Last updated: Fancy HTML 5 on top of a backend system is not enough to succeed online

Fancy HTML 5 on top of a backend system is not enough to succeed online


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Your business provides complex services or products.

They are sold by sales personal or intermediate agents. To support such complex business you have invested in the development of elaborative processes and workflows in backend systems and trained your workforce to use them.

Now competitive pressure is building up for your business to go online and start selling directly to consumers. This would require change to existing IT systems. So what should you do?

One option would be to connect your existing website with the backend systems. Modern HTML 5 and JavaScript frameworks allow your IT to create a slick user interface, connect it to backend APIs, and call it done. You can even hire a design agency to develop “responsive” UI that looks great on mobile devices.

Successful demos inside the company, executives immediately get how the system works and direct channel is ready to go. Or is it?

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Six reasons why this kind of strategy is unlikely to succeed

  1. The backend processes were designed to be used by employees. They were optimized from position of the business, not customers. Your employees are trained and don’t have a choice what system to use, they are paid to use the one you have. I don’t like our expenses reporting system. It was designed for an accounting department, and not for busy professionals with many crumbled receipts and overloaded schedules. Tough luck, my paycheck comes with the catch that I have to use it.
  2. Consumers, on other hand, do have a choice. On the web, your competitors are just a click away. The consumer does not know or care about your internal terminology or processes. They have limited time and attention spans, they want to get what they need fast, they want to know exactly what they are buying and how much they are going to pay.
  3. Maintenance means downtime. It is okay to have a maintenance window every week or so for an internal system and put it offline for a couple hours at night or during the weekend. Not so on Internet, where consumers expect 24×7 availability. When web site is down, it is not called maintenance, it is a called disaster and a PR nightmare.
  4. You need more than one backend system. The reality of life is that your business has more than one backend system in place (more coming with every M&A transaction). You do need a separate front-end to make sure customers get a consolidated view and consistent experience.
  5. Scalability is required. Load on your internal backend system was easy to predict when you knew exactly how many employees are using the system. Not so when you start selling online. Load can be seasonal and unpredictable. You need system that can scale and be ready to handle spikes
  6. Security is crucial. Your security systems need to be scaleable and completely on a different level when your solution is opened to the web. You don’t want to be next Target.

Yes, implementing a separate front-end system is a complex endeavor and will take time and money. To be successful in the omni-channel world you—not your customers—need to deal with all this complexity.

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