This summer’s announced development alliance between Apple and Cisco reminded me of a quote from Tim Cook, Apple CEO, that I once read, “Most business models have focused on self-interest instead of user experience.” Needless to say, Apple has built one of the most successful brands in history by focusing on consistently delivering an exceptional user experience, whether interacting with its product family or its various service offerings. Apple has raised the bar for what both consumers and business professionals have come to expect from technology.
In earlier blogs, I discussed the importance of connected processes and connected analytics in the transition toward companies becoming digital businesses. The final piece in digital transformation is connected experiences. Ultimately business outcomes from operational improvements are driven by new interactions and experiences. Both the process and analytics requirements need to be informed by the shoppers, service consumers, business professional, citizens and so on – all participants among who and what is being connected — and how they are connected. User requirements define how people can transparently access hyper-distributed centers of data, whether via smartphones, tablets, laptops, or specialized devices. But it is not just about simply having access to the data. Most importantly, it is about delivering timely insights so that users can make informed decisions. Put simply, it is about delivering personal and/or professionally relevant information that an individual needs, when and where they need it, and in the best way for them to understand or apply it.
Peter Sondergaard, Senior Vice-President and Global Head of Research at Gartner, summed it up this way at the firm’s recent ITxPO event, “In five years, 1 million new devices will come online every hour. These interconnections are creating billions of new relationships. These relationships are not driven solely by data, but algorithms. Data is inherently dumb. It doesn’t actually do anything unless you know how to use it, how to act with it.” I believe it is incumbent upon us to guide customers to discern the value of collected data, extract meaningful information from it, and analyze and use the data to offer new capabilities, richer interactions, and unprecedented opportunities for businesses, individuals, municipalities and more.
Business Value is Measured by the Bit
The economic value of bringing together information from multiple sources that were never connected before produces new insights, better decisions and unique experiences. It is a move away from focusing only on massive data integration, to focus on connecting bits of data in the most contextually appropriate way. Chances are you’re already experiencing this change. For example:
- In-store shoppers search online product reviews, compare prices and instantly are pushed a manufacturer’s coupon to prompt purchase
- Hotel guests access free Wi-Fi and are presented with a localized and personalized version of entertainment, dining and amenity choices based on previously expressed preferences
- Travelers use transparent, location-based services to automatically find departure gates quickly, receive itinerary updates and obtain re-routing instructions if needed
- Students navigate their way around campus and automatically receive safety alerts when needed
What characterizes each of these examples is that both the user and the information are frequently on the move. I described this environment in an earlier blog as the “hyper-distribution” of both endpoints and data. Cisco customers are connecting processes with underlying systems and information to achieve greater business insights and agility. But making the right connections can be difficult.
We have evolved from an era of monolithic centralized systems that were data-driven to distributed client server architectures that were service-oriented and request-driven and, now, to a hyper-distributed world that spans across cloud and mobile delivery – and one that requires enterprise-class and web-scale architectures that are event driven. In this environment the network must serve as the platform for digital business. It needs to help support applications everywhere, while also helping businesses to understand and manage all of the relationships between the large numbers of data points.
Changing the Check-In Experience So Guests Won’t Check Out: A Hotel’s Journey
Perhaps the best way to explain this change in user experience is by sharing the story of a company that is creating better business outcomes by doing just that – technically changing the way their customers interact with their services. The Cisco customer is a large international hotel chain with more than 50 locations. And like every hotel today, it offers Wi-Fi to its guests. However, it wanted to go beyond ordinary connectivity and differentiate itself from competition by personalizing and enhancing each guest’s experience.
The hotel’s concept is simple. When guests use their devices to join the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, the Cisco Connected Experience platform correlates the guest and location with their membership number in the hotel’s loyalty program, allowing the hotel to deliver a unique, highly personalized experience. It can build a history about each guest, know his or her preferences and use the information to shape their interaction with the hotel and its locale. For example, the hotel can know that I always prefer a corner room and auto-checkout or recall my prior habits to offer amenity discount vouchers (e.g. at the spa or coffee shop). And the list of enhancements goes on and on – from targeted loyalty offers segmented by frequency of visit to streaming content on mobile devices from the guest’s room. The more guest data the hotel gathers, the better and better the guest experience becomes with each stay. And, of course, the hotel’s employees can also be more effective and productive in their roles as hospitality ambassadors.
Requirements to Change the User Experience for the Better
This revolution in defining user experiences of tomorrow requires a new software approach today. Among requirements for the delivery of new user experiences are:
- Streaming analytics, aggregation and automation – across data-in-motion and data-at-rest – at the network’s edge
- Application development for hosting on fog, cloud and mobile technologies
- Secure and seamless process orchestration to support new B2B and B2C interactions across an ecosystem of potential partners
- A programmable infrastructure with policy-based and programmatic access to any asset
- Application integration across hybrid computing environments
Creating connected experiences isn’t an easy undertaking. That’s why we’ve invested considerable time and engineering resources to address these new user experience requirements. The result is the Cisco Connected Experiences platforms, specifically designed to assist companies undergoing digital transformation. One example is our Interactive Experience Platform. It combines the best ideas from Cisco and our partners to powerfully and flexibly meet a wide range of customer needs. A few of its attributes include an intuitive touch-screen interface, flexible layouts that can incorporate web content and dynamic video on the same screen, re-use of web content with minimal changes to ensure a consistent experience, remote updating of content, templates and application based on workflows, and integration with various collaboration technologies such as Tandberg Movi for virtual assistance. Plus, through signage integration, it can drive user engagement on both interactive and non-interactive displays.
Along with the Cisco software platforms for Connected Analytics and Connected Processes that I have touched upon in earlier blogs, our Connected Experiences software is designed to enable businesses of all kinds to accelerate their digital transformation. Where does your company stand in its transition to becoming a digital business? What are some of the hurdles you need to overcome?