True to form in this series, we are getting these principles by analyzing the cutting edge of thought in another industry of interest, the American electricity industry. This analogy is unbelievably informative, and also quite entertaining to read.
These should be taken together with the first 4 principles in our last post.
So let’s take this home!
5. Flexible and Close to Home Solutions
Solutions in the electricity industry and in enterprise software must not be “one size fits all”. For example, solar power makes a lot of sense in the desert Southwest, however, it cannot be relied upon as much in the Pacific Northwest.
Many of our customers at AppBuddy run into scale problems with custom developed views when they need to roll out business processes to different user groups or regions. This principle says your user experience needs to be able to accommodate the nuances of each group. If you are able to even accommodate subtle differences in business process needs in your sales process for different groups around the world, those users will love you for it, and they won’t rebel against what otherwise would be a “cookie cutter” process for them.
6. Small Solutions Over Big Ones
For the electric grid, this principle means solutions that are implemented at the individual consumer level, whether in the home or in businesses. An example of this are the Tesla Powerwall battery which provides individual homes the ability to run on solar power at night after the sun goes down. Another example is the Bloom Energy Server which provides similar functionality for an entire office building.
The drawback of these solutions is that they require widespread adoption to be grid scale effective. While this adoption is still not a reality, it’s technology that is available today, and it holds a lot more promise than huge infrastructure projects that lock us into 30-50 year path of unsustainable energy.
For customer life cycle management solutions, “small over big” means instead of trying to “boil the ocean” with an entire Lead-to-Cash solution, it’s more effective to break down your business processes into the tactical decisions users need to make at any given stage. An example of this is to first focus on the “Lead” process and break that up into “Upcoming Demos” and “Awaiting a Response”, with different data sets to support each so users can act on them the ways they need to.
After you nail a smaller process, move onto the next one. This methodology is especially helpful for processes that have interdependencies, such as the Lead and Opportunity processes, because changes in your Lead process will undoubtedly affect how Opportunities are kicked off. This approach ensures you can learn as you go and constantly improve instead of committing to a huge software solution and implementation project upfront that might not work. It’s probably true that everyone is a bit tired of those types of projects.
7. Diverse over Rigid Homogeneity
Consider a symphony -- no one instrument is playing all the time. The musicians take turns.
For energy, this means don't put all your eggs in one basket. Use solar, wind and diesel under appropriate circumstances. We’re doing this now, just at the expense of every other principle noted here, so we can do better.
In both electricity production and enterprise software, as covered in point 3 of the last post, being integrative and modular, diverse solutions include centralized infrastructure and point solutions. For enterprise systems, last mile solutions may involve new persistence, which is typically thought of as core and low level, but if constructed modularly and purpose-built for business processes, it can be quite flexible. Of course this must be complemented with tailored user experiences so all needs are accommodated.
8. Mobility and Portability
This principle states that your solution needs to move where consumption moves. One idea that’s really exciting for the electric grid is the vehicle-to-grid (V2G) concept. This is something that the Air Force is implementing right now in the “mini grids” they are buildin at their bases, and it has a lot of promise as a last mile storage solution.
Basically, battery powered cars are plugged into the grid while at rest. When renewable sources are generating a lot of electricity, these vehicles get charged up. When renewable sources die down at any given day, these batteries are there to supplement the grid with stored energy. Software ensures that whenever you want to drive, you have enough charge to do so. With enough of these plugged in, you basically have all the modular storage you need to cover the variability of renewable power generation.
For enterprise software, mobility and portability means not only can you port your functionality and business processes to other use cases and users, but you move with the interaction of data, e.g., whether users are on their iPads, laptops, etc. Again this just points to the benefits of not only having a configurable solution that can be tailored to any use case or any group, but responsive software that can be used on multiple devices.
Implementing Last Mile Solutions Yourself
So, not too ambitious, right? Actually, in enterprise software, achieving these principles and solving the last mile problem is very realistic, especially with apps like GridBuddy.
GridBuddy provides a single user experience where you can take data from multiple objects in Salesforce or any cloud and put it all together into tailored, simple, and actionable user experiences. It is a singular tool that can help you solve the last mile problem and achieve all 8 principles of last mile solutions, no matter what stage in the customer life cycle you are trying to manage.