November 6, 2020

Buy. Then Build. The New Reality for Enterprise Software Development

Who Should Read This?

Delivering value-driven software means harnessing several motivated disciplines across an organization. Subscribing to a product mindset isn’t limited to just production teams. This means technical Solution & Delivery (S&D) groups must establish healthy relationships with Product Management (PdM) teams to create a winning approach. Administrative disciplines such as Procurement Specialists (PS) can also help accelerate the change needed for digital transformation in 2020 & beyond.

We invite each of these groups to join the conversation.

  • Product Management
  • Engineering Leadership
  • Procurement Teams

Introduction

The enterprise solution marketplace is vast and overwhelming. For core competencies like digital commerce, customer data management & catalog manipulation there are thousands of solution providers and custom development approaches. And now, for newer supporting practices like machine learning, IoT & data lakes it’s even more difficult for leadership to make informed, objective decisions about what to use to meet customer demands. How you position your solution procurement processes will mean the difference between designing & building custom software or buying an off-the-shelf application.

While the financials are certainly critical, early math may lean towards buy but the market may be demanding new capabilities altogether. It’s also possible to end up deploying your best talent against a bespoke approach that meets market demands but is simply unsustainable. A balance must be struck. Positioning for learning as well as change is critical.

While none of us can read the future, we can release tools that are - by design - adaptable to both internal change and market fluctuations.

In this exploration, we’ll rally around a mindset rather than a hardened set of rules for thinking about procuring enterprise-grade software.

The Problem With Versus

Build versus buy is the former generation's battle. Buying while building is the new reality.

In this new reality, there are certainly conventional considerations that we'll discuss but there is also a level of nuanced thinking that could really take your proposed initiatives to the next level. The debate around build versus buy for enterprise software has shifted. The advents of domain-driven design, serverless infrastructure, the popularity of microservices and API gateways means businesses of all sizes are taking more of an integration mindset to the way systems deliver value.

This opens the door for custom feature sets supported by prepackaged platforms that can be continually configured to meet specific business needs.

While the platform feature set handles core dashboard tooling, database concerns, authentication and auto-scaling (to name a few) your organization is freed up to release independently deployable features that are refined representations of market demand. Building should not be in competition with buying. They should be working in tandem.

3 Types of Organizations

Any size organization with any amount of resources will more than likely have the same Build Vs. Buy dilemma so we’ll explore each organization type through the lens of all things being held equal.

1. BUILD ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING

These are savvy, technical leaders who have had sometimes huge success in the past in building custom software from scratch. They understand the nuances of custom software and how to build something new and exciting but also how to release it into the wild. They understand user feedback loops and can justify the costs involved with iterating and growing a successful product. This organization has engineers who are specialists at either a programming language or data architecture and can even navigate DevOps at scale. They deserve the opportunity to build the best possible solutions for their organizations and understand themselves to be the best qualified to do so.

There's also a culture that may think that there are some cost-saving opportunities when building on their own. Their S&D teams have witnessed packaged tools offer less value than a custom approach, while often incurring higher costs. They want to avoid multi-year contracts that can sometimes span leadership tenures which leave large initiatives incomplete & unexplained.

2. BUY OFF THE SHELF

There is also a school of thought held by many business professionals - IT organizations included - that economies of scale are more easily reached with off-the-shelf offerings. Beginning a new business initiative shouldn't have to mean starting over with new lines of code when there might be several industry leaders tackling the same problems at scale. Working with existing solutions and account teams that have seen "every variation" of your problem is compelling and frankly practical. This organization has decided re-inventing the wheel is often too costly in terms of economics and attention; deciding instead to resolve their business problems with a proven SaaS offering.Their thinking is even if they could build something valuable it couldn't possibly be as powerful as what hundreds of companies are already delivering. Why take a chance on delaying your release when you could sign a contract with a partner and start transacting next week? Why dive into the software development business when your shareholders are expecting retail sales?

3. RENT, CONFIGURE & EXTEND

Neither of the previous philosophies are wrong. In fact, both schools of thought probably exist in your organization.Our third organization type plays both sides against the middle. They have leaders that have seen success with both approaches who find opportunities in blending the best of both worlds.They know they must be careful to avoid exposure to the pitfalls of both like long contract obligations or exorbitant support costs. The build & buy philosophies are constantly pulling away from one another so the art of keeping them in harmony must becomes the focus.The architects & teams with platform subject matter expertise are hard at work keeping up with quarterly updates and keeping the rest of the organization informed of their impact. The bespoke engineers are busy working with internal product teams on short & long term business goals and how they translate into releases.

5 Critical Considerations

You will no doubt undergo a thorough request for information process followed by several rigorous request for proposal rounds. Economics and support SLAs will be scored and rescored based on your Procurement & Enterprise Architecture policies. However, before you endure what normally would take months because of indecision have you considered the following?

  1. Gap Analysis
    When - not if - a gap analysis is conducted proper stakeholders need to be brought to the table. This exploration is more requirements gathering. This is a thorough examination of existing tools.
    Have you exhausted every current vendor contract for savings opportunities? Have you held existing partners’ feet to the fire for their own SLAs and demanded credits where there may have been failings? Are you using every possible feature you’ve already sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into? If your answer to either of these questions is “no” you may have a fiduciary mandate as a steward of your organization’s budgets to do so.
    After which you can responsibly say you've assessed your current state and begin measuring your “as-is” against your newly stated business goals. Subject matter expertise is required from all relevant disciplines. The conversation should include driving towards a pure and objective interpretation of where you are today.
    For any initiative, whether you're building or buying, if your organization has not performed and published a gap analysis you are simply unprepared to take on the decision making process. These vetted artifacts are critical ingredients for any successful RFI or RFP.
  2. Security & Performance
    Consider the law of averages when thinking about building your own security systems. Can you build a system so resilient that you can identify & neutralize thousands of attacks before any single vulnerability is exposed.When working with a SaaS provider, they’re typically dealing with millions of varying attacks more often than any single entity could even collect data on. The investment in both security & performance that they have made is exponential. Try to engage potential partners who are eager to tell stories of how they’ve brought order to chaos and open to providing references.
    SaaS platforms may have seen many threats and many performance configurations from several industries thus making their provisions holistic. Leveraging their portfolio of learnings is certainly a good idea. It's not a negative shot at your organization's security team to stand on the shoulders of a SaaS models learnings. Deploying your security team, against already solved problems may not be prudent.But if you find yourself with such a unique use case that no partner can provide any interesting outlook you may have to look inward. At this point, you’ll do well to use partners for non-essential functions and build custom counter-measures yourself.
  3. Ongoing Support 
    Whether you build, buy or both ongoing expenses & support are inevitable. Your customers, whether internal or external, B2B or B2C will expect a healthy feedback loop, attention paid to their interests, so on and so forth. The world of support cares not that you bought a service or configured your own. They deserve the highest levels of service from your brand.
    Your core customers will drive the top of the bell curve of concerns but you'll still want to keep a priority focused on service levels from the field of use. As feedback flows into the organization it needs to be fielded by some team. That team is either the first line of defense support group internally or the first line of defense support group externally.

    Depending on your implementation approach your service strategy may not change considering it should be attached to business goals. However, the level of your own resources' involvement will determine your service design. Managing multiple partnerships will take quite of a bit of attention being paid to service levels. Managing your internal stakeholder's expectations against what's contracted requires constant awareness - especially for newly released software. For the initial quarter(s) after a release, you will want to inform your organization early and often when any SLA deviations are anticipated.
    In response, your stakeholders will rightfully request a change management & release plan. The considerations should be at the forefront in early conversations around build vs buy decisions. Their answers will help shape how to proceed; not just with a lens of releasing but with the full scope of post-release planning.
  4. Total Cost of Ownership
    There are countless TCO wizards and calculators to assist with arriving at total cost of ownership for your new solution. However, we’ve noticed a trend of those “TCO Calculators” over-indexing towards initial costs rather than the entire spend spectrum. To their defense, the expectation is that upfront costs are all you’re initially concerned with. Fine for early conversations but presenting to with steering committees involves more than the tip of the iceberg. Just as an iceberg’s momentum and mass is primarily set under the surface, that same is going to be true for your new program. During your capital expenditures, you’ll incur several known costs however, as you move close to deployment and post-release maintenance you’ll often be confronted with new considerations. These are considerations dealing with compliance auditing, responding to market feedback, retaining subject might include subject matter experts for at least a couple quarters. These are cost multipliers that must be considered for both initial costs as well as ongoing expenses.
  1. Product Mindset
    Forrester* calls product management the cog that enables organization synchronization. Companies have found themselves dependent on technology and customer’s believing in their brands. Balancing them both has routinely gotten lost in priority lists. But a new line of thinking is striking the necessary balance between solution delivery and customer feedback.Product Management can seamlessly design strategy, evangelize a vision, conduct road-mapping exercises and maintain a living backlog. All of which are more than necessary when making procurement decisions. Is there a product mindset in place to drive conversations with C-Suite? Is there an advocate in your organization whose allegiance is the complete Customer Experience and not a single line of business? Is there anyone rallying concision around a strategic set of goals? Is consumer feedback used to drive growth & change?A product mindset embodies all of these qualities and without one your new application may struggle to get the proper care & feeding. Whether it comes in the form of a mature practice area or an internally shared philosophy it's proving effective across Fortune 500 companies, startups and every category in between.

Designing A Product Culture

Culture Shift

The rent and configure culture requires a bit of a culture shift. You're still going to have to tackle clickwrap contracts. You'll still have to hire a capable development team. You'll still have to support your own releases against your product roadmap. You'll still have to have a product roadmap. You'll still have to keep a close eye on analytics and quality. But now you're empowered with a dashboard console and a support team that can assist you along the way. software that requires certifications. Just to manage can sometimes feel overwhelming. But the advantages of a strong Enterprise Architecture demands subject matter expertise in the applications that were purchased that meet certain spend criteria. If you've invested $4 million in a product, you should expect that those certifications should be in-house, and there should be. work done to redundancy in that knowledge to fully certified experts may be eliminated. Helps you ask the right questions when engaging with your

Maybe the culture shift is moving away. Versus buy against each other. But maybe the culture change is accepting about understanding the values of both and building teams around that reality. Maybe the culture shift moves more towards delivery, then develop and support.

Dashboards & Analytics

Analytics is important in finding out the health vitality of the tool that you have in production, with real-time feedback, is critical. It's the only way you can compete. It's the only way you can stay one or two steps ahead of your competitors. That said, you'll need to develop dashboarding features. So on top of the data source on top of the integrations. On top of the compute power on top of the API's that you'll need to build. You'll also want to build an interface that will give you real-time information about user usage behavior and anomalies. And also performance. You'll also want to integrate. At some point, technology that will show you gaps that sometimes  Out-of-the-box analytics might not demonstrate. Understanding this means that you and the platforms. Need to ensure the data is exposed in such a way that it can be consumed by plugins or other models that can help. Use your data in new and exciting ways.

dashboards need to be available via mobile web. They need to be responsive, the interface needs to be clean and speak the language of the stakeholders who set out to begin the initiatives in the first place. If you're prepared to build in these provisions, then building may be the way to go. But if these are daunting, or somehow overwhelming. Most platforms, again, are in the upper right quadrant, because they've solved these problems before they brought them to resolve.

Bias towards learning & evolution

With the product mindset. You want to instill a bias towards learning, and evolution in the beginning. So every requirement. That's gathered is not about current pain, but a future-leaning into the holistic universe of meeting customer demands will make for a more healthy project. And make way for an easier adoption inside of the organization's operations with a product mindset bias towards growth. Reduce internal pushback offer an olive branch to internal organizations that otherwise might not lean your way.

Availability of development, maintenance & support teams

As an extension of the timeline. Let's make sure the available availability of development resources is on par with what's needed for your release that after it's released that you have a proper maintenance and support plant that once you're in the wild, that you have ongoing expenses Allocated. And don't choke, your stakeholders' feature requirements. Because of unplanned support. Spend. You want to design an availability and support approach that accommodates the possibilities of the market's response to your tool, and not just the two or three headcount availability. Support requires leadership, as well as development resources and product.

Separation of concerns

When building software. The teams involved. And every line of code written, every library introduced. Every framework package that's installed must follow a theme of separation of concerns. Security should always be able to be audited at any different time unit testing and deployment should be in the hands of the development to quality, while everyone's responsibility. should be checked every opportunity, continuous improvement is key. But separations of concern are critical. Software must be modularized team attrition is important so documentation is important. And we would argue for microservices and domain-driven design to help. That's a pattern that can help solve a number of these concerns.

True Requirements

Before any software development project starts or RFP for finding a platform. Problem case needs to be written. I have passed the system needs to be crafted and requirements. Ready. Requirements aren't necessarily feature-focused. They're more function focused on what I would like to achieve what the customer should be able to achieve what they intended business outcomes are. What is the cost of this software, starting it today, and finishing it six months from now, what does that cost, our business, in terms of how much that dollar could have been worth allocated towards something else.  requirements gathering becomes much more intensive. If you are building custom. They can be more exact, when, because of the freedom, afforded by custom development, Almost lends itself towards more particular requirements. However, these requirements still have to be conceived of approved and published building software. Sometimes it isn't worth the trouble to gather requirements. Acquiring software. However, sometimes means that business goals are all you need to surface to the partner. Sometimes the platform partner understands requirements, better than the stakeholders. While you may know your business.  Better Than Anyone Else requirements for meeting business goals are something that they've built entire businesses around addressing.

Do you want to move at the speed of the platform or the market?

Do you want to move at the speed of the platform, or the market. As the market responds. Most platforms will also be listening, they'll even offer thought leadership around trends that they're seeing trends that you may not actually be privy to. But that doesn't mean that move to accommodate any gaps that their platform has, in time for you to respond to the market, those considerations have to be tested conceived of developed tested released deploy, and then ensure that no break fixes ended up into your software. You'll have to do the research and planning and sometimes frustrating work of making sure the tools are moving at the speed of your company's growth. Otherwise, You'll only move at the speed of their platform.

Timelining & Roadmapping

Timelines are not just about the start date. Project milestones in end dates are proposed in dates. They're not even about critical path items, or blockers along the way. acceptance criteria pattern. A true timeline includes your market fluctuations. Your customer promotions shareholder, and stakeholder churn in demand. Participant turnover. This means employees and developers, typically, roll-off projects because of contract resources timelines include the entire universe of operations. Not just the project itself. How quickly can you achieve zero index against projects. And is that going to happen before your first market fluctuation. If it's not going to happen until afterwards possible the funding, get frozen. It's possible that the board would want to reroute finances justifiably so your timeline needs to involve. Not just your release. But the time it takes to onboard your organization and its culture to the idea of this new tool, being in market. This includes training awareness. Launch documentation proper positioning amongst the rest of the Enterprise Architecture tools.

Every dime spent

Every time spent on building supporting software is made more expensive. When that team isn't supporting something else, there's an opportunity cost for your development teams working on this software and not solving the problems of your business. Because remember, solving the problems of your business should always be the most important, and not implementing software.

#1 resources

Remember, you want to deploy your number one resources to solving business problems that no one else could not be solving software problems that you can't get a partner to help you figure out. Position yourself, such that your most talented resources are solving business problems, and all other resources are in the audience have that thought leadership and contributing as well. Essentially, not hiding your best resources in a project. Dressing them forward to meet the demands of your business and making sure those lessons learned, are made public.

What business do you want to be in?

What business do you want to be. Do you want to be in the business of servicing customers and understanding customer needs. Or do you want to be in the software development business. If designing software is what you report to Wall Street. Then I agree with the ladder. But if revenues gained by servicing customers is what your shareholders, hold dear. Then control shouldn't be your aim should be holistically servicing customers. And sometimes, answering that question. requires the purchase of industry-leading tools. Rather than building them yourself. But then, coming behind that acquisition and customizing accordingly. If you can't offer customizations that your brand requires, then it's not a good acquisition tools can often service industry, very well, but it often takes customizations to deliver on brand promises. I think that's going to be kicked.

Everything at scale

Yes, you can spin up a new instance, yes, you can spin up and provision, or redundancy strategy. Yes, you can spin up APIs. The question is can you do it at scale. Can you do it at the speed of your business? Can you figure all of those things out in the same runway, that it would take for someone else who's already got that figured out. The question is can you do it at scale. And it's not a matter of Ken. It's a matter of planning for it. In the beginning, planning for as your revenue and customer variations change at the software you build can accommodate that growth at the speed of your shareholder's expectations at the speed that you can support it at the speed of the security standards that will be required for growing in arrive. If the answer to all of those questions are Yes, I'd actually encourage you to build the software. But if you've got to know or maybe in any of those pieces. Except that, in 95% of cases, there's already some software built that can accommodate.

The Bottom Line

Key Takeaways

The rent and configure route requires a bit of a culture shift. You're still going to have to tackle clickwrap contracts. You'll still have to hire a capable development team. You'll still have to support your own releases against your product roadmap. You'll still have to have a product roadmap. You'll still have to keep a close eye on analytics and quality. But know that you're now empowered with a dashboard, robust consoles and support team that can assist you along the way.

Software that requires certifications can often feel overwhelming but subject matter expertise can make a critical difference. Overall, the advantages of a strong foundation in your Enterprise Architecture outweighs the hurdles of specialized training. If you've invested 6 or 7 figures into a product, you should plan for in-house subject matter expertise.

You may not use these exact points in your RFP or procurement process but we want to help you build a framework to ask the best questions in your organization.

October 30, 2020

Leveling-up Contactless Guest Interactions with App Clips

Following months of lockdown restrictions, the hospitality industry is no doubt amongst the hardest hit. As international and domestic travel demand continues to lag behind, recovery to pre-pandemic levels is not expected to take place until 2023 at the earliest. As of September 1st, almost two-thirds of hotels in the U.S. remain at or below 50 percent occupancy[1], reinforcing a feeling of cautiousness amongst travelers.

Customers’ needs have changed exponentially since the start of the crisis, as their willingness to travel now depends on safe and convenient ways of accessing products and services. Hotel services typically experienced offline are now more than likely best handled or managed through digital channels – with nearly three quarters of hotel executives agreeing self-service technology will be key to assisting guests while minimizing unnecessary contact[2]. The survival of the hospitality sector now depends on business’ efforts to create a safe and enjoyable guest experience, by identifying existing pain points in the end-to-end customer journey and eliminating them by using the right technologies.

What are App Clips?

App Clips, a new iOS 14 feature created and launched by Apple, is redefining the customer experience and helping to overcome an increasingly complex challenge faced by all businesses alike – settling anxieties over exposure to COVID-19. App Clips – a small part of an overall app experience – allow users to interact with a highly contextual portion of the app, in the exact right moment, without the need for a full download. Users can access App Clips through multiple means, including QR codes, links and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags, and will be presented with an App Clip Card that is matched closely to the experience a user is looking for, based on their needs in a particular location. For example, a user looking to make a purchase will be presented with a different Clip Card than a user who is looking for customer assistance.

How will App Clips impact the hospitality sector?

App Clips are transforming the typically lengthy hotel onboarding process and are set to be a crucial gateway to delivering a ‘high touch, no touch’ service. Prior to arrival, customers can check-in and retrieve their room key via App Clips linked to map location cards on their device. Perhaps the most concerning element of a hotel stay – checking-in – is made avoidable and guests can cruise straight to their room. In supported App Clips, users can also sign in with Apple and make a payment with Apple Pay, which will in turn speed up the check-in experience. No cash or card transactions are required, streamlining the user journey and driving up purchases and interactions.

Companies can also demonstrate they are responsive and helpful by implementing intelligent assistants into the App Clip experience. It has now become non-negotiable for companies to proactively communicate the safety protocols they have in place to protect customers from COVID-19. By levelling up real-time communication, App Clips can have a direct impact on ongoing customer engagement – the cornerstone of business success. The limitations on notifications will have a similar effect, with a reduced chance of user frustration at being repeatedly notified. By having a smooth experience with an App Clip, users should feel more inclined to download the full version of the app for repeat custom and usage. This creates a notion of lifetime value.

The new normal of hospitality

While the industry awaits pent-up demand, hoteliers have a golden opportunity to perfect a superior digital brand experience for customers, with their safety at the heart of all operations. Companies should be looking ahead to a future of contactless travel and investing in technologies that can keep up with what consumers expect from their service under unique and challenging circumstances. By leveraging App Clips effectively, hoteliers can engage with their guests in real-time, and can create seamless experiences that lead to higher conversion, loyalty signup, and repeat stays.

This article was published on HospitalityTech.com

October 27, 2020

Creating A Digital Roadmap For Forward-Looking Businesses

Since the pandemic erupted, we’ve witnessed a digital revolution, with a shift to remote work and more digital access to services than ever before – a trend likely to continue post-pandemic. According to McKinsey & Company, we leaped five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of just a few weeks. More than 90 percent of executives expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the coming five years, with almost as many highlighting the pandemic will have a lasting impact on customers’ behavior and needs. Indeed, 75 percent of consumers who adopted digital for the first time since the pandemic plan to continue post-COVID-19. They join a growing army of Connected Customers, who solely interact with brands through digital channels such as websites and apps. 

Connected Customers, spanning every generation, are hyperaware of the overall brand experience and have grown accustomed to superior online services. These customers compare good and bad experiences, not directly competing products and services. They will judge the experience of Uber with that of Amazon, and the most delightful experience will become their minimum expectation for the next. Pressure is continues to mount for companies to pay close attention to brands outside of their space and keep pace with the latest innovations. An HBR report cites the number one reason more than half (52 percent) of the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000 is their failure to achieve digital change. Ensuring digital channels are on par with, or better than, direct and indirect competitors will be key to sustainable growth.

Enhancing the Customer Journey 

Today’s hyper-connected environment, coupled with the impact of the pandemic, has accelerated consumers’ expectations for the role digital plays in the physical brand experience. For many companies, the online customer journey is often broken and outdated, as it has become particularly challenging for consumers to have a positive experience when engaging with a brand digitally. 

COVID-19 has also surfaced some uncharted customer pain points that digital can help solve. Elements of the customer journey that caused frustration pre-pandemic, such as waiting in line and payments, must now be made as contactless and safe as possible, calling for a digital intervention. The bar for excellence has now risen exponentially; long-term shifts in consumer expectations for limited staff interaction will persist. 

Change Culture

For an organization to embark on change for their digital future, it’s imperative to move with speed and purpose, and remove silos. Brand marketing, customer experience, loyalty and operations must all integrate in support of common goals. To fix a broken customer journey and achieve growth objectives, everyone in the organization must unite around a common digital vision. This vision must then be translated into action by developing digital programs – rather than digital projects – with a relentless focus on the customer. Organizations burdened with short-term project mindsets and siloed teams will typically create uninspiring customer experiences and leave significant growth opportunities on the table. On the other hand, action on the common vision for digital excellence will yield promising returns. It will be those companies with integrated teams – using, learning from, and actioning on data insights – that will be able to move quickly and future-proof.

How Can an Organization Realize Its Digital Vision? 

With a long-term vision in mind, defining strategic, measurable company-wide growth imperatives is pivotal. These imperatives may relate to differentiation, value, quality, or leveling the competitive playing field, and should tie to the company’s overall digital vision.

While specific to each company’s journey and current level of digital maturity, here are some key principles every business should be considering to be digitally ready for the new normal: 

  • Simple, memorable, streamlined experiences – allow customers to quickly and easily do what they want to do
  • Leverage personalization whenever possible – use technology to best serve consumers’ individual needs
  • Encourage frequency and drive loyalty – leverage the power of data to understand behavior and incentivize actions 
  • Integrate existing technologies and harness their collective power – the only way growth will scale is through a well-orchestrated and powerful tech stack 
  • Break down the silos – find ways to intentionally collaborate for the greater good 

The overarching piece of advice any business can take on board in this current climate is to plan for tomorrow, not today. Every brand should be striving for and maintaining a holistic digital roadmap to drive sustainability and revenue growth. If the crisis has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no better time to plan and innovate for an increasingly digitalized world.

This article was published on MarTech.Zone

September 8, 2020

The Importance of DTC Connections in Today’s World

Amid today’s ever-changing consumer landscape is a lingering question that many brands are grappling with. Should I sell my brand/product direct to consumers (DTC)? If you ask Google, this is very clearly a common topic as there are dozens of articles on this very question that have appeared in just the last few months.  While the world around us continues to change, one thing is for sure: Consumer behavior has already changed and finding new and different ways to interact with your customers could mean the life or death of your brand. 

Even brands that have very strong businesses that are doing well during this COVID-19 time are asking themselves this same question. I recently saw the article Business Insider published a few weeks back titled “How Frito-Lay Built a New DTC E-commerce Site Virtually in 30 Days Amid the Pandemic.” Or the follow up article just a few weeks later on the same topic. If a brand as successful as Frito-Lay is thinking this way, this tells me that it could be equally as valuable to businesses of all shapes and sizes. No matter the industry, people are buying and consuming products differently than they ever have before. And due to rising demand, even Frito-Lay knew that they had to think differently in order to keep up and best serve their customers. The answer: DTC.

As the articles mention, standing up a brand-new DTC channel can be challenging, but is totally possible, even in the midst of a pandemic. How can your brand make this happen? Here are three things to consider that can help you better serve your customers through direct efforts.

  1. An innovative mindset that was comfortable in ambiguity, yet aligned behind a common north star metric
  2. A cross-functional team including product, marketing, design, engineering, operations and product that maintained a united focus on a core MVP that didn’t fall prey to scope creep
  3. The support of a skilled digital marketing team that helped put the core launch and engagement blocks in place quickly without any major hiccups

The power of the north star metric

In any business, most successful projects start off with the creation of a solid strategy and plan of action which will serve as the blueprint that your teams will use to guide the delivery of their specific portion of the project.

No matter what, the plan needs to be crystal clear, dead simple to follow and properly layout the actions each team should take to collectively reach the desired destination. As digital consultants to many of the world’s leading companies, we believe the first step is to write down your customer’s motivations and desires which will lead to the creation of your products north star metric. The rest of the work lies in creating a prioritized list of initiatives and tasks aligned to the four pillars of your north star metric: 1. Breath, 2. Depth, 3. Frequency, and 4. Efficiency.

For example, your north star metric could be around items sold. Or visits to a site. Or level of engagement. One thing  north star metrics are not normally about is revenue. Revenue is the thing that will come when the north star metric is reached.  You must then create metrics under each of the pillars mentioned above and devise clear roadmap items that will allow you to reach each of these summary metrics.

The north start metric is even more important if you need to accelerate your product development journey as it will ensure that every team member is focusing on the right tasks which will compound together into a successful outcome (this for sure rings true in the Business Insider articles mentioned above). Even a few mistakes on a project that is moving that fast can cause it to fly off the rails very quickly.

Make sure the puzzle (a.k.a. team) has all the right pieces

Not only when trying to operate in such a tight timeframe, but anytime cross-functional teams come together, representatives from marketing, product, design, operations and engineering with the appropriate budget and decision-making ability must come together. This is a non-negotiable. You must be able to quickly activate any one or all of these groups and key leaders from each organization will help you move swiftly and efficiently.  For example, if you need one of your existing warehouses converted from an operation setup for bulk-based truck deliveries into an operation setup for pick and pack shipped via UPS/FedEx/USPS, it will be imperative that someone on your cross-functional team can and knows how to make that happen really quickly.

This team of teams must align on the north star metric and product roadmap and begin to execute the list of tasks as defined in the planning phase. (Suggestion: set up these tasks in something similar to a Trello board if you don’t have an already used system in house.) It helps to have daily standups to discuss what tasks each team member completed, any blockers preventing them from completing a task and what task(s) they plan to complete between that meeting and the next. There is zero room for even a single resource to falter on delivery when doing something so important and likely in a compressed timeframe. Below is an example of how you could structure a team to take on an endeavor of this magnitude in such a short timeframe.

Figure 1: Example 30-Day DTC Rapid Response Team

So, you’ve got a plan and a team ready to go. What’s next? Execution. This is obviously where the bulk of the work lies. Everyone must have tunnel vision on the MVP and fiercely defend against scope creep. In fact, it is more likely that you end up with less functionality than you set out to build which could be the result of difficult decisions the team makes throughout the process as a result of an unintended blocker arising.

Don’t forget about marketing

Between day one and day twenty, your digital marketing team should be creating all of the necessary marketing assets to support the launch, the copy for the trigger-based emails that will go out to users who place orders at your new DTC experience and getting them approved by your wider marketing approval process so that is in line with your overall brands message. DTC is not a new company inside your brand. It’s a new spoke off an existing hub that allows your brand to do new things to enhance what you already deliver to the market. 

The digital marketing resource should also be meeting consistently with the marketing executive sponsor to plan the launch campaign and get the content together needed to deliver it. A solid press release, a well-coordinated series of social media posts and an interview with a well-known media outlet post launch is a solid strategy for an important DTC launch.

In closing, it is possible to take your brand DTC in a very short time period with the right plan and team in place. As to whether or not it makes sense for your brand to make the investment, that is something that is very situational but should be determined with the right information in front of you from a trusted source. Our advice is to take a second look at the benefits beyond “a net new revenue stream.” The ability to access first-party customer insights and engage directly with your consumers can be very valuable on multiple fronts.

One common objection most think of is the impact that DTC will have on relationships with existing retailers as it could be seen as a means to “cut them out of the equation.” Instead, think about it this way. A solid DTC platform can actually increase in-store traffic post launch. Imagine your marketing team having the ability to send mobile wallet pass coupons which are both linked to their DTC customer profile and are only redeemable in store. The customer is encouraged to go in-store to purchase and the DTC brand gets the real-time first-party customer data. There will always be a reason that DTC might not work for your brand. Instead, think about the opportunity cost associated with not going DTC. Will your brand survive long term? Whatever you determine your final course of action to be, we recommend you strike while the iron is hot, and the competition is still relatively low.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tim is the lead of Bottle Rocket’s growth practice and an active thought leader on digital product growth in the marketplace.

Source #1 - https://www.businessinsider.com/how-frito-lay-built-new-dtc-e-commerce-30-days-2020-5

Source #2 - https://www.businessinsider.com/frito-lay-exec-how-snacking-giant-shifted-business-meet-demand-2020-5

May 27, 2020

16 Industries That Are Hungry For Development Talent

When most people think about a career in development, they likely think about working for tech giants or software startups. However, in our tech-forward world, the need for talented developers has extended far beyond companies in the technology sector. Today’s devs can look to fast-growing industries like healthcare, automotive and even agriculture for new and exciting opportunities to use their skills.

We asked a panel of Forbes Technology Council members which non-tech industries are eagerly searching for new development talent. If you’re looking for dev work, try one of these 16 fields.

1. Research, Data And Analytics

Learning Python and PHP has become more common in areas where large amounts of data need to be analyzed and presented in a meaningful way. Technologies that were once exclusively used in software development scenarios are now being leveraged by nontechnical people. In the interest of using the best tools and skills for the job, they have acquired skills that once belonged in software development. - Danny AcunaLogica Ratio

2. Healthcare

Medical applications today require more software than ever before. The need for telehealth has expanded instantly due to COVID-19’s global immobilization and people’s need for access to diagnostics. Developers are needed to advance medical diagnostics with artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable greater remote access to medical resources. - JiNan Glasgow GeorgeMagic Number, Inc.

3. Government Agencies

Government agencies need developers to rethink how governments operate and deliver services to constituents. From leveraging the critical systems running on mainframes to today’s mobile-enabled applications, developers can help bridge the divide across mainframe and distributed systems and create the next-generation government that can react to changes in legislation and support citizens’ needs. - Ram ChakravartiBMC Software

4. Food And Beverage

Many food and beverage companies are seeking new ways to connect, engage and sell to their customers directly outside of traditional retail. One of the main avenues to do this is to establish a direct-to-consumer strategy utilizing e-commerce. Typically, these organizations already have IT departments dedicated to existing infrastructure and will need to hire new dev resources for these initiatives. - Chris ShalchiBigCommerce

5. Agriculture

The agriculture industry will definitely need more developers in the near future, as it is lagging behind in terms of technology adoption. By using new technology solutions, the sector will achieve better financial results and efficiency. A great example of that is the usage of drones for crop seeding and crop monitoring. - Ivailo NikolovSiteGround

6. Automotive

The automotive industry needs new dev talent, primarily due to increasing software demands for performance, safety and entertainment. Application security challenges in Internet of Things environments and customer demands for ease of use and quality are also driving needs. Setting up campuses in software hot spots, like Silicon Valley, is one way some car companies have more successfully recruited developers. - Manish GuptaShiftLeft

7. Ride-Sharing

Uber and Lyft operate at a loss annually. Looking at the cost breakdown of a single ride, these companies lose more money than they are earning due to the immense cost of human labor. To be profitable, these companies must shift to a robo-taxi model. Thus, these firms are seeking new development talent to build the complex hardware and software necessary to make this lucrative evolution a reality. - Ashwini ChoudharyRecogni

8. Education

Talk to any IT staff person from a school struggling to keep students engaged during COVID-19 and it becomes clear how thin schools are stretched for tech talent. While schools may have sufficient budgets for tech equipment and software, most don’t prioritize budgets for tech staff. This needs to change so our teachers can use the latest ed-tech tools and resources in their classrooms and beyond. - Anna FrazzettoHarvey Nash/NashTech Global

9. Financial Services

The fintech revolution and new digital channels of services have introduced new challenges to the area of cybersecurity. With mobile banking, neo banks, peer-to-peer payment, insurance tech and other digital services, new attack surfaces and vectors have added a new dimension of risk. The financial services industry is driving the demand for developers as well as cybersecurity professionals. - Kumar RiteshCYFIRMA

10. Product Management

After decades of working at their craft, devs have seen the product lifecycle up close. The insight they could bring to any company looking to start a new software product would be invaluable. They would help spot issues well in advance of most people trained in the optimal software development life cycle. If they’re good at communication and documentation, they have all the makings of a great product manager. - Luke WallaceBottle Rocket

11. Hospitality Management

It’s been my experience that the backend systems in the hospitality management industry are outdated and provide limited integrations. There are great advances in technology on the consumer-facing side, but booking and support systems rely on outdated software and infrastructure. - Jesus BelloSabal Tech

12. Work-Life Technology

The boundary between business and technology blurred a long time ago. The split of work and life is also fading away, and COVID-19 only accelerates such a split. As technology aids a no-code/low-code evolution, developers are elevated to more design-centric app and content development roles to improve quality of life both at work and home. - Anbu MuppidathiCognizant

13. Nonprofits And Social Good Companies

I’m not an expert in either of these realms, but these are areas that are traditionally underfunded—and relatively low-paying. As people fall back to their common humanity, I would hope that these companies—and the social good that they drive—become a new form of capital. - Cecile LeeTrendalytics

14. Logistics And Supply Chain

Logistics is among the oldest professions in the world, but it represents a trillion-dollar opportunity that has yet to undergo a digital transformation. From incorporating AI to increase the accuracy of the estimated time of arrival (which has a waterfall effect on the entire supply chain) through building Iron Man-like suits to increase safety in warehouses, developers should look to the supply chain for tremendous opportunity. - Lidia YanNEXT Trucking

15. Construction

Developers can help the construction industry streamline and optimize processes, unify isolated stakeholders and keep the industry growing. They’re producing a lot of cloud software now but are rapidly expanding into autonomous construction, virtualization applications, analytics, real-time collaboration, wireless monitoring, green construction and more. - Thomas GriffinOptinMonster

16. Advertising And Marketing

With augmented reality and virtual reality being heavily consumed by the general public, marketing and advertising have been changing and will continue to evolve. Developers have been in the marketing and advertising industry for a long time, but now it is becoming commonplace for advertising agencies to have heavy tech teams and devs. - Alexandro PandoXyrupt Technologies

This article was published in Forbes.com

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