If you are a regular follower of VL’s blog, you already know that we are striving to be a hub for education and the sharing of omnichannel data integration knowledge. We do this through as much different media as possible online as to appeal to all the different learning styles out there: from infographics, to ebooks, to videos, to case studies and much more.
In order to round out our ongoing discussions surrounding data integration, VL regularly reaches out to other industry experts and thought leaders, like in our ongoing 7 Questions Series to gain insights. Today’s blog post comes from CMO Extraordinaire, Chris Herbert of Mi6. He heard Robin Smith’s podcast interview with FrankReaction where Robin’s hub-and-spoke metaphor on how VL approaches any site, as well as his ball of string methodology (if you haven’t heard the podcast, keep reading!) really resonated with him.
This guest blog article is the first in a series of two by Chris. Subscribe to VL’s blog to receive automatic updates in your in box instantly, daily, weekly, or monthly by clicking the button below!
The Hub & Spoke Model of Data Integration
Guest Blog by Chris Herbert of Mi6
Frank Reactions. The podcast focused on helping non-IT executives better understand data integration in the supply chain – especially for those with online stores.
There are two great analogies Robin uses in the interview. The first was the concept of the “Hub and Spoke” approach to your corporate data and the impact it can have on the customer experience and overall reputation of the brand. The second was using a ball of string to assess the value your customer experiences when making an online or offline purchase.
Hub and Spoke Framework: What is it and why should you care?
As a customer, you want an online store to collect the information necessary for you to purchase AND receive a good or service . It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fridge, a pair of shoes, a book or a vacation. You provide some amount of information (data) in order to get what you ordered. Ideally, if you decide to buy something again you might expect that your location, payment method and purchase history can be reviewed. For existing purchases you want to check if your order has shipped and where it is, especially if it’s taken longer than you thought it should. Pretty simple right? Well, maybe not.
The goal of an online store must be to provide the shopper with a great customer experience. The key to doing that is deciding what technology is used to capture data; process, deliver and track the order; charge, support and service the customer. Internally, the senior management team needs to know what’s been sold, where it’s been sold and to how many customers. Ideally they also should know how well they are performing around key metrics like on-time delivery, out of stock items, back orders, sales per customer, sales per product and overall customer satisfaction. All of this data is being gathered, but the key question a senior executive should ask his IT department is what data is being gathered, where is it being gathered and how is it being stitched together to ensure we know our customers are receiving a great online shopping experience?
Enter the Hub and Spoke Framework. One of the most important systems in a business is the accounting/ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software such as BlueLink. It’s used to help you assess the financial health of your business. Generally these accounting systems don’t have an “ecommerce” on button so online stores use shopping cart software such as Shopify or Magento to satisfy that need. If you have a third party logistics provider that ships product for you to consumers and retailers you’ll likely have additional technologies and transactions that need to be used in order for that pair of shoes or bulk order of vitamins to get to the customer. All of these technologies are systems that need to work together so the customer experience is seamless. This means that process, systems and data need to flow like water. To do this you need to create a hub and spoke strategy where a key system, like your accounting package, acts as the primary source of all your data. Your shopping cart system, your email marketing platform, your logistics fulfillment and package tracking service all must connect with the hub acting as spokes feeding it will all key pieces of data critical to the online shopping experience.
The good news is if you take this hub and spoke approach there’s a good chance that your goal of running a profitable online store will be in sync with your customer having a great shopping experience. Because, if the customer gives you all the necessary information so you can sell them something, shouldn’t you, in turn, provide them with all the necessary information necessary for them to receive it?
Hub and Spoke Framework: Setting VL Apart
Although the term ‘hub-and-spoke’ certainly isn’t a new addition to our vernacular, VL has adopted it for their own use to amazing ends for their clients. Not many omnichannel data integration companies, bespoke or plug-and-play, approach an integration site the way VL does. And we do this for a reason: scalability and longevity.
The true beauty of this approach lies in the ease it allows VL’s clients to update, upgrade, and improve their technology stack. Most integration solutions tie applications and technology together hap-hazardly or for a specific purpose. When a company is looking to upgrade application X, the whole house of cards comes crashing down more often than not. And that’s when VL gets panicked phone calls from business owners in crisis. The hub-and-spoke model that VL uses makes one central program the hub, and sets up integrations with all other applications back and forth with this central hub. This means businesses can easily substitute or turn applications on and off without the fear of their world collapsing around them.
In my next post I’m going to unravel that ball of string I mentioned at the outset. This is the second outstanding technique that VL uses to help companies understand their data production and flow – and it’s truly eye-opening for those who experience it first-hand.
About Chris Herbert and Mi6
Chris Herbert is the founder of Mi6. Mi6 is a B2B (Business to Business) marketing and business development agency dedicated to helping companies build their brands and develop commercial relationships. He is the founder of ProductCamp Toronto and the Hi-tech community Silicon Halton. He tweets under the handle @B2Bspecialist.
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