Mark Davis is a Consulting Enterprise Architect at Advanced Technology Group. His specialties include ecommerce, mobile web, enterprise architecture, enterprise transformation, portfolio management and data management.
UnboundID: You have been an IT architect for many years. How has the role changed over the years?
Davis: Architecture as it relates to my career path has been a constant evolution toward higher levels of strategic planning. The earliest work I did in architecture was at the application or system level; then we added systems of systems, domains, and finally the enterprise as a whole. It’s been a migration from coding to enterprise planning and transformation. Over the last 10 years, the need for enterprise architecture has popped up in most companies I worked for where it used to not exist at all. Now it is a well-funded and recognized area.
UnboundID: What has caused this shift?
Davis: It has been a long time coming, with the increasing complexity of IT and automation becoming pervasive in the modern enterprise. On the one hand, you have enterprise legacy systems and technical debt. On the other hand, you have a far larger and richer set of off-the-shelf solutions available. Making sense of it all, identifying opportunities, planning the changes and setting budget expectations are challenges that demand specialized and focused architecture teams.
UnboundID: Do you have any thoughts on the role that identity management and privacy plays in omnichannel?
Davis: There are two big challenges for any omnichannel initiative: inventory and identity. The ability to identify the customer precisely and authenticate that person for interaction is an integral part of omnichannel. Your systems must have the ability to identify customers wherever they are. Like inventory, this requires an authority system for identities. Companies often have many legacy systems, with identity data in multiple repositories. They may also have an e-commerce or point-of-sale system that doesn’t use the same information to recognize the customer. So you need the single view of the customer and the single recognition point of the customer’s identity. Modern identity management solutions can handle these needs.
UnboundID: Describe some of the back-end challenges in getting to omnichannel nirvana?
Davis: In additional to identity management, inventory management is a common obstacle. Companies have outdated technology combined with capabilities that were purchased or built in isolation, and the various parts can’t cooperate. That means an enterprise cannot know precisely what inventory is available and where that inventory is located. As a result, the enterprise has to be careful, too careful about offering products to customers either online for pickup in store. Many, if not most retailers have an incomplete picture of inventory as it moves from source through the supply chain to fulfillment. A significant challenge is that inventory often has multiple authorities. Where multiple information sources are involved, it’s all but guaranteed they will disagree.
UnboundID: So, how can organizations overcome this?
Davis: The first thing I recommend is to start with the end in mind–whether that is building the store of the future or ecommerce 2.0 or a complete omnichannel initiative, determine that before any architecture work begins. If your business has a lot of existing systems that can’t be ripped out, purchase a new order management system that can sit between the channels and provide a more trustworthy inventory authority. OMS integrated with ecommerce and brick-and-mortar stores can enable ship to store, buy online and pick up in-store and other capabilities. If the enterprise needs a better view of the customer, start with identity. An authoritative system for customer or user identity provides a consolidation point to which other customer information sources may refer. Better inventory and better identity will better serve customers by providing satisfying interactions and expected results.
LIVE WEBINAR: Navigating the Customer Data Privacy Minefield
Wednesday, March 30th
1:00pm ET | 12:00pm CT | 10:00am PT