Solving for Hybrid App Customer Experience

The future of application design is not serverless, containers, microservices, bots or something completely new. It’s the integration of these new capabilities with your company’s existing assets, applications and cloud services. But these amalgams won’t add a lot of value if their connections to these existing assets degrade the customer experience. 
Sadly, this is the reality for many companies today. They are pushing these new capabilities to the edge, but still using old-school integration practices to link these apps to the above assets. Two approaches are all too common:
  1. Trust the Internet - it's everywhere, it's open and it's fast. If only this were true. With internet traffic growing at exponential rates trusting that your connection will be low latency is very high risk. And we all know how “open” aligns to secure. :)
  2. Bring it all home - if you can’t trust the internet, then the simple answer is to use secure, private connections, such as MPLS lines to connect these services back to the assets in the corporate data center. This would work if every hybrid connection you wanted to set up was from edge to HQ but that era died a long time ago. Just ask your sales teams if they love the experience connecting to Salesforce.com via your corporate VPN. 
If the above scenarios are flawed, then what is the better answer? Try optimizing your hybrid workflows' interconnections. 
The answer is reflective of best practices adopted in the early 2000s, when we first moved to the web. Back then, you didn’t just create a web site, host it in Rackspace’s San Antonio data center and suddenly every customer with internet access got a good experience. Nope, as Keynote Systems (now Dynatrace) proved, you needed to optimize content colocation with your most important customers. Content Delivery Networks were the answer, at that time. 
But today, you can’t simply cache content to solve for the Digital Edge customer experience. Today’s customers expect interactivity. And your Digital Edge isn’t just people looking at web pages and mobile apps, Increasingly it's smart devices that don’t just consume but also generate content that has to be acted on in near real time. This means the Digital Edge isn’t just a destination but a point of interactivity that is just as important and active as the data center itself. And yet, it's not just an isolated point of interactivity but the edge of a hybrid workflow.
This means we need to not optimize for connection to the edge but must optimize connectivity by the workflow. This requires taking the optimization practices of the past and evolving them to solve for these hybrid apps. The IT departments that get this right will become crucial to ensuring your company leads in customer experience. As Forrester continues to note in its CX research, those who get the customer experience right, win in the market. Your first step:
  1. Map out your Digital Edge - Where do you have offices where employees and smart devices need new experiences? Where are your most important customers for whom you are building out new capabilities? Where are new growth opportunities where innovative new digital services will win you new business?
  2. Graph the architectures of your hybrid apps - your new chatbot isn’t just the Facebook Messenger app your dev team just built. It’s the connections between the bot and the SaaS apps it calls into to aggregate past customer experiences, firmographic and social behaviors of your customers. It’s also your eCommerce system, when the customer’s ready to buy through the bot. 
  3. Solve for distance in each connection - If a customer in Singapore taps into your AWS-based bot, which Amazon data center did you deploy it into? When the bot calls the Microsoft Dynamics CRM app to learn about the customer, is that connection crossing a continent? When the customer uses ApplePay to sign up for your latest service is that transaction flowing back to Silicon Valley?
  4. Ensure your code is optimized for CX - Optimizing the pathways above might still not solve for good customer experience if the app itself is sending thousands of small packets through back and forth connections just to resolve a single request. This is where Application Performance Management tools come in. 
  5. Secure these connections - now that you have mapped out the workflows, you can apply the right level of security in the right places and where it is needed most. As stated above you don’t want to simply add a layer of security to the whole architecture. That can add latency where it isn’t needed or force a customer to go through validation steps before they are really necessary. Instead you want an optimized security architecture
By shifting to the above best practices, and working with companies like Equinix, who can give you more edge locations and more ecosystem interconnections than any other company in the market, your IT organization can become key to optimizing the customer experience. 
Every business is now undergoing a digital transformation. Too many are focusing on the use of shadow IT and cloud services that bypass traditional IT to do this. As a result, the CIO and his team have been losing relevance with the C-suite. Want to get it back? Look no further than an interconnection oriented architecture to build stellar customer experiences. To read more about an agile, secure, scalable digital edge approach, which leverages an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy, check out the IOA Knowledge Base.
A version of this post can be found here: https://blog.equinix.com/blog/2017/05/22/optimizing-interconnection-for-hybrid-apps-is-the-key-to-greater-customer-experience/

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