“If you want to build a ship don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
How do we define successful business growth?
Growing a business is a huge and complex journey. In 2001, the Agile Manifesto transformed the way we approached software development and was eventually adapted for application to project management and business strategy. In software, Agile has been characterised by “the division of tasks into short phases of work, frequent reassessment, and the adaptation of plans”. In business, it has traditionally been bottom-up and process-centric; focused on productivity structures and operating models. A more recent iteration has seen a shift to a product-centric approach. But each has the major drawback of being a decentralised methodology that cannot sustain holistic growth.
The goal of our Lean Digital approach is to not only improve efficiency and productivity for the business but to design and apply a superior employee and customer experience. Eli5 Lean Digital is setting you up to be flexible, so you can easily iterate and be prepared to potentially end up at a different destination to the one you originally planned. If you only measure success by getting from A to B and the ability to stick to rigid plans and targets – be that revenue, KPI’s or savings – we think you are doing it wrong. It’s not about building new products, it’s about making experiences better.
Growth is a process that must be continually maintained and iterated. Using our ship as an analogy – you’ve got to build and also maintain it. Over time, you make improvements and adapt to new innovations. You hire an expert crew who can keep all the elements working while you steer (and you want them to stick around so you don’t lose talent and experience). You plan your route and, if you run into trouble or find a better way, ensure you are prepared to pivot and switch direction. If necessary, you may change the destination itself. And once you’ve reached your goal, you start thinking about the next place you want to take it.
Enterprises have unique problems
Enterprises are international, multi-brand, multi-product, and therefore multi-business. Internally, we need to align the vision and strategy to a companywide portfolio, with the active participation of the board and the C-suite. This means unifying diverse groups of people, customers, and partners at scale, who must collaborate in cross-functional teams that are still self-organising and contained. All within the current external market where your competitors are running the same race and consumers expect their experience of your brand to be hyper personalised and omnichannel.
The only way to deliver this company-wide agility and digitisation, while achieving sustained growth, is to power change by clearly defining the overall transformation vision for the business, and prioritising the employee and customer experience to drive engagement. This way we can circumvent the pitfalls of bureaucracy and internal organisational clutter with Agile Project Management, and leave teams with the freedom to utilise the specialist practices they understand to be appropriate for each part of the business.
Why do we need a new approach?
There has been a clear shift from the Internet Era to the Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Era. Using the internet as our tool we have shortened cycle times by utilising ready-to-use tools (like A/B testing) and collecting vast quantities of data. But many companies do not utilise the data they have to interpret how their customers experience the digital landscape. Eli5 Lean Digital leverages this rich data source to create tangible outputs that inform the improvements we make to the end-user solution.
In the rush to utilise external and easy-to-use products, creativity has been sacrificed for the highly-measurable. Many companies are finding that this means their internal business processes and infrastructure have been left to age and deteriorate. As you allow your business to become constrained by the functionalities the makers of these tools choose to offer – functionalities also readily available to your competitors – how can you deliver a truly unique experience? It has become more important than ever to invest in custom-built solutions.
The other issue that comes with using multiple platforms and external software is that quality, security and privacy suffer as products and services become external, disconnected and unmanageable. This is what we see with recent high profile corporate security breaches and fraud, like the Sony hack in 2014. By aligning stakeholders with design thinking and customer experience design professionals you can champion custom software development. We should know by now that digitisation is more than just building commoditised functionality and acquiring open-source solutions that everyone can easily buy or rent.
“Design-driven companies have outperformed in the S&P index by 288% over 10 years”
Design Management Institute (source)
With the commoditisation of cloud-based services and storage (in particular Amazon Cloud Services), we now have the ability to collect, store and analyse vast quantities of data from various sources across the World Wide Web. Data science and machine learning is now at the core of the most Agile businesses, with wide platforms and the unified and horizontal organisation of data solutions, deep learning and intelligence functions.
Eli5 Lean Digital custom-builds all of this around the employee and client needs. With Big Data, we can be in touch with a more genuine and spontaneous consumer experience and have a clear line of sight to value for the ultimate customer in the design process. Without this insight, you risk designing products that are delivered to market too quickly and lack craft, integrity and personality. Then, during the build, we use technical discipline and refactoring to stop and clean up on an ongoing basis to be secure, effective and maintain responsiveness.
The Three Pillars of Lean Digital
Validate – Audit your project by pressure-testing it with the market and end-users. Then decide whether to make it from scratch, buy or partner with an existing solution, or call it quits if you simply find there is no demand.
Build – Adopt a Lean and Agile approach to software development. Build a Minimum Viable Product, test it, iterate and grow in stages to reduce technical debt and wasted time.
Integrate – Prepare for integration into your business from the beginning – whether you have a CoreCo or NewCo project. We integrate by building a translation layer and API Center, so connections are responsive, seamless and open to other applications and extensions in the future.
The end-user is the single most important stakeholder whose wants and needs must be anticipated and addressed. If you are not focused on gaining a deeper understanding of your customers, employees, and users, and delivering an exceptional experience you can’t be responsive. Neither can you ensure their privacy, security and safety. If an enterprise is to survive and thrive in a dynamic digital ecosystem with countless shifting variables, it needs to maintain and improve the whole-company vision, core systems and customer experience. That’s why we think Lean Digital is the key to holistic and sustainable enterprise business growth in 2019.
We are Eli5. We build digital for Corporates, Startups, and Eli5 Ventures.
We are the creators of Lean Digital; a three-part product development framework serving as a system to build digital for NewCo and CoreCo projects of big companies. Eli5 Lean Digital includes Solution Validation, Product Design & Development, and Integration (both vertical and horizontal).
Next to our Lean Digital operations for big companies, we spend a lot of time building digital for promising Startups and our own Eli5 Ventures. We call this Eli5 Startup Lab. It’s a space where we work alongside with other entrepreneurs to build the companies of tomorrow.
Eli5ers live to translate complex matter into simple solutions and love the technical challenges they face while doing this. Buzzwords make us cringe and we always make sure everyone understands what we are doing and why we are doing it.