Ability to Create Multi-Channel Ecosystem: Overlooked Challenges

The struggle to create the much-needed Multi channel ecosystem to reach out to targeted customers continues, and organizations are grappling to unravel the mystery. As per Gartner’s survey one of the top business priorities for CIO’s is to “attract and retain new customers”, but strikingly when this translates to Technology Priorities, Multi-Channel enablement does not even figure in the top ten. There is a clear contradiction. Is this because, organizations have given up on creating this eco system or are they so naïve not to understand the repercussions of not enabling this? I think it’s more of the former that the latter.

There has not been one business discussion where business leaders do not stress on the merits of a having a holistic multi channel strategy and enablement and they generally get good response; this makes me believe that the benefits are recognized. The issue  starts when organizations sit at the drawing board and start sketching their future business architecture. The challenges this exercise poses are three-pronged, viz. People, Process and Technology Challenges. Organizations generally make the mistake of overlooking the people and process challenges and all efforts are spent in identifying and resolving the technical challenges viz. Platform, vendor, Products etc.

Recently I was fortunate to work with William Band, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, so I bounced this thought with him for his opinion. Bill says “I agree with your premise that the core issues that stand in the way of effective multi-channel management are people and process issues. Most companies are not organized to manage across channel silos, and functional silos (as you know)”.

The easiest challenge to overcome is technology and organizations need to think and strategize more on overcoming the people and process challenges. As a discovery exercise, organizations need to first answer the following questions and gauge the exact nature and extent of challenge that they will face.

  1. What is the business objective (enhance reach, provide seamless experience to customers, etc) behind enabling a multi-channel environment?
  2. Is my structure (organization) ready to support this initiative? What changes do I need to bring to my organizational structure?
  3. Do I have process defined with proper entry and exit points?
  4. How would channels interact to each other and what is the overall business architecture?
  5. How would I engage each channel, maintain a uniform message and use them on their merits?
  6. Have I identified the different stakeholders and mapped them in terms of resistance offered and change needed?

The above questions are not the complete set, but surely the reference point to start. These questions are hard-hitting and require organizations to put on the self-evaluation hat to answer and create logical and realistic next steps.

Skipping this first step will result in creating a multi channel ecosystem that either does not function or functions in absolute silos. Over the last few years organizations have managed to deploy multiple channels but have failed to create a Multi-Channel ecosystem.

Its time organizations start this discovery exercise and rethink on their multi-channel strategy.

Special Thanks to William Band for taking out time to review this post and provide his comments.

Some Suggestive Reading on this topic

http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/solutions_converge_to_support_multichannel_customer_interactions/q/id/60914/t/2

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