The digital journey that many organizations have decided to take on usually includes, at some point down the road, the creation of digital products. It doesn’t matter if we talk about companies in traditional, old-fashioned industries or startups disrupting long-standing business models. Every organization has found themselves in need of building a mobile app, an e-commerce site, or a digital platform for its customers.
Without significant differences in the maturity of the industry or company, in most non-digital organizations, the decision makers usually jump right into the set of traditional IT and project management practices. Because digital refers to technology, and technology belongs to IT, it’s natural that these projects belong to that group, or at least require their involvement. For most companies, the best-known path is “let’s call the IT vendor or software firm to help us build our platform or application.”
This case might sound familiar to your company or your own experience. The story goes like this:
- Executives: We have to go digital
- Company: We need an app. Let’s bring a software/IT vendor
- Vendor: How can I help?
- Company: My competitor is ahead of me and already created a mobile app with X, Y, Z features. So, I can’t be left behind
- Vendor: We can do that
- Company: How much would it cost and when can we launch?
- Negotiation begins, and as we all know, time is pressing and budgets are tight.
- After a variable number of iterations between the Vendor and the Company, the project is finished and the product launched, usually not without tension and micromanagement of the specific features the product should include. And, more often than it should be, the project is late. (I will address this process in a separate post, because the process of building a product is key for companies to achieve success in their digital journey).
When companies go through a process like this, it’s likely they imagine the job is done and they can move on to the next project. But they fail to realize that the real project starts the moment customers use the product. Not only that, but most companies struggle to think beyond the features or the specifics of the application, often allowing these particular issues to precede the business goals and mission of the company.
An example of this is when a retail company decides to build an e-commerce site or application. The project is propelled by the need to have a digital strategy but is then lost to a set of practices that don’t add value to the business. The site is built, based on several requirements, many of which stem from the classic “Well, our competitor’s site has it.” Those companies lose track of their goal, and lose the opportunity to develop internal capabilities that will allow them to succeed in the digital era.
A digital-first and customer-centric company would be thinking about understanding the market and the problem they want to solve. The app becomes a tool, and most project requirements only make sense once it’s clear that the market values them.
The customer is the center of the business, and digital capabilities are the engines that allow organizations to grow exponentially. Companies now have to go beyond the project and build capabilities that will enable the success of their products.
In the following posts I will address the core competencies that companies must develop in order to succeed in the digital era:
- Software delivery (DevOps)
- User experience design (Design Thinking)
- Data analytics (Data and AI)