How ready is your business for the 'here and now' economy?

The phrase “instant gratification” has negative connotations – it implies impatience, greediness and lack of willpower. But its appeal is almost irresistible. Advances in communications technology mean we are all now living in the moment.

Why call friends individually when you can post an update on Facebook and reach all your friends instantly? Why stand on the pavement waiting for a cab to drive by when you can use an app that will bring a taxi right to your door in minutes? And why spend countless minutes calling customer service when you can message the business on Twitter to receive instant support?

Today’s ‘connected’ consumers are equipped with smartphones and empowered by instant social media reach and engagement. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and WhatsApp – everything happens in the moment. This behavioural shift is fuelling a phenomenon known as the ‘here and now’ economy.

For CIOs and IT architects of banks, utilities, mobile operators, retailers and others, it means that the business applications they design and implement become increasingly important in supporting the business’s path to a digital future. They need to be tied closely to helping a business understand and serve its customers and partners.

IT and Development departments are having to transform to embrace changing consumer behaviour and preferences for all things digital and mobile, where everything happens in real-time across different channels. It comes as no surprise that 76 per cent of C-level executives believe IT should actively collaborate to help shape business strategies. However, this is easier said than done with the conflict of IT having to manage the continuity across business critical systems. In fact, only 31 per cent of CIOs have a formal process to drive technology-enabled innovations.

How can IT in consumer businesses meet these demands?

There are four technology drivers currently central to business innovation: social, mobile, analytics and cloud, often referred to as SMAC. Their convergence is proving a disruptive force for businesses, creating new business and interaction models. It is also putting more emphasis on automating business processes and integrating new channels and technologies to support customer interaction.

A new wave of requirements has emerged for APIs which some have described as a ‘gold rush’, where APIs are now seen as key enablers for developing an enterprise-wide approach to sharing data and especially for enabling the integration of proactive communications and messaging services into business processes and systems.

In order to embrace these new channels and digital interaction models, IT groups can improve innovation and service delivery by adopting a ‘low-code’ development platform approach. Dev Ops and other business groups can use drag-and-drop tools to deploy new services and drive deeper integration into business processes, especially where customer journeys are involved. The inherent value of a low-code development platform is that it brings IT and lines of business together, enabling quicker and more collaborative development. Services can be rapidly built, seamlessly deployed and easily changed by configuration, accelerating innovation — without the need for coding.

The rise of the Platform-as-a-Service approach to building digital customer journeys

Any customer journey where consumers interact with businesses is now under digital scrutiny in the ‘here and now’ economy. For example, Energy firms and utility companies, though not traditionally considered digitally innovative, are now realising the importance of digital transformation, which is seen as an opportunity to revolutionise the industry. Accenture predicts the value from rapid digital transformation for the utility industry to be $1.3 trillion by 2025.

As consumer demands become more challenging, customer interactions must become increasingly intelligent, which requires greater levels of proactive customer communication and the utilisation of multiple digital channels, with deeper integration into backend systems. This means enabling IT with the tools and models to support lines of business better and to deliver faster.

Why digitisation is easier than you think

Mobile and digital experiences can be built, delivered and managed with the right platform approach. But that doesn’t necessarily mean costly investment or rip and replace. Through cloud-based platform models, businesses can automate intelligent, proactive communications, while reducing the cost-to-serve. Voice and messaging capabilities can be simply integrated and blended into existing business processes, apps and websites to communicate with customers at the perfect point in their customer journey with orchestrated back-end integration.

Today’s culture of immediacy encourages customers to be hard taskmasters. Organisations may feel that they are being forced by changes in consumer behaviour to jump through unnecessary hoops. However, the time for resistance is long past – the ‘here and now’ economy is here to stay and digitalisation will only accelerate.

Businesses must embrace new technologies today and the role of IT as a business innovator and enabler of greater collaboration across organisations has never been more important.

Sudarshan Dharmapuri, SVP Product Management, IMImobile

Image source: Shutterstock/Sergey Nivens