Great historical figures that perform daring deeds, live exemplary and inspirational lives or make massive contributions to humankind are rightly feted in history books, statues, buildings and other visible signs of their time on earth. But they also leave something less tangible, but more memorable and lasting which is a legacy that carries on and reminds us of what they achieved during their lifetime. Something powerful that inspires and informs subsequent generations. These figures include Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and more recently Nelson Mandela. While most of us probably won’t find a lasting place in any future history books, the idea of leaving a legacy for our children and our families, whether that is financial or reputational, is something most of us can identify with and strive for.
There’s legacy and then there’s legacy
In the business world many personal legacies are less memorable and more toxic, and deserve to be consigned to the Rip Off Rascals Hall of Shame. The Enron gang, Robert Maxwell, Fred Goodwin and Philip Green immediately come to mind. But there is one definition of legacy that many companies would probably also like to forget, but are reminded of every day by their customers and employees.This is their old and creaking technology defined in many dictionaries as “of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system.” As a customer the big clue is when a customer service agent says “my system’s slow”, followed by the even more awful, “bear with me.” On the contact centre agents side there is a lot of cutting, pasting, toggling and swearing, usually in that order. I can truly feel the pain and embarrassment that comes with slow, cumbersome legacy systems, when all the customer wants is effortless, fast and effective service.
In many ways the criticism is a bum rap as these systems actually do much of the corporate heavy lifting and perform valiant and important tasks involving a wide range of applications. Unfortunately they seldom do them quickly, easily or elegantly, leaving many to curse about the “damned legacy system.” Using sporting analogies, you can think of them as the linemen in American Football or the front row in rugby that do all the unseen donkey work while the quarterbacks, running backs and fly halves dance speedily around and through them on their way to the big scores and equally large headlines and pay packets.
Your best legacy may be in the cloud
But, as in sports, there is a new breed of solutions that are fleet of foot, able to turn on a dime and have all the flexibility of a yogi on speed and that are breathing new life and purpose into legacy systems. They also leave the customers and colleagues cheering them on enthusiastically while not costing businesses Premier or Major League transfer fees and wages.
These solutions are not meant to be immediate replacements for legacy systems, although many are able to perform some of their functions very capably. But they must be the first step for companies seeking crawl out from under the train wreck that is increasingly complex, expensive and inflexible legacy IT solutions and dependency on bloated, self-serving and increasingly archaic IT departments. They can play a huge supporting role in mediating between systems to fetch and carry the data and information required to quickly and accurately address customer inquiries. The challenge that most businesses face is that information and customer data reside in different places and in different forms – usually in the much maligned legacy systems that is expensive to replace or modify.
Why it’s important to address this ever increasing fusion of critical customer data can be summed up in one word – Immediacy. Customers reach out from many places, in different ways and usually without much warning. What they want more than anything is recognition of who they are; what their issues are; and how quickly and smoothly it will be addressed. The solutions that zero in this most effectively this are usually cloud based interaction platforms that can provide immediate, updated and visual access to customer history, regardless of channel, and are integrated within a single window that can access the legacy big boys when necessary. This makes them easier to use and deliver faster response times without having to switch applications and/or significantly adding to the existing IT infrastructure.
The provenance of these solutions varies from CRM to contact centre and other customer service focused applications, but are generally aimed at maintaining, consolidating and displaying customer contact data across channels and locations. They usually feature more open Application Programming Interfaces (API) that can make system integration easier, quicker and much less expensive. Companies will find that, even if they are committed financially to older legacy systems, they can still use the cloud to push and pull data to and from the right places, thereby increasing their ability to provide an updated, accurate view of the customer and deliver a great customer experience.
Lower start-up costs, agile implementation – What could go wrong?
Cloud technologies also have their share of doubting Thomas’s, usually in IT, and there is no single journey map to cloud adoption, but rather a wide variety of on-ramps and paths. Organizations have different starting points, goals and available resources. Consequently, in the interests of corporate harmony, an amalgamation of traditional IT solutions and methodologies that provide an evolution rather than a revolution is the way that many companies are building cost effective, Omni-channel, technology solutions capabilities aimed at enhancing customer engagement
Many cloud solutions offer low cost, or no cost, trial periods that allow organizations to test the applications in a real world or test environment, before deciding to proceed. As a subscription model, companies can also manage their investment carefully, and users can be brought on as required with flexibility in both data and capability, and with a minimum of IT involvement.
Many organizations are now looking at implementing cloud based model offices and innovation hubs as a way to conduct discovery exercises and fast track strategic, procedural and operational developments. This enables them to trial these concepts in “what if” scenarios that can mirror customer behaviour, colleague actions and determine acceptance of the proposed changes or any obstacles to their introduction. Even if an organization needs to go to tender, they can go with a much clearer idea of requirements, and knowledge of the “art of the possible” that can significantly reduce procurement time frames and costs.
The end result is that these solutions can make life easier, quicker and satisfying for customers, smoother & less time consuming for colleagues and more cost effective for the business.
Now that’s a legacy and something to really remember you by!