I believe the concept of ‘plug and play’ is a type of Holy Grail search in the technology and business world for  the ability to simply add functionality by installing a plug-in that will immediately begin to work.  Granted, there are some areas where this concept works, or at least comes very close to working, especially in the mobile app and printer areas.  Even in the consumer world, many times there are unanticipated reactions that occur after the plug-in is installed.  These consequences range from the relatively benign such as installing drivers for a printer to the worst case of corrupting some configuration that supports another process or app.  The ‘plug and play’ concept in the business framework though has a much lower rate of success and requires a minimum of regression testing to a maximum of thorough end-to-end testing.

 

This is where the integration layer framework comes into play to allow the business to isolate business applications and networks from each other to limit the potential impact of problems with a change.  The integration layer also supports and enforces a standard process to follow for implementing changed and new functionality.  The omni channel sales and shopping channels is where this integration layer will really shine and more than pay for the effort and time to implement.  As a result of the volume and velocity of change being driven into the omni channel market, and especially from the mobile technology perspective, retailers must accept and implement a framework and a strategy that allows for quick modifications to the omni channel capabilities without impacting the operational and financial business functionality.

 

The integration layer framework institutionalizes the capabilities and tools necessary to support a robust continuous improvement program to support the discontinuous change driven by the omni channel and especially mobile market.  While either the integration layer or a continuous improvement program can work for a business separately, the combination of the two into a cohesive and robust framework that can easily support the requirements of the business.  The continuous improvement process provides a method and procedures to evaluate and implement modifications and the integration layer provides the framework and the technology to support the efficient and effective delivery of changes while limiting the impact to other business functionality.  

 

This struction of an integration layer supporting the continuous improvement program provides the structure and the methods necessary for a retailer to quickly implement and modify functionality and features without the almost overwhelming impact of changes to their underlying legacy technology infrastructure.  Retailers cannot afford to swap out their operational and financial applications and systems in the same frequency as modifications are required for omni channel shopping applications and they should not be required to take on these overwhelming projects.  

 

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?