We’ve got the second installment of Keith Morrow’s three part series, No Time, No Budget, and No People? No Problem! Straight from former CIO of Blockbuster and 7-eleven and current president of K. Morrow Associates, learn how acting like a start-up and maximizing the assets you already have can save you money and precious time when deploying applications in the cloud. Check back soon for part three!
Since the arrival of online commerce 15 years ago, there have been few technology trends that have the potential to revolutionize the retail industry like the ones we see in mobile computing, social networking, and cloud computing. Today’s piece looks into the ways that retailers can shed a more conservative, traditional mindset and embrace new ways for deploying new apps, delving into practical insights for creating innovative, API-enabled applications. More specifically, how leveraging the move to the cloud can serve as the smartest decision in blowing out one’s API strategy.
Think Modular and Act Entrepreneurial, on the Cloud
Many retailers are very conservative when it comes to technology adoption, and they to closely control where new apps are deployed. Due to our limited budget, we didn’t have a choice but to embrace a new way for deploying the new apps.
Had we done it the old way, we would have acquired and configured the database, application, and web servers ourselves. We would have had to negotiate a long-term hosting agreement worth millions of dollars, and the agreement would have to go through a lengthy legal and executive approval process. Instead we acted like a startup and launched our API service and the API-enabled applications on the cloud, outside of the confines of our firewall, with the help of a technology partner. We bought capacity only to the level that we needed and as the services gained customer adoption, we added more. With this strategy, we were able to avoid high, upfront fixed costs and turned them into variable expenses.
Don’t Build Everything from Scratch
Some retail technologists see any initiative as an opportunity to re-engineer and rebuild. We didn’t have that luxury. We also realized that we already had valuable digital assets and enabling applications available, in-house or externally through our partners. The constantly updated movie library was already there. Our store locator engine was built. We had a transaction engine and a payment gateway. What we needed to do was create a common API service layer that would enable new applications to access those services consistently, for many more customers (millions), and in a way that we could monitor analytically for future improvements.
We looked outside of our organization and found a SaaS vendor whose technology enabled us to create this API service layer quickly, get them up and running on the cloud, and use analytical reporting tools to monitor traffic and the conversion data. We also used the same Graphical User Interface designs across different consumer devices, making only minor tweaks for usability. The key is to leverage existing solutions to accelerate time to market before your customers leave you. Without technology from this vendor, it would have taken us five to ten times as long to deliver what we wanted to.
In my third and final part of this series, I’ll discuss the strategic benefits that can result from extending the reach of APIs to developers and partners.