Previously in this series, Nikolaus Kimla covered the history of integration between applications, and the serious programming and IT effort it has required. He then revealed the revolution now occurring in application integration. In this, the final article in this series, Nikolaus discusses the crucial implication these changes bring—now and into the future.
In my last article, I used the analogy of a general contractor in charge of construction of a new home. The general contractor runs all the other specialists: the electrician, the plumber, the carpenters, and others. I likened Pipeliner CRM to the general contractor, and the specialists to all the different applications your company utilize for different functions in the company. With the Pipeliner Automation Hub, these applications can “report” and provide data to Pipeliner much in the same way the specialists report to the general contractor.
The whole point of such a model is that data is crucial to company operation—data that should be freely flowing throughout the whole company to different departments. It is generally customer data that is the most important.
Hesitant to Connect
Previously—and still, for many enterprises—companies have been hesitant to try and connect all the data flows within a company. First of all, it’s very complicated. Second, somebody has to be in charge of making these complicated connections, and usually there is no one within a company that has detailed knowledge of each and every department. And beyond all that, someone has to go through and program each and every connection, and that costs a lot of money. Then finally all the connections have to be tested. Most give up before they even start.
The reason companies are divided up into so many individual silos is because each department’s core responsibility is not interconnected with other departments so that data can be shared. Each silo is created and has its very own life, and just doesn’t reach out for any other lives.
The result? Everyone goes back to their “own little worlds” instead of opening up and putting forth what they want to achieve, seeing what others have to contribute and forging connections. And things just remain the same.
Here’s something that happened to me over the summer. It deals with an issue that many people have experience with—the mishandling of luggage by an airline. But this story has a twist that especially pertinent to the point of this article.
My family—my wife Claudia, my son Sebastian and myself—were flying from Paris to Munich via Air France. Upon landing, we were told that there was an issue with luggage for passengers on the flight, and they didn’t tell us what the issue was. We ended up waiting for an hour and a half—longer than the flight itself.
Was the luggage misrouted? Was it lost? Well, no, and that’s the truly amazing part of the story. We could see our luggage sitting on a tram on the airport tarmac—right outside the window! And nobody was doing anything about it. I walked up to an Air France employee and said, “I see my luggage! It’s right over there! Why can’t someone just bring it over here?”
The problem was, this employee wasn’t responsible in any way for luggage. The company to whom luggage was outsourced—and in case you didn’t know, 90 percent of airlines in the world outsource the handling of luggage—was shorthanded that day, and was taking a break. So our luggage, totally visible to us, sat right there for an hour and a half.
The passengers were ready to lynch this employee, who finally called her supervisor, and then the supervisor called someone else, and we finally at least found out what was happening. Ultimately the people that handled luggage showed up again, and we were finally able to leave.
Another example involves a company that normally has a high reputation for service: Apple. A few days ago I agreed to purchase the latest iPhone and bring it to a friend in Europe since I was traveling there. Knowing what Apple stores can be like when a new phone is released, I did what I thought was the smart thing—I paid for the phone online, and reserved it for pickup at my local Santa Monica store. I printed off my reservation number and receipt, which stated I could pick up the phone between 5:30 and 6:00 PM that day.
I actually arrived at the store after 6 PM and was made to stand in line just to get into the store. Once through that line (about 15 minutes), I showed the person at the door my receipt, noting the fact I’d already paid and that I was supposed to be able to pick up the phone between 5:30 and 6.
I then discovered there were 2 lines for the phones: one for people like myself who had paid, and another for people who had simply come to the store and were going to purchase the phone right then. I joined the line of people who had paid—but it made no real difference. The store management had decided that to be “fair” they had to let one person in from the “paid” line, and then alternate that with a person who hadn’t yet paid. I ended up waiting almost an hour to pick up the phone I’d paid for and reserved.
Some people might say I’m being unreasonable with my claims about silos in companies. But have a look: if Apple isn’t even getting it right, what does that say for the rest of the world?
The Human Factor
While there’s one problem with the knowledge that is just kept in company silos, there’s another component that people don’t often consider: the human factor. This is the factor in which someone definitely doesn’t have the customer in mind, but rather their own position. They’re playing a game in which they’re most willingly not contributing information to others because they’re protecting their intellectual contribution to the company because doing so somehow makes them valuable.
Companies must learn to collaborate in a positive, customer-centric way.
In respect of the customer, a company must also be flexible when necessary, as our friends at Air France could have learned. It took a near riot for them to “break their process” and take some kind of action to help the customer out.
This division of data into silos can actually cost lives. When a defect in an automobile ends up causing accidents, investigation almost always turns up the fact that someone, somewhere in the manufacture of those automobiles, was aware of the defect. It just “wasn’t their area” or they felt they’d get in trouble if they said anything (“the human factor” above). It was data kept in a silo.
In relationship to customers, with data not shared across a company, customers nearly always suffer in some way. People will then chalk it up to human error, when in fact it’s just an unwillingness to proceed in the right direction. Or, in other words, take some responsibility.
The technology of the General Automation Platform—which we have used to create the Pipeliner Automation Hub—makes it possible to easily and simply connect company processes and eliminate all of these issues. We no longer need complex systems developed using analysts, programmers and change management (the controlled identification and implementation of required changes within a computer system)—today it can simply be done with a little knowledge and a drag-and-drop interface.
Today you can even map out one process to another, and test it out to see how it will work—something that, due to cost in time and money, couldn’t easily be done before. You can build and maintain integrations and implement change management immediately. And that is the major breakthrough in today’s application interconnection.
There will still be gaps in our operations—but open source technology, and an enormous number of working programmers today, means that these gaps will be filled rapidly.
I’ve stated before that the internet has created an amazing democratizing effect upon the world. Breaking up company silos is yet another example of this. And as we’ve seen from our examples (and probably from many of your own, too) silos totally hinder the customer experience. That leads to a loss of business.
On the other hand, implementing this smooth, effortless interconnection means vastly increased business, doesn’t it?