“Disruption” is a word you hear thrown around a lot in the tech world. Everyone wants to disrupt, while at the same time they fear being on the receiving end of it.
At the recent SAP Hybris LIVE: Digital Summit 2017, Carsten Thoma, president and co-founder of SAP Hybris, encouraged businesses to capitalize on disruption and talked about how to change from simply making products or services available via multiple channels (“omnichannel”) to creating a full digital experience for customers, with microservices as the foundation.
“Omnichannel was one of the most-important steps in the digital evolution,” said Thoma. “It goes way beyond that now. It is now about digital engagement in any channel.”
But what does “digital engagement” really mean? In the new reality, there will not be a line between products and services in the minds of consumers. “Every product will turn into a service – that’s a firm prediction,” said Thoma. “The ability at any point in time, at any touchpoint, to engage with a customer in an almost automated manner is going to be absolutely key. And tech and software will be at the heart of it.”
When considering the shift to the engagement and experience model, omnichannel and the cloud are a given. However, consumers (and businesses) are increasingly embracing a consumption-based model, where you only pay for something when and where you need it. While applying this model broadly is fairly new, it’s actually been around for quite a while in the utilities sector, where consumers pay per-unit costs for electricity, water, and the like.
Evolving Beyond Traditional Transactions
The challenge for businesses, then, is how to move from the traditional single-transaction model to a 360-degree engagement and experience model with customers, where the “product” is no longer so easily defined. Is an auto manufacturer selling just a vehicle? Or is it selling the use of the vehicle (leasing), plus a full transportation experience including ride-sharing and public transportation?
Supporting ever-changing customer interaction models – from fixed-price purchases to pay-as-you-go subscriptions – requires businesses to move beyond basic customer relationship management (CRM) systems in favor of end-to-end setups that seamlessly connect demand patterns, the supply chain, and the front office to the customer experience.
This new “experience” model will be impossible without underlying tech and software designed to support it, Thoma noted. But the age-old question is how do you design a system that is “future proof” – robust enough to support current needs, yet elastic enough to allow nimble pivoting to future models?
Microservices Are Key to Adaptable Customer Engagement
Future-proofing is where “microservices” come into play. Microservices are business processes deconstructed to their most basic level by creating small, separate processes that take the place of large, single applications. Both a systems architecture and delivery principle, these highly adaptable building blocks can be reconfigured in short order, allowing you to quickly adapt to ever-changing business environments and profit from disruption rather than succumb to it.
Industry pundits see microservices as a fundamental technology evolution, continuing the progression from mainframes to client-server, to Web, and now to microservices. With SAP Hybris’ Thoma saying that microservices “might be even more disruptive than any other tech paradigm shift that has come before,” it’s no surprise that the business unit he leads has been working in the space for a while. For example, its SAP Hybris as a Service (aka, YaaS) microservices ecosystem allows businesses to rapidly build new, highly flexible solutions.
A business strategy and underlying technology based on microservices, coupled with the scalable nature of running in the cloud, gives businesses the ability to quickly change, test and refine offerings based on real-time insights gained from integrated customer information systems.
Solutions like SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud, announced last week at SAP Hybris LIVE, will allow businesses to embrace the shift to the customer experience and consumption-based model. This new breed of software provides a simplified, automated approach to managing order and billing processes, collecting valuable product and customer data, testing new offers, and keeping track of usage information. Add in Internet of Things (IoT) integration, and the possibilities are nearly endless. This ability to see (and, more importantly, understand) the entire view of a customer, beyond just billing data, is foundational to creating a true customer engagement experience.
It’s clear that digital engagement has taken a giant leap forward in the past few years, moving far beyond the realm of simply providing customers with an omnichannel experience. Organizations that want to remain competitive must do more than make their products and services available on the channels customers prefer. They must build out their infrastructure to truly understand how, where, and why customers use their products, and remain one step ahead of giving customers the experience that they may not even know they want (yet).