How to improve all your business metrics through digital best practices

This article is a summary of the keynote presentation I gave at the Nimbus 90 Ignite event in London on Monday.

Modern businesses need to become more engaging, responsive and efficient. To achieve this, they need to focus on stronger digital deliverables, agile processes and automate much more than they do today.

Many businesses still struggle to define what digital really means, so we have come up with 12 “best practices” which include:

  1. Business Focussed Solutions (not technical)
  2. Self-service (for everyone)
  3. Try stuff (Fail fast/ learn quickly)
  4. (Very) regular releases
  5. Easy to use and regular multi variate testing
  6. Value dashboards
  7. Easier integration (e.g. APIs)
  8. Multi-device
  9. New business models (e.g. marketplace, sharing economy…)
  10. Culture of Innovation
  11. Bots/ automation
  12. Two way conversations

When we start a workshop with a customer, we focus on each of these digital best practices. We then challenge existing processes or applications. For example, we might ask the sales team how customers can self-service themselves, or how many customers are frustrated that they can’t use a specific app on a mobile or tablet device.

Today I’m going to concentrate on five of these digital best practices:

  1. Business Focussed Solutions (not technical)
  2. Self-service (for everyone)
  3. Try stuff (Fail fast/ learn quickly)
  4. Regular releases
  5. Value dashboards

1. Business Focussed Solutions (not technical)

This sounds obvious – to create business focussed solutions, not just for the sake of technology. As an IT services company, we regularly encounter projects which start with a new technology that someone has seen, and we are asked to create a new product to use the technology. One regular example is blockchain.

When you think of starting a new product, create a short mission statement. It’s not allowed to be technical unless it’s a technical proof of concept of course. The statement can’t have any ‘ands’ or other hidden joining words in it. The mission statement is a way of helping everyone on the project work in the same direction for a common goal.

All our digital projects usually start with a business challenge which we rewrite into a mission statement. The trick is to keep focussing on the business challenge during the project. If a feature doesn’t answer the challenge, stick it on the backlog.

Examples of recent projects include:

  • How can we reduce the time to onboard new customers? (We’ve done this twice recently)
  • What will our mobile app look like in two years’ time?
  • How can we encourage our Ultra High Net Worth card holders to use digital channels rather than our call centre?

2. Self-service (for everyone)

This digital best practice starts by looking for your organisation’s expensive processes. We then design ways for users to interact through a digital channel. Don’t just focus on customers – digital users aren’t just your customers. They can also be your suppliers, staff, partners.

A self-service approach will often inspire your own staff. It helps users to think more creatively about the tools and its uses. For every process which requires asking someone else to do something through a call centre or an email, create a business challenge to make it self-service.

One of the ways Uber cracked the taxi industry was by showing where your taxi is. No more phoning a taxi company to find out how long the taxi will be.

In the UK, since banks launched mobile apps for customers to access their accounts, we check our bank accounts through an app or computer over 3.5 times as much as we visit a branch (1,600m vs 427m).

User interfaces are changing quickly. We are witnessing a UX revolution happening now. Until this point, the challenge has been “how can we create the most memorable, delightful experience possible”. But with voice controlled interfaces such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Home, it will be “how can we create the most invisible, frictionless experience possible?”

3. Try stuff (Fail fast/ learn quickly)

Starting a new project in a large corporate environment is difficult. To overcome this, consider running shorter engagements, such as six weeks long, with a smaller team than usual. Show results to a wider group every couple of weeks. Put those two week demos into people’s calendars at the very start of the project.

Remember to start with a mission statement. Ensure everyone on the team completely understands it.

Once the project has some momentum, make a big internal marketing push. Let everyone know the organisation is capable of innovation.

4. (very) Regular releases

To change your company’s culture to innovative, short, sharp engagements takes several successful smaller projects which we discussed above.

The traditional product model was for a senior person in the company to have an idea (usually in the shower one morning). They then walked into work and commissioned a large budget for the project. The budget inevitably overran, along with the delivery timescales.

The new paradigm is totally different. Products still need an idea of course. The difference is that straight from the idea, design the product’s user experience. Google call this process a design sprint. Whatever you call this, do the design quickly, before showing it directly to users. Take their feedback and start making modifications.

If you’ve done the design correctly, your biggest challenge at this stage should be managing expectations. When users see a great design in a prototyping tool, they should get excited. They should want the product straight away.

After the design sprint, start creating a prototype. This will be real code, working in a web browser, mobile app or any other interface. The prototype will undergo several iterations. As you start developing real functionality, some user journeys in the design might not make sense. Real data has a habit of changing designs from initial concepts.

If done correctly, the prototype will undergo several iterations before you consider releasing the product to a restricted number of users in the real world. Some companies call this a beta, some a pilot. It doesn’t matter what you call this stage, but the real world will provide interesting stats.

Keep iterating on the pilot. Soon you’ll find you have a production system – usually achieved quicker than the big bang development system in the old days. What will be guaranteed it that the product you’ve developed will be what your users want, because you’ve developed it in conjunction with them since the design sprint.

In order to have this iterative culture, you need a strong development backbone in your organisation to succeed here, a strong technology DNA.

To truly become a digital and experience driven business, ensure your core technology backbone is designed and built alongside your digital products and experiences.

Traditionally, digital agencies have created visual, sometimes beautiful business stories. Now though, to design and implement a digital strategy, user experience design, architecture, enterprise software engineering, and intelligent platform automation – this requires deep technical knowledge and world-class engineering execution.

The traditional agency model doesn’t allow for the depth of technical skill, the support of regulatory and compliance driven security modeling, nor the necessary scalability of technology platforms or engineering staff.  The next generation of core digital platforms need to be designed and built with a primary focus on technology stability, flexibility, and intelligence – attributes that require more than the often-found, lone technology leader of an agency, but an engineering organization comprised of thousands of career technologists, led by progressive digital strategists.

5. Value dashboards

We still think of dashboards as separate applications, but try to include them as standard. Your goals, or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) or CSFs (Critical Success Factors) should be obvious from your mission statement (see above). The first question in your workshop should be “What does good look like?” From this you can start designing your dashboards.

Consider making dashboards more public than you originally thought. At Endava we show our CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) ratings to everyone in the company. What’s the point of hiding great information? Dashboards can drive a more competitive, improvement culture in your organisation.

We’ve all heard organisations talk about the value and the wealth of data… that data is the new oil. But few organisations really manage to effectively monetise data. We’ve produced dashboards for clients which have become premium value-add services for their customers.


This is a summary of the presentation I gave at the Nimbus 90 Ignite event in London on Monday. If you’d like more details please get in touch.

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