by Cory Crosland

4 ways to keep digital business development on course

Apr 14, 2016
DeveloperEnterprise ArchitectureIT Leadership

Proven methods to help navigate the seemingly endless number of ways that a digital business development effort can go wrong.

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There is no doubt both businesses and consumers, regardless of their locations, are expecting digital options for everything from fast food to consulting services. Recent digital business research reports estimate that trillions of dollars are up for grabs within the global economy as new sectors are created and existing business transition to the digital marketplace.

First and foremost, a digital business is a fundamentally different mindset, manner and way of approaching how your organization delivers products or services to a marketplace. On a more granular level, three primary pillars — market insight, a collaborative leadership team and one or more technology platforms, support a successful digital business.

This combination of market insight and technology will be architected, driven and guided from the beginning to address the needs uncovered by a cross-functional team of business leaders and technology engineers who maintain this holistic focus on building increased organizational value.

There is a groundswell of organizations that are undertaking digital business development in order to enable innovation within their workflow – while positioning their businesses to capture and keep the ubiquitous, yet somewhat elusive digital customer. Interestingly, there are a seemingly endless number of ways that a digital business development effort can go off-track. Following are some key suggestions for effectively staying the course.

One vision, one plan

In our decade of successfully leveraging software innovations to build digital businesses, all of our client partnerships begin with an extensive planning phase, and the single most important piece of all the planning is the unique business vision for each project.

Planning Checklist:

  • Articulated specific business goals & requirements
  • Mapped custom and complex workflows
  • Focused initial version requirements
  • Detailed wireframe decks for any user interfaces
  • Engineering specifications on database architecture & API endpoints (ie: RAML)

As critical as all these are for a successful digital business, the most important part of the planning process is weaving the translation of the business vision seamlessly into the project plan.

Engineers with a deep understanding of your business vision and requirements can bring their full experiences and resources to bear, matching the right technology to your digital business needs. But it needs to happen very early in the process, during planning — not after development has started.

It’s never too early for change

As soon as you can present your plan to prospective users, do it. Challenge them to use your interactive wireframes with specific user objectives (ie: “how would you search for something you need?”). Be prepared to make adjustments based on their input and follow-through until you reach a level of balance with customer needs and an understanding of the business requirements that fulfill those needs. This is a critical point where your vision will keep you focused on your business goals while not becoming anchored to specific technologies and workflow processes.

If it’s not mission critical keep it out

Nobel Prize physicist Albert Einstein said, “The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.” Keep this in mind as you plan and develop your digital business and focus on reaching the initial version. Any feature or user request that is not mission-critical to the vision should be postponed to a future milestone. Support your engineering and development team to keep things from getting too complex and trust their advice regarding what to eliminate, when measured against their understanding of your business vision. Once you reach the first build, you can begin to gather early adopter feedback and start prioritizing that into the next release. You’ll be surprised how particular functionality, once deemed nearly critical in the planning phase, becomes rather unimportant once you start to use the actual software.

The team

Your relationship with the team and your ability to convey not just strategic business needs, but a holistic vision for the end goal, is a lifeline running through every part of the development process. There are two key positions within your team; engineering lead and product lead. The engineering lead will be responsible for translating business vision into code and technology while the product lead ensures that day-to-day progress remains focused on the business vision. Collectively they need to ensure that the team believes in the vision, is in the same boat and are all rowing together.

One of the themes stressed in this article, from beginning to end, is articulating a business vision and using this as your compass in all facets of digital business development. Sharing a common vision gives you the best possible chance of producing a digital property that fulfills your business goals by allowing your development team to focus on the technology that best realizes this vision.