Flexibility in the omni channel platform and especially in the customer facing platform and applications has become extremely important due to the rate of discontinuous change driven by the technology and also the consumer acceptance and embracing the new technology. The rate and breadth of change demanded by the consumer can easily leave any retailer behind, leading to the inability to support the consumer demands without a focus and a process that supports a flexible omni channel sales and shopping platform. These new demands must then be layered on top of the legacy business applications such as inventory and financial applications that support the key business operational functionality.
The flexibility required to support the changing consumer demands requires the implementation of an integration layer that supports the changing consumer and applications demands to quickly add and swap out technology. The integration layer will isolate the business operational applications and functionality from the customer facing shopping and sales applications. This separation allows and supports the each of the key business platforms to be managed as separate entities, allowing them to be changed and maintained separately to meet the different demands of each platform. Think of this integration layer as and API that allows the communication and integration of different platforms to support the business in a similar manner as SAP, or a WMS software package is implemented and integrated to existing business applications.
As a result of the changing business and customer applications along with the speed with which the customer demands change, this integration layer has become an integral requirement to maintaining a stable and robust business application platform. Customer demands and customer applications are changing at an ever increasing pace that will most definitely disrupt the business without a robust platform to support these changing demands. This robust integration platform requires an equally robust continuous improvement and management process to ensure the successful integration and implementation of changes without impacting the underlying business operational functionality and applications.
This integration layer provides a platform that supports the concept of ‘plug and play’ improvements and new features and functionality. I call this a ‘plug and play’ concept because any change requires careful planning and a clear understanding of the change impact and requirements. This also requires robust validation testing to ensure the stability of the business and customer facing platforms. This continuous improvement process is a key to the success of the integration platform to support the quickening discontinuous change without dramatic impact to the business or the customer. In business you do not have the luxury to simply uninstall an app, there can be consequences from the implementation to the business. The objective of the integration layer is to limit the impact and the change introduced across platforms and allow changes to be made to one platform without impact to the other platforms.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?