Saturday, 24th July 2021
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When technology impacts behaviour and accelerates transformation

Panel agrees that businesses must adjust to ever-increasing expectations of customers.

At a recent roundtable organised by NetApp in collaboration with Intel, panellists discussed how technological progress is shifting expectations by advancing communications, evolving entertainment and providing better access to information. This shift has led to an ‘Expectation Economy’, in which business success is built on meeting its customers’ expectations.
The panel discussed the speed at which businesses must deliver on promises, goods or services, and the fact that this has drastically increased over the last decade. “Consumers have always had an expectation”, said Jim Henrys, Chief Strategist and Architect at Intel. “What is changing is the speed of fulfilment. Businesses are embracing digital disruption and the integration of digital business models is enabling this – a process we’ve started to refer to as digital convergence.”
Coupled with decreased customer loyalty and greater choice, businesses now have a comparably miniscule amount of time to satisfy their customers’ wants. This means that the ‘Expectation Economy’ has become more acute as businesses have less of an opportunity to impress. “Everybody talks about customer intimacy and centricity, but I think it goes a step further than that: businesses need to talk about customer curiosity”, said Elliot Howard, UK & Ireland Area Director at NetApp. “When we talk about the ‘Expectation Economy’, the new generation of consumers are loyal to an experience, not to a brand, and they expect a different experience.”
Henrys then outlined the transformations that are occurring in workplaces and the changing expectations of both businesses and employees towards the use of technology within a business. “For many businesses the competitive landscape is evolving. On the one hand, low-cost competition is gaining parity through improved quality of products and services; on the other hand, traditional marketplaces are being digitally disrupted. In turn, many established companies have recognised the need to differentiate themselves through innovation – however, innovation comes from people, not machines.”
The panellists agreed that while technology companies will continue to push the boundaries and move the goal posts in terms of user experience and expectation, the key for providers of enabling technologies looking to support these changes is to provide consistency. Once an expectation has been set, businesses either need to meet or exceed it; otherwise they provide a poor service. “When it comes to managing the expectation of your brand, capacity planning and performance management play an increasingly important role”, said Laurence James, Products & Solutions Marketing Manager, NetApp Northern EMEA. “It’s not just about speed, it’s about consistency, repeatability and predictability. Supply and demand will vary over time – leading-edge performance when you need it, not when you don’t. The experience must be consistent.”
The panellists agreed that data is the key ingredient for insights. “Insights used to be the preserve of the boardroom, but businesses now have to ask themselves whether they can put that data into the hands of the staff serving customers, so they can give them a better experience”, said Henrys. Howard added: “As a provider of an experience, can you understand me enough to know the context of the time in my life at which I am at? That goes beyond knowing whether I’m married with kids and how old I am. It’s about knowing what I’m looking for based on the data I have provided you with as a user and personalising my experience accordingly.”
The panel concluded that technologies such as flash and cloud can help technology consistently deliver on expectations, as well as drive better ones. “NetApp wants to be the transportation mechanism between the hybrid cloud space”, said James. “As a business, you don’t want to be locked in. Compute and hardware can be moved quickly, but data does not move so easily. Also: if you cannot measure data, you can’t manage it. We call our solution a Data Fabric because fabric is interwoven. It’s not ours - it’s a vehicle for our customers to understand what their data is doing.”
Howard added: “If predictions come true, IT will become line of business, and infrastructure will become a facility. NetApp wants to be that horizontal data management layer. NetApp is not a hardware company, but a software company.”
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