You have probably already read most CES summaries and agree with the conclusion that a key trend is connected things. From mobile apps to embedded sensors, wearable technology (glasses, wristbands, watches, etc), and smart TVs, we’re heading into a reality where things become enchanted.
This means that companies that want to establish or maintain a competitive digital edge in their market need to reposition their solutions and ask quite different questions than they did in 2013. In fact, I believe that if you even consider asking the following questions, you are behind the curve:
- Should we develop a mobile web site or an app?
- Native apps or HTML5?
- Android and/or iOS, and should we consider Windows Phone?
In my meetings last year with clients in Sweden, France and the Netherlands, these questions almost always came up. While these questions will probably still be on the agenda for some time, if you get stuck on these minor details, you’ll get run over. Asking only those questions in 2014 is like paying attention only to the wallpaper color when architecting an entire building.
We are moving away from a situation where you only have two channels in which you interact with your users and customers, the desktop web and smartphone targeted solutions. In 2014, we are heading into situation where customers start to expect true cross-channel experiences which include desktop, mobile, wristbands, glasses, cars, TVs, homes, places, clothes, umbrellas, instruments, kitchenware, sport equipments… yes, any object you can think of.
In technical terms, a true cross-channel experience connects information and functionality across all these channels in a consistent and logical way, adhering to the strengths and rationale to each unique channel. This is different from the old silo’ed multi-channel solutions which force the user to stay in one channel through out a usage experience. Instead, the aim is to making sure the user can move from one channel to another while maintaining session state, profile characteristics, keeping core features and information updated in all channels while adding only channel unique aspects to the experience.
I recommend focusing on and acting in the following three areas early in 2014:
- Establish or strengthen your Digital Center of Excellence – take control of solution roadmap and innovation management with a full strength team consisting of representatives from the board, business owners, sales and marketing, and IT. Digital transformation is about both increasing leverage of digital solutions and improving business transformation management enabled by innovation, on an ongoing and continous basis. A Digital Center of Excellence is the core team driving this digital transformation.
- Solution characteristics – Define and make sure your solutions consistently adhere to a common set of solution characters across all channels. Use and model personas and usage maps to understand where and how your new solutions can drive value for your customers.
- Solution architecture – Define channels (types of objects used to reach your products and services) , touch points (instances of functional solutions), services platform (the digital gateway used to coordinate experiences across channels), and integration with legacy systems, in a structured and organized manner and make sure all projects consume functionality and information through well-defined technical interfaces.
It’s clear that the mobile revolution, smartphones and apps, was just a stepping stone. It opened our eyes to the value of being connected from anywhere. The value of connectivity and access to products and services will rapidly increase with the increasing number of new interaction channels. Mobile solutions delivered through smartphones will continue to be a critical channel that cannot be overlooked or neglected, and you need to have a clear strategy on how to address mobile solutions, but this strategy must be a part of something bigger: an ongoing digital transformation of your business and true value-adding cross-channel solutions.