By Brian Marr, Chief Strategy Officer
For the past 18 years, we have worked with companies to ideate, validate and deliver products, platforms, websites and applications. Nearly two decades in digital has allowed us to experience quite a bit of change. Regardless of what industry you happen to work in, I have no doubt you’ve seen the same thing. With that change has come the need to reinvent ourselves several times, simply because the technologies we work with and needs of our clients continue to rapidly evolve.
Working in a pure digital business often results in us living in a bubble, so to speak. We’re in an industry where business practices and processes are still emerging, so experimentation is very high. “Fail fast” has become a mantra of many companies because if you are not trying new things, you’re behind.
Comparatively, many of our clients have more than a few decades of experience in optimizing how a successful physical product is planned, built and brought to market. These processes are fine-tuned and ingrained in organizational culture, resulting in more efficient and less costly routes to market with each new thing they make – whether it’s an airplane, a toy or anything in between.
The challenge most of the companies we work with, despite being from different industries, is taking decades of expertise and process for bringing a physical product to market and adapting it to the new digital economy. It isn’t something you can just do, as most of the companies diving in have found. It requires internal agents of change and a complete paradigm shift in how you approach thinking about your business. This shift can either be developed internally, or, as many companies have found, it can be accelerated with a partner who has the experience to help bridge best practices for bringing products to store shelves with best practices in bringing them to digital storefronts.
We’ve been fortunate to be a partner for digital transformation with several clients, which has resulted in a great deal of expertise in envisioning, planning, validation and realization of digital platforms, applications, websites and connected products. It didn’t happen overnight, and it wasn’t without some pain of our own as we reoriented processes along the way, but we’ve landed on a consistently successful approach. It is grounded in Motivational Design (making it digital is great, but you also want to make sure it’s engaging), Lean UX and Agile development practices, and is focused on helping our clients determine the highest value product ideas and bring them to market efficiently.
This methodology can be applied to consumer-facing experiences, internal business operations or new, digital business models. One of the best places to start is gaining a full understanding of your users’ existing journey – exposing the high points, low points, and areas of opportunity for digital to improve the customer experience. From there, through our process for envisioning new solutions, planning validated products and product realization, we’re able to help you fast track your digital transformation.
Whether you are just joining the existing digital transformation efforts at your company, or are midway through leading the change, here are some of the common themes or areas of focus we often see our clients work through. Hopefully they will help you avoid some of the challenges, or at least provide a level of comfort knowing you are not the only ones experiencing them!
1. Know your end-user.
Whether you are focused on evolving a customer experience, revolutionizing your products or changing the way your company operates, you need to deeply understand your end user. We strongly believe in using behavioral archetypes formulated through four types of insights – psychographic (including motivations), digital behavior, cultural trends and technology trends. A simple gap analysis will tell you where you need to do additional research, and the insights derived will focus your digital solution on the most valuable areas for your customer.
2. Have a realistic vision for monetization.
As mentioned above, one of the opportunities and challenges with digital is a relatively low barrier to entry for creating something. Many companies move forward with a “solution first” approach – without considering how it will, or could, impact the business. Start with the end in mind, with your vision shaped by customer pain points and need. Selling an application in the App Store is one of the easiest to imagine, but least likely to be successful approaches. You need to think bigger and more creatively about your business than that.
3. Launch is just the beginning.
One of the toughest things to learn for companies with strong histories of shipping physical products is that the digital product is not done when you ship it. In fact, it is simply the beginning of your journey. We highly recommend focusing on a minimum viable product (MVP – the simplest feature set required to realize customer value) so you can gain real-life feedback on use, adjust your roadmap and roll out additional features as you go.
4. On a related note…Measurement is a daily thing.
Many companies have a cadence to reporting data that is often oriented around a quarter or annual review. In digital, that’s far too late to be worthwhile. The second your solution is “live” (and even well before that), you have the opportunity to learn. A well-instrumented analytics package is one aspect, but also consider how you can use direct customer feedback, event-triggered survey questions and other tools at your disposal to broaden your knowledge about end-users.
5. Agile and Lean UX are more than terminology.
By now, most companies have started talking about the promise of Lean UX and Agile within their organizations. You may know the terms – backlog, user stories, stand-ups, and more – but without training it is tough to put them into practice in a way that will help you realize the benefit and value. Whether you are a developer, designer, product manager, producer or executive, it’s not a bad idea to take a class and get yourself grounded in the practices behind efficient digital product development.
The road to digital transformation is not an easy one to travel, but through a focused internal team and the guidance and expertise of a digital partner, you can accelerate your journey.