By integrating the right cloud-based services into a well-designed multi-channel process and data structure you can achieve a faster, more cost effective integration of services.
One of the questions asked most by clients and service providers alike is: “How does one integrate all the data across independent service channel providers?” One of today’s best answers is: “You get your head in The Clouds.” And I mean that quite literally. Cloud-based services have become Multi-Channel’s new BFF. The fact is that cloud-based services are enabling even the smallest of companies to leverage some of the most powerful tools at little to no capital expense. These tools are typically delivered in the form of SaaS (Software as a Service), which allows users to access the tool over the Internet (or cloud) using their browser. Other important elements of the cloud include SaaS’ first cousins: PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service). PaaS and IaaS go beyond browser-based tools to provide elements such as hardware, security, virtual networks, storage and automation.
So how exactly does this tie into your multichannel endeavors you might ask? And the answer I might give is, “API” (yep, another acronym). API stands for Application Programming Interface. It’s really just a fancy way to explain how services in the cloud talk to each other. One of the most common API’s in use today is called a “web service.” In fact, the most common method of transmitting data across the Internet is by implementing web services. And this is where The Cloud and Multi-Channel have forged such a meaningful relationship.
In the figure below, you can see how a pharma company may have several channel service providers involved in their multi-channel program. They may also have a service provider who is responsible for aggregating data and/or distributing information and instructions to and from the channel providers.
Traditionally, integrating these service providers would require lengthy development cycles for many unique data exchange processes, and an extraordinary level of oversight in order to keep the business in sync. In contrast, good cloud-based service providers already have standards-based APIs associated with their services. By utilizing those existing APIs (or web services) integration is easily accomplished, typically at a much lower cost and short time frame than non-cloud-based alternatives. Like the meshed gears of a finely tuned machine, the integrated output from one provider can instantly feed another. Each service can provide added value to the others in an almost effortless stream of efficiency and effectiveness. Also, aggregating the activity (or data) provides a rich pool of intelligence that can be easily and comprehensively analyzed—provided, of course, you have developed the right data structure. Improvements can be distributed back to each channel provider through automation or on demand instruction.
In a nutshell, by leveraging this ease of integration found in so many cloud-based services today, the pharma company spends less time and money on managing the machine and more time focusing on its core business of providing the right message and managing the relationships that their multi-channel programs are meant to forge. And in my experience, reduced capital expenditures, lower total cost of ownership and increased effectiveness equal greater ROI.
For answers to your questions on Multi- Channel 2.0, business logic, understanding your data and other issues, email steve.gransden@ knipper.com.