining all relevant information (context) throughout the journey – never, ever make the customer enter the same information again!
  • Making information actionable everywhere it matters, such as allowing customers to buy from integrated online and store inventory, from anywhere – and this is as relevant to banking as it is to retail.
  • Recognizing that delivering the complete experience the customer seeks can be as much about logistics and delivery as any other part of the process.

How should you deliver these capabilities? The answer is always the same: services. The services (APIs) you build to deliver these critical capabilities as part of your OmniChannel solution are on the critical path to your success. And succeeding doesn’t just mean building a lot of these services, fast. It’s about building the right services, and making sure everyone who should use them actually knows they exist!

Doing this requires that you actually achieve effective service portfolio and lifecycle management (as opposed to just paying them lip service, or throwing technology at them which fails to make a real difference). Talking to our customers who have succeeded at this, using the ignite Service Design Platform, I can see a pattern to their success – they:

  • Build only the right services – which requires effective business-led design governance to guide teams to use shared business services. This saves a huge amount of effort – cutting it by 50-75% – freeing resources to go faster.
  • Make services visible to developers throughout their lifecycle – meaning that teams see that a service they could use is coming as soon as an analyst or architect first specifies it.
  • Organize to effect business-led design, and service reuse – people must be organized differently and follow a different process to achieve the desired outcomes.

Whether you choose to use ignite or not, you should emulate these best practices, using tools that actually help you improve the design stage of your lifecycle. We just happen to think we have the best solution for accomplishing that goal!

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