Sector as a Service #4 – Close to the Edge

For a starting business, applying IT solutions from the cloud is already the default option. And although larger enterprises may still see inhibitors to fully embracing it, they can already turn to the public cloud to enable new, ‘edge’ business activities. Often, these activities are at the core of true Digital Transformation and will provide the best growth opportunities. So look outside-in, at areas such as social CRM, Human Capital Management, collaborative procurement, but also mobility and analytics to kick off exploring the next generation of IT solutions. Create real benefits now.

For all organizations, small or large, new or long-standing, the world in which they operate is changing dramatically. The digital world, driven by cloud technologies, presents huge opportunities both for success and failure. However, it is not necessarily the technology itself that is driving the revolution but the change in customer (and employee) behavior and expectations that these new capabilities offer.

Most organizations are designed to do what they do internally as efficiently as possible. Standardized processes, back-office consolidation and cost reduction are the language of the operating model and are all focused on the internal workings of the organization. They are all designed to do a few things as well as possible and repeat them as often as possible.

But today’s new consumers have different expectations. They don’t want a standardized world, they want a personalized one – and they want it now. Driven by their experience of social tools, the immediacy of mobile working and their encounters with companies that have grown up with an internet-first mentality, they expect the same of all organizations.

They want to review and order exactly what they want, when they want it, delivered to where it is most convenient. And having done that through one channel such as their mobile phone, they rightly expect to be able to walk into a store or phone a call center and continue exactly the same conversation or transaction. After all, why can’t you return what you bought online yesterday to a store today?

All of this is happening at the edge of the organization and not in the back office where most businesses have spent the last 10 years industrializing. Operating at the edge calls for a new approach, not just with technology but with culture and organization.

For a new start-up business this is second nature and applying solutions from the cloud is naturally the default option. However, larger enterprises often see inhibitors to fully embracing it, whether that be around data security and compliance or the investment in legacy assets on the balance sheet.

But the opportunity exists to use the public cloud (and a wide range of easy-to-consume SaaS solutions) to enable new, ‘edge’ business activities. Standing up a service and trialing it in one outlet or with one team or one set of customers can deliver results exceptionally quickly, especially when compared with developing something on the ‘legacy’ IT platform. Often, these activities are at the core of true Digital Transformation and will provide the best growth opportunities.

So organizations, regardless of their legacy heritage, should look outside-in at areas such as social, CRM, Human Capital Management and collaborative procurement as well as employee productivity tools, mobility and analytics to kick off exploring the cloud and create real benefits now.

To do this, start by mapping ‘edge’ areas that create new business and customer interaction and look to existing market SaaS solutions with a buy not build mentality. The underlying service doesn’t have to be unique; the way you engage with your customers becomes your unique differentiator.

This contribution by Simon Short  

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.