Building Rome. Eating Elephants. Omni-Channel.

What do they have in common?

You do them all one step at a time.

When it comes to implementing technologies, or finding new ways to connect technologies, bite-at-a-time is the predominant best practice—for a lot of reasons. But here’s the question people often struggle with.

Which bite do I take first?

Your customers will tell you. In fact, they already have. They’ve told you by their behavior. Prioritizing implementation means analyzing these three things:

  1. Who are your most common callers? Is it new customers? Purchasing agents? Product end users? Partners and resellers?
  2. What is the most common caller intent? Maybe it’s product reordering. Or obtaining order status. It might be technical or field service support. Or checking inventory.
  3. What is the most common communications medium? Is it the telephone? Online or mobile? Your retail or wholesale physical outlet?

The answers to these three questions will point clearly to the bites you take, and in which order. You build the first omnichannel connection based on the most common need, on the most often-used channel, for the most frequent type of caller. Then the second and so on. This gets complex in the B2B world because the B2B omnichannel integrates many more channels than its retail cousin. It may turn out that your first bite is to connect resellers to your IVR’s product reorder functionality. Or it may be that you need to get your warehouse and your CRM connected to your mobile ordering system.

Going in bite order helps ensure business continuity. When you do a wholesale transition, or an even more drastic system rip and replace, you open the door for large parts of your system being unavailable at critical times. When you move steadily, you implement each piece at optimal business periods, without impacting any other channel.

This approach also dramatically lessens the impact of surprises—and there will always be some. Each channel has its peculiarities, its unique characteristics and its own challenges. One channel may require heavy regulatory compliance while another generates large volumes of unstructured data. Trying to combat all the issues at once is a game of IT Whack-a-Mole. Uncovering and resolving issues one at a time is a lot easier, and paves the way for smoother and smoother integrations down the line.

Finally, bite-at-a-time approaches keep the tightest of lids on volatile implementation costs—the result of those surprises. All-at-once implementations are the most expensive approach, since you’ve got to have multiple teams working at the same time. With bite-at-a-time, you need only one team, attacking one problem at a time. Plus, as that team progresses through your channels, economies of experience come into play. Each channel is a little easier and a little faster to connect than the one before.

Of course, if you choose, you can tackle omnichannel implementation in one giant gulp. A word of advice if you do. Get yourself one giant glass of water, because you’re going to need one giant Alka Seltzer before you’re done.