Where to start with technology problems and how to solve them
A big part of solving technology problems is about balancing short term gains with long term success.
In the third article in a series of five examining how technology can drive businesses forwards, we look at how to make tech stack struggles more manageable.
Underlying issues with technology can be a ticking time bomb for a business, with time being the operative word.
The frictionless world of vastly improved digital customer experiences means businesses are under time pressures, externally from their customers and internally from leaders, to deliver results quickly.
This fascinating article by the BBC’s Richard Fisher suggests humanity is stuck in short term thinking. In it he says: ”You can see short-termism in business, in populist politics, and in our collective failure to tackle long-term risks like climate change, pandemics, nuclear war, or antibiotic resistance.”
Far be it from this article to suggest technology is the antidote, but it does set the scene for a need to look at then, as well as now.
“Clients often come to us for help with technology problems which need quick fixes,” says Apadmi’s Chief Strategy Officer, Marcus Hadfield. “Whether it’s fixing an existing product or addressing a business challenge, inevitably that has to be the immediate focus, but doing that without one eye on the long term is dangerous.
“Keeping implementation front of mind is a good way to do that. We’ve had projects where technology recommendations have been made by larger consultancies which outline a long term fix, but without the nuts and bolts understanding of how it can be delivered.”
Having a point of difference
So how do you get over that hurdle? Starting with the outcome and then arriving at a solution to deliver it sounds simple enough, but it requires capability, experience and back to that all important factor of time.
“Applying strategic thinking to our technical heritage gives us an interesting point of difference,” continues Hadfield. “We understand the customer and bring together experience from a variety of backgrounds - in my case the world of advertising - and being able to align insight with the best technical brains takes things to a different and even more valuable place."
“We always try to marry business and marketing needs with a technology and strategy approach which can actually be delivered. There’s little point in recommending a solution which you can’t then implement.”
A slow start to go quickly
Driving value quickly can mean putting the brakes on. Creating the right strategic approach requires taking the time to ask the right questions.
The starting point has to be a full audit of the current technology stack, but that needs to be done while also considering the broader business needs and commercial challenges, not just in terms of revenue impact but also available budget. That process can be guided by the following three key questions:
What is the customer trying to achieve?
What is the business value?
How can technology facilitate those two things?
Answers to these questions enable a baseline to be created for expectations of the project. It also helps to identify core components which could be improved to deliver the most impact and how they can be worked on separately with minimal disruption.
“Done well, technology stack improvements can address challenges across a number of areas,” says Hadfield. “Whether it’s operational issues, inefficiencies, changing needs or just a need to update. The desired output has to be clearly identified, prioritised and agreed across the business.
“Any audit, investigation or discovery process has to provide an overview of costs, timing and scope, which can be used to not only provide a project starting point, but also clarity on what the destination is.”
Discovery information can also be used to create collateral which helps inform wider stakeholders or make a business case for a bigger overhaul if needed.
Taking a consultative approach to any challenge means considering multiple solutions to the same problem. Whether it’s a broader platform update which requires integration with existing systems, or linking a CRM tool to handle push or in-app notifications, there’s usually more than one way of doing things.
An effective way of moving quickly can involve using existing platforms which can do a job much faster than trying to build your own.
Hadfield explains: “We are always looking at the most efficient way of delivering a solution, which can sometimes mean using existing off-the-shelf software, rather than always having to build from scratch. Not only can it help to keep costs down, but it can often deliver a better experience.
“Our case studies show a history of finding the right solution and being passionate about seeing it through. We will investigate and recommend the solution which is right for us and for you, for both the short and the long term…”