Shift Your Focus from Omnichannel to Opti-Channel

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5/5 (1)

Customer Experience teams are focused on creating a great omnichannel experience for their customers – allowing customers to choose their preferred channel or touchpoint. And many of these teams are aware of the challenges of omnichannel – often trying to prise the experience from one channel into another. Too often we create sub-optimal experiences, forcing customers to work harder for the outcome than if they were using other channels.

I know there have been times when I have found it easier to jump in the car and drive to a store or service centre, rather than filling in a convoluted online form or navigating a complex online buying process. I constantly crave larger screens as full web experiences are often better than mobile web experiences (although perhaps that is my ageing eyes!).

One of the factors that came out in a study conducted by Ecosystm and Sitecore is that customers don’t just want personalised experiences – they want optimised experiences. They want to have the right experience on the right device or touchpoint. It is not about the same experience everywhere – the focus should be on optimising experiences for each channel.

We call this “opti-channel”.

Use an Opti-Channel Strategy to Guide Investment and Effort

This is what you are probably doing already – but by accident. I suggest you formalise that strategy. Design customer experiences that are optimised for the right channel or touchpoint – and personalised for each customer. Stop forcing customers into sub-optimal experiences because you were told to make every customer experience an omnichannel one.

The move towards opti-channel accelerates your ability to provide the best experience for each customer, as you ask the important question “Does this channel suit this experience for this customer?” before the fact – not after the experience has been designed. It also eliminates the rework of existing experiences for new channels and provides clear guidance on the next-best action for each employee.

Customer Experience Insights

There Will be Conflict Between Opti-Channel and Personalisation

The challenge for opti-channel strategies will be to align them to your personalisation strategy. How will it work when you have analytics driving your personalisation strategy that say customer X wants a fully digital experience but your opti-channel strategy says part of the digital experience is sub-standard? And the answer to this lies in understanding the scope of your experience creation – are you trying to improve the existing experience or are you looking to create a new improved experience?

  • If you are improving the existing experience, then you have less license to shift transactions and customer between channels – even if it is a better experience.
  • If you are creating a new experience, you have the opportunity to start again with the overall experience and prove to customers that the new experience is actually a better one.

For example, when airlines moved away from in-person check-in to self-check-in kiosks, there was an initial uproar from customers who had not yet experienced it – claiming that it was less personal and less human. But the reality is that the airlines took the check-in screen that the agents were using and made it customer-facing. Travellers can now see the seats and configuration and select what is best for them.

This experience was reinvented again when the check-in moved to web and mobile. By turning the screen around to the customer, the experience actually felt more human and personal – not less. And by scattering agents around the screens and including a human check-in desk for the “exceptions”, the airlines could continue to optimise AND personalise the experience as required.

Opti-Channel Opens Many New Business Opportunities

Your end-state experience should consider what is the best channel or touchpoint for each step in a journey – then determine the logic or ability to shift channels. Pushing customers from a chatbot to web chat is easy. Moving from in-store to online might be harder, but there are currently some retailers looking to merge the in-store and digital experience – from endless aisle solutions to nearly 100% digital in-store. Some shoe and clothing stores offer digital foot and body scans in-store that help customers choose the right size when they shop online. And we are beginning to see the rollout of “magic mirrors” – such as one retailer who has installed them in fitting rooms and you can virtually try different colours of the same item without actually getting them off the shelf.

Businesses are trying to change customer behaviour – whether it is getting them into stores or mainly shopping online or encouraging them to call the contact centre or to even visit a service centre. Creating reasons for why that might be a better option, while also providing scaled-back omnichannel options is a great way to meet the needs of existing customers, create brand loyalty and attract new customers to your company or brand.

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Welcome to the Great Bounce Forward

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As economies around the world are beginning to recover from the recessions and slowdowns caused by the pandemic, we are beginning to witness, what I like to call, the “Great Bounce Forward”.

Why the Great Bounce Forward? Because too many businesses, journalists and economists are talking about businesses “bouncing back”. But there is no bounce back. We are bouncing into the “economic unknown”. The trading conditions we see today are nothing like what they were at the beginning of 2020. While many people refer to the “new normal” I have heard few talks about how they are or will benefit from these new market conditions.

Bouncing back may not be relevant as we negotiate the economic unknown – it is time to evaluate how we can bounce forward!

Leaping Ahead Through Digital First

Customer interactions have changed – digital-first is now a requirement – and many customers expect a personalised and optimised experience. Many companies are starting to personalise experiences today – thinking they are “delighting customers” through personalised transactions and journeys. But you don’t delight customers by giving them what they want – you disappoint them if you don’t offer a true personalised experience.

Digital changes are coming thick and fast. For example, Australia Post has announced that online sales are currently 20% higher than what they were at the previous highest peak in December 2020. Yes – much of Australia is in a lockdown, but online sales are dwarfing what they were during lockdowns in 2020.

But it is not just about offering online sales. In the digital world, customers now expect to be able to track packages, get alerts when they are delivered, and have access to easy and free returns. Again – if you don’t do this today, you are creating poor customer experiences and are most likely losing business to those that offer great experiences.

Here is what organisations are witnessing:

The need to evolve their CRM solution. Salespeople expect the CRM to give them insights on who to sell to, why to sell to them and what approach will work best. CRM systems that don’t provide this analysis are letting businesses and salespeople down.

Analytics has to be turned into actions. More businesses are telling their analytics partners to stop telling them what to do, and just do it! Automating the outcomes of BI and analytics is beginning to be expected.

Ease of use has become essential. Interactions and processes need to be intelligent and easy to automate. We no longer throw teams of people at challenges – we automate the outcomes and use technology to deliver entirely new experiences without teams of employees pulling strings behind the scenes.

Process and technology changes happen quickly and seamlessly. We have been taught this by Zoom, Microsoft, AWS and Google. If you aren’t doing this today, you are behind the market and behind the expectations of your employees and customers.

Ecosystems are emerging to enable this agility and innovation. We can now innovate with a growing range of partners. Companies can partner for a single sale and move on. Start-ups are being embraced by dinosaurs, and competitors are becoming partners. More companies than ever are involving their own customers in their innovation processes. Ecosystems are changing the ability of technology and business teams to offer new and improved services to customers and employees.

Customer Experience Insights

Time for a Shift in Organisational Culture

Seemingly, the world changed overnight. But many of these changes have been in the works for years. It just took a global crisis to highlight how important they are and how much organisations need to change to embrace these opportunities. The only thing holding businesses back from thriving in the Great Bounce Forward are their people and culture. If you can embrace these changes, your businesses will move forward and emerge as different companies to the ones that entered the pandemic in early 2020. You’ll be more open, agile, innovative and digitally aware. You’ll be able to move in new, unheralded directions, driving improved customer, shareholder, or citizen value.

So stop thinking about how your business will bounce back. Make plans for it to bounce forward into the unknown.

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Will Foldable Devices Go Mainstream?

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As a technology analyst – primarily focused on how businesses use tech-based solutions to improve the customer and business outcomes – it is important to look across to the consumer tech world every now and then. Consumer trends end up driving many business technology initiatives. To that end, I keep one eye firmly on the mobile device segment – as consumer devices are the same devices that end up in businesses (as BlackBerry discovered the hard way!).

Samsung Device Launch

Samsung just launched their third generation of foldable devices – the Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 (both 5G devices). The VERY clear message that Samsung gave through the pre-launch content and launch event is that foldable devices are no longer a niche segment. Samsung expects them to go mainstream over the next 12-24 months. They made some significant changes to the pricing and availability of their new devices to get them into more stores and retailers, to put them in front of potential buyers. They also reduced the prices by 15-20% (although they are still premium devices). By adding pen support to the Z Fold3 they indicated that this is their new “hero” device – (allegedly) taking the place of the Note series in Samsung’s line-up.

Samsung has made changes to make the phone more acceptable to the mass market – making it more durable, introducing IPX8 water resistance, improving speaker and sound quality, improving the brightness of the screens, and removing the “camera hole”. But some of the biggest changes have come in the software. They provide an experience that is designed for the larger screen – not just taking the existing content and stretching it. They have also taken an idea from Samsung DeX and introduced the ability for all apps to be stretched to the larger screen. While this is not a perfect solution, it works pretty well in the DeX world – and I’ll reserve my judgement on the Z Fold3 until I have some hands-on time with it.

The Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users. The price is very similar to the iPhone 12, and it is a well spec’d device with a large screen but a small form factor when folded. It needs to rely less on software to make the form factor usable but has a few tricks that will appeal to teenagers in particular (such as the ability to do a video call with the phone partly folded).

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 appears to be targeting iPhone owners along with premium Android device users

Samsung Should Witness Strong Growth of these Devices

So will we see more foldable phones over the next twelve months? Samsung has gone a long way to (a) get more foldable phones into the hands of consumers, and (b) make that experience one that they recommend to friends and family – which was an issue with previous generation devices. Consumers who tend towards the “hero” device will be more tempted by this phone than ever before. Some previous Samsung Galaxy Note move to the Z Fold3 – others to the Galaxy S series. We will even see some Apple users make the switch towards Samsung to take advantage of the big screen on the Z Fold3 or the smaller form factor of the Z Flip3. Every iPhone user who is also carrying an iPad is a target for the Z Fold3 – they are (a) used to spending a lot of money on a device (b) already lugging around a lot of hardware.

So while it will be a slow burn to get the penetration of foldable devices higher, I believe Samsung has got close to the sweet spot. And while I don’t expect Apple will release a foldable device this year, if Samsung is successful, we can expect their development efforts to ramp up for a future device next year. And maybe it won’t be what we expect (maybe a foldable iPad mini?). But as batteries get smaller and more powerful, flexible screens get more durable and demand for larger screens continues, it feels like the opportunity for foldable devices will only continue to grow.

Samsung Product Journey

Enterprises Need to Prepare for Foldable Devices

This is important to enterprises:

  • Users with foldable screens will be your customers – they will expect an experience that takes advantage of the extra real estate. This might be a shopping app that has the items on the left and the cart on the right, or a transport app that has a map on the right and information about the transport services on the left; and
  • Your employees will bring these foldable screens into your business – and you will want them to use their devices to help them do their job better than they do today.

As discussed in my previous analysis when the original Fold was released – any employee that uses a tablet now could be a potential foldable device user. These might be truck drivers, warehouse employees or information workers. There may be an opportunity to save money and buy just one device for your employees – not two. Or there may be a business case to improve the user experience with a foldable device.

Samsung Should Seed the Foldable Developer Space

My advice to Samsung is to seed the development of Android apps that take advantage of foldable devices. Put a fund together that developers can access to improve the performance and experience of apps on foldable devices. Also, share knowledge between developers on best practices and shortcuts to make it easier to take advantage of this extra real estate. And understand that creating an app that works well on foldable devices is not a one-off activity. Microsoft originally gave money to app developers to create apps for Windows Mobile devices – but these apps were never updated and soon looked dated compared to their iOS and Android counterparts. So provide continued funding until the percentage of foldable devices reaches a tipping point and developers are incentivised to create apps for foldable devices because a significant proportion of their customers own foldable devices.

Experience Economy
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Global Systems Integrators Play Catch Up in Cloud and AI

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Over the past year we have seen global systems integrators (SIs) – Accenture, IBM, Deloitte, Fujitsu, Capgemini and others – make many acquisitions, particularly in the public cloud, AI, cybersecurity and data space. Much of the growth in spending over the past few years have been driven by these categories: in 2020 if a software company was purely or mainly SaaS, they are likely to have witnessed strong growth. If they were on-premises software, they were lucky not to see declining revenues. While it is normal for the larger SIs and consultants to play catch up through acquisition, it is becoming harder for them to gain traction in these new areas.

Technology Shifts Drive Market Fragmentation

With every technology-driven business change new SIs, consultants, and managed services providers emerge. It happened with the move to big ERP systems, the move towards Business Intelligence, the emergence of SaaS etc. But I think we are now seeing something different. More than just the smaller players going after opportunities earlier, I believe we are seeing a changing buying behaviour from tech and business buyers – a greater willingness for larger enterprises to give their most important, business-critical strategies and implementations to smaller, less established players.

And I am not suggesting that the larger SIs are not performing well. Many are growing at 10-25% YoY – but at the same time, many are also growing at a slower rate than the markets they play in. The Ecosystm RNx for global IT services and consulting providers shows that the global providers continue to power ahead. But they need to adapt to changing market conditions.

Top-10-Global-IT-Services-Consulting-Company-Ranking

New Cloud/AI Partners Winning Consulting and Implementation Deals

We have seen a new community of partners emerge with tech changes, such as the hyperscale cloud platforms and AI/machine learning tools. Traditionally, these companies would be good at one thing – and would learn slowly. For example, in the SAP ERP growth period, the projects were large and long. A single, mid-sized SI might only be working with 2-3 clients at a time. Therefore, the IP that they collected was limited – and they would find themselves with focused or niche skills. The large SIs had done many large, long projects across the globe and had much best-practice IP to call upon, giving them a broader and deeper knowledge of the technology and industries.  Smaller providers had limited IP and industry experience.

But in this cloud and AI era, specialist providers work on hundreds of smaller projects with dozens or hundreds of clients. With the technology constantly evolving, the skills are constantly improving. While the global SIs are working on many cloud and AI engagements, they are often part of longer engagements – giving the consultants and tech teams less exposure to the new and evolving cloud platforms.

In a world where technology is changing at pace, the traditional global SI practice of “learning from peers across the globe” doesn’t happen at the pace the market requires. By the time your peers in the business have completed a project, documented it, and shared learnings, the market has moved on and technology has changed. Today it is easier and faster to learn directly from the tech vendors and cloud platform providers and their training partners.  The network effect of knowledge in a team on the opposite side of the globe for a global SI is less valuable to clients. Often the smaller and mid-sized SIs have a deeper, broader knowledge of the technology platforms and toolsets than the larger providers – giving them a competitive advantage. For example, if you want the actual experience of moving SAP to Azure, or Oracle to AWS – you’ll often find the smaller providers have more experience. And this continues to play out. In many markets in the world, the top 5-10 SIs for cloud, AI and cybersecurity has a high proportion of local specialist providers.

Tech Buyers No Longer Look for Culturally Aligned Partners

Tech buyers themselves are changing too. In years gone by, the smaller tech partners would tell us that they felt they were included in bids to drive down the price from the global SIs. But today the story is different. Smaller partners are admired for their agility and innovation. Large enterprise customers will choose small providers because the small SI is NOT like them. In the past, they chose the global SI because they were just like them!

Because of this, the large SIs are mopping up their smaller competitors across the globe. Accenture has acquired 40 companies in the past 10-11 months, IBM has acquired over 10, Atos and Cognizant have also acquired many companies in the past 12 months. They are doing this for the skills as much as for the clients, along with getting a foothold in a new market or strengthening their position in geography. The challenge will be to hang on to the clients, culture, and the IP of the acquired business. Often these smaller competitors are growing at a significant pace – and the biggest risk is that the acquiring company takes their eyes off the prize.

Global SIs Still Own the Industry Play

Despite these challenges, one of the areas that the global SIs will continue to dominate is the industry play. I have discussed how as technologies mature, industry plays become more relevant.

Smaller and mid-sized SIs and consultants find it hard to create deep pools of expertise across multiple industries. While some may have a deep focus on a single or two industries, only the large players have broad and deep geography and industry experience. This puts many of the acquisitions into context – the global SIs will take these acquisitions and use that deep and broad technical and business knowledge and add it to their industry knowledge to create a more compelling offering.

Their challenge will still be one of cultural alignment. As discussed, many companies seek out tech partners who represent what they want to be, not what they are. The ability for the Global SIs to retain the culture, agility and innovation of the acquired business will determine their ability to continue to see similar or improved levels of growth from the acquired business. Using their IP in the context of industries will be the key to their ongoing success.

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Business Aware IT Service Management Finally Delivers on its Promise

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Many years ago – back in 2003 – I spent some quality time with BMC at their global analyst event in Phoenix, Arizona and they introduced the concept of “Business Service Management” (BSM). I was immediately a convert – that businesses can focus their IT Service Management initiatives on the business and customer services that the technology supports. Businesses that use BSM can have an understanding of the impact and importance of technology systems and assets because there is a direct link between these assets and the systems they support. A router that supports a customer payment platform suddenly becomes a much higher priority than one that supports an employee expense platform.

But for most businesses, this promise was never delivered. Creating a BSM solution became a highly manual process – mapping processes, assets, and applications. Many businesses that undertook this challenge reported that by the time they had mapped their processes, the map was out of date – as processes had changed; assets had been retired, replaced, or upgraded; software had been moved to the cloud or new modules had been implemented; and architectures had changed. Effectively their BSM mapping was often a pointless task – sometimes only delivering value in the slow to change systems – back-end applications and infrastructure that delivers limited value and has a defined retirement date.

The Growth of Digital Business Strategies

Our technology systems are becoming more important than ever as digital business strategies are realised and digital interactions with customers, employees, and partners significantly increase. Many businesses expect their digital investments to remain strong well into 2022 (Figure 1). More than ever, we need to understand the link between our tech systems and the business and customer services they support.

Use of Digital Technologies 2021 and Beyond

I recently had the opportunity to attend a briefing by ServiceNow regarding their new “AI-Powered Service Operations” that highlighted their service-aware CMDB – adding machine learning to their service mapping capabilities. The upgraded offering has the ability to map entire environments in hours or minutes – not months or weeks. And as a machine learning capability, it is only likely to get smarter – to learn from their customers’ use of the service and begin to recognise what applications, systems, and infrastructure are likely to be supporting each business service.

This heralds a new era in service management – one where the actual business and customer impact of outages is known immediately; where the decision to delay an upgrade or fix to a known problem can be made with a full understanding of the impacts. At one of my previous employers, email went down for about a week. It was finally attributed to an upgrade to network equipment that sat between the email system and the corporate network and the internet. The tech teams were scratching their heads for days as there was no documented link between this piece of hardware and the email system. The impact of the outage was certainly felt by the business – but had it happened at the end of the financial year, it could have impacted perhaps 10-20% of the business bookings as many deals came in at that time.

Being able to understand the link between infrastructure, cloud services, applications, databases, middleware and business processes and services is of huge value to every business – particularly as the percentage of business through digital channels and touchpoints continues to accelerate.

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Personalising Your Customer Experience is Standard Practice Today

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Back in 2019 – when life was simpler and customers only expected minor miracles from the brands they interacted with – personalisation of the customer experience (CX) was a “good idea but the time has not yet come” for the majority of marketing and CX professionals.

Fast forward 24 months and the world has changed – in more ways than we could have imagined! For a start, CX dropped off the top business priority during 2020 as businesses adapted to the changing market and employee experiences. But as some economies start to create a new sense of normal, CX has returned to the top of the list of business priorities (Figure 1) – renewing pressure on CX teams to create great experiences for customers.

Key Organisational Priorities - 2020 vs 2021

In 2020 many marketing teams went back to the drawing board to create truly meaningful customer experiences. Suddenly “trust” was a core expectation of a brand, and that lens allowed marketers and CX teams to rethink what a personalised experience looks like. It is no longer about selling more products and creating more chances for commerce – it is now about creating an experience that makes brands easy to deal with. It is about understanding the customer and creating an optimised experience when they want or need to interact with the brand. A great personalised experience feels normal today – it has lost the “creepy” edge and is now about the brand giving customers the service, products, or levers that they need when and where they need them.

For some brands and customers, a personalised experience is about getting out of the way of customers and just giving them the outcome they desire. For others it is about creating a memorable journey. Some customers require that extra hand holding along the way and need to be nudged in the right direction, and just need to be left alone to make their decisions – not requiring that extra EDM, alert or message.

In some sectors – such as Banking and eCommerce – if you are not personalising your CX you are a long way behind, but in others, such as Government and Insurance, personalisation is only beginning to gain traction today, and will see slow and steady growth over the next few years.

Good Data is Key to a Great Personalisation Strategy

Lack of data is the primary reason personalisation fails and why some marketing teams have abandoned their personalisation efforts. The right data may not exist completely within your business – you may need to partner or work with ecosystem providers to create a complete view of your customers – and new restrictions around the use of cookies is making this harder to achieve. Forward thinking businesses have already forged partnerships with third parties and partners to share relevant data to help them create the personalised experience their customers demand.

Personalisation Should Apply Across the Customer Journey  

A clear understanding of brand values, customer desires and ideal customer journeys is also important to ensure personalised experiences meet the needs of customers. Creating a personalised experience that deviates from brand values means that either brands don’t understand their customers, or customer experience professionals don’t understand their brands (or both!).

Personalisation needs to focus on the entire customer journey – from prospect through to customer and even through to churn. While you have significantly more data about your customers than your prospects, a personalised experience for non-customers is still possible and sets the scene for better and easier CX once your prospects take the longer journey with your brand. Creating a personalised churn experience – making the departure from your brand memorable, friendly and easy – provides the perfect springboard for return and tells your customers that you care about them through the entire journey.

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Build a Proof of Concept for Personalisation

If you have not yet started personalising your customer’s experience, now is the perfect time to build a Proof of Concept (POC) demonstrating the business and customer outcomes you can achieve. This will help the CX and/or marketing teams to understand what data you need to collect from existing systems and processes – or source externally to create the desired experience. Initially your personalisation experience may target a limited number of key personas – but it should have the capability to roll out to all customers and/or prospects, eventually considering many scenarios and requirements. It should continue to learn and adapt. Too many businesses discovered during the pandemic that static personalisation programs will fail when market conditions change.

The POC can provide the data that your senior leadership will need to deepen their investments in and think of personalisation as a business capability – not a single project. They can demonstrate the ROI (or lack of return) and will help to guide the larger spend should the POC be a success.

Invest in Behavioural Science Skills

Building a successful personalisation strategy often goes beyond simply listening to the experts within the business and even listening to your customers. Often your customers don’t know what affects their behaviour – and will mis-report motivations or mis-attribute actions. It is important to understand the science behind behaviour – what is possible, what can work, what is guidance and what is coercion. These experts, along with your legal or privacy teams, can help to set up the guide rails for the personalisation program to operate within, and help you create customer journeys where customers can achieve their desired outcomes.

Target Consent as a Key Customer KPI

Consent is a key enabler of deep personalisation capabilities. While some level of personalisation without formal consent can be created, the real benefits of personalised journeys come with consent to use customer data to offer better services. Many businesses ask for consent in the sign-up process, but often it feels like wishful thinking – not a serious attempt to offer a better customer experience. Businesses that make “Consent to Use Data” a CX KPI think more broadly of the customer journey, the brand promise and what that means to levels of consent. It isn’t a “tick-a-box” activity at sign-up – it considers what the customer wants to get out of the engagement or a longer relationship. It focuses on helping customers achieve their instant goals more effectively and the benefits the data can bring to nurture a longer-term relationship.

Businesses that seek a higher level of consent use more tangible outcomes, simpler language and no “sweeping statements” in their consent request. They are explicit how they will use data and what data they will use. Sometimes they don’t even ask for consent to use data at sign-up – they ask after they have formed a relationship and the customer has developed a level of trust in the brand or company.

Start Your Personalisation Journey Today

Your competitors are already thinking about personalisation – some have even implemented personalised elements within their existing or new customer journeys. Personalisation – while easier than ever – is still a significant capability to build within your business. You are likely to need new technology tools and/or platforms, new skills, and new budgets. The impact for your customers – and therefore for your business – can be significant. And the impact of no action can potentially be damaging. Start your personalisation journey today to help your business take the next step towards becoming a customer-obsessed, agile, and digital business.

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When Does it Make Sense for a Tech Vendor to Focus on Industry Solutions?

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Moving from a product or regional focus to an industry focus appears to be the “strategy du jour” for many technology vendors today. For some it is a new strategy – with the plan to improve customer focus and increase growth; for others it is the pendulum moving back to where they were five or ten years ago as they bounce from being industry-centric to product-centric to geography-centric and back again.

Getting your industry focus right is much harder than it seems – and has to be timed with client needs and market opportunity. The need to focus on the industry varies for different technology products, services and capabilities. For example, most technology buyers want their vendors to understand what their business does and how they add value to customers – that is a given and industry-aligned Sales teams make a lot of sense. Many tech buyers also want certain software functions to align directly to their processes – there is little appetite to customise ERP and financial suites to specific industry needs and processes – and tech vendors  should support these out-of-the-box or cloud needs.

Industry Solutions May Not Drive Competitive Advantage

If the industry solution you are selling is the same as what any of their competitors can buy from you, then organisations get the exact same benefit as the market – no more, no less. For example, about 10-15 years ago, large telecom providers around the globe made significant investments in CRM platforms (often from Siebel) – bringing in one of a few large global systems integrators to deploy their standard processes and systems. These CRMs were supposed to provide business and customer benefit, and drive competitive advantage. And while they did deliver positive change (often at SIGNIFICANT cost!) when every telecom provider was using the same solution with the same or similar processes, any competitive advantage was lost.

Industry Solutions are Often the Sign of a Mature Market

The widely accepted hypothesis is that the technology innovation and adoption happens in waves. The market has 5-7 year waves of innovation, followed by 5-7 year waves of deployment, adoption and consolidation.

Industry Solutions drive adoption but decrease innovation

The Innovation Phase. In this  stage new companies emerge, new products or services are launched and leading/bleeding edge companies embrace these new technologies to drive competitive advantage and business growth. They experiment with new technologies that drive new business capabilities – sometimes failing, but always pushing the envelope for business innovation and forging the path for mass market adoption. In this  stage there is often little demand for industry solutions – as both the providers and buyers of the solutions are still working out where the business benefit is; where the technology might be able to drive change or help them get ahead of competitors. If you examine the growth of a company such as Salesforce, you see that the early stage products are targeted towards a generic market – customers are expected to customise the solution based on their needs and individual requirements. In 2002 I worked for a challenger telecom provider that had deployed a traditional Peoplesoft CRM capability, and I was part of the team that brought Salesforce into the business – and as a cloud-based solution, we saw the competitive advantage was the pace at which we could customise the product (by excluding IT teams and processes). However, the solution was a “one-size-fits-all” product. The innovation stage is typically characterised by high growth of smaller vendors and technology service providers who challenge the status quo.

The Deployment, Adoption and Consolidation Phase. This stage of market growth is when the mass market starts to adopt these solutions. Many of these buyers walk the paths that have been forged before them by the more innovative, leading edge businesses. This stage typically sees less innovation, less experimentation, and more standard deployments. To make the solutions more palatable and easier to sell to the mass market tech vendors typically pre-configure or customise the solutions to specific needs – for business teams, roles or industries. It is usually in this stage of market growth and deployment that the industry solutions see significant interest and adoption. This is where the mass market gets access to the business benefits the more innovative businesses received many years earlier (and often profited from in this time). In my example of the Salesforce deployment in 2002, over the following years many partners started to create industry solutions, and eventually Salesforce themselves sold industry-specific solutions – or at least targeted certain products and capabilities at specific industries and provided accelerated deployment models to drive advantage at a faster rate. The deployment and consolidation stage of market growth is typically characterised by steady, slow growth across the entire market as benefits are being driven to all providers (product vendors and solutions or implementation providers). Legacy providers either play catch up or suffer declining business as they realise the solution they sell no longer provides the business and customer the benefits that it used to.

Industry Focus Should be Aligned to Customer Segments, Solution Type and Geography

The decision to sell industry-focused solutions should be driven by the type of solution you are selling; the business benefit you are promising; and the type of business you are targeting the solution towards. Businesses that are more innovative will still buy some pre-configured, industry-specific solutions that don’t differentiate their business or drive competitive advantage. But where they expect competitive advantage, they need to stand apart – to be the only business with that capability.

It is also worth understanding that an innovation in one market might be standard practice in another (and vice-versa). Countries across the globe and specifically here in Asia Pacific have different approaches to technology and innovation. China and parts of Southeast Asia are often innovators – pushing the boundaries of new and emerging tech to do things we never thought possible (in the same way Silicon Valley traditionally has done). Australia and India are traditional markets that adopt industry solutions after they have been tried and tested by others. Innovation in Japan seems to happen in stages and at pace but only once every 10-15 years or so. New Zealand and Singapore are generally more nimble economies where businesses often have to be innovative to gain global competitive advantage quickly.

Evidence indicates that the rate of innovation is increasing across the entire region – even in the less innovative economies. The window for industry solutions is much smaller regardless of location – as the next new innovation is just around the corner. Even the large, traditionally less agile businesses are driving innovation programs – for example, many of the big financial services “dinosaurs” such as DBS and Commonwealth Bank often win tech innovation awards and offer market-leading customer experiences.

Use this lens to better develop your industry approach. The depth of your industry solution or capability will dictate the opportunities that you will drive based on the type of customer and technology stage. Do you want to drive innovation or efficiency in your clients? Do you want to win the big “safer” deals – but be thought of as a technology solution provider; or win the smaller deals in companies that will become the market leaders of tomorrow – and be considered a market leader and king maker? Understanding your own business goals, the current sales and delivery capabilities, and the capacity to change will help your company create a go-to-market strategy that suits your current and future customers and will likely dictate the growth rate of your business over the next 5-7 years.


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Ecosystm market insights, data, and reports are jam-packed with industry analysis and digital trends across several industry verticals to help you keep tabs on the fast-paced world of tech.

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Adding a Second Screen Improves Productivity for Samsung DeX Users

5/5 (3)

5/5 (3)

In March I published an analysis of Samsung DeX – which is a desktop environment which many businesses could benefit from deploying to specific teams, roles or employees. During my research, I found that one of the shortcomings is the lack of native support for dual screens. I know that many information workers in particular use dual-screen setups – and going back to a single screen feels highly unproductive!

Knowing this, a contact at Samsung pointed me to a company that has developed a dual-screen capability for a virtual desktop environment running on DeX – so I jumped at the opportunity to trial the environment in my own dual screen setup.

The product is called NetConnect – and is sold by VOIP. It is actually a Branch Of One style solution, which allows employees to access enterprise resources on any device. But one of its unique features is the ability to run a dual screen virtual desktop environment.

NetConnect’s Dual Screen Capabilities – An Analysis

DeX users that run the NetConnect app can extend the desktop to a second, internet connected monitor or screen. The key point here is “internet connected” – the screen is deployed across the internet – not across cables from the phone. This means any tablet, laptop or connected screen can be used as the second screen for the Windows virtual desktop running through NetConnect. In my particular demo environment, the software (both NetConnect and the Windows server) was running in a data centre in Singapore – but the company (VOIP) sells the solution to organisations to run in their own data centre environment.

The overall experience is seamless. The fact that one screen is running on a server in Singapore and being sent across the internet to my Samsung phone, and the other screen is running in Singapore and being sent across the internet to a completely different device is remarkable. The mouse moves across screens as if the desktop is running locally. While my demo environment was limited to web and a few desktop applications, I often found myself astonished that this entire environment was being driven by a smartphone (and a lot of clever technology behind the scenes!). Suddenly the limitations of only having a single screen for DeX disappeared – I now could run one application on my first screen and another on my second screen – and continue working, without the need to endlessly alt-tab between applications and screens.

This is a picture of my dual screen setup, running a virtual desktop across two screens using NetConnect on a Samsung phone running DeX (the photo was taken with the phone that was running DeX!). The phone is connected wirelessly to the left monitor and the right monitor is actually a browser tab in full screen with the content driven from a NetConnect environment in Singapore.

There are some limitations – video streaming is not very smooth, and connected devices (cameras etc. for Zoom or Teams calls) are not recognised. These features are on the roadmap, but not available today. But the NetConnect solution really does open DeX up to a whole new community of users. Some of the VOIP employees I met at their office don’t have a laptop on their desk or a desktop underneath it – they are running their entire work environment from their Samsung phone!

And being a Branch of One solution, NetConnect also brings with it inherent security benefits – of  not ever taking company data out of the data centre, reducing threats from viruses and malware that would normally run on the end-user computing device and others. It also improves the manageability of the desktop environment and makes it simple to deploy to users. Branch of One is about bringing all of the inherent benefits and capabilities that an office or branch would have and enabling a single user to get this power and security.

NetConnect is more than a dual screen solution – so working out which comes first is the interesting challenge. If your business is looking to run a solution like NetConnect, it is worth your while examining the opportunity to use DeX to extend full, dual screen desktop solutions to your employees. And if you are a business running DeX, NetConnect could open opportunities to extend DeX to more employees, roles or teams than originally planned.


Checkout Tim’s previous insight where he provides a detailed analysis on whether Samsung DeX is suitable for your employees. He bases his insights from using Samsung DeX as his primary desktop environment over the past 4 weeks.

Can Samsung DeX Empower your Employees
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Woolworths Announces Future of Work Fund

5/5 (2)

5/5 (2)

2020 was a strange year for retail. Businesses witnessed significant disruption to supply chains, significant swings in demand for products (toilet paper, puzzles, bikes etc!) and then sometimes incredible growth – as disposable income increased as many consumers are no longer taking expensive holidays. Overall, it was a mixed year, with many retailers closing down and others reporting record sales. The grocery sector boomed – with many restaurants and fast-food providers closed, sometimes the supermarkets were some of the few remaining open retailers.

For many retailers, technology has become a key enabler to their transformation, survival and success (Figure 1).

Technology Focus 2021 - Retail Industry

Woolworths, Australia’s largest retailer, operates across the grocery, department store, drinks, and hospitality sectors. They hold a significant market share in most markets that they operate in. The company had a strong 2019/20 (financial year runs from July 2019 to June 2020) with sales up 8% – and in the first half of the 2020/21 financial year, sales were up nearly 11%. But the company is not resting on its laurels – one of its 6 key priorities is to “Accelerate Digital, eCom and convenience for our increasingly connected customers”. This requires more than just a deep technology investment, but a new culture, new skills, and new ways of working.

Woolworths’ Employee Focus

Woolworths has committed to invest AUD 50 million in upskilling and reskilling their employees in areas such as digital, data analytics, machine learning and robotics over the next three years. The move comes as a response to the way the Retail industry has been disrupted and the need to futureproof to stay relevant and successful. The training will be provided through online platforms and through collaborations with key learning institutions.

The supermarket giant is one of Australia’s largest private employers with more than 200,000 employees. Under Woolworths’ ‘Future of Work Fund’ their staff will be trained across supply chain, store operations, and support functions to enhance delivery and decision-making processes. The retailer will also create an online learning platform that will be accessible by Woolworths employees as well as by other retail and service companies to support the ecosystem.  Woolworths has plans to upskill their staff in customer service abilities, leadership skills and agile ways of working.

Woolworths’ upskilling program will also support employees who were impacted by Woolworths planned closures of Minchinbury, Yennora, and Mulgrave distribution centres due in 2025.

Woolworths’ Tech Focus

Woolworths has been ramping up their technology investments and having tech-savvy employees will be key to their future success. In October 2020, Woolworths deployed micro automation technology to revamp their eCommerce facility in Melbourne to speed up the fulfilment of online grocery orders, and front and back-end operations. Woolworths also partnered with Dell Technologies in November 2020 to bring together their private and public cloud onto a single platform to improve mission-critical processes, applications and support inventory management operations across its retail stores.

Future of Work

For many years, Ecosystm has been advising our clients to invest more in the skills of the business. Every business will be using more cloud next year than they are this year; they will suffer more cybersecurity incidents; they will use more AI and machine learning; they will automate more processes than are automated today. More of their customer engagements will be digital, and more insight will be required to drive better outcomes for customers and employees. This all needs new skills – or more people trained on skills that some in the business already understand. But too many businesses don’t train in advance – instead waiting for the need and paying external consultants or expensive new hires for their skills. Empowered businesses – ones that are creating a future-ready, agile business – invest in their people, work environment, business processes and technology to create an environment where innovation, transformation and business change are accepted and encouraged (Figure 2).

Future of Work

Empowered businesses can adapt to new challenges, new market conditions and respond to new competitive threats. By taking these steps to upskill and empower their employees, Woolworths is building towards empowering their own business for long term success.


 Transform and be better prepared for future disruption, and the ever-changing competitive environment and customer, employee or partner demands in 2021. Download Ecosystm Predicts: The top 5 Future of Work Trends For 2021.

Ecosystm Predicts: The Top 5 FUTURE OF WORK Trends for 2021
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