The frictionless enterprise – what is it and what does it mean for IT?

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The word “frictionless” has emerged as a term used to describe when an action is achieved with or involving little difficulty; it is about effortlessness. This term is most commonly associated with customer experience and payments.

Consumers are already familiar with this term without realising it. Retail is the perfect illustration of what being frictionless means. Driven by tech-native companies like Amazon or eBay, the purchasing journey has completely changed for customers. In today’s digital society, consumers are more likely to be actively engaged with their favourite brands (via social media and specially designed apps), whilst also keeping a level of autonomy. According to a report from McKinsey about “Digitising the Consumer Decision Journey”, creating frictionless experiences support the optimisation of digital channels.

In our new “zero touch” world, consumers in the UK do not need to have their credit cards at all times. Now they can purchase or access almost anything in one-click via their smartphones – clothes, cars, entertainment, you name it. The idea behind this practice which is now second nature to millions all stems from being able to do things in a way that presents no problem for the do-er. Our world is becoming frictionless and almost every single action is now as easy as ABC. Of course, there is still work to be done when it comes to delivering an omni-channel experience online and off-line and according to published reports, “48 per cent of US consumers believe companies need to do a better job of integrating their online and off-line experiences.” That said, retailers are getting close to making this a reality.

Today, our frictionless world has developed to such an extent that it would be hard to think of a world without such convenience and the possibilities for its future expansion are exciting.

The key to frictionless is data

Frictionless has exploded with the emergence of new technologies – smartphones, the cloud, machine learning and virtual assistants to name a few. All of these technologies either produce, store or analyses vast quantities of data – to provide seamless experiences in the 21st century. The impact of this is industries such as travel, finance, retail and many more have been touched by the frictionless effect which enables people to have a seamless experience whether they are purchasing goods, travelling or interacting with their bank or insurance company. Even governments and the public sector are embracing frictionless experiences – online tax returns, “no paper” programmes and online procedures are now commonplace and encouraged across the board.

This has had a knock-on effect on the generations that have grown up with these technologies. The “data-driven” generations, Millennials and Generation Z, are happy to embrace the idea of a fully connected society and are expecting a seamless experience from the start. They purchase the latest technology, use services that take advantage of digital concepts and technology, have multiple social media accounts and understand that data is a powerful tool – especially concerning their experiences. Expectations are high. Consumers are more engaged and more autonomous.

While the term is appearing across industries it is hardly new. The European Union Schengen Agreement which was signed in 1985, sought to abolish borders between European nations. The purpose: make the movement of people and goods as frictionless as possible. While Brexit will, of course, threaten to cause friction once again, it will be the job of the UK parliament to ensure that this does not happen. The potential result: major disruptions to the UK’s trade agreements and mass outrage from British sun-seekers.

But what does this mean for IT teams within enterprise organisations?

What’s become accepted and expected in the consumer world is making its way to the enterprise – both internally and externally. No matter if it’s a customer or supplier, engagement with a customer must be seamless – the level of frictionless is linked to reputation in a digital world. IT teams want to use software that’s as easy as streaming a video on YouTube or listening to music on Spotify. They want to be able to start data loading projects easily, they want to be able to connect cloud sources into data warehouses or data lakes in minutes. And they need it to be simple as they purchase on Amazon.

Digital-native generations are pushing new ways of consuming data within an organisation. One of the major trends driven by this generation is the “pay-as-you-go” model enabled by the explosion of cloud applications. According to IDC, the millennial-led companies have adopted cloud applications such as travel, invoice, expense management and human capital management — as well as desktop as a service — at a more than 20 per cent higher rate than the average midmarket firm.

Cloud has been revolutionising the way the organisations work with data integration. These new data workers now want to consume technology as a service and not just as products anymore, which reduces costs – the installation and administration are no longer managed internally, but by the provider. Data workers can thus focus on the real benefits of their job – data ingestion and integration in the cloud, providing analysis to improve the business in real-time. Cloud integration is not an option for this generation, it is a no-brainer and they are leading the way to cloud and self-service adoption within their organisations. Making use of platforms offered by data integration and cloud management platforms is pivotal in the success of your business. Platforms and services that allow you to seamlessly and instantly move large amounts of data to their final destination must be taken advantage of in a society where frictionless is the new norm.

The impact on GDPR

The more frictionless an interaction between customer and vendor becomes, there are legitimate questions about data privacy and protection. Indeed, data is at the heart of an organisation’s frictionless strategy. Data volumes and flows are exploding, as well as the number of companies dealing with individuals’ data. And, in the event of a data breach, integrity of individuals is compromised, which is one of the major concerns when going frictionless.

However, just like frictionless experiences empower people by giving them more autonomy, new data protection regulations now empower them with data privacy.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has set up new foundations for data protection, especially with Article 15 which gives EU citizens the right to access their personal data. Now, individuals own their data and can decide whether it can be used by organisations. The European data protection regulation has also increased data consciousness among people who now pay more attention to their data, how it is used and by who.

Regulations like GDPR thus play a role of “frictionless enablers”; companies respecting the regulations’ principles are more trusted by individuals and so are able to use data to make individuals’ lives and business users’ daily jobs easier.

The reality is, no matter what audience we are talking about – be it customers, IT teams, suppliers, or a desk-residing employees – enterprise organisations must fully embrace being frictionless in every part of their business in order to be a truly transformative business in 2019.

Ciaran Dynes, Senior Vice President of Products, Talend