Digital DisruptionIT Best Practices

Omnichannel: A Buzzword IT Leaders Shouldn’t Dismiss

Omnichannel used to refer to different media types. An IT leader could have one marketing strategy for direct mail, another for print, and another for social and web. Now the word has ballooned to encompass everything from internal IT applications to HR portals. As Patrick Gray explains in an article for TechRepublic, it’s a term that grows more relevant to IT by the hour.

Omnichannel IT Design

The word has its origins in user-driven design. In IT, a portion of the design process typically consists of gathering requirements, with selected features and functions either getting implemented or eventually tossed out. Omnichannel design is a bit different. Instead of loading up the design plan with different features to support a single task or role, omnichannel seeks to understand the user’s context, and then arranges the appropriate media to match that experience:

A common misconception about omnichannel is that it means particular content or services should be available in some capacity on any device. Rather than attempting to cram desktop-style applications into tiny mobile screens through responsive design, omnichannel thinking provides a different experience based on the channel.

API-Driven Architecture

That transferability pays off by erasing the traditional mindset of “roles” and “departments.” It replaces silo thinking with the nuances of context and end-user experience. What Gray is talking about here is organizational integration at the level of technology (API-driven architecture), to say nothing of cultural integration.

What Gray does want to caution against is a perfectionistic mindset regarding the implementation of an omnichannel framework:

Much like the advice that diet and exercise are the keys to losing weight, a focus on the user and context, channel capabilities, and intelligent integration are conceptually easy to grasp, yet difficult to implement in practice. However, simply reorienting your thinking toward the user and their context will likely simplify your technology deployments and, while requiring more up-front investment in understanding your users, will result in streamlined applications and IT processes later.

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