So I'm on my magical patio again consuming a cold beer and thinking about retail customers and the systems that serve them.
I've been asked too many times in my career to replace legacy systems with bright shinny new retail systems. Now, I'm a bit of a nostalgic guy. My first rule of technology is "embrace the legacy". Good thing because not only has that saved millions of dollars for the companies I've worked for, it's also made them millions of dollars.
You see, I've found that the fastest path to innovation is through understanding the past; the solutions to even the hardest problems are always obvious with hindsight. Irony at its best. You don't need to see into the future, you need to see into the past.
Freedom to Innovate
With that in mind, you can free yourself from the excuses of not innovating. You won't need millions of dollars in new systems, a hoard of new employees or a 18 month roadmap to change the way you do business in the new multichannel web. Want to reach mobile phones, app stores, set-top boxes, hoards of partners and affiliates? All you need is a way to tap into all the goodness of your enterprise systems and capabilities. All you need is an API, or as I call it, A Profit Interface.
That's the first step - abstract yourself from the legacy systems with an API - technically an Application Programming Interface (a technology blast from the past). Abstracting from the legacy is a bit like asking a girl to drive you to the prom but not making her your official date. You want to play the field and in this age of retailing that means smartphones, tablets, e-book readers, kiosks, game platforms, connected cars and internet everywhere. APIs let you get there.
Getting Everywhere, Fast
Imagine having a single connector, to say your legacy product catalog, that all those new screens could access quickly. And when the next sensational device arrives, you just snap it in - no coding necessary. How many more sales could you make if your customers had access to your products and services from anywhere? What if another retailer could access your product catalog and offer your complementary items to their customers? That's money, baby!
I know because the innovations I've seen and guided at companies opening APIs have made millions of dollars. I even got a couple of logo coffee cups for my efforts. One more beer, slides into my logo beer cozy. I forgot i got a cozy too.
I really wish I could pay for all this beer with my phone. I always forget my wallet in the car. Hmmmmm..... how to do that without millions of dollars in hardware upgrades? Maybe someone needs to contact the beer distributors about embracing their legacy systems...