Technology powered customers are creating imbalances that are changing industries. Competitors and upstarts that can capture the imagination of the customers can knock out the leaders.  The change is fast and unpredictable.

Amazon destroyed many brick and mortar book stores.  Netflix conquered video stores. Uber is wreaking havoc on the taxi industry.  Your agility will determine if you conquer or are conquered.

You should be asking yourself:

  • If a competitor comes out with a new mobile app, how long will it take to keep up or leap frog?
  • If my marketing department invents an amazing new service, how quickly can I implement it?
  • If I acquire a new company, can I integrate it fully into my brand and infrastructure?

Your ecosystem of processes and technology will determine your success

Start with strategic planning

A flexible ecosystem starts at the top with Strategic planning.  The old method of planning once a year is not enough.  Strategic planning must be continuous.  In addition, technology must be part of the strategic planning and not an afterthought. Too often technology is just a consideration of just how and not what in strategic planning.  Without taking technology into account, decisions are sub-optimal

Embrace Agile

Agile is not just for development. Many of you are likely already using Agile to develop but it is also an effective way of remaining flexible in your planning.  Start by prioritizing your business initiatives with respect to customer value and loyalty.  Break the higher priority initiatives into smaller chunks and work at implementing deep narrow solutions.  The idea is to go to market faster with complete yet small enhancements.  Doing so lets you reprioritize quicker because you’re not stuck in a multi-year initiative.

Leverage Existing Assets

Rebuilding is risky and expensive.  Multi-year initiatives to replace many large systems are expensive, in-flexible and often leave you two years later with the same customer experience just running on a newer platform.  Instead, implement a virtual customer model that abstracts existing back office systems from the front office. The abstraction means that you can tie many front office or customer facing applications to the ecosystem without worrying about where the data comes from.  With a proper virtual layer, back office systems can be replaced at your leisure.

Implement Flexible Data Interfaces

One advantage of a virtual centralized customer model is the ability to quickly service new mobile apps.

The battle for customer attention and retention will play out on mobile devices.  Most disruptors will come from competitors mobile offerings because that is the fastest way to get something new and exciting in customer hands.  You need a flexible method of packaging the specific data required for a specific mobile app.  Quickly launching a new mobile app will give you an advantage over your competition.

Hand your keys to the administrators

The final attribute of an agile, scalable ecosystem is the ability for changes to be made by administrators.  Changes that IT makes are typically slow to go to market sometimes measured in months instead of hours.  Runtime configuration covers many aspects of the system. It should be easy to change or add a new centralized business process.  Administrators should be able to collect new information from prospects for a marketing campaign or react to changing regulations by making a field mandatory. Business and scoring rules should also be easy to change so that new marketing programs or product offerings can be introduced quickly.

If your business can react to, or even better drive industry disruption, you will survive in the new volatile economy.  Are you ready?