Technology has not only blurred the boundaries of business and IT; it has also elevated customer experience (CX) as the number-one brand differentiator for every business. Technology-backed business processes make it possible for customers to have an exceptional and personalized experience in every interaction, whether with employees, products, websites, marketing messages or social media. And what makes for a superior CX is the ability to apply the rapid convergence of technology.
Technology convergence is nothing new. Essentially, it’s the coming together of different technologies to interoperate efficiently as a single system. Over the decades, unrelated technologies have been unified or integrated to strengthen end-user value, which has ignited innovation and economic growth.
A simple example is smartphones, which combine the functionality of a telephone, a camera, a music player and the web into one device. Today, it’s quite common to see the convergence of artificial intelligence, data, analytics and cloud technologies through software as a service (SaaS) delivery models, resulting in greater end-user value and lower costs.
SaaS, CX and Convergence
Two recent examples of this type of technology convergence are the foundational tools offered by Microsoft and ServiceNow.
Microsoft’s motto is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Many of its tools are catalysts for business change and push the boundaries of productivity by enabling more pervasive collaboration, data democratization and analytics-based intelligence into business relationships. They are made possible through the convergence of cloud, software services and the tools’ seamless integration with day-to-day life.
ServiceNow says it endeavors to change the way people work by making service orchestration an enterprise discipline and by placing a service‑oriented lens on the activities, tasks and processes that make up day‑to‑day work life. By doing so, it wants to help modern enterprises operate faster and be more scalable than ever before.
Both Microsoft and ServiceNow embody the technological convergence needed for delivering a superior customer experience that will drive the next generation of growth.
As long as the platform providers maintain the modularity of functionalities so that businesses can choose the best products for their needs, integrate them seamlessly with their native environments and pay as they use them, technology buyers will continue to entertain the ecosystem approach. No longer would organizations need to fuse functionalities together with APIs and custom code to achieve systems interoperability. A few clicks in a configuration table would do the trick.
Using Technology Convergence to Your Advantage
Here are some key considerations for technology buyers to take full advantage of the opportunities of technology convergence as a tool for growth:
- Convergence nurtures innovation. Because of the flexibility of cloud ecosystems, vendors can enable incremental innovation in SaaS production and service consumption processes. However, these innovations should not end up merely addressing isolated problems. To avoid siloed solutions, businesses should choose SaaS vendors that use the concept of “micro-SaaS,” in which they tag on niche SaaS applications as add-on products that address very specific functional needs. By doing so, they can protect the foundation of the ecosystem by creating horizontal, vertical and micro-SaaS products (topics I discussed in a previous post) so that they interoperate efficiently as a converged system.
- Convergence does not mean consolidation. The evolution of digital twins poses a constant challenge to SaaS providers to adopt new ways of meeting customer expectations. The reason: It isn’t easy to keep enterprise functional platforms extensible enough to absorb emerging technical capabilities. Unless the tools are modular and stand-alone, it would be difficult for customers to pick-and-choose and pay-as-they-use. Although platforms such as ServiceNow can make the process of integrating and managing workflows easier, it is, indeed, technology-intensive work. A platform that contains all the solution components of the ecosystem simplifies this task, rather than creating custom code to integrate various workflows into a larger enterprise architecture.
- Convergence should lead to new avenues of customer engagement. “Enchanted objects” offer the benefits of technology without forcing the user to think about it or see the complexities underneath the user experience. While it’s a challenge for SaaS platforms to accommodate new human interfaces (including those that aren’t screen-based, such as voice), this must be addressed as digital becomes more the business rule than the exception.
- Technology convergence doesn’t mean anything if enterprise architecture isn’t a fit. When constructed correctly, the enterprise IT architecture should make it easier for businesses to choose the technology stack that is best suited for their required functionality instead of a one-size-fits-all model. Businesses also shouldn’t complicate the enterprise IT architecture by connecting all stackable technologies to reach an end goal. It’s unwise to pursue a SaaS-first strategy without ensuring architectural fit. Similarly, less mature SaaS products will likely only introduce a maintenance nightmare. It’s key to take a balanced approach between architectural fit and SaaS evaluation and adoption.
- When there’s a change outside, there will be a change inside. When technologies converge, they create new ways to simplify architectures and associated IT assets. Businesses that don’t react to market convergence may create enterprise IT inefficiencies. It’s critical, therefore, to keep the enterprise architecture agile, nimble and scalable.
- Without partnerships, there is no ecosystem. Establishing ecosystem partnerships are key when adopting SaaS, especially when there’s a serious skills gap in the technologies and geographies we choose. Businesses should include co-creation of value with partners, customers and employees as part of their innovation culture.
- Remote is the new constant. Remote work will likely continue to be widespread in the post-COVID age, which poses fundamental challenges to the SaaS operating model. It is critical to rethink and rewire the configuration-testing-rollout-maintenance processes so they align with and support this reality.
Every innovation starts with customers at the center. Technology convergence is no exception. Cloud and SaaS models have made it possible for businesses to adopt the best-of-breed IT products and services that contain the elements necessary to solve their business problems without a lot of customization. When platform providers focus on convergence as a means for delivering a superior customer experience, businesses should be prepared to take them up on it. When opportunity meets preparation, success is inevitable.
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