DMI Digital Leader — Bryan Hardman, Herschend Family Entertainment

Digital Leader -- Bryan Hardman, Herschend Family Entertainment

Mobilizing the Guest Experience at our Nation’s Top Theme Parks and Attractions

Tell us about Herschend Family Entertainment.

Herschend Family Entertainment, based in Atlanta, operates theme parks and attractions around the country including Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and Dollywood in Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains. We’re considered the nation’s largest family-owned themed attractions corporation. Our team of more than 10,000 employees operates entertainment, tourism and hospitality properties spanning 23 locations in six states. We’re proud to be named one of the 2020 top places to work in Atlanta by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

What prompted you to select DMI as a mobility solutions partner?

DMI came highly recommended from another theme park for mobile app development. Though we had been using off-the-shelf mobile app technology for several years, in 2017 it became apparent we needed to develop features unique to our properties. We wanted to develop our own apps as opposed to custom development within the SaaS product we were using. DMI has now successfully built iOS and Android apps for Dollywood, Silver Dollar City, as well as the Harlem Globetrotters which our company acquired in 2013.

How have the apps worked and describe their most valuable features?

The apps have been extremely well received and we’ve continued to invest and enhance them every year. Through this project we’ve been able to successfully deliver mobile features to our guests that include wayfinding, live show schedules and ride wait times. We also now have the ability to send messages, promotions and real-time safety information in case of severe weather causing certain attractions to have to close.

 

Why do kids particularly enjoy the Harlem Globetrotters app?

The Harlem Globetrotters app is innovative and indeed a fan favorite. Fans can learn about the players, find stats, game day information and even transform themselves into a Globetrotter with help from augmented reality! Photo filters transform guests into basketball stars and fans can test their skills in a basketball shooting challenge. The apps deliver alerts about special promotions and links for fans to purchase Globetrotters gear including player jerseys, basketballs and novelty items.

What other projects do you have on the horizon?

Our ultimate goals is to roll out the same mobile app platform that is now in our two largest properties to all of our properties including our smaller amusement parks, aquariums and water parks. Additionally, the Dollywood app currently serves the theme park. We’d like it to eventually serve the entire Dollywood brand experience including the resort, waterpark and dining destinations so all are connected.

Describe your overall experience partnering with DMI.

Working with DMI has been great. In fact, we would rank DMI among our very best partners. From the account side, to project management side to the development side, it’s been stellar. The team gets it. Over the years we’ve worked with a lot of vendors. Without exception, DMI is fantastic to work with. They anticipate our needs, keep it simple and come up with great ideas!

Improve Health Outcomes Through Digital Patient Engagement

It is widely accepted that patient engagement is an important focus for our NHS. It is critical to achieve better health outcomes for patients. Studies suggest that patients who are well-informed, educated about their condition, and involved in their healthcare decisions not only have greater satisfaction of care, but also have better outcomes. The benefits lead to healthier lifestyle habits and adherence to treatment plans. Patients who are active participants in their own health care have fewer unplanned hospital readmissions, medical errors, and delays in care.

COVID-19 has shown the importance of NHS services being able to engage patients remotely, but has also highlighted the inadequacies of some virtual channels for engaging patients, including:

  • Misinformation and confusing guidance.
  • Patients being directed to different government websites, which are often difficult to navigate, and sometimes have conflicting information.
  • 111 call centres unable to cope to with the peaks in call volumes.
  • Virtual channels are often inaccessible to elderly and vulnerable patients.

That said, the current trend for non-physical engagement is here to stay beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

An online survey posted between March and April targeted at healthcare professionals reported a change in routine hospital care to virtual communication. Diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and hypertension were the most impacted conditions due to reduction in access to care. 80% reported the mental health of their patients worsened during Coronavirus.

It is important routine care continues despite the pandemic, to avoid a rise in non-COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality. But with the uncertainty of identifying regional spikes and lockdowns being implemented, the ability for local health systems to plan and respond to routine care will lead to more unpredictable peaks in health services when lockdowns are eased.

Digital technologies can help the NHS in how to deal with this unpredictable pent up demand. Some solutions include:

  1. Virtual Data Assistants – A chatbot that patients use to ask questions about NHS information. In Scotland, NHS 24 launched a chatbot to give the public accurate and up-to-date facts about Covid-19 as well as help and support them if they have symptoms or need specific services such as mental health support. The bot responded to more than 40,000 queries in its first 30 days, using clinically approved information from NHS Scotland.
  2. Patient-centric websites – A responsive website leads to a better user experience. Most modern health information websites, such as the NHS website, has a wealth of data. Information about local services, symptom checkers and living well suggestions. Users searching for information want to see what information is available and be able to explore the relevant publications quickly and easily.

The ability to analyse the patient experience and data they are searching for will support the NHS in having access to additional insights that will enable better care planning and anticipate regional peaks in routine care for chronic or mental health conditions.

  1. Virtual appointments – These allow for remote video consultations between clinician and patients. We have seen a significant increase in recent months in the use of virtual consultations for routine care appointments, as well as for counselling and mental health consultations. They have proved to be an effective medium for supporting independence and self-confidence among young people aged 12–18 years.

In a 15-minute virtual appointment once a week, nurses supported participating patients to improve their continence and self-care. Participants reported that they felt more confident talking about personal issues online rather than face-to-face. They also valued the privacy that online consultations allowed feeling more confident, speaking to a nurse on their own about personal concerns, without the need of a parent being present.

Converging Data and User Experience

At DMI, we believe that at the centre of every successful technology product is a converged data and user experience strategy. This means that data is captured, exposed, and leveraged where relevant to meet the patients’ needs. When user experience research and design is incorporated into technology, innovative ideas come to light. Understanding user needs and journeys at a more fundamental level allow for new opportunities and ideas to emerge.

If you would like to know how DMI can support your digital health patient engagement please contact the healthcare team at [email protected].

-Assad Tabet, senior client partner 

DMI Digital Leader — Matias Páez Molina, Devgurus

Digital Leaders Header - Matias

Welcoming devgurus to the DMI Global Team

DMI is excited about the acquisition of devgurus. What’s been the response from your team?

We’re thrilled to support DMI’s Commerce Group in becoming being a predominate provider of commercetools solutions as a result of this acquisition. We look forward to helping DMI’s customers achieve brand value by creating more sophisticated shopping experiences across new channels including apps, video and social media. From a cultural perspective, the union of DMI and devgurus just makes sense. Both companies share a passion for cutting-edge technologies and superior customer service. It was our intention to join forces with an established global leader in digital transformation and we’ve certainly found that in DMI.

How would you describe devgurus?

Devgurus is a services company that empowers our customers across the globe with modern technologies that form the building blocks of the new digital commerce age. Founded in 2015, we help retailers and manufacturers meet their rapidly shifting ecommerce needs across all touchpoints, including mobile, online, IoT, kiosk and in-store to ultimately create uniform and user-friendly shopping experiences. Our developers are experts in design architecture and digital experiences in the cloud.

How has Covid-19 accelerated change within ecommerce?

As a result of the pandemic, many businesses are experiencing surges in their online sales, thus expediting the already existing widespread disruption within the ecommerce industry. According to a study from Digital Commerce 360, only 36% of retailers are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to COVID-19, while the rest are being proactive. We think a proactive approach is smart. Now is the time for companies to “future-proof” their ecommerce architecture to create optimal customer experiences.

How does commercetools help retailers quickly become more responsive to their customers across all channels?

Commercetools is widely considered the world’s most flexible microservices-based platform. It empowers enterprises to connect to their back-end systems such as CRM, ERP and OMS and integrate complex product catalogues, thus alleviating common retail pain points including time-to-market delays, product data importing challenges and high-demand scalability. Commercetools’ API-based enterprise platform enables retailers and brands launch enterprise commerce initiatives in weeks rather than months.

Tell us about the recent recognition from industry analysts.

For us, it came as no surprise that commercetools was recognized as a Leader in both the 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce and the 2020 B2C Commerce Suites Forrester Wave™. This publicity, together with the platform’s existing achievements, have been instrumental in introducing commercetools to new customers and ultimately helping these organizations tap into new revenue streams. Our team of developers looks forward to helping DMI’s customers also achieve significant digital commerce ROI.

Top 4 Benefits of DMI’s Workplace Shield – Back to Work Safely

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and the way we work for the foreseeable future. Many workplaces and employees are uncertain about going back to work, how to enforce social distancing rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and how to keep workplaces clean and safe.

Enter DMI’s Workplace Shield. This secure mobile application was developed to address multiple risks and challenges associated with the workplace in this uncertain time by providing social distancing monitoring, contact tracing and room sanitization checklist reporting.

Here are four benefits of the new solution:

No new investment in hardware. Workplace Shield provides mobile device monitoring that helps ensure six feet of social distancing between individuals in any workplace, as recommended by the CDC. The DMI solution is unique in that, unlike other solutions, an alert generates even if the person entering the six-foot safety zone is not using DMI’s application. However, what’s not unique is the hardware it runs on. Nearly everyone has a mobile device these days, so no new investment is required on the part of the employee or individual.

Lightweight, but powerful, app. Workplace Shield has a number of solutions and features that make it robust but easy to use. For example, the Workplace Sanitization Reporting Solution empowers enterprises with a mobile checklist that delivers visibility into the daily status of workplace cleaning protocols. The digital checklist has an easy-to-configure dashboard allowing for management visibility into overall workplace sanitization readiness. The dashboard delivers real-time reports on the rooms and areas confirmed to have been cleaned, alerts for rooms that still need to be cleaned, as well as reporting capabilities that deliver an historical view of workplace cleaning protocols over periods of time.

Customers have visibility into protocols too. In addition to the digital checklists, all the checklists are customizable and printable. That offers a level of comfort for customers who can see the checklist if workplaces post it at the entrance or other visible areas.

The 30,000-foot-view. DMI’s solution also delivers contact tracing for all employee-to-employee on-site interactions in the event of a of COVID-19 diagnosis. DMI’s solution is fully anonymous, with no information or location data stored centrally or with a third-party supplier. But, leadership at a higher level is able to see an overview of the organization on the dashboard and pinpoint any COVID-19 hotspots or areas that need additional cleaning protocols.

Overall, DMI’s Workplace Shield is a robust solution during the COVID-19 pandemic that can help  employers, employees, and customers feel safer about an environment and cleaning protocols that are in place.

Varun Dogra, DMI’s Chief Technology Officer 

DMI Digital Leader — Laura Schmidt, eCare21

Digital Leader Award- Laura Schmidt

Accelerating Patient-First Mobile Telehealth Services

DMI is excited to be an eCare21 partner. Describe your company’s innovative telehealth services.

The U.S. healthcare system faces complex clinical and financial challenges, which have only been heightened due to Covid-19. Studies show telehealth solutions reduce patient risk in contracting Covid-19, and at the same time, reduce patient hospitalizations from other chronic conditions. eCare21 is proud to offer a secure, patient-centered mobile telehealth platform that empowers virtual healthcare delivery across the continuum of care. Our solution facilitates proactive patient engagement and has been recognized a top caregiving industry app. What’s more, our platform generates fully-compliant clinical documentation for insured patients helping to ensure medical providers receive reimbursement for the patient care they deliver remotely.

Tell us about your clinical background and role at eCare21.

My background is in nephrology focusing on kidney health and disease prevention. I served for over 20 years as a staff nurse, clinical manager and director of education. Currently, as eCare21’s Vice President of Clinical Services, I’m able to leverage my medical background working directly with our clients and their staff to develop and deploy these cutting-edge technologies and obtain customer feedback. I’m also excited to soon earning my Doctorate in Public Health, with my dissertation on digital health. It’s an interesting and rewarding space to be in and a field I would have never envisioned being involved with 10 years ago!

What patient conditions are best suited for being managed remotely?

Chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and asthma require round-the-clock patient data monitoring. Tracking these chronic populations remotely in real-time supports medical care providers in achieving optimal outcomes. Remote Patient Monitoring also empowers clinical staff at hospitals, medical centers and doctors’ offices to conduct timely interventions to prevent complications and hospital admissions before it’s too late.

How do eCare21’s partners work together to facilitate telehealth?

The eCare21 Virtual Care Solution, powered by Dell Technologies, is a low-cost, off-the-shelf smart device solution that delivers real-time Remote Patient Monitoring and telehealth capabilities. Specifically, the solution monitors glucose levels, blood pressure, physical activity, medication adherence, weight ranges, sleep stages and other key health indicators. Patient health information is stored securely in the cloud and is made available to authorized stakeholders, including clinicians and designated family members, regardless of location. We’re also excited to partner with DMI to create a procurement portal for our customers to select their required technology configuration. DMI will also provide Managed Mobility Services (MMS) including device shipping to health care providers, asset tracking and logistics. DMI’s status as a seven-time MMS Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader is a key reason we selected your company as a valued partner.

 What does the future hold for telehealth?

Whether healthcare organizations are ready or not, the era of virtual care has arrived with telehealth at the forefront. The requirement for social distancing has fundamentally impacted the way hospitals and medical practices manage patient care. Even providers who previously did not offer telehealth services are now gearing up to implement the technology in some form, a move that is supported by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Sweeping CMS regulatory changes declaring that providers can now bill for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits will only increase telehealth adoption exponentially.

DMI Digital Leader — Adrien Levinger, The Webster

Optimizing the Omni-Channel Shopping Experience for a Luxury Fashion House

Tell us about The Webster brand.

The Webster is a luxury multi-brand fashion house that operates eight physical U.S. boutiques in South Beach, Bal Harbour, Houston, Costa Mesa, New York City, Los Angeles, Montecito, an outlet at Sawgrass Mills and online store.  Each boutique has its own unique vibe and energy. Brands within our boutiques are merchandised as if customers have entered a dream closet. Our creative curation is what we are most proud of, positioning heritage brands with emerging brands together by color and emotion. It is the style of merchandising that sets us apart, as it is our unique interpretation of the season’s best pieces instead of the traditional mono-brand retail style.

Could you share more about the brand’s fascinating history?

Absolutely, Laure Heriard Dubreuil opened The Webster’s flagship location in 2009 on Collins Avenue in South Beach, Miami at what was the historical The Webster Hotel. The 20,000 square-foot Art Deco building was built in 1939 by architect Henry Hohauser. Dubreuil, who grew up in Paris and worked as a top merchandiser for Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent before founding The Webster, kept the name but reimagined the three-story interior as a women’s and men’s luxury retailer designed with intimacy to resemble a residential space.

Describe your role with The Webster.

As the Webster’s eCommerce Director, I manage all aspects of our online retail business including content strategy and development, promotional campaigns, online marketing, website design, web analytics and web technologies. My background is in engineering and IT services but curiously my career took a brief detour when I worked for a time as a fashion photographer. I feel that this experience positively informed my career trajectory, as I probably have a more sensitive eye aesthetically than a typical engineer.

What sort of work has DMI been doing with The Webster?

DMI is supporting us with enhancements to our User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) for the purpose of optimizing our conversion rate. DMI first conducted an audit of our current website, identified friction points and worked diligently to mitigate each friction point one-by-one. The team also reworked the navigation in the menu, particularly on our mobile site, and worked on the customer return experience as well as the mini-cart. Considering we just began collaborating with DMI last December, I feel a great deal has been accomplished in a short amount of time which I truly appreciate.

What is it like to collaborate with the DMI team?

It’s been fantastic. I really like the DMI spirit. The team is always very responsive and I receive excellent input and advice. Pablo Pazmino is excellent at his job. Since we embarked on this project, the whole world has changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and shopping in our physical locations is limited. Fortunately, The Webster’s eCommerce is now is much better than it used to be. I like to think the work we did with DMI contributed to these positive changes.

Adapting to Succeed in the Low-Touch Economy

The global pandemic has changed the way we work, socialize, and do business—and some of those changes are here to stay. Consumers want more convenient ways to accomplish everyday tasks, and the winners in this new low-touch economy will be the companies that adapt quickly.

At DMI, we have helped clients across industries transform aspects of their business to meet the growing demand for added convenience. Here are some of the ways we’ve helped organizations adapt:

HEALTHCARE

The fully-native, custom-designed mobile app we created for a hospital network enables providers to deliver telemedicine care and gives patients a single, user-friendly interface for appointment scheduling, viewing results, ER visit check-in, bill pay, and more. DMI’s mobile managed services, which recently surpassed IBM to be ranked #1 in the world by Gartner, provides durable hardware and seamless integration into the hospital network’s existing ecosystem.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

We worked with an event management company to create virtual experiences for an annual international art fair, which was canceled due to the pandemic. The robust web and mobile experiences mimicked the in-person experience of visiting art galleries, attending VIP and public shows, and connecting with gallery staff to purchase works of art. This virtual art fair had phenomenal participation, with attendees from around the world enjoying a totally new way to experience art.

TRAVEL

For a major international airport, we created a mobile app to enhance the passenger journey. Before arrival, the app provides details on ground transportation, weather, and flight status. At the airport, users receive flight status updates and can access useful information like the distance to their departure gate, baggage claim details, and nearby shopping and dining options. They can also pre-order food from restaurants, saving time and allowing for increased social distancing. Using iBeacon technology throughout the airport, the app delivers personalized assistance with wayfinding, plus location-based offers.

WELLNESS

We built a platform that enables leading gym chains to provide members with in-home fitness experiences, from live-streaming and on-demand classes to personal progress tracking. The platform, which can be seamlessly integrated into existing gym management systems, allows for content delivery over multiple channels—mobile apps, web, and native software development kits. In addition to keeping current members engaged remotely, it allows gyms to provide flexible, a la carte offerings.

CONSUMER PACKAGED GOODS

To make grocery shopping more efficient and personalized, we created a mobile app that lets users enter a shopping list and supermarket location and then rearranges the items into the order in which they’re displayed in that store. Shoppers receive personalized offers and can take advantage of touchless checkout. Retailers can leverage customer data to send more relevant, contextual offers in the future. This award-winning solution has led to larger purchases, greater loyalty, reduced overhead costs, and increased staff efficiency and customer satisfaction.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Within our own company, we created an employee-centric HR tool for keeping a remote workforce engaged. This mobile app enables remote performance reviews, including self-evaluations, manager and peer feedback, and individual goal-setting. Results have been very positive, with increasing employee satisfaction and improved team collaboration.

 

Transformation can be challenging, but it’s vital for long-term success—embracing change pays off in the end. As consumer demand shifts in the emerging low-touch economy, DMI is ready to help organizations prepare and adapt.

-Milan Kmezic, vice president, mobile strategy 

4 Reasons Why Medical Providers Should Embrace Digital-Physical Convergence

Healthcare companies have almost limitless opportunities to use digital tools to improve business outcomes. But it’s all beside the point if these tools fail to improve the lives of doctors and patients.

That’s why DMI recommends digital-physical convergence — using human-centered strategies to deploy digital technologies where they do the most good in the real world. This is especially important in the realm of medicine, where doctors face unique career pressures and patients crave more convenience and improved care.

These for points underscore why medical providers need to converge digital technologies with the lived experience of patients and clinicians.

Healthcare Markets are Getting More Competitive

Human populations grow slowly — if at all — in many communities. Growing numbers of physicians are reaching retirement age and multiple studies have forecast massive shortages of doctors in the coming decade. Today’s medical schools barely keep up with current demand.

Meanwhile, healthcare companies are expanding their presence in more communities. These trends have more medical providers vying for a finite pool of patients and doctors. Rising competition obliges providers to find digital technologies that help them attract and retain physicians and patients.

Doctors are Getting Fed Up and Burned Out

Multiple surveys and studies have noted widespread evidence of burnout among physicians, who feel overstressed by paperwork, bureaucracy, computerization and other aggravations that distract them from patient care. One survey noted that nearly one-half of doctors would not recommend the profession to young people.

These data suggest healthcare companies should pay more attention to the wellbeing of their physicians — or face losing them to the competition. That means creating a deft, user-centered technology strategy that focuses on making it easier for them to do everyday tasks like sharing medical records and entering data into EHR systems. Companies need to rationalize their application portfolios and simplify the experience of using medical technologies.

Patients Want a More User-Friendly Experience

Smartphones and mobile apps have become so ubiquitous that patients expect more mobile options in their interactions with doctors and medical providers. At the same time, increasingly busy lifestyles have patients seeking medical care when it’s more convenient to them — before and after the typical 8-to-5 clinical hours.

These trends underscore the consumerization of healthcare. Patients want the same kind of service they get in other sectors of the economy. Medical providers need to provide more telehealth options and to develop intuitive, easy-to-use apps that streamline their interactions with patients.

Automation and Intelligence Make Convergence Inevitable

Machine learning algorithms can help medical providers develop voice interfaces that add vocal commands to their mobile apps. Pattern-matching algorithms make it easier to analyze X-rays and other medical imagery. Robotic process automation can speed up data entry while intelligent process automation can add complex business logic to the apps doctors and patients depend upon.

The opportunities are so immense that all medical providers will feel the pressure to embrace these tools. Some will do better than others.

At DMI, we believe success requires converging next-gen technologies with the everyday lives of doctors and patients. Technology solutions must have an intense focus on the user experience — anticipating people’s needs and using their feedback to build responsive, easy-to-use tools that remove obstacles and improve their wellbeing.

The Right Partner for Digital-Physical Convergence

DMI’s experts in digital strategy, system design and user experience have developed a sophisticated framework for helping medical providers converge the digital and the physical. This convergence framework ensures that our technology solutions address the real-life needs of the people they serve.

We use Agile and DevOps methodologies to accelerate time-to-value and ensure that user feedback drives each iteration of the software release cycle. And our business consultants ensure that everything we do aligns with clients’ precise business requirements.

Healthcare companies can either elevate the wellbeing of patients and clinicians or cede market share to competitors who do it better. We give our clients the best tools to make that happen.

-Andrew Brockett, senior director, digital technology office

Don’t Let Design Patterns and Dependencies Upend Your Shift to Cloud Commerce

Decisions about design patterns and dependencies can have a profound impact on the success of your move to cloud commerce.

That’s because the inherent flexibility of cloud commerce enables rapid iterations on tight timelines. This lets you disrupt your market with new services or quickly adapt to new competitive challenges and changing marketplace realities — but to accomplish this, you need to manage dependent systems and applications very tightly.

Reaping these advantages requires a careful balance of creativity and consistency in commerce system design and dependency management. The design must account for dependencies such as third-party apps and data sources that need to come together to deliver an engaging, cohesive customer experience.

Here’s why you don’t want to overlook these often-overlooked variables in your journey to cloud commerce:

Standard Patterns Enable Fast, Nimble Designs  

When you’re building a cloud commerce platform, your development teams must decide how to pull together all the platform’s components, such as APIs, microservices and SaaS tools. It’s not easy because you have so many options to choose from. This quandary extends to system design patterns — the processes your system architects and coders follow when pulling platform components together.

Meanwhile, your teams will build quickly in time frames as short as two weeks. Achieving speed and flexibility requires defining standard, consistent design patterns, aligning your teams with them and making a commitment to automated testing. That, in turn, enables you to build a cohesive, well-designed cloud commerce system and deploy predictable releases. By contrast, leaving design patterns up to individual teams and coders tempts each one to choose a different pattern, which will yield a confusing, convoluted cloud solution.

This is all a part of assessing your current application landscape and choosing a cloud architecture that fits best with your assessment.

Dependencies Shouldn’t Stall Your Progress

Cloud commerce leans heavily on third-party applications and data sources that must be coordinated systematically. Thus, as you develop your system you need to define dependencies up-front and establish processes that are integrated into the structure of your cloud commerce project and migration.

Imagine, for example, that you’re integrating a third-party content management system like Joomla and a popular customer-relationship-management service like Salesforce. These dependencies are sophisticated pieces of software whose unique quirks have to be accommodated in your system design, while all changes must be coordinated across teams.

You’re not in full control of your fate in a cloud commerce environment. Proper planning on dependencies and dependency management is fundamental to addressing this new reality.

A Savvy Partner for Cloud Commerce Development

Mastering the intricacies of cloud commerce requires intense attention to detail in areas like design patterns and dependencies. Success lies in knowing where to focus that attention. Effective dependency management and cross-team coordination can make or break a project of this nature.

At DMI, we’ve helped a diverse range of retailers navigate the twists and turns of online commerce and implement modern technologies that help them stay competitive. Our mastery of customer experience design helps them craft experiences that build strong bonds with buyers.

Our experts guide clients through the entire commerce migration process, from strategy to integration to continuous iteration. These are the skills and experience that will help commerce operations thrive in the 2020s.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce

Enabling Virtual Clinical Trials

Though all global industries are facing new pressures in light of COVID-19, the pharma and biotech sectors are feeling the pressure acutely — especially in the clinical trial space. For example, according to the WCG COVID-19 Trial Tracker, even with more recent reopening of sites in certain geographies, only 25% are currently open for enrolling patients.

The industry has been slowly moving toward virtual (or remote or decentralized) trials in the last few years. Actually, that is understated when you consider that Pfizer first conducted a remote clinical trial in 2011. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a global health emergency while also facing pressure from the current patent cliff. Together, these forces are driving an accelerated move to virtual trials.

Is now the time for pharma to embraces changes and moves rapidly to virtual trials? What will that take?

Transformation Requires Focus

Yes, pharma can be slow to change, but pharma is also an industry that recognizes the importance of specialization and partners. You can see this mindset playing out now with the emergence in recent years of service providers focused specifically on helping pharma enable virtual trials.

As the COVID-19 epidemic reveals the viability of remote work, the prospect of virtual trials looks more promising. Data collected remotely can be transmitted directly, and securely, to investigators. While this likely will not eliminate the need for occasional in-person intervention or scale, it does minimize the need and moves us closer to meeting the patient where they are. Applications and devices can be custom-configured, and remotely managed, in short time frames to speed things along and help control costs. In other words, remote device and app control and monitoring provide a means to simplify and accelerate trials, despite a trend of increasing complexity in trial design

The advantages of remote clinical trials provide a strong incentive to master these technical and logistical challenges. Most companies in the industry do not have the expertise in-house to launch and manage virtual clinical trials. The question is whether to build this expertise in-house or partner with a specialized service provider.

A Device Management Partner is Essential

Managing the mobile devices required for virtual trials is a difficult challenge that requires specific expertise. Pools of phones, tablets and wearables must be procured, imaged, secured and supported. At study end, those devices can be collected and recycled or wiped and reimaged for another trial if so desired. These logistics capabilities are core to DMI’s continued recognition as an industry leader. More importantly, given the pace of advancement in mobile technology, we can advise you on the best fit for the purpose of your trial design.

As a top mobile device management provider, DMI offers a full lifecycle of services. When trial subjects or investigators have questions, we can provide 24/7 support to make sure they get answers and minimize impacts on the ongoing trial.

Our focus on Agile deployment processes ensures rapid speed-to-value, and our experience in highly regulated industries means we are experts in a full breadth of compliance issues.  For nearly 20 years, DMI has specialized in device management for the federal government and many industries, including pharma. Currently, we have over 2.6 million devices under management globally.

Are you transitioning from discussion to implementation of virtual trials? If so, you will encounter many areas of complexity; device management need not be one of those.  DMI can engage in discussions with you and demonstrate how our expertise can quickly become your advantage.

 — Joel Spittal, industry general manager, life sciences

Restarting Retail: 6 Ways to Secure a Competitive Edge

Restrictions on retailing are starting to ease as government officials and public health experts gain more insight into the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic. As retailers prepare for customers to return, they need to start thinking carefully about how to respond most effectively.

Here are six things retailers can do to hit the ground running and maintain their competitive footing:

  1. Accelerate Timelines

Retailers will emerge from lockdowns with constrained cash flow. Customers may still be leery of leaving home or spending freely. These realities might seem to argue for a take-it-slow, wait-and-see approach.

But what if your competitors retool during the economic downturn and come back stronger when conditions improve? The only thing worse than months of economic misery would be to discover the competition has been eating into your market share.

Development strategies like Agile and DevOps give companies wide latitude to implement new technologies with speed and effectiveness, which can bolster competitiveness.

  1. Build Trust

Do all you can to reassure customers, employees and vendors that their safety and welfare comes first. You can do this with solutions such as:

  • Curbside pickup to help customers maintain social distance.
  • Contract-free mobile applications that eliminate cash and automate transactions.
  • Virtual try-ons that use digital tools to help people envision how products will fit.
  • Digital marketplaces that help you reach out to untapped groups of customers and suppliers.

As long as the pandemic lasts, consumers will fell anxiety about human contact. With the right technologies, you can help ease their concerns and lock in their loyalty.

  1. Eliminate Friction

As you implement trust-building solutions, always think about reducing the number of things people must do to complete their orders.

If you’re using curbside pickup, for instance, make sure it’s extremely easy for consumers to find out where they need to be when they arrive in your parking lot. Location-based technologies may be able to optimize this process. If people are using a cashless transaction app, make sure to minimize the number steps between the buying decision and closing the transaction.

Frictionless commerce is one of the best ways to craft an unforgettable customer journey.

  1. Optimize Supply Chains

A slowdown in business activity provides an opportunity to optimize your supply chain, from trucks to warehouses to employee staffing. Analytics software and learning algorithms can scan data from throughout your supply chain and find inefficiencies that would otherwise go undiscovered.

Moreover, solutions like robotic process automation (RPA) can eliminate repetitive tasks and make your workers more productive, which can streamline supply chain processes and improve customer service.

  1. Combine Human and Machine Intelligence

For all the hype about artificial intelligence and machine learning, it’s important to remember that the best solutions use automation to help people work smarter.

Shoot for mixed-cognitive outcomes that use learning algorithms to mimic distinct human behaviors while freeing people to do what machines cannot: connect with customers on an intuitive, purely human level. For instance, learning algorithms can ensure that people find the best examples of the products they’re hunting for, while marketing and merchandising professionals can use their imagination to craft alluring messaging and irresistible offers.

  1. Leverage Data and Next-Generation Technologies

Mobile commerce apps, optimized supply chains and trust-building retail solutions generate massive volumes of data that retailers can leverage to customize their shopping experience. Two advanced technologies can help:

  • Augmented reality. The newlyweds shopping for a sofa want to know what it looks like in their living room. The teen shopping for sunglasses wants to know how they’ll look on her face. Augmented reality (AR) uses data to insert visual layers into mobile and desktop apps to give consumers a better idea of how a product fits into their world.
  • Conversational commerce. Chatbots and voice-activated apps provide low-touch solutions that are ideal for safety-minded consumers.

The Experience You Need to Reopen Retail

At DMI, we have the combination of people, skills and strategic insight retailers need to rebound from economic uncertainty and get back to the business of making their customers happy. We’ve worked with retailers of all sizes in multiple sectors, and we have a full suite of retail solutions to improve outcomes at every link in your chain, from supplier to customer to service after the sale. Our dedicated Accelerated Solutions experts use Agile and DevOps methodologies to deliver powerful solutions on tight timelines. Finally, our human-centered approach helps you meet the needs of today’s mobile consumers.

 

–John Blackburn, executive vice president, commercial

6 Quick Ways to Add Automation and Voice Commands to Your Supply Chain

You don’t have to wait months or years to add automation to your supply chain. Many repetitive supply chain tasks can be automated in weeks — helping you respond quickly to new events while boosting your workforce’s productivity.

These short-term gains require identifying simple tasks that lots of people do many times a day. In an enterprise-scale company, automating these activities can generate sizable productivity improvements. Moreover, you’re taking busywork out of your workers’ lives and giving them more time to solve problems that are too tough for the machines.

Two excellent technologies for supply chain automation are robotic process automation (RPA) and natural language processing (NLP). With RPA, you’re identifying a basic task like data entry and developing a bot to automate it. With NLP, you’re using artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to build voice and text commands into applications your people use every day.

Six Ideas for Putting RPAs and NLP to Work in a Supply Chain

These examples should give you an idea of the kinds of automation you can accomplish in weeks vs. months or years.

Weekly reports. Middle managers who provide weekly updates on sales, production or inventories could use an RPA bot to automatically grab data from a software package and plug it into a report to their division managers. Normally, this would require the author to have a spreadsheet open in one screen and a document editing program in another — constantly cutting and pasting data manually into their reports.

Invoice data input. Staff who handle incoming invoices often enter data manually, creating the potential for human error. An RPA can grab the data on an invoice and instantly plug it into your corporate financial software, giving your invoicing staff more time to deal with challenging orders and customizations that require more personal attention.

Financial requests. During economic reversals, financial companies often get a massive volume of customers asking for delays on loan payments. Since these forbearance requests typically require the same data from every customer, you can build an RPA into an online interface that dramatically reduces the workload for people handling the requests. RPA bots also can automate processes like loan applications.

FAQs. If you have thousands of customers with three or four questions that they’re likely to ask repeatedly over the next several months, you can use NLP to translate their questions and add an RPA bot to automate the delivery of their answers. Simple chatbots can be spun up quickly to perform these kinds of tasks.

Inspection checklists. If you have people inspecting products or processes manually, you can build simple apps that let people use spoken commands to check items off their lists. This can be especially helpful when the workers need their hands free to touch and lift objects.

Vocal and text instructions. People often navigate through byzantine server hierarchies to find and share documents when collaborating with co-workers. They also might expend multiple clicks to find a specific feature within a large software suite. Adding a basic NLP bot to a digital interface can allow them to use voice or text commands to access these features and documents much faster.

Quick Tips for Adding RPA and NLP Bots

  • Think small. With RPA bots, it’s best to automate as few actions as possible. Otherwise, updating the bot will require fixing every activity within in it.
  • Keep the data pure. NLP bots require clean, accurate data to produce learning outcomes over time. Make sure your algorithms pull NLP data directly from the source without any intermediaries.
  • Join forces: Combining simple RPAs with basic NLP bots can produce powerful efficiency benefits.

A Partner for Rapid Supply Chain Automation Solutions

DMI has the people and the technologies required to deliver supply-chain solutions in tight time frames. We have experts in accelerated software development and system design who use Agile methodologies to create fast prototypes and iterate quickly based on user feedback.

We also have a mobile inspection platform to optimize quality control and an advanced monitoring platform to track inventory and machinery in real time and send alerts in an emergency.

With these tools, you don’t need to build an elaborate distribution center with robotic carts to realize the benefits of automation. You can start with your people — automating repetitive tasks, streamlining efficiency and using intelligent bots to help everybody work smarter. And you can do it soon.

–Niraj Patel, director, artificial intelligence

–Varun Ganapathy director, digital technology office

How Mobile Device Management Helps Enterprises Expand Their Virtual Footprint

Getting work done remotely gets more attractive every year, thanks to improvements in mobile device capabilities and expansion of network bandwidth and coverage.

Mobile computing became more urgent when the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 forced companies worldwide to embrace remote work. Within days, enterprises had tens of thousands of mobile devices to worry about. Fortunately, many could turn to mobile device management (MDM) technologies to supervise massive fleets of smartphones, tablets and laptops. MDM technologies help companies:

  • Secure and assess the vulnerabilities of their mobile device fleets
  • Manage the policies regulating mobile device use
  • Monitor and maintain all the devices within the fleet
  • Design and administer networks of mobile devices
  • Controlling and managing the cost of the devices and service
  • Configure the software on each device
  • Managing distribution of mobile devices and accessories

All these variables have to be managed cohesively, as slip-ups in any one area can undermine the effectiveness of the entire remote-work enterprise.

How Mobile Device Management Works in Practice

Let’s draw an example from a market sector on everybody’s mind in the midst of the pandemic: clinical trials to develop vaccines and new drug regimens. Pharmaceutical manufacturers partner with contract research organizations (CROs) to conduct most clinical trials. CROs, in turn, are looking to do more virtual clinical trials because potential volunteers feel safer and more comfortable in their homes and would prefer not traveling to a trial site.

While virtual clinical trials are attractive, they pose several challenges:

Inventory management. Somebody has to manage an inventory of mobile devices like phones, tablets and connective devices. They all have to be monitored and have alert systems set up to tell managers if something has gone wrong.

Configuration. Every device’s software must be installed precisely to match the trial’s needs. “Bring your own device” doesn’t work well because each user’s smartphone adds too many variables. Each trial requires only a few specific apps and has to limit functionality to maintain scientific validity of the data collected.

Security. Each device must be protected against unwarranted intrusions while preventing breaches of sensitive personal data. HIPAA compliance is mandatory.

Pairing. A smartphone or tablet may be connected to a blood-monitoring device for a diabetes patient. Other devices might track blood pressure or physical activity. These interactions must be closely supervised.

Cost. Devices must be purchased and data plans set up according to specific clinical parameters. This prevents misuse and ensures that proper trial controls remain in place.

Replacement. Once the trial is finished, device data must be erased to prevent accidental release of volunteers’ personally identifiable information (PII).

MDM technologies identify every device in an enterprise’s fleet and monitor them all in real time. This helps managers slam the door on security breaches and control the cost and scope of mobile device networks.

An Expert Partner for Mobile Device Management

MDM helps private, public, and government agencies orchestrate networks of mobile devices for tasks like inventory control and production line inspections. In the public sector, MDM can help police agencies fight crime and military organizations track their equipment inventories in hazardous settings.

As a top provider of mobile application development and mobility services including mobile device management, DMI has the skills and a track record to deliver end-to-end mobile solutions to any sector of the economy, public or private. We focus on rapid time-to-market to improve ROI and user-focused system design to streamline adoption. Finally, our consulting approach ensures you get a partner committed to finding the best solution for your exact needs, in order to meet your business goals and objectives.

–DJ Oreb, president, managed mobility services

Why Monitoring Performance is Crucial to Commerce in the Cloud

An elastic, cloud-based commerce environment has the potential to improve customer engagement and enhance website performance.

But it’s not a sure thing. If you don’t follow specific steps in your system’s design and implementation, you may be surprised to learn that your new technology is actually degrading performance.

This can happen because a cloud-based commerce operation has so many interconnected parts moving data across networks. For example, most cloud commerce operations rely on web services and APIs to fine-tune the customer experience. Alas, many of these solutions are somewhat abstract and often beyond your direct control. This obliges you to develop your commerce architecture carefully up-front to optimize performance and prevent hang-ups.

Possible Issues Affecting Performance

Here are two common scenarios that may crop up in modern cloud commerce environments:

  • Your SEO team informs you that pages are loading slowly, and search engines are tanking your page rankings.
  • Your analytics team reports that customers are abandoning shopping carts more often than they did in the recent past.

A single microservice somewhere in your purchase process could be the culprit. Or perhaps an API has a subtle flaw in its implementation or the processing time of the services is not efficient on the front-end.

These kinds of problems are not inevitable — especially if you plan ahead and follow the steps required to ensure top performance. Of course, you can’t anticipate every challenge in a complex commerce environment; that’s why you need tools to identify factors that are slowing system performance.

Monitoring Cloud Commerce Performance

No matter how well you plan, from time to time a glitch will sneak up on you and start degrading your shopping experience. System monitoring tools can sound the alarm and help you diagnose problems and then fix them quickly and effectively.

Platforms like Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud provide tools to monitor clusters and support applications. Open-source technologies like Grafana and Prometheus also deliver strong monitoring options. These and many other monitoring tools are essential.

If your site is running slow and your customers are noticing, you have to respond quickly. Monitoring is a huge help, though the tools might not be as “out-of-the-box” as you might hope. You have to invest some time in figuring out how to make them work best with your environment.

Also, remember that monitoring is crucial throughout the development, implementation and iteration phases of cloud commerce.

Getting Help with Performance and Monitoring

Embracing cloud commerce successfully means creating systems and procedures to diagnose issues and cure them before customers notice. The trouble is, there’s always something waiting to reveal a flaw in your best-laid plans.

That’s why it’s so crucial to work with a seasoned cloud commerce development partner like DMI. Our system architects and technical leads have deep experience and broad training in multiple markets and commerce verticals. This track record gives us the insight required to develop robust cloud strategies that protect performance and prevent slip-ups.

We’ve seen enough to anticipate the most common issues and adapt effectively to the outliers. That’s what you need to draw maximum value from your cloud commerce ecosystem.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce

Methodology and Buy-In: 2 Base Requirements for Headless Commerce Success

A headless commerce system is a marvel of flexibility. You start by building an ideal frontend platform —the “head” that integrates with headless commerce and/or CMS platforms . That empowers you to craft unique customer experiences and intuitive user interfaces that strengthen your brand and business.

Best of all, you can do it fast. Introducing new features, implementing new user interfaces, adding new touch points and releasing software can happen in two or three weeks — a quantum-leap over legacy commerce systems that lock the frontend and backend together, slowing development to a snail’s pace.

But you shouldn’t underestimate the intricacies of making all this happen. You need a robust methodology and strong buy-in from everybody involved — UI and system designers, coders and team leaders, operations and support teams, marketers and analytics experts. Here’s a quick look at pulling them all together.

Agile and DevOps: Essential Methodologies for Headless Commerce  

The old waterfall methodology where you create a list of requirements and build out a system over many months is so slow and rigid that it defeats the purpose of adopting headless commerce. That’s why headless developers typically prefer Agile and DevOps methodologies.

  • This methodology is ideal for both implementing a headless system and developing new features in your customer experience. Scrum master-led teams and sprints generate usable software over a short time frame, typically two or three weeks. Each ensuing sprint iterates with new features and fixes for current problems with the previous product.
  • DevOps. The core principle of DevOps is managing your software release cycle quickly and effectively to enable continuous improvements. With rapid software releases and updates, you need an effective monitoring system to ensure that any glitches in the software get communicated back to developers so they can fix them in ensuing releases.

Securing Buy-in For Your Headless Transition

Getting everything working in unison with headless commerce requires buy-in from everybody. Although Agile and DevOps optimize speed and flexibility, these methodologies still require time-intensive steps like drawing up requirements and rollout plans, and then distributing them to everybody who needs them. Thus, all of the teams — business, marketing, development and operations — responsible for designing, building and implementing your headless system must be on board and moving together.

Buy-in also means convincing executives, middle managers and rank-and-file employees of the importance of the transition. The complexity of your environment and the age of your current systems will help determine how much training and change management you’ll need.

Your Partner for Fast, Nimble Headless Commerce

There’s no doubt that the future of commerce is headless. To thrive in a rapidly evolving marketplace, you need nimble frontend software that communicates with backend systems without the shackles of legacy monolithic commerce packages.

DMI’s experts have been enabling digital commerce for decades, which gives us the breadth of experience and knowhow to ensure our clients get the headless solution that best suits their business needs. Our system architects, Agile developers, UI designers and data experts have mastered the tools and methodologies required to thrive in the headless world.

These are the skills you need to stay ahead of the competition.

—Atul Bhammar, senior vice president, solutions architect, digital commerce

DMI Digital Leader Award — Chris Meystrik, JTV

Making Jewelry Available to All through Omnichannel Retail

Tell us about JTV.

JTV (Jewelry Television) is the premier online jewelry shopping destination specializing in extraordinary jewelry and gemstones at extraordinary prices. JTV is an omnichannel retailer with live broadcasts 24 hours a day to over 84-million homes. We serve our customers through robust online and mobile platforms, as well as streaming devices such as Apple TV and Roku, and on social media. Since JTV.com launched 20 years ago, it has become one of the largest non-bridal jewelry e-Commerce websites in the country. Our mission is to open the world of jewelry and gemstones to everyone.

How did JTV find DMI?

DMI came highly-recommended through a contact of mine at Oracle nearly three years ago. We were in search of a trusted partner to support our re-platforming initiative as we transitioned from our flagship website, www.JTV.com, to new technology. Specifically, we needed to enhance our e-Commerce infrastructure and move from a hosted platform to a platform we hosted ourselves.

How complex was JTV’s re-platforming initiative?

It was a large-scale, high-stakes project. In short, our website needed to do more and operate more quickly. We needed more control and flexibility over our digital properties, features and functionalities including authentication management. We needed to seamlessly integrate our live television information and data with our digital commerce customer interactions. We had to remove all friction points for our customers so more web transactions could be facilitated.

In leading digital transformation for JTV, describe your leadership style and what’s the secret to your success?

At the end of the day, it’s the team and culture you build that leads to success. It’s a group of talented computer scientists and engineers wholly focused on delivering quality, useful solutions to make our business successful. So, the secret, I guess you could say, is buried inside of a lot of decisions made over time and if those decisions take your culture into consideration and put your people first, then that leads to something special. I appreciate a culture that combines academia with corporate success, one that allows people to take risks and learn. While I’m a computer scientist, my main job is to create an environment where my team can be successful and thrive. I love to work with people who are unique. I love to work with people who LOVE computer science and engineering, who are passionate and do things the right way to build technology that not only achieves success for JTV, but technology that is elegant and optimized, paying attention to details so we don’t, for example, throw hardware at a problem to cover up a software issue. On my leadership style, well, I like to say that anyone can make you a manager, but no one can make you a leader. That’s earned. My approach is let’s have a great time doing what we love and support each other both personally and professionally.

What’s it like working with DMI?

DMI is a fantastic partner. These guys are brilliant. They’re central to our success in transitioning off our website to the new platform and new systems. I think at the heart of our strong working relationship is that both companies really have similar values; do the right thing and work with transparency. We are definitely all one big team.

What does the future hold for JTV?

We’re really moving toward a headless platform. That will put us at the forefront of the entire jewelry industry and it’s exciting. When we envision what the future looks like for JTV, we will have the leading platform for selling jewelry and gemstones in the entire world.

Build Engaging Mobile Apps that Drive Your Customer Experience

Business teams face huge pressure to build engaging mobile apps that will improve their customer experience, attract consistent feedback and deliver higher app-store ratings.

The Apple and Google ecosystems already have millions of apps. Countless more will arrive as mobile technology becomes thoroughly mainstream. How will organizations develop mobile apps that break out from the pack and provide an irresistible customer experience in the 2020s?

A lot depends on the scope of the challenge and the nature of their industries:

  • Startups and digital native companies want to invent new mobile services to disrupt existing business models.
  • Medium-sized corporations and smaller enterprises have mobile apps they want to refresh or reinvent to stay relevant in a crowded market.
  • Large enterprises need global mobile-app factories to manage and streamline their extensive app portfolios.

Though the specifics will shift from one organization to the next, these five factors will be pivotal to succeeding at mobile application development in this decade:

Business vision. You need a solid vision to address the entire customer journey in your mobile apps. As you know, mobile won’t be optional — it will become central to companies’ approach to engaging customers, collaborating with vendors and expanding market share.

Whether you’re a venture-funded startup hoping to disrupt a market or a corporate titan building a mobile-app lab, you’ll need to stay attuned to the shifting demands of customers and the challenges you’re trying to solve.

Customer experience focus. There will be no easing in the push to develop mobile apps that give users exactly what they want, when they want it. You need to pay extra attention to customer experience and visualize the entire journey before you build mobile apps.

Make sure you have a product owner who truly owns the product backlog and churns high-value features that are delivered in iterative way.

App analytics. Data science, machine learning and natural language processing will transform mobile apps in this decade. As 5G bandwidth becomes widespread, massive volumes of data will pave the way to advanced analytics that improve predictive capability.

Mobile developers will have to fully understand how to pull these capabilities into a holistic user experience that can be highly customized without intruding on the customer’s sense of privacy.

You need to have a clear strategy to act based on app analytics.

Culture of agility. Companies that develop mobile apps will have to move quickly to adapt to new technologies and competitive threats. Moreover, future-focused developers will lean even more heavily on Agile and DevOps principles to speed new products into the marketplace and manage their software update cycle.

Though Agile processes are more often associated with startups and digital natives, companies of all sizes and scopes will have to find nimble, fast and flexible approaches to mobile app development to drive business value.

Delivery consistency. Expanding enterprise app portfolios will require standardization of development, collaboration, testing and other crucial functions to deliver consistent apps. This is especially true for large companies with multiple product lines that each have their own apps.

Companies need to look at cross-platform app development frameworks like React Native or Xamarin that eliminate duplication of effort in developing for Android and iOS. But even cross-platform apps will require standard practices and methodologies if companies hope to develop sophisticated app factories serving the entire enterprise.

Choose the Right Partner for Mobile App Development

Few companies have the resources to fold these five factors into a cohesive approach to mobile application development. DMI closes this gap. We are one of the early adopters of mobile app technology and have been building mobile apps for more than 10 years. We’ve developed more than 3,000 mobile apps for global enterprise companies, government and federal agencies and nonprofit organizations. We also have managed mobile services that help large companies tackle the complexities of mobile workforces. Analysts consistently rate DMI as a leader in the mobile apps space, and our apps have won many industry awards.

Our experts in customer experience, system design, mobile app development, analytics and microservice architecture cover the full mobile stack. Moreover, our consulting approach ensures everything we build aligns with our clients’ business strategy. These are the kinds of skills that make DMI globally one of the top mobile development providers.

— Rajesh Pawar, VP, Mobile Apps Practice Head

How to Accelerate Your Support for Remote Workers in the Next 30 Days

It seems easy at first. People convene Zoom meetings from their living rooms and share documents on Microsoft Teams. But companies soon find out that keeping remote workers happy and productive is more like navigating a maze. Then, a solution starts looking like a remote possibility.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can spin up a host of powerful technologies supporting your remote workers — typically in 30 days or less — that can streamline workflows, automate repetitive tasks and generally make life easier for people accustomed to working together in the same office.

At DMI, we get client calls daily asking for guidance on remote work technologies. Companies often have a confusing mishmash of collaboration tools, data center architectures and application portfolios. Many depend on connectivity tools like VPN that aren’t designed for scale. Others impose an abundance of tasks on workers that could be readily automated.

And, of course, everybody wants fixes as soon as possible. Here’s how we help clients find solutions in tight time frames.

Optimize Collaboration Tools

If your people are using Microsoft Teams for family meetings and club get-togethers, that’s telling you something: Maybe they don’t need Zoom, WebEx, Slack or any of a dozen other productivity tools that Teams can handle. Or, maybe you’re not a Microsoft shop, so you need to find the optimum blend of tools for chatting, videoconferencing, file sharing and so on.

The more departments and silos you have, the more imperative it becomes to bring order and sanity to your collaboration-tool portfolio. Whatever your situation, you need to assess which applications to keep and which ones to let go. And then you need to create standard workflows so that everybody does essentially the same things the same way to get their work done.

Leverage Cloud Platforms

If you’re hosting most applications in on-premises data centers, then you’re at a natural disadvantage when time is of the essence. With cloud software platforms, your service provider maintains all the infrastructure and keeps the software updated. Cloud architecture makes it easy and fast to spin up all sorts of software in short time frames because there’s very little to install.

Perhaps the greatest challenge with cloud platforms is integration — finding the right match for your business from the vast variety of cloud apps and folding it into your current technology stack.  You also have to make sure the cloud platform’s cost structure matches your budget. Cloud services charge for the processing and bandwidth you consume, and that can add up quickly for big companies with large remote staffs.

Build Low/No-Code Apps

Every company needs software unique to their workforce and business environment. It used to take months or even years to build these kinds of applications, but the rise of low/no-code applications has squeezed these time frames down to weeks.

Low/no-code technologies let companies give their remote workers access to mobile apps for specific tasks on their smartphone or tablet rather than a laptop or home PC. This adds even more mobility to a remote workforce. Moreover, these apps can automate manual tasks like data entry and validation, freeing workers for more important assignments.

In theory, anybody with a computer can build a low/no-code app. Schoolteachers have built them for their classes, for instance. But companies need seasoned developers to weave low/no-code components into intuitive, easy-to-use applications that their workers will enjoy using.

A Partner for Accelerating Remote Work

DMI’s Accelerated Solutions practice specializes in delivering high-performance technologies in short time frames. These experts include two Microsoft MVPs who have advanced training and experience across the full spectrum of Microsoft technologies. They’ve succeeded in enough projects in multiple industries to know how to avoid the trial-and-error that bogs things down.

We also use time-tested Agile methodologies that iterate quickly and deliver speedy time to value. Moreover, our proprietary Agile Performance Index (APIX) provides a unique ability to assess the progress and success of Agile development. Finally, our experts in system architecture, user experience design and business strategy provide the end-to-end expertise that tight timelines require.

The best work-from-home solution should help remote employees enjoy their work without having to jump through a bunch of digital hoops imposed by the IT department. Our user-centered development philosophy can help your company do that.

— Matt Jimison, vice president, accelerated solutions

— Corey Roth, director, accelerated solutions

— Brandon McGhan, director, accelerated solutions

Headless Commerce: Getting Your Software Stack for the ‘Head’ and Skills Alignment Right

A headless commerce architecture provides expansive options to fine-tune your customer experience. But flexibility has a cost: It takes a lot of time and effort to select a software stack that aligns with your technical skills, customer expectations and business objectives.

The right headless software stack can give you nimble, powerful tools to adapt to an ever-changing commercial landscape. Let’s break this challenge down into two parts — selecting a software stack and making sure you have people with the right skills to implement and manage it:

Finding the Optimum Software Stack for the ‘Head’ in Headless Commerce

Headless commerce decouples the frontend of your e-commerce system from the backend, where most of the business logic resides. Going headless also means choosing a frontend software stack to build out a new presentation tier.

Making the right choice starts out with clearly defining your requirements and evaluation criteria for the presentation tier — focusing on customer experience (functional and non-functional), business objectives and business user empowerment. Enabling business users is key to keeping long-term operational costs low and ensuring high business value.

When shortlisting the software stacks, it is advisable to consider the experience and skills of your IT team. However, the final decision typically comes down to finding balance between the needs of the business and the software stack that satisfies the most requirements within the context of the size, scope and skills of your whole team.

Ensuring Skills Alignment for a Headless Transition

If you have a small IT operation, you might work with an integration partner who will supply the technical skills required for headless commerce. A midsize IT operation might merge its in-house skills with those of a technology partner. A large enterprise, by contrast, might have all the requisite skills in-house.

Conventional monolithic commerce systems required an abundance of backend talent — people who created all the customizations on the computing end to suit a host of business needs. In the headless world, most of the differentiating customizations happen in the frontend, so your skill requirements generally shift from back to front. To make that transition, you may have to retrain your people, hire new staff or work with an outsourcer.

And don’t forget that most modern frontend software stacks require a wealth of experience with cloud technologies and networking protocols. Each cloud provider has specific methodologies that require training and a track record.

A Skilled Partner for Choosing Your Software Stack

Headless commerce requires a software stack that meshes with your technical acumen and business objectives. It’s a tall order for any company.

At DMI, we have people with decades of experience in both online retail and advanced IT system design to augment and contribute to your decision-making process. We’ve helped companies of all sizes across multiple market verticals. That means we know how to anticipate the inevitable challenges that bedevil any large-scale technology project. In addition, we are very comfortable with Agile and DevOps methodologies to assist you through the transition process.

This experience gives us the tools to streamline your journey to headless commerce.

-Atul Bhammar, senior vice president, solutions architect, digital commerce

Managing Skills and Mastering Methodologies When Adopting Cloud Commerce

Moving to cloud-based commerce technologies requires learning new skills and mastering more nimble development methodologies.

In the cloud, you may work with the global providers like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. You might end up embracing new technologies like Node.js and Kubernetes. Cloud-based apps and platforms will give you the flexibility to adjust your customer experience rapidly, if your staff has proper training and experience. Development cycles that used to take months can happen in weeks, if you use the right methodologies.

Moreover, you have to think in terms of two development challenges: migrating to new cloud technologies and getting the most benefit from the cloud in the years to come.

These are the primary knowledge and methodology factors to keep in mind when you’re moving to a cloud-based commerce platform:

Managing Skillsets, Knowledge and Experience 

Running an on-premises commerce suite is much different from a cloud-hosted commerce system. For instance, cloud commerce requires more knowledge on the intricacies of networking. And just because you know how to manage VMware doesn’t mean you know how to manage Google Cloud. Development that happened in hypervisors in your legacy commerce system will run in clusters and pods in the cloud. You can’t assume that this kind of knowledge translates easily.

The same concept applies to your developers and tactical leads. No matter how many years they’ve been managing applications in hosted environments, they must be trained to do the same work in the cloud.

Thus, when you’re planning to migrate commerce operations to the cloud, you have to take the learning curve into account. Progress will be slow in the beginning as people learn the ropes. After the migration, you have to adapt your development methodologies to the new cloud environment.

Mastering Cloud Development Methodologies

Conventional waterfall development is usually too rigid and time-consuming. By contrast, Agile methodologies help you iterate quickly in sprints of two weeks. When you’re running a cloud commerce migration, Agile sprints and teams help you quickly organize and implement your new environment.

Once you’ve moved your commerce to the cloud, you need strong processes and policies governing software release cycles. Here, pairing Agile practices with DevOps principles packs a powerful punch.

Even if you already use Agile and DevOps, you need rigorous planning and thorough training up-front to apply them successfully in the cloud. Don’t assume it’s easy to adapt Agile and DevOps in an unfamiliar ecosystem.

Getting Help with Skills and Methodologies

At DMI, we’ve found that it’s most helpful to figure out as much as you can up-front, before you migrate to a cloud commerce environment. That means acquiring the required skills and processes before you dive too deep into the process.

Our teams have decades of digital commerce and development experience. We’ve done enough cloud commerce migrations in enough sectors to know the common pitfalls and best practices. That’s the kind of technical acumen you need to thrive in the age of cloud commerce.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce

DMI Digital Leader Award — Adrien Nussenbaum, Mirakl

Powering the Platform Economy

 

DMI is excited to be a Mirakl partner. How did Mirakl get its start?

Mirakl powers tomorrow’s e-commerce by providing the technology, expertise and partner ecosystem needed to launch an eCommerce marketplace. Retailers, brands, manufacturers and distributors use the Mirakl Marketplace Platform to offer their customers and partners anything, anytime, anywhere. With their marketplaces, they’re able to increase the number of products available for buyers, grow the lifetime value of customers, and anticipate buyer needs and preferences. We also have a team of more than 60 marketplace experts who help our clients adopt best practices and provide long-term strategic guidance. Overall we have more than 200 retail, manufacturing, distribution and procurement customers operating marketplaces in 40 countries.

 

What is the StopCOVID19.fr marketplace and how is it helping to curtail the PPE shortage in French hospitals?

StopCOVID19.fr is a project we worked on with the Ministry for the Economy and Finance in France to make vital supplies like hand sanitizer, masks, and protective clothing easier to source. The traditional supply chain for these critical products wasn’t able to keep up with demand. With Adobe Magento, we quickly launched a Mirakl-powered Marketplace in just 48 hours that matches French healthcare institutions with these providers of critical supplies. It uses the platform model to organize the distribution chain connecting producers of materials with packaging manufacturers and, ultimately, the hospitals, clinics, and other organizations that need these products the most. As of late April, StopCOVID19.fr had facilitated orders of more than 30 million critical supplies for more than 6,000 clients in France.

 

How do you see Mirakl helping businesses get a fast start coming out of the COVID-19 crisis?

We believe the companies that will come out stronger will be the ones who don’t delay in investing in future business models. Mirakl can help businesses quickly adopt a platform business model strategy. This means setting up an online marketplace to rely more on ecosystem partners to do business and not depend solely on their own sourcing, manufacturing and supply chains to meet buyers’ needs. Investing in an innovative, asset-light, agile platform strategy will be key to scaling faster and thriving in the post-COVID future.

 

How do you see the continuing adoption of platform-based solutions impacting medium and large businesses around the world?

There’s a huge opportunity for incumbent businesses to create platform strategies of their own. Gartner has projected that by 2023, 15 percent of medium-to high-GMV digital commerce organizations will have deployed their own marketplaces. When incumbents move boldly with these digital strategies, they actually command four times more market share than digital natives encroaching on their territory. The organizations that recognize the power of the platform model will win.

 

Mirakl’s client list is impressive. What’s the key to engendering the trust of so many large brands?

Mirakl has the expertise, an advanced technical platform, and a vast partner ecosystem that when combined, are truly the recipe for our success. We have dozens of marketplace experts who partner closely with our customers and partners to help them achieve their true potential, and in many cases they actually operated marketplace projects of their own before joining us. But we wouldn’t be able to build these close partnerships if our solution didn’t deliver results – and it does. It increases customer lifetime value, improves the customer experience, and can actually even do things like increase in-store sales. We asked Forrester Research to determine the ROI of a Mirakl-powered Marketplace and they found that it can deliver a 162 percent return on investment within three years. We’re the only solution that can offer that return at the scale and quality our customers expect.

 

Describe how a partnership with DMI makes sense for Mirakl?

DMI fits nicely into our partner ecosystem because the company has deep eCommerce experience with Oracle Commerce and SAP Commerce. This experience allows us to work together closely to expand our clients’ commerce platform incorporating a Mirakl strategy. We’ve successfully completed multiple projects with DMI. DMI has the unique ability to quickly implement Mirakl so customers can start to achieve revenue through the solution.

4 Essential Technologies for Improving Remote Work

Social, Productive, Adaptive: A Cohesive Approach To Remote Work

The value of remote work became clear as a health emergency spanned the globe. And it’s a fair bet that work-from-home scenarios will remain popular long after the pandemic of 2020.

A smart response to an expanding remote workforce is to remain attuned to the human challenges: Preserving social interactions, shoring up productivity and adapting quickly to changing needs. Getting all these things right leverages the flexibility of remote work while nurturing the human relationships that form the core of working for a living.

Therefore, IT departments supporting more remote workers should be thinking about nurturing people’s ability to be social, productive and adaptive.

In years past, supporting remote workers required a patchwork of applications and technologies that were difficult to implement, support and manage. Lately, however, innovations in four core technologies are making life easier for remote workers and IT teams alike.

Mobility Management

Large companies may have thousands of remote employees using phones, tablets, PCs and purpose-built devices — and apps spanning multiple operating systems installed on all of them. Managed mobile services have emerged to help companies ride herd on their massive fleets of mobile devices and applications.

Managed-mobility providers offer depot services and specialize in overseeing devices, system infrastructure and financial issues. These companies also provide service and support desks to ensure users get productive responses to issues that crop up.

Monitoring Services

The emerging field of mobile experience management (MEM) is helping organizations optimize the user experiences of their remote teams. Because every user generally customizes their work experience, they create a massive need to standardize and organize things behind the scenes.

MEM works by monitoring the data flowing to and from devices and software, then applying algorithms and automation that make it much easier to diagnose problems and ease the strain on mobile device support teams. Artificial intelligence and machine language can help these tools self-diagnose and self-heal problems in remote devices, improving worker productivity.

Productivity Services

Industry mainstays like Microsoft Office 365 and newcomers like Zoom and Slack play central roles in the productivity of remote workers. Moreover, technologies like virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and low-code apps can help companies better support remote workers.

The challenge is getting all these tools to work in unison across the remote workforce’s disparate devices and applications. Security gaps must be patched and upgrades must be implemented. Many companies offer dedicated productivity services to simplify, manage and support these tools and, ideally, integrate them into a cohesive worker experience.

Conversational Care 

If you rapidly turn 1,000 office workers into remote workers, the demands on your IT support team will surge. Applications crash, devices get lost or damaged, and remote teams feel unique work-at-home frustrations.

Conversational AI in the form of chatbot systems can quickly ease the workload on your support team, answering easy questions and handing off tougher ones to real people. The data gleaned from these interactions helps the bots get smarter over time, thanks to pattern-matching learning algorithms. Over time, you can develop intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) that automate more sophisticated user-support challenges.

Starting from a Position of Caring

Neither distance nor separation should thwart our natural human urge to socialize, create things and adapt to a changing world. At DMI, our commitment to human-centered system design and computing reflects this principle. Before we implement tools or recommend technologies, we take the time required to understand the full scope of the human problems our clients need solved.

Yes, it takes skill, experience and strategic insight to preserve the human component of remote work. But it also takes something more: simply caring about the people using the technologies we deploy. Nothing can replace that human connection.

— Michael Deittrick, senior vice president digital strategy, chief digital officer

Why it’s Time to Embrace the Magento 2.3.x for e-Commerce

This is the third in a three-part blog series about the use of Magento.

Magento may have started out as a small-scale e-commerce solution. But the latest versions of the platform are empowering innovative customer experiences for the biggest — and most ambitious — digital commerce operations.

Released in November 2018, Magento 2.3 ushered in robust e-commerce capabilities that have been strengthened with each incremental upgrade. These tools help retailers apply technologies that suit their specific needs with laser precision. Moreover, Magento 2.3.x makes it easier to scale up or down with fluctuations in demand while delivering a more consistent buying experience. That makes it easier to thrive in an age of disruption.

One of the biggest sticking points with early e-commerce platforms was lack of flexibility. A platform might have a muscular backend and a weak frontend, or clumsy integration with applications for resource and customer management. With the tools in Magento 2.3.x, you can decouple your frontend from your backend and integrate with other critical software applications without major headaches.

These four capabilities make it possible:

  • Adobe’s user experience tools. Adobe acquired Magento for $1.68 billion in 2018 because it needed a comprehensive commerce platform to accompany its market-leading suite of user experience design software. When paired with Magento 2.3.x, Adobe Experience Manager gives retailers best-in-class tools to design for the entire digital commerce experience on mobile, web and emerging digital platforms.
  • Advanced API Integrations. APIs, or application programming interfaces, allow software packages to talk to each other. APIs let websites pull in data from tech giants like Microsoft and Google. They also let small SaaS companies link their applications to larger software platforms. Magento 2.3.x makes it much easier to integrate APIs into digital commerce operations, which empowers retailers to add features that please customers and streamline the shopping experience.
  • Powerful PWA capabilities. PWAs, or progressive web applications, make features previously confined to mobile apps available to websites. Using the GraphQL language, Magento 2.3.x lets developers implement PWAs that converge the power of a mobile app with the advantages of cloud storage. Software can be updated universally in the cloud rather than individually on an app, ensuring every online buyer gets a consistent, seamless experience.
  • Headless commerce. Legacy e-commerce platforms often had strengths in one domain but weaknesses in another. If your backend database worked wonders but your frontend system (the “head”) was a kludgy mess, you were pretty much stuck with both. In Magento 2.3.x, you can combine APIs, PWAs and Adobe Experience Manager to go headless — using only the best-of-breed applications that meet the precise requirements of your marketplace, customers and business goals. If you hope to use machine learning to personalize shopping experiences, headless commerce with Magento 2.3.x is the way to go.

Magento 2.3.x. Requires Deep e-Commerce Experience

Getting all these features to work to your advantage requires a partner who can serve the needs of retailers and customers while applying the best Magento features and avoiding the pitfalls that bedevil complex e-commerce operations. That’s the skill DMI delivers to our clients. We understand retail and we have the skills you need to combine Adobe tools with APIs, PWAs and headless commerce.

— Jon Wovchko, vice president of operations & strategy consultant, digital commerce

 

DMI Digital Leader Award — Alban Fischer, Art Basel

Empowering the World’s Leading Art Fair to Go Digital


What is Art Basel and tell us about your role within the organization.

Art Basel is the leading global platform connecting collectors with galleries and their artists. Art Basel’s fairs in Basel, Hong Kong, and Miami Beach are a driving force in supporting galleries from across the globe. I am Art Basel’s Director Digital.

Tell us about Art Basel’s Online Viewing Rooms.

In March, Art Basel offered its first Online Viewing Rooms. For its first iteration, more than 230 galleries displayed over 2,000 works of art with an estimated value of about $270 million, including 70 items over $1 million.

We noticed the large amount of press the Online Viewing Rooms garnered. What drove the media coverage?

Indeed, the initiative was widely discussed in the media and generated a lot of attention.  There was particular interest, as it was a very timely topic. Lockdown as a result of the pandemic was underway and everyone was keen to turn to online to stay connected with the arts community. It was the first time Art Basel had implemented Online Viewing Rooms, so there was also a lot of interest to see how we approached the topic. It was also the first time for many galleries and collectors to explore the concept of Online Viewing Rooms.

What made the Online Viewing Rooms innovative?

I think we’re at an inflection point and people are open to trying out new channels. At the same time, we strongly believe that digital platforms cannot replace the experience of seeing art in person or visiting the fair itself. However, digital provides us with an exciting additional platform for our galleries.

Tell us about Art Basel’s partnership with DMI.

We’ve worked with DMI for five years now on both our website and app. I asked the team at DMI if we could implement Online Viewing Rooms and I was happy to hear the DMI team had the expertise to get the platform up-and-running successfully. I greatly appreciated their “can-do” attitude and technical expertise.

What plans do you have going forward for Art Basel’s digital platform?

We’re continuing to invest in and enhance our new digital platform, the Online Viewing Rooms, as a way to support galleries during these challenging times.

How to Ramp Up Automation in a Call Center Upgrade

How to Improve Your Call Center Today

This is the third in a series of blogs about improving your call center.

Upgrading your call center in a crisis has a middle phase that’s critical to achieving your long-range goal of implementing an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) system.

Call centers IVA use advanced learning algorithms that train their attention on the speech patterns of callers. Over time, they analyze enough data to learn how to answer more caller questions correctly and make fewer mistakes.

Learning automation can be a major boon to call center efficiency — if you follow the ideal path to IVA implementation. It’s a delicate choice because it’s so tempting to throw everything at the challenge. That runs the risk of trying too many new things and faring poorly at all of them.

In a previous blog on automating healthcare call centers, we recommended getting off to an easy start that provides rapid relief to your call agents or patient-support staff. Now we move to the middle phase that forms the bridge to your ultimate goal — a fully functional IVA that eases the burden on call center reps while also pleasing your patients.

The Middle Phase: Adding Channels and Verification  

In the first phase of this model, we suggested choosing a single channel like a webchat and targeting a few easy questions whose answers are easy to automate.

That simple bot generates training data about your patients’ most pressing concerns, creating a baseline for the middle phase — automating new channels and verifying identities. There’s plenty to think about here. You might consider boosting the capabilities of the text-messaging channel and queries arriving via email and social media posts. Much of these channel-choice decisions depend on data insights from your initial automation phase.

As you might expect, the middle phase can tackle more difficult questions. For example, one of the most important goals here is identifying exactly who is contacting your patient-support reps.

Consider the patient asking about paying a bill — a financial transaction that’s an excellent candidate for automation. Your challenge is building a transaction bot that confirms their identity correctly every time while protecting their sensitive medical and financial data in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Verification is a big job. Getting it right early will pay dividends throughout your call center upgrade.

The middle phase also is the right time to start training your call center staff on the subtleties of automation. They must understand that bots are there to augment their capabilities, not put them out of a job.

The stickiest IVA challenge is yet to come: Using learning algorithms for sentient analysis and to examine the intent of complex questions in a voice call and supply the right answer without human intervention. You also want to use caller behavior data to predict and project their future needs.

That’s your IVA system’s ultimate goal, which we’ll cover in the final phase of this blog series.

A Partner for Every Stop on Your IVA Journey

It takes a wealth of knowledge, vision and experience to automate a call center with IVAs that combine the latest innovations in data science, analytics and machine learning. Our experts include data scientists, user experience designers, system architects and project managers schooled in the Agile and DevOps principles that ensure speedy solutions to intricate technology challenges.

As a system integrator with clients in health care, finance, government, retail and automotive sectors, DMI has the skills and the track record to help clients succeed with IVAs and many more next-generation digital technologies.

–Niraj Patel, director, artificial intelligence

3 Key Factors in Developing a Strategy to Shift Your Commerce Platform to the Cloud

Shifting from a legacy commerce platform to cloud-based technologies requires a deft balance of skills, technologies and cost considerations. A well-thought-out strategy is fundamental to achieving this balance.

The ecosystem of cloud technologies is so immense that there are almost infinite ways to make the cloud a part of your commerce system. To narrow things down, we’ll focus on two kinds of common enterprise commerce challenges: working with cloud-based components you own or manage, or interacting with third-party cloud components that other companies own.

Here’s a quick look at three critical components of a cloud commerce strategy.

Skills. Moving to the cloud means you have to dovetail the work of system architects, team leaders, database administrators, coders, support personnel and more. To gain the flexibility of cloud commerce, you need methodologies like Agile and tools such as Terraform and Jenkins X to iterate quickly and manage your software release cycle. In addition, people must be trained on the new cloud technology prior to working with it so they are able to accomplish their jobs in the new environment.

All of these skills-based challenges must work together when you shift to cloud-based commerce. A sound strategy and well-developed roadmap give you a foundation to deal with skills challenges.

Platform choice and rollout strategy. Choosing a cloud platform, SaaS tools and APIs to connect cloud services requires a sophisticated architecture that accounts for how all these tools interact.

For starters, you have to choose a migration strategy. Will you do everything at once or move things piece-by-piece to the cloud? If you do an incremental rollout, what’s the impact on your system architecture? You might be able to port an existing system to a cloud-hosted platform with only minor changes to the technology.

Every decision’s costs and benefits depend on merging existing systems and skills with the future state you envision. A strategy and roadmap that account for these factors will streamline operations and reduce financial risks.

TCO, hard/soft savings and ROI. In the cloud, your total cost of ownership (TCO) changes dramatically because you rent hardware on a pay-as-you-go basis and stop paying to build and manage datacenters. Running microservices, for instance, might generate costs measured in fractions of a penny. Holiday traffic spikes, by contrast, can send bandwidth costs skyward.

Moving commerce to the cloud yields a mix of straightforward hard-cost savings (owning vs. renting) and less-obvious soft-cost savings (speed and flexibility). All of these factors influence your ability to generate an attractive return on investment that will satisfy investors and executive leadership. Thus, financial considerations have to be baked into your cloud commerce strategy.

Thinking Beyond Strategy with DMI

At DMI, we strongly recommend building a sophisticated cloud commerce strategy before starting up a project to migrate your commerce applications to the cloud. But strategy is only the beginning. Because our developers have decades of experience in system design and digital commerce best practices, we can consult with clients and help them succeed in every phase of the transition, from strategy to roadmap development to migration to long-term development.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce

Why Strategy and Timeframe are Pivotal to Your Headless Commerce Transition

Accelerated time-to-market is one of the best things about headless commerce.

But the promise of speed may create a misconception about the transition to headless commerce. First off, getting started can take a lot longer than you might suspect. Moreover, the complexity of headless commerce requires a comprehensive strategy to keep all the moving parts rolling in the same direction.

Companies have excellent reasons to modernize their commerce platforms. After all, legacy platforms usually have a rigid structure that requires changes on the frontend to coordinate with planned backend releases. This structure binds the hands of people trying to react quickly to changes in their marketplace.

Headless commerce decouples the frontend from the backend, enabling fast development timelines that are more difficult with a conventional monolithic commerce platform. But enjoying all this speed comes at a cost: You have to invest plenty of time at the beginning of the headless transition to formulate a strategy that will ultimately save time in the future.

Getting Your Headless Commerce Strategy Right  

There’s a lot of due diligence, planning and execution to navigate:

  • Discovery and Gap Analysis:
    • Assessing your current state
    • Defining your desired end state
    • Performing a gap analysis
    • Doing a cost-benefit analysis
  • Setting priorities
  • Building a roadmap
  • Creating the right teams and training them to ensure they have the required technical skills
  • Choosing the right platforms (commerce, CMS, search, etc.) that meet your current and future needs
  • Developing the “head” (UI/UX/presentation tier):
    • Selecting the right software stack
    • Designing, implementing and supporting the cloud architecture
  • Adopting Agile and DevOps methodologies that ensure rapid updates and speedy iterations
  • Securing buy-in from everybody
  • Building a migration guide to limit business disruptions and improve customer experience

These and many more variables must mesh with your current IT configuration, governance and marketplace expectations. And everything needs to be flexible enough to support rapid changes in the years to come. Limitations in your platform of choice that seem minor today could prove major in 18 months.

To navigate these variables, it helps to start with a gap analysis that describes your current environment and the future state you hope to achieve. The skills and technologies you’ve already mastered will play a significant role in the transition. You’ll want to build on your strengths rather than create everything from scratch.

Thorough due diligence lets you build a roadmap that identifies new technologies you need to implement and provide a timeline for getting it all done.

Giving Yourself Enough Time to Succeed

And now for the bad news: There will be meetings — lots of them.

Embracing a new commerce platform requires an immense number of decisions, most of which are interrelated. These choices require consensus based on feedback from your staff and advice from your technology partners. And you have to weigh the impact on customers, suppliers and co-workers.

Gaining frontend flexibility opens up a universe of alternatives. You can’t weigh them all, but you will want to consider the most promising ones. Your strategy builds a foundation for the future of your commerce operations. That’s not something to rush through. The more you get right in the early meetings, the fewer meetings you’ll need to fix glitches down the road.

DMI: A Strategic Partner for Headless Commerce

At DMI, we’ve implemented headless commerce architectures for companies across a wide spectrum of capabilities and technology maturities. Some clients have no in-house IT, while others have the resources to develop in-house platforms. Our edge in digital commerce is our deep experience with both legacy and modern commerce systems at every level of the software stack.

We help clients formulate the optimum headless commerce strategy based on their current realities and their business goals. And we help them formulate a timeline for getting it done right.

— Atul Bhammar, senior vice president, solutions architect, digital commerce

6 Pillars of a Winning Strategy for Cloud-Native Development

Cloud-native development can drive a wealth of business value — if you utilize the correct strategy.

Lots of developers love to build apps on cloud platforms from Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other providers because the cloud is a fast, easy to use and cost-efficient alternative to conventional development environments. Cloud providers offer popular services in the Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Function as a Service (FaaS) categories, including AWS Lambdas and Azure Functions. Such technologies take care of most, if not all infrastructure concerns so your developers can pay more attention to building responsive, adaptive solutions that drive business results.

The great thing about the cloud is that you pay only for the resources (compute, storage, network) you use. The pay-as-you-go model encourages developers to create microservices that spin up for a specific job and then go dormant again, generating a small fee for each request. Microservices are pivotal to the event-driven performance of modern, cloud-developed applications. Each microservice operates independently and must be able to scale up easily in response to shifting user requirements and demands.

Containerization is another popular tool for cloud-native development that’s often reserved for enterprise-level applications. Containers work a bit like an operating system in that they let you implement an application and its dependencies in one place where they can operate together and are portable, allowing businesses to avoid cloud vendor lock-in.

Containers add cost and complexity, so you have to carefully weigh whether you actually need them. Many times, a cloud-native microservices-based architecture that does not utilize containers is cheaper, simpler and can easily perform the heavy lifting, even with apps that serve large audiences and contain both a wide breadth and depth of functionality.

Deciding on the use of containers is just one of the complexities of organizing and orchestrating all the moving parts in a cloud-native application. A robust development strategy is mandatory to navigating all these issues.

These are the pillars of a cloud-native development strategy:

Business need. You don’t go cloud-native because it’s a hot trend. You go there to solve a vexing business challenge. Your strategy must be able to exploit the inherent speed, agility and economy of cloud-native development to address that challenge.

Continuity. Strategy starts with the first meeting and continues through all the iterations of your cloud-based software. It’s too easy to expend all your strategic energy on getting an app up and running and then lose focus after a few release cycles.

User experience. Your cloud-based app is a digital product, not a project. Therefore, you have to think strategically about how users navigate through each of your application’s features and capabilities.  Your personas, user interface and customer experience must align with your overall strategy.

Methodology. Cloud-native development typically uses Agile methods and DevOps principles to produce software in time frames as short as two weeks. Agile teams build iterations of the software and DevOps guidelines enable a consistent, effective delivery and release cycle.

Skills. Building applications on a cloud platform requires unique experience and training. Experience in other development environments doesn’t always translate. Your strategy cannot assume you have all the skills you need in-house. It must account for training and recruiting people with talents that align with how to best meet your business goals.

Culture. The advantages of microservices and the cloud allow for nearly infinite scaling and incredibly rapid, frequent updates and improvements to cloud-developed applications. This is a totally new mindset for many organizations, especially those that have not yet embraced Agile and DevOps. You need buy-in from the ground up and the top down in order to successfully instill a culture that will exploit these advantages.

A Strategic Partner for Cloud-Native Development

At DMI, our Agile teams and DevOps expertise help clients implement comprehensive strategies for developing applications natively in the cloud.

We’ve seen it time again: Hours upon hours of meetings produce a strategy that collects dust once development starts. That’s not how we do things. We give clients the guidance they need to align their development goals with their business strategy.

Cloud-native applications should advance your business goals in every phase of development. Our decades of experience and commitment to strategic solutions ensures our clients enjoy that kind of strategic alignment.

— Kyle Klimek, vice president, application development practice

4 Biggest Challenges of Personalization in Digital Commerce

For all the terabytes of consumer data brands collect around the clock, the personalization of shopping experiences can feel like an elusive goal.

Every time your mobile device delivers an ad for a product you already own, you’re seeing the limits of personalization. the brand knows you’re interested — they just don’t realize their timing is off.

Brands that want to eliminate these kinds of personalization foul-ups have to overcome four daunting challenges:

  1. Using data to gain a single view of the customer. Ideally, brands would have a unified view of the consumer across multiple channels. For instance, consumers who watch cooking shows on YouTube generate behavioral data about their habits and preferences. What if a brand could pull that data into their mobile phones while they’re in a brick-and-mortar store shopping for groceries and cookware?Alas, data silos often throw up obstacles to this kind of personalization. A sound data-personalization strategy works on breaking down these silos.
  2. Finding a sensible starting point. The questions stack up quickly: Which kinds of data should you gather? How many channels will you include in personalization efforts? How personal do you want to get — and how do you avoid invading shoppers’ personal space? What about data security and compliance?Brands may be tempted to take too large of a bite out of the personalization apple. Often, it’s best to start small on a single channel or pilot project, learn all you can and then use these insights to expand from there.
  3. Choosing technology for automation. Artificial intelligence and machine learning seem like obvious choices for personalization. The real challenge comes down to which AI/ML you use. You could develop tools like chatbots in-house or create an integrated shopping experience from third-party marketing technology software.There’s a rich ecosystem of software using AI/ML to automate tasks like market segmentation and customer relationship management. The trick is finding your optimum mix of in-house and third-party automation.
  4. Grappling with content personalization. Whether you’re producing videos, blog posts, e-books, podcasts or social media updates, you don’t want to send the same content to every customer. Instead, you want to take everything you’ve learned from data personalization and give each customer content that’s relevant to their life, location and buying behaviors (the more real-time, the better).Selecting the ideal content management software and integrating it into your customer experience is one of the core challenges of content personalization.

A Partner for Commerce Across the Entire Technology Stack

Personalization in commerce requires a broad spectrum of talents in system integration, data analytics, AI/ML, customer experience, user interfaces and high-level business strategy. DMI is unique in that we can bring all these talents to bear on your personalization challenges. We start from a strategic perspective based on a company’s unique marketplace challenges and skillsets. We also apply Agile and DevOps methodologies to accelerate the time-to-market of our technology solutions.

That’s the blend of skills, experience and insight you need to succeed with commerce personalization.

— Allison Lee, practice leader, digital marketing

— Paula Moniz, practice leader, customer experience

What to Do First When Upgrading Your Call Center in a Crisis

How to Improve Your Call Center Today

This is the second in a series of blogs about improving your call center.

When a hospital, clinic or medical practice gets flooded with calls from worried patients, it’s only natural to think automation is the answer. If a bot can handle the easiest calls, the reasoning goes, then the humans can spend more time answering questions that befuddle the smartest learning algorithms.

A new breed of tools called Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) can indeed transform your patient-support experience. The trouble is that for all the advantages of IVAs (which are abundant), they can’t cure today’s crush of patient calls because:

  • It can take a month or longer to get an IVA system up and running. Most medical firms can’t wait that long in the middle of a public health emergency.
  • Going all-in with IVAs too quickly can be risky. Trying to do too many things at once can mess up everything.
  • IVAs require a substantial dataset to train their algorithms to translate the content of human conversations into signals of human intent. It takes time to build up that dataset.

These challenges underscore the value of thinking in terms of a journey to IVA functionality that starts out simple by automating a single communication channel. Once you’ve done that, then you can move to automating multiple channels and then, finally, implementing a robust IVA solution.

Automating Your First Communication Channel

Let’s say you’re getting about three-quarters of your patient communications from three channels: voice phone calls, text messages and a web input form. The other one-quarter comes from channels like social media and popular chatting platforms.

You want to pick a channel that gets enough usage to provide valuable data but is still fairly easy to automate. This channel also should carry the lowest risk of unexpected glitches angering large numbers of patients.

Often, a webchat is a useful starting point. An automated script can answer the easiest questions like “what are your office hours?” or “where do I go to schedule an appointment?” Just being able to automate a of couple of common questions takes some of the load off of your human patient-support team.

This gives you help when you and your patients need it most — without an extended wait for a full IVA system.

Moreover, within hours you’ll start getting precious data signaling patients’ intent. Learning algorithms can be trained to identify the patterns in people’s questions. As the algorithms build a massive dataset of right and wrong answers, they teach themselves to anticipate people’s desires and serve them even better.

Training data from people’s questions and other online behaviors makes artificial intelligence and machine learning possible. In the weeks and months to come, you’ll feed more and more training data into newly automated channels that will form the bedrock of a full-functioning IVA system.

A Partner for Your IVA Journey

A simple chatbot can get you on the road to IVA functionality and leave you better prepared for the next new influx of patient calls.

At DMI, we’ve implemented IVAs in a range of sectors including health care, finance and government. We have a deep, rich pool of talent in business consulting, automation, system architecture, machine learning, data science and customer experience. We also use Agile methodologies to get the optimum solution into our clients’ hands in tight time frames.

These skills make all the difference when your call center is at risk of being overwhelmed.

–Niraj Patel, director, artificial intelligence

 

Why Enterprises Need a Partner to Get the Most out of Magento

Why Enterprises Need a Partner to get the most of magento

This is the second in a three-part blog series about the use of Magento.

Magento Commerce has some of the world’s best tools for creating best-in-class customer experiences that can give enterprises a digital edge over their competitors. But there’s no easy button for getting the best performance out of Magento, which Adobe acquired in 2018 to beef up its Experience Cloud platform.

You need an experienced system integrator to find the most painless and efficient ways to deal with implementation issues and ongoing operational headaches that are bound to crop in when you tap into popular Magento features like these:

Next-generation development tools. Adobe’s acquisition of Magento converges two powerful software suites: Magento Commerce and Adobe Experience Manager. The merger enables developers to couple Adobe’s design tools with relevant content and Magento e-commerce software to craft world-class customer experiences that mine the full potential of APIs, PWAs and headless commerce. Today’s most innovative shopping experiences use PWAs (progressive web applications) on the front end to pull mobile-app functionality into web pages. APIs link the PWA-empowered frontend to whichever backend provides the best performance.

Unbundling the front (the “head”) from the back is the core appeal of headless commerce, which gives retailers unprecedented flexibility. On paper it sounds wonderful. In reality it takes people with years of experience in digital commerce and system design to fine-tune headless commerce and ensure that it delivers the rich shopping experience customers have come to expect.

Application integrations. Magento’s modern API framework connects your e-commerce system to your CRM and ERP platforms, payment gateways and other crucial business systems. Because these platforms have hundreds of moving parts that all need to move in the same direction to serve your company’s goals, the complexities can seem almost endless.

Indeed, for all the challenges of headless commerce, application integrations often are the most difficult component of designing, implementing and managing a Magento digital commerce operation. Getting all these integrations to work well together requires people who have seen pretty much everything and know how to anticipate difficulties specific to your business and respond effectively to new ones that crop up.

Global developer community. Thousands of developers around the world are building plug-ins and enhancements to Magento’s core code. That lets you choose a tool for, say, payment gateways, that integrates most efficiently with your existing systems.

But what if there are five promising payment gateway solutions available? How do you pick the right one and ignore all the wrong ones? The essentially endless customization options from the Magento developer community are awe-inspiring but also paralyzing. Choosing badly can stall your progress and aggravate your customers.

The DMI Edge with Magento

Think about what happens when you miss a left turn in your car. You can take three right turns to get moving in the right direction again, but it’s not the most direct route. Digital commerce system developers often face a similar quandary — choosing between one and three turns when resolving system challenges.

Experience is the best teacher for making the most productive turns. At DMI, we have experts with years of experience inside retail companies in addition to our decades of core technology expertise. We’ve leveraged the power of APIs and PWAs to build headless systems for multiple clients. We’ve done the application integrations and chosen the best plug-ins from the Magento developer community.

That’s how we sharpen our clients’ competitive edge.

–Jon Wovchko, vice president operations & strategic consulting, digital commerce

Top 7 Things to Watch When Moving from a Legacy Commerce Platform to the Cloud

Top 7 Things to Watch When Moving from a Legacy Commerce Platform to the Cloud

When a company first decides to move their commerce platform and supporting toolsets to the cloud, they typically focus most of their attention on deciding what type of cloud (private/public) and provider (AWS, GCP, Azure) they want, and then picking the supporting technologies (Spring Boot, Node.js, React, Kubernetes, etc.).

While these choices are important, they are actually less impactful to a successful migration than you might suspect. All of the providers and supporting technologies are mature: They provide what is required for a commerce platform to run in the cloud. Quite often, it’s the things that don’t get the attention they deserve — or get overlooked entirely — that can make or break a migration project.

This blog covers seven of these often-overlooked factors. The advice below applies to two common scenarios: Working with cloud-based components you own or manage, or interacting with third-party cloud components.

Whichever way you go, you need to pay close attention to these points:

  1. Strategy and roadmap. It’s imperative to develop a robust plan to coordinate the activities of team leaders, system architects, database administrators, coders and support personnel and have everyone aligned on the overall project strategy and roadmap. Also, understanding the TCO, ROI, and hard and soft savings should be included in the planning.
  2. Skillset management. Cloud components require specific skills and experience. VMware skills don’t always translate into Google Cloud skills. You have to address skill deficiencies as early as possible and manage them carefully before, during and after the cloud transition.
  3. DevOps. To get the most value from cloud e-commerce, you need a nimble development process and rapid software updates. Following DevOps principles and putting the design and architecture in place up-front in the migration helps keep all your moving parts coordinated.
  4. Performance. It is assumed that moving to an elastic, cloud-based environment with modern technology will improve performance. This is not always the case with both cloud platforms and headless architectures for ecommerce systems. After you have made the investment and delivered the project, the customer experience may in fact be worse if specific steps are not taken up front to optimize page performance. In addition, slow-loading pages can wreak havoc with search engine rankings. Designing and optimizing for performance up-front is mandatory.
  5. Monitoring. Because cloud components are beyond your direct control and somewhat abstracted, you need a comprehensive system monitoring setup. This includes monitoring, logging and alerting that will get people moving and enable them to fix problems as soon as possible.
  6. Design patterns. You must decide how to design the components of the platform. Cloud-based computing provides more flexibility and choices in design patterns, so defining and aligning all teams on the overall design patterns to be used will allow you to create a more cohesive, well-designed platform. Left to their own devices, different teams may end up building things in different ways, producing a confusing, convoluted cloud implementation. You need standard, coordinated design patterns to ensure all of your development efforts dovetail. Make sure you understand and assess your existing application landscape and pick a cloud architecture that meets your assessment.
  7. Dependencies. Third-party applications and data sources can gum up the works if you don’t have a coordinated program to deal with them. You must define dependencies and put in processes as a structural component of the migration effort to ensure success.

The DMI Advantage in Moving E-commerce to the Cloud

When your customer experience is on the line, you can’t afford unexpected glitches that chase people to the competition or projects that aren’t delivered on time and on budget. This reality underscores the inherent tradeoff of moving to the cloud: To get massive flexibility you have to deal with complexity and up-front cost.

At DMI, we have experts with direct experience in e-commerce operations across multiple retail sectors. We don’t tell clients what they need to do. We scrutinize their marketplace and current technology environment, and help them formulate a strategic, proactive approach to doing what’s best for their customers and their business.

It’s not easy to figure out. But it’s easier if you choose the right partner — one that is committed to the client’s success and knows how to successful navigate the unexpected pitfalls.

Andrew Powers, senior vice president, solutions delivery, digital commerce

How to Improve Your Call Center Today

How to Improve Your Call Center Today

It happens to every hospital or healthcare provider: A crisis or emergency erupts and suddenly patients are calling in droves with urgent questions — overwhelming your patient-care staff. You know this aggravates your patients and you want it fixed now.

You’ve probably heard about intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs), which use machine learning to automate a full range of activities in the patient support process. And you’re wondering: Can IVAs lighten the load on your call-center crews?

They can, but not soon enough to put today’s fire out. When you need help in time frames measured in days, not months, it’s best to think in terms of a journey to IVA, with small intermediate steps that lay the foundation for advanced automation a few months down the road.

While the initial phases do not put every fire out, they still provide priceless data about users’ habits. This data fuels intent-analysis processes that will help your IVA system make smart decisions down the road. Over time, user-intent signals will help you predict future patient support needs.

Thus, all of your patience and preparation early in the journey pay off all along the route. There’s no wasted effort.

These are three optimal phases for making the transition to IVA capability:

Phase 1: Add One Bot to Your Call Experience

It’s best to start with a single on-ramp in your journey to an automated patient experience. It could be a simple webchat bot that asks a patient one or two basic questions before forwarding the call to a human representative. This simple solution automatically eases the strain on your staff and doesn’t take long to implement.

Remember: Everything your patients do in this webchat bot will generate data that trains the IVA system to make smarter decisions as time passes. You can use any channel your patients prefer. The point is, you want to work the bugs out of the first automated process before moving on to more complex capabilities.

Phase 2. Automate Answers to Patient Questions

With your basic bot up and running, it’s time to add a few more on-ramps to your IVA journey.

That means using bots to answer more difficult questions and automate more of the patient support experience. You might also customize the responses depending on the channel — phones, email and text messaging, for instance.

Now, you have to focus more deeply on thorny issues like authentication: validating the identity of each person and remembering their favorite authentication methods.

Here, it becomes more important to train your support staff properly and confront any shortcomings in your backend IT systems. You need to make sure your legacy systems have enough power to process complex learning algorithms.

Again, you’re feeding data into your intent analysis process to ensure that each user can log in with their favorite methods in the future. Their questions and your automated answers will produce smarter bots, streamline the experience and improve patient satisfaction.

Phase 3. Implement an IVA System

Phase 1 and 2 gave you a firm foundation to implement an intelligent virtual assistant that can respond automatically to calls from a wide range of patients and tailor these responses to their unique preferences.

A full IVA system identifies callers and remembers their habits and behaviors on previous calls. Learning algorithms teach it to take on more complex challenges because it also folds in data from the rest of your patient calls.

The ultimate goal is to free up your patient-support staff to handle jobs that computers aren’t good at — like using their intuition and training to provide a savvy, humane response to a complex patient support issue. That helps improve job satisfaction, potentially reduce turnover costs.

The DMI Advantage in IVAs

DMI has an extensive track record with IVAs in multiple sectors like health care, finance and government. Our vast pool of talent in business consulting, automation, system architecture, machine learning, data science and patient experience ensures we have the right skills. Our focus on Agile methodologies gets the right solution into our clients’ hands in tight time frames. When you have big fires to put out, these are the skills you need.

–Niraj Patel, director, artificial intelligence

 

6 Things to Avoid in Your Headless Commerce Journey

6 Things to Avoid in Your Headless Commerce Journey

You can’t avoid every bump in the road to modernizing your e-commerce infrastructure. But you can anticipate the most common roadblocks, wrong turns and traffic jams.

E-commerce modernization usually means transitioning to a headless IT infrastructure. With headless, you decouple the frontend of your IT infrastructure — typically the presentation tier — from the backend, where most of the business logic resides. Headless lets you rapidly iterate your frontend to finetune your customer experience without having to coordinate everything with the backend, which would bog down development.

Avoiding these six pitfalls can make your journey to headless commerce go much more smoothly:

Strategic oversights. You can’t afford to scrimp on strategy in your headless commerce journey. That means starting with a discovery process and gap analysis that assesses your current IT state — systems, hardware, personnel, skills, partners and methodologies — and lays out a roadmap for moving toward a headless ecosystem that meets your current and future needs. The more planning you build into your strategic roadmap, the better your chances of success in the long haul.

Time-frame miscalculations. It’s easy to underestimate how much time is involved in a headless transformation. Every company has unique IT challenges and marketplace realities. You may have a small IT team that needs lots of help, or a large IT team that needs only highly specialized assistance. It takes a lot of fact-finding, research and meetings to figure everything out. That can take more time than you might expect.

Platform and software stack slipups. Missteps in choosing the right headless e-commerce platform or software stack for the head can cause headaches for years to come. Choose the platform that meets your current and future needs. Every software stack approach for building the head (presentation tier) has pros and cons. The best route is to draw up a list of requirements, assess your current IT skillsets and pick the software stack that gives you the most of what you need with the fewest compromises.

Skill misalignments. Conventional e-commerce platforms need abundant expertise in the backend, while developing the head on a headless commerce platform requires a separate set of frontend skills. Moreover, headless commerce requires a wealth of experience with cloud technologies and microservices. Your headless commerce journey must assess your skillsets across all the new technologies and plug any gaps you discover.

Methodology missteps. Headless commerce allows a rapid release and iteration cycle that requires continuous integration of skills from multiple disciplines beyond IT, such as UI design, digital marketing and product development. Agile and DevOps methodologies provide the framework for keeping everybody aligned during two- or three-week development cycles.

Botched buy-in.  Everybody must pull together. Otherwise, all the benefits of headless commerce collapse. That’s why it’s essential to secure buy-in from everybody involved in the transition — not only the leadership but also the rank-and-file technical teams and support people.

Picking a Partner for Your Commerce Modernization

Headless commerce delivers immense value in the digital marketplace, but you have to pay a cost in complexity to enjoy that value. To make it all work, you need a partner with deep experience in online commerce and broad technical expertise across frontend, backend and cloud software platforms. These are the capabilities that DMI brings to your headless commerce transition. Our consultants know how to merge commerce domain knowledge, IT infrastructure, marketing and user experience design to give our clients a head start in their headless transition.

—Atul Bhammar, senior vice president, solutions architect, digital commerce

How Headless Commerce and Magento Produce Amazing Shopping Experiences

This is the first in a three-part blog series about the use of Magento.

Headless commerce is changing the face of digital commerce because it allows companies to craft experiences that customers can’t get anywhere else.

A headless system decouples the frontend (typically the user interface layer) from the backend, where most of the computing power resides. This allows developers to customize user experiences for phones, PCs and other devices on the frontend while keeping a standard backend for the most demanding computing tasks.

Retailers are warming to headless commerce because it gives them a chance to set themselves apart in an era of relentless competition. Magento is an attractive option for headless commerce because it provides boundless flexibility to e-commerce system designers and managers.

On the front end. Magento allows frontend designers to leverage the powerful features of Adobe Experience Manager. Adobe has been building best-of-breed visual design software for decades. Adobe  Experience Manager has everything website and application designers need to craft seamless shopping experiences across multiple media platforms — smartphones, tablets, websites and more.

Before headless commerce came along, companies often had to choose an e-commerce platform on the strength of its backend computing power, regardless of any weaknesses in the frontend design system. There’s no more grin-and-bear it with headless computing. Designers can pick the best frontend tools for their specific needs. That leads to better experiences and happier customers.

In the middle. Magento has robust frameworks for the APIs (application programming interfaces) and PWAs (progressive web applications) that maximize the impact of headless commerce. APIs let multiple applications share data and communicate with each other (the GraphQL support added in version 2.3.x of Magento makes API communications more efficient). PWAs bring the functionality of a mobile app into a web page, providing app-like services without requiring users to download an app and update it themselves.

As customer experience developers implement more machine learning to customize and streamline online shopping, PWAs and APIs will become even more crucial to headless commerce.

On the backend. Rich consumer experiences powered by machine learning require substantial computing muscle. So, the same Magento flexibility that gives experience designers an edge also ensures that IT teams can implement the most powerful computing resources. Moreover, Magento’s advanced API frameworks ensure that retailers can plug their ecommerce systems into their systems for managing resources and customers.

While monolithic, all-in-one digital commerce systems are fading into history, Magento is leading the charge into the future because it helps developers get next-generation user experiences into the marketplace much faster. Bear in mind, however, that if your legacy backend system still performs to your satisfaction, you can keep it while leveraging all the frontend advantages of headless commerce.

A Quick Reality Check on Headless Commerce

The flexibility of headless commerce accelerates development timelines because you don’t have to align frontend development with your backend e-commerce computing infrastructure. But immense flexibility comes at a price: You have to invest time and energy in creating a well-thought-out roadmap to implement headless commerce.

That means taking extra care to account for variables like search engine optimization, bots masquerading as humans, proper analytics tracing and monitoring for errors that may no longer show up in traditional server application logs.

Magento has a global community of developers providing a galaxy of precise solutions to all manner of e-commerce challenges. With so many options available, a few stray missteps can undermine all your progress. At DMI, we draw on a deep well of experience in both the retail and the system development sides of the equation. We put these skills to use helping our clients craft an effective, efficient roadmap for implementing and managing Magento.

— Jon Wovchko, vice president operations & strategic consulting, digital commerce

Cracking the Code on Fan Engagement

In an age where consumers are in control, brands have to work harder than ever to cut through the noise to reach their consumers. Then they must also engage their audience in meaningful ways to earn their trust and loyalty. That means marketers are having to get creative. The brands that are willing to take a leap and do something bold are the ones that will reap the rewards.

When the International Spy Museum, a partner of DMI’s since 2014, was planning to move locations into a new, bigger, better, purpose-built facility across Washington, D.C., we knew we needed to do something big. The museum would be closed for more than four months for relocation, but this time was essential for generating buzz in advance of the grand opening.

Here are the four key principles we followed to build the wildly successful “Mission countdown” activation:

  1. Know Your Audience
    The first step in any marketing effort is to understand your audience. From owned data to surveys and customer interviews, knowing your consumer is essential. If you don’t know what their needs are, you can’t possibly deliver on them. If you don’t speak to them in the right way, or connect with them in the right place, they will quickly overlook you or worse, write you off entirely. Consider if you have an engaged fan base you can start with organically to validate your concept and get it off the ground, or will you need to build an audience from the start?

    For the Spy Museum, we had the benefit of four years of understanding their audience prior to the big move. We knew they had a core set of very loyal and very knowledgeable fans who followed the various Spy Museum social channels. We knew that if we wanted to connect with the fan base, we were going to need to speak their language. We had to create an experience that felt truly ‘insider’ and not like a marketing campaign.

    We decided to send our followers on their own undercover mission in the real world. Over the course of four weeks leading up to the opening of the museum, we released clues to 36 different dead drops hidden in the D.C. area that contained prizes from free museum tickets to access to the opening gala. To participate, fans had to crack clues to unlock the secret location of the dead drop, then go to that place to either collect the physical dead drop container or claim the digital dead drop pinned to that location. The technology we implemented enabled thousands of individuals to play at the same time while giving each their own unique experience, and allowing just 36 skilled agents to claim the prizes. The activation was a major hit with the Spy Museum fans, leading them to tag their friends to participate. It also generated a 28% increase in organic Twitter impressions month-over-month, as well as garnering earned media impressions to further build excitement and awareness for the museum.

  2. Be True to Your Mission
    Consumers are smart. They are skeptical of marketing. They only pay attention to the brands that truly connect with them, and they expect to be rewarded for their engagement and loyalty. So how do you earn the trust and attention of your audience?

    The key is authenticity.

    Don’t do a filmed stunt just because everybody else is doing it. Don’t post about an issue that is taking over social if your brand has no business being in that conversation. Start with your mission, and you can’t go wrong. Your brand is what it is, and if your marketing doesn’t represent that, the brand lift will be short-lived at best and tarnish your reputation at worst.

    For the Spy Museum, we could have done a simple ticket giveaway or social media contest. But none of that felt right for their brand. It took a tremendous amount of research and effort to create an experience that would surprise and delight the most knowledgeable spy enthusiasts. Each of the 36 dead drops was placed at a location where a moment in spy history occurred, like an actual dead-drop site, or a restaurant where clandestine meetings occurred.

    The 36 clues were all different puzzles, challenging our audience’s spy skills, like analyzing intel and cracking codes. This also enabled all players to engage, even after the prizes were claimed. The entire experience was carefully designed from start to finish to really put the audience into the shoes of a spy in the way that the new museum would upon opening. During a time the museum was closed, we actually turned the entire city into a museum where history came to life.

  3. Spread the Word
    It doesn’t matter how great your campaign is if nobody sees it. The rollout strategy is as important as the concept itself in creating a successful connection. You already know your audience from step one, now you need to meet them where they are. That may be your owned social channels, paid media placements or something else entirely.

    For the Spy Museum’s Mission, we released the clues in batches over the course of several weeks, giving more fans more opportunities to engage and win. We launched the game to the Museum’s followers first, giving our most loyal fans the first chance to win. Over the course of several weeks, we released more batches of clues and slowly began to use paid media to drive traffic. As the activation built momentum the earned press began, and as a result the final release of clues had the highest engagement of all the releases.

  4. Take Risks
    Fortune favors the bold. To get attention you need to do something exciting, new, fresh, even a little bit scary. Yes, the first time you do something it won’t be perfect. But consumers would rather you be exciting and not perfect than boring and expected, yet flawlessly executed.

In the case of the Spy Museum activation, we built an experience like nothing that had ever been done before using a technology platform that was new to the market. While we did everything we could to ensure success, there was still an element of uncertainty. But with great risk comes great reward. All 36 prizes were claimed. Most of them were claimed within just a few hours of the clues being released, one prize took just 23 minutes to be claimed. Thousands of existing fans were engaged, and thousands more became fans. Earned, owned and paid media generated more than 2 million impressions. Most importantly, the museum delivered an authentic experience and delivered on its mission to educate, even when their doors weren’t yet opened.

— Elizabeth Van Blargan, associate creative director, DMI’s Brand Marketing & Customer Experience Division

Digital Twins: Mining the Potential of Real-Time Modeling

The appeal of a digital twin is obvious: You deploy a digital model that mimics real-world behavior — detecting inefficiencies, optimizing performance and learning to improve in real time.

Digital twins are starting to generate buzz in the tech sector because they represent the next phase in the evolution of computer modeling. Conventional digital models attempt to predict future results before building complex systems, anticipating problems in the virtual realm before they cause expensive trouble in real life. Digital twins build on these strengths by providing instant feedback and machine learning.

Fortunately, the sensors, networks, software and computers required to build digital twins are readily available. Indeed, they’re already finding a home in Industry 4.0 applications, where they’re streamlining production and enabling predictive maintenance.

Moreover, there are strong incentives to move these interactive replicas into new realms. After all, if digital twins can optimize machines, why can’t they improve human outcomes?

That’s where things get complicated.

Consider a sophisticated digital twin used by a professional sports team. It’s conceivable that wireless sensors in clothing and equipment combined with digital video cameras, 3D modeling and advanced learning algorithms could mimic an entire game while it’s being played. Sensors and software could detect which players are off their games and recommend improvements in real time.

This futuristic scenario is easy to envision. Embracing the full potential of digital twinning, however, is a lot more challenging.

Where to Start With Digital Twins

Pretty much any behavior in the natural world is a candidate for digital twin development. It’s not just people and machines. It could be weather, the flow of water or the accumulation of pollutants.

Thus, you’re looking at a veritable mountain of distractions and dead ends. To mine the nugget of productive opportunity with digital twins, you have to narrow your focus.

To do that, ask some basic questions: Do you have a process where you’re reasonably certain that a better understanding of customer behavior will improve revenues or profitability? Do you sell a complex product with a steep learning curve that would benefit from insights on user behavior?

Zero in on a few processes you’d like to optimize and build from there. Remember, machine learning is a core component of a productive digital twin. If you build it right, it will teach itself to work better over time.

It’s imperative to avoid bright-shiny-object syndrome. You have to start with a pressing need — not a nice-to-have.

4 Mandatory Skills for Digital Twin Development

After you’ve targeted your best digital-twin opportunity, you have to amass the skills required to make it happen. These skills span four disciplines:

  • Psychology. Like a designer of user interfaces or customer experiences, your digital twin must reflect and respond to cognitive processes that drive human behavior.
  • Physiology. A digital twin must account for the subtle interplay of nerves, muscle and bone during the use of a device or software application.
  • Architecture. System design drives the effectiveness of a digital twin. Your model must optimize the interactions of networks, sensors and learning algorithms.
  • Engineering. Computation combines statistical analysis with the logic of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Savvy engineering supplies the accuracy and relevance that produce success with digital twins.

Your digital twin solution will need equal measures of design creativity, strategic vision and technical acumen. Dovetailing all these skills is a non-trivial task.

Embracing the Future of Digital Twins

Admittedly, digital twin technology is in its infancy. In the years to come, innovations in edge computing and the growth of 5G wireless networks should expand its horizons. Advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning and neural networks will open even more opportunities.

Even if you don’t think digital twins are a good fit for your business today, it’s a good idea to monitor developments — especially in the consumer sector. If a breakout innovation hits the mass market, it could be as big as the smartphone.

We’re not predicting the future at DMI, but we do know promising technology when we see it. As we gather more insight and experience designing and implementing digital twins, we’ll make sure our clients benefit from everything we learn.

–Michael Deittrick, senior vice president digital strategy, chief digital officer

DMI Digital Leader Award – Alex Spinelli, LivePerson

DMI Digital Leader Award - Alex Spinelli, LivePerson

Creating AI-Powered Conversational Interfaces for the World’s Largest Brands

Tell us about the LivePerson mission.

Our mission is to make life easier for people and brands though trusted conversational AI. Leveraging decades of data and a powerful AI-engine, we develop conversational experiences for top companies including HSBC, Home Depot, Orange, and GM Financial, helping to ensure today’s consumers are served with the personalized customer experience they have come to expect.

Explain the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” represents the blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital and biological worlds. We are at the start of a convergence of advances in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing and other emerging technologies. This convergence is the force behind many products and services that are quickly becoming indispensable to modern life, GPS for example. This is also paving the way for a seismic shift in the way people live day-to-day and the way business is conducted. We at LivePerson are excited to be helping to manage this change on behalf of our customers.

How is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” affecting consumer behavior?

Differentiation based on brand is rapidly disappearing. As technology has enabled businesses to offer more connected experiences, today’s consumers have many more options and are not afraid to switch brands to find a better experience. In fact, 73 percent of consumers will give up on a brand if they cannot get an answer to their question within 10 minutes. Consumers have come to expect immediacy when it comes to brand engagement.

What percentage of consumer inquiries can be automated?

Nearly 70% of consumer inquires can be automated. What’s more, 90% of consumers begin their shopping journey online but in the U.S., less than 15% of sales are completed online. Consumers need to ask questions, get advice and understand their options before making their purchases. Conversational interfaces make this possible without the shopper ever having to visit a store or place a call. Today, 50 percent of all conversations (tens of millions) on our platform are automated; that’s a jump of almost 200 percent over past year-and-a-half!

How difficult is it for companies to implement conversational interfaces?

Building automations can be slow and fragmented with a heavy reliance on developers. However, our Conversation Builder is an all-in-one platform tailor-made for conversational commerce, giving brands a dramatically faster and non-technical way to implement automation. Additionally, team members, such as customer care managers and even qualified agents, can participate in creating and optimizing chatbots.

What role does messaging play in the future of commerce?

Today 13 million texts are sent every minute in the world. There are 100 million messages sent every day on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger. That’s astounding. Thus, many of the tasks we now do, such as shopping, will be shifted to messaging and voice platforms such as WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Alexa. Conversation is just a much more natural way to interact with brands. For businesses to scale this, they’ll need the help of really effective conversational AI, which is where we come in.

What has your experience been like working with the DMI team?

We at LivePerson have been extremely pleased with the DMI partnership. The team’s technical expertise is impressive and we share a common vision and passion for digital transformation. Additionally, with DMI’s deep roots in the government contracting sector, we look forward to exploring opportunities to enhance the customer experience for U.S. federal agencies and the Americans they serve.

NRF2020: They Don’t Call it The Big Show for Nothing

Blog_Impressions_of_NRF_2020

My Impressions of the 15th NRF Expo and Show

As a technology professional focused on retail and commerce, this was my 15th NRF Expo and Show (but who is counting?). The venue is, of course, enormous, yet convenient. The content is breathtaking and well …breathtaking. The experience can be a bit like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. At certain times over the years, it was difficult to differentiate between an actual positive technology trend or just hoopla.

I have been here before to hear about everything from RFIDs, a new company named Amazon that was suddenly selling more than just books and CDs (remember those?), self-checkouts and the promise of kiosks, and of course, the “elusive” predictive merchandise and financial planning solution everybody seems to always be looking for. Here’s what REALLY impressed me this time around:

  1. AI is King. There were innumerable presentations of a vast number of “solutions” to predict, discover, deploy and “learn” from omnichannel customer transactions. Everybody was speaking of these as a “turnkey” solution that can produce immediate results. What gives? The best approach here is to match your AI strategy with a solid data cleansing and prioritization strategy. Trust me, you can’t have AI with bad data. The best solutions I saw incorporate AI to cleanse your data and then AI to decipher, understand and suggest actions based on that clean data.
  2. Customer Experience is Queen. So, you have clean data, you say? And a good AI engine to crunch it and learn from it? Well, now you need a frictionless experience for your customers. As some of my CX friends say, the journey is the experience and the customer is the journey. In other words, customers leave when they have a bad experience and they do not come back. However, when EVERY customer interaction is the result of thoughtful analysis, focused market testing, geocentric pricing elasticity, and is supported by a, “we are here for you at any time and in any channel you choose to interact with us,” you are way ahead of the herd.
  3. Game of Thrones. Well, the King and the Queen reign together. Companies that are successful in acquiring customers in current markets either by coming up with new (and more qualified) customer segments and the companies that are growing in new markets do the following: They are using AI and CX to their advantage. What exactly do I mean? Well, let’s say that you know that a high percentage of your customers use a messaging app (let’s say Whatsap), and you also know your customer care experience is not world class, and in fact, is costing you way too much. How would you address both issues? At DMI, we would strongly suggest that you look into Conversational Commerce. Chatbots are smart, fast and adaptable. They can enhance the customer experience by allowing your customer to communicate in the medium of their preference. Instead of calling to check on their order, they can text your customer care organization. Instead of downloading an app, or going to a browser to buy a product, they can instead text your brand (via SMS, Whatsapp, iMessage, etc.), and be in control of the touch point. There is no awkwardness about being put on hold. They can continue the conversation at a later time without losing their place in line. And it is 100% PCI-compliant. What do you gain? Consumers will come back for more convenience. You will get one more channel of commerce and of course, your CSR’s can become more productive with the help of the same chatbots by handling more sessions.

At DMI, we use technology to solve business problems — which creates a winning strategy. Of course, we have a lot of smart technical folks, but our focus is on how we can make your business successful. We care fanatically about how your customers and prospects perceive your brand for example. We make it our business to help you build the right ROI model for your particular project. And because of this, we have an army of very happy customers to back us up.

If you feel overwhelmed by the amount of stories coming out of NRF2020, get in contact with us at DMI. We will help you navigate the technology while we listen to YOUR story.

— Pablo Pazmino, senior client partner, consumer vertical

Predicting Customer Intent: It’s All About Impact

Predicting Customer Intent: It’s All About Impact

Using predictive algorithms in customer care poses a challenge you might not anticipate: Accurate predictions don’t automatically generate better business outcomes.

When you’re automating elements of your customer care system, there’s a strong tendency to prize accuracy over everything else. After all, inaccurate predictions defeat the purpose of deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning.

But zeroing in on predictive accuracy is not the whole story — predictions have to be helping you improve the customer-care experience. Thus, you have to prioritize impact over accuracy.

Let’s take a look at how this works.

Predictive Modeling in AI: A Quick Overview

Machine learning algorithms comb through billions of data points, using pattern matching to distinguish between the outcomes you want and the ones you hope to avoid. With a large enough set of training data, the algorithms learn to create more accurate predictions over time.

All of this is built around complex mathematical formulas that analyze previous patterns of behavior and predict the likelihood of these things happening again. The more accurate these calculations are, the better your predictive capability.

Every time you accurately anticipate a customer’s behavior and help improve their satisfaction with an engagement or transaction, you’re producing better business outcomes. Thus, accuracy matters — as long as it’s generating the impact you want.

Deploying Predictive Models in Customer Care

In the call center, you want customers’ questions answered and complaints resolved as quickly as possible. With predictive modeling, you correlate data from multiple sources to understand the context of customer calls, answering questions such as:

  •  Are they on a landline, cell phone or web interface?
  • What have they purchased recently?
  • How much have they purchased, on average?
  • Where are they?
  • Does local weather affect their buying experience?
  • Have they made social media posts that are relevant to their call?
  • Do you know their age, gender, income and other demographic details?
  • What are the most intuitive traffic patterns through your customer-care interface?

You also have to track customers’ behavior throughout the customer-care journey. Do you force them to scroll through a long menu of choices, or do you use automation to anticipate their needs and reduce their menu options to one or two?

You also can create AI-enabled chatbots to assess exactly what the customer wants. If they want something that the bot can do easily with little risk of failure, then you keep the user within the automated voice interface.

If, however, the customer has a more complex challenge that requires human intervention, then your bot should forward them to the right person. Your customer reps should have all the data they need about the product and the caller to produce a happy outcome.

Why Impact is More Important than Accuracy
With a large enough dataset, a robust statistical model and a well-designed algorithm, you can accurately predict how people will answer the questions listed above. Indeed, you can expend considerable resources producing accurate predictions of their replies.

But you have only so many people, only so much budget, and only so much time to spend on automating your customer care system. Moreover, algorithms can provide uncannily accurate predictions that have no measurable influence on your business.

Thus, you have to think first about impact. Which predictions get customers what they want sooner? Which ones streamline your operations? Those are the kinds of questions your algorithms should answer.

The Smart Way to Automate Your Customer Care Journey

At DMI, we urge our clients to start with the goal of using AI to predict a single useful outcome. You don’t need a moonshot that automates your entire customer care system. You just need a solid foundation to build upon.

Learning to prize impact over accuracy is central to making that happen.

— Niraj Patel, director artificial intelligence

Why Convergence Will be the Make-or-Break Technology Trend of the 2020s

7 Technology Trends Impacting The Human Experience in 2020

They all have to come together — people and data, assets and inventions.

The 2020s will bring technologies like digital twins, swarm intelligence and virtual/augmented reality into the mobile mainstream. Fatter networks, faster computers and ubiquitous sensors will produce vast torrents of real-time data. All these advances, in turn, allow increasingly accurate predictions that reinforce the need for transformative technologies.

It’s tough enough mastering any one of these challenges. The future belongs to those who converge them all. At DMI, we’ve identified four pillars of digital convergence:

  • Human-centric engagement: Building systems that combine visual, touch and auditory signals to create frictionless user experiences.
  • Data-centric enablement. Using the best available data to analyze user behavior, anticipate their intent and personalize their experiences.
  • Leveraged investments: Getting the best performance from existing technology assets to avoid having to replace systems that already work well.
  • Next-gen empowerment. Inventing new services and systems that enable organizations to transform and disrupt.

We find that companies often excel on the human side but lag on the data side. Or they excel with data but need help developing human-centered user interfaces. DMI’s convergence framework acknowledges that companies often have worthwhile systems and might not require a rip-and-replace project. It also encourages clients to invent new, potentially disruptive products and services that strengthen their competitive position.

Any of these efforts is worthwhile on its own. But with technology evolving so quickly in the 2020s, organizations have to succeed at all four. That’s why our convergence framework pulls these forces into alignment.

What Convergence Looks Like

Consider the challenge of developing new pharmaceuticals. It takes years of effort in laboratories and clinical trials to bring effective cures into the marketplace, pushing costs into the stratosphere. Technologies that shrink development times while ensuring safe treatments can save lives and earn substantial fortunes for their inventors.

Technology convergence can help with:

  • Data centricity: Developing advanced, AI-enabled algorithms that accurately predict the efficacy of specific drugs with certain populations.
  • Human centricity: Adapting virtual- and augmented-reality applications and devices that help researchers visualize molecules, tissues, bones and other variables in real time and collaborate quickly to pool their knowledge.
  • Leveraged investments: Optimizing systems for cloud computing and data security to encourage adoption and hold the line on costs.
  • Innovative inventions: Building a SaaS platform that disrupts molecule discovery or drug manufacturing.

Excelling in one or two of these areas would have been a laudable achievement in years past. But in the years to come, there will be no choice but to do all four.

Converging in the 2020s in Every Industry

Complex industries like pharmaceuticals, health care and automotive manufacturing have strong incentives to embrace a converged digital transformation model. With upstart competitors bringing new ideas to market every month, incumbents can’t afford complacency.

But we believe the DMI framework applies to any kind of organization or enterprise. We built flexibility into our framework to ensure that companies of any age or size can find a model that suits their marketplace and business goals.

Just consider the virtual/augmented reality example: Call center representatives wearing 3D AR/VR goggles could envision the products they support from every angle, making it much easier to answer callers’ questions and then move on to the next customer. A human-centric system like this would require a sophisticated interplay of data, invention and leveraged assets.

At the same time, weaknesses in any of the four pillars of convergence would undermine everything.

A Convergence Partner

DMI’s converged framework accounts for the entire digital transformation process. We start with a sound technology strategy built upon the client’s precise business requirements and competitive environment.

From there, we build a strategic framework for organizational change to ensure that everybody who matters to the client — employees, customers, vendors, etc. — contributes to the transformation project. Once we’ve laid that groundwork, we create a roadmap describing how to get all these efforts moving in the same direction at the same time.

That’s where our skills and our clients’ priorities converge.

-Andrew Brockett, senior director/digital technology office