In Retail, DevOps is to Experience Like Carbon is to Steel

Every retail business that will survive and thrive in the next economy competes firmly and firstly in the realm of 'customer experience'. Rebooting your retail operation begins with understanding that the engine of your profitability is no longer being product-centric, but being customer-centric. This last thirty year shift has not been about e-tailers vs retailers, but rather product-centric vs customer-centric business design.

For example, with two clicks any Amazon customer can see the first thing that they ever bought from Amazon, but neither you or Walmart can efficiently tell you the last thing you bought from there. Both operations have tremendous online infrastructure, logistics operations, and physical footprints, but their business processes and organization were built on different paradigms with the latter seeking to catch up.

This shift requires a new "experience marketing framework" (which we covered extensively in Digital Sense) for organizing your operations and thrusts the efficient management of software and business processes (aka DevOps) to the forefront of your priorities. If you wonder whether your company has DevOps, you can think of how easy or difficult the marketing department can get IT to spin up and deploy a new coupon code and landing page for a newly committed digital ad campaign they contracted for on Spotify this week. If the IT lead and marketer don't nod and high-five immediately, then you DO NOT HAVE DevOps and need it desperately.

For the last 100 years, the entire supply chain supported and organized around a push-pull, product-centric business model, with advertising and marketing creating and amplifying the consumer need states around iconic brands that commanded premiums.

However, in the last twenty years, everything has been commoditized, as the MadMen era switched to the MathMen(/Women)-era of algorithmic targeting, channel fragmentation (social media, internet, cable networks), increased transparency, cloud computing, SaaS driven operations, and globally-enabled supply chains.

In short, You may think you are a product or retail business, building luxury branding experiences or sell products online - but at the core of your business are experiences, and those experiences are enabled by software. In a strange way, just like the mega-structure skyscrapers on Madison Avenue were enabled and stabilized by commercial steel, your business is enabled and stabilized by software. In short, every business today is a software business, even if you don't manufacture software.

In the Custom Applications and IaaS Trends 2017 by McAfee the average number of custom software integrations ranged from 22-768 (see graphic) with an annual growth rate of 20.8% predicted looking forward.

Roughly 56% of these applications were consumed internally by employees going about their work day, while roughly 1/3 were consumer/customer facing, with the remainder touching both. Your level of automating the provisioning, quality assurance, and deployment of these softwares dictates your level of competency in delivering your ideal "frictionless" customer experience and securing the data that is associated with that effort.


(source: Custom Applications and IaaS Trends 2017 by McAfee)

Arguably, carbon is the most important commercial steel alloy. Like software, increasing carbon content in steel increases hardness and strength, but carbon (like software) also increases brittleness (vulnerability) and reduces weldability (unless open-source). This means carbon content in steel (like software in your business) can be both a blessing and a curse.

In order to keep your eyes on the main thing (which is the customer and their experience), automating and optimizing your software integration/operations processes is paramount. A little goes along way. Much like there are steels that have up to 2 percent carbon content, they are the exception. Most steel contains less than 0.35 percent carbon (35/100 of 1 percent), and yet it is carbon that gives the steel its functionality.

Today, software must be more agile than ever and supported constantly by developers, user communities, and processes. This has previously been defined as "DevOps" within the software manufacturing business, but as your clients and internal teams have become irreversibly dependent on it, the definition and practice must be expanded to include all businesses. For more on how you can receive a complimentary audit and improve your DevOps visit (Disclosure: Inscription is a portfolio investment of Launch Haus)