Designing a latency-free enterprise

The businesses that succeed in the future will harness the potential to create real-time, latency-free enterprises that drive new revenue, boost customer engagement, and enhance employee productivity

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In an era of constant connectivity, consumer expectations of businesses run high. Latency—the delay inherent between a desire and pursuant request for information and its ultimate return—creates frustration, inhibits success and can impact customer experiences and ultimately customer satisfaction. Long story short, we live in a real-time world and no one wants to wait. Latency is a source of friction.

If I can post a photo, search for a flight, watch live sports, or get real-time stock portfolio updates instantly on my phone, why can’t I do the same in my day-to-day business dealings?

Enterprises constantly straddle the line between deploying innovative approaches and carrying forward processes that drove historical success. Across companies and industries, digital transformation initiatives aim for faster business operations, more real-time interactions and reducing the amount of latency in the chain.

The focus on latency reduction matters. The longstanding phrase “time is money” has never been more true. Slow responses aggravate customers, both inside and outside the enterprise. Business who respond slowly can more readily be disrupted by a competitor or simply lose customers to more responsive alternatives. And beyond just transactional responses, the ability to rapidly adapt to changing requirements with real-time analytics remains critical. Firms with adaptive infrastructure stand to thrive.

Let’s look at how you can help your organization go latency-free.

Start fresh

Businesses develop workflows and processes that become more complex over time. Often a fresh start helps break new ground for innovative approaches. Some companies go so far as to launch arms-length initiatives unencumbered by the past.

For example, last year Walmart launched a new incubator arm called Store No 8, intended to be “an innovation ecosystem where new ideas can thrive outside the existing definitions of retail.” 

More recently it was reported that Walmart has invested hundreds of millions in its own cloud computing infrastructure to compete with Amazon, certainly a new approach compared to its traditional brick-and-mortar business. This has given the company the ability to modernize its software development infrastructure where “Walmart can now make over 170,000 monthly changes to software that supports its website, compared to less than 100 changes previously.”

This staggering improvement has “transformed its ability to understand shoppers, who now move between store, desktop, mobile and app to make purchases.” Ultimately, this provides Walmart with an ability to create rich, real-time experiences for its customers.

Focus on foundational technologies

Moving from traditional to latency-free workflows involves investment in foundational technologies. A great example is large banks that support a range of data-centric products such as investment portfolios, risk assessment, and fraud detection, all based on a common set of data-management platforms.

Finance as an industry is one of the world’s largest consumers of information technology, and a showcase of how companies can develop expertise in house to drive innovative applications. This latency-free approach offers several benefits.

Optimize the business at hand

A custom-tailored foundation can be optimized for the business at hand. For example, a Walmart foundation might focus on aggregating data quickly among its large customer base, which includes an eye-popping 95 percent of the US population according to sales tracking company NPD.

Deliver peak performance

In finance, however, speed becomes a big part of the solution. Recently Charles Schwab won  an American Financial Technology Award for Best IT Team. In supporting teams to deliver risk management frameworks, it mentioned that “delivery of these projects benefited from employing key Charles Schwab foundational initiatives in data and analytics.”

With the right foundational technologies in place, companies can build experience that eliminate latency and drive interactive engagement.

Push ahead with customer experience

In a race to engage with customers, companies can use modern technologies to try new initiatives, particularly those that involve the customer experience. Consider the wave of new solutions coming with the Internet of Things, and how that can apply all the way to consumer interaction. According to Adweek, in the article “Coca-Cola Is Embracing AI and Chatbots in Preparation for a Digital-First Future,” “Using data, artificial intelligence, and connected devices, Coca-Cola trying to rapidly test and enact new customer experiences and services.”

One area is connecting a new Coke On mobile app to the vending machine to create a real-time fulfillment experience. The application can determine which vending machine you are in front of, anywhere. It then presents a selection based on real-time inventory. This helps avoid having to examine the machine in detail and any negative reaction from anticipating your preferred beverage only to find out that it is not in stock.

The ongoing quest to go latency-free

Data continues to seep into every aspect of our lives. For many companies, there are plenty of opportunities to focus on real-time, latency-free architectures, some of which I wrote about last month in “Dawn of intelligent applications.” The businesses that succeed in the future will harness this potential to create real-time, latency-free enterprises that drive new revenue, boost customer engagement, and enhance employee productivity.

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