Is your business set up for sustained growth?
Every business is striving for growth and while it comes in many forms, it’s essential for fuelling progression. In the second article in a series exploring how technology can drive a business forward, we look at why having the right tech is one thing, but being able to evolve and maintain it is key to sustaining real growth.
The default measurement of growth is financial, but it manifests itself in many ways across a business. Whether it’s related to individuals, a collective sense of purpose, delivering for customers or driving greater impact, it all becomes easier in a growing business.
“I always try to look at the work we do in terms of the impact it’s had on our client’s business,” says Apadmi CEO Garry Partington. “Often where that carries most weight is if you’ve helped a business to grow, whether that’s financially, being more efficient operationally or helping to improve the customer experience.
“We understand the challenges of creating and integrating highly successful digital platforms and products which are often intrinsic to the businesses we work with. Although it’s not just about building an application, it also has to be future-proofed. If growth is the objective, then your platforms must be scaleable and able to accommodate that.”
Starting from different places
All businesses have legacy technology, so understanding the starting point has a huge bearing on the immediate approach for any digital product, while also balancing how it will be maintained ongoing.
The ability to support and maintain any application should sit at least partly within an organisation, particularly when that technology is intrinsic to ongoing processes and growth.
“We review technology stacks with a view to ensuring it’s going to have the right impact on a business and can continue to be maintained whether that’s with support or in-house,” says Partington. “For example, cross platform has its place and can sometimes help for a quicker fix, but it needs to be applied in the right way. That can be difficult with business critical applications for larger organisations.
“It needs to not just be the right product for the job in hand, but also for the wider business and the longer term plans. There's a big difference between a product with a 6 month lifespan versus an ongoing 5 year roadmap. You have to be aware of internal capabilities and make sure teams can be tooled up to support the product for its future growth, enhancements, and likely features.”
What does growth look like?
Much has been said about the impact of transferring marginal gains theory from sport to the business world and examining how numerous small improvements add up over time to influence growth is certainly useful.
But a bigger decision (like choosing a technology platform or appointing a development partner) which influences what smaller gains can be made is often required first. An outside perspective can help with seeing the wood for the trees and enable both a big step forward and smaller operational efficiencies.
"When it comes to technology, there is no one size fits all,” explains Partington. “It has to be a solution specific to the client, but it can often be sat in their blindspot.
“If everyone agrees a user interface needs updating, that’s great. But what if that whole repetitive workflow could be automated? What could you do with £100k in saved costs or 100s of hours to dedicate to something else? It's a cliche but asking the 5 whys can potentially save money in the long run to invest in the areas of your business that make you stand out."
Growth from exposure
With digital products usually focused on functional features like exchanging data or delivering transactions, making a brand stand out isn’t usually high on the requirement list. But the nature of engagement within applications means businesses can take advantage of secondary benefits like brand exposure.
The controlled environment of an app is a great way to deliver a specific experience, create your own data and learn more about customer behaviour.
“A digital product capable of delivering a useful, engaging experience is not only helping customers, it’s delivering brand value,” continues Partington. “For example, an application for one of our retail clients has 600,000 users who are using the app 3-4 times every month, for approximately 2 minutes each time.
“That equates to an awful lot of marketing minutes in a very powerful and impactful channel, and the opportunity to use that with engaged customers is immense. The data allows you to understand user behaviour and can help refine and optimise the product continuously.”
Keeping customers engaged
Underneath all of this is the need to create products which people want to use and keep using. The combination of the right team of people to promote, maintain and iterate an application should sit alongside those who built it in order to deliver continuous improvement. But that can only come when the core product has got to the heart of the problem it’s trying to solve.
“You have to have a great product, but there are lots of barriers before you get to that point,” says Partington. “There’s a huge challenge in getting customers to download, then sign-up and register, then get them to come back and repeatedly use it so it doesn’t lie dormant or get uninstalled.
“To do that we have to ensure we’re creating applications which complement the essence of the business we’re working with and help to unlock customer potential. That’s about removing friction to do things better, even small things. Small improvements can be the difference between making one extra shop per month, or one extra purchase.”
Back to the marginal gains.
“Understanding what customers want to do better and designing around that behaviour is a key part of ensuring you’re set up for growth,” he says. “Applications can often be hamstrung by completing simple actions which are much more painful than they should be.
“The Wave app we created for Chetwood Financial Services is a good example, which has streamlined the application process and can put a virtual credit card, seamlessly integrated with Apple and Google pay, in the hands of a brand new customer via their phone in just 10 minutes.”
Partnerships and progress
Digital transformation is affecting everyone, but not every company wants to be or is capable of being a tech business. The combination of the relentless march of technology into all industries with the ongoing dearth of decent tech talent means the need for the right partnerships is more pressing than ever.
This recent study from Accenture explores the increased importance of an organisation’s partner ecosystem and the emphasis being placed on third party expertise to deliver the necessary innovation, collaboration and removal of silos.
“Building the right tech teams is hard in terms of recruitment, motivation, utilisation,” laments Partington. “And while out-sourcing can seem expensive, it’s often out-weighed by effectiveness, expertise across multiple stacks and exposure to more senior experience. Our teams are supported by wider teams of fractional team members, who have been there, done that, and got the T-Shirt.
“What is the end goal? Solving a business pain point, while also helping customers do what they want to do quickly and easily. Finding the point where those two things meet is the key to real growth and then using technology to make it work better.”
We’d love to hear more about your challenges for sustained growth. Get in touch below.