Omni-Channel: No Rip, Replace (or Ripple)

One of the key buttons I’ll be pushing in the Omnichannel Blog over the coming months is the simplicity of moving to the omnichannel model. I’ll be returning often to the theme that the omnichannel is not a technology, but a way of thinking about technology.

To transition to virtual desktops, or advanced disaster recovery, or ERP requires significant investments, significant disruption, and significant trauma. These are the things that take months to plan, months to procure and sometimes years to implement. They’re the “paradigm shifting,” “disruptive,” “game changers” that require a whole new stadium to play in.

There’s a whole alphabet of technologies that those phrases apply to: VM, CRM, ERP, SCM, WMS, and many more. Some technologies even come in whole words (think Mobile and Social). Most demand a “rip and replace” approach (almost synonymous with shifting paradigms and disruptive technologies), and the old system has to be discarded entirely. There’s a third, hidden “R” in the mix: “ripple.” Often when you put a new technology in place, there are other supporting technologies—storage and networking are two—that have to be replaced, since they’re too old to be compatible.

The omnichannel isn’t like that at all. There’s nothing to rip, nothing to replace—and no ripple effect. Omnichannel systems don’t require new technologies: they simply bring together those you already have. It doesn’t matter (generally speaking anyway) how old your existing technologies are, or which operating systems they run on, or where they’re located. In fact, omnichannel solutions don’t care that much about technology. They just care about managing, maintaining and presenting the data those technologies create and store.

You probably have 90 percent of your omnichannel technologies ready to roll. If you’re using call center technology—from simple call tracking to complex IVR systems—you’re ready for the omnichannel. Whether you’re using expensive online commerce systems or core open source solutions, you’re ready. Whether you’re using on-premise or cloud CRM, you’re ready. No matter what type of system you use to manage your warehouse or your supply chain, you’re ready.

You get my point. You have the pieces. You just need to tie them together. Now, don’t get me wrong. Tying things together is no simple feat: it’s a job for pros. And it’s not just a Rube Goldberg machine of least-common denominator file formats, awkward databases and inflexible presentation. Those channels have to be integrated as smoothly as polished glass. That’s the only way to ensure an equally smooth and seamless customer experience.

But that’s not disruptive technology—it’s soothing technology. The change is not intrusive—it’s unnoticed. The paradigm isn’t shifted—it’s completed. That’s how you best support your products, your brand and your customers.