Towards a delivery culture

I’ve been saving this blog for the return of a lot of you from your summer holidays! So here goes.

My recent blog outlined how to formulate a strategy for the digital economy. Written in conjunction with The Unit, this one examines how to instil the right culture to achieve it.

Towards a delivery-led culture

Today’s organisations need to work out how to ‘be digital’. My recent digital strategy blog looked at how to create a roadmap to achieve this.

But formulating your strategy is only the beginning of your digital journey. How do you then go about implementing it?

The answer is to create a delivery-focused culture.

Continual delivery

Taking a year or two to launch new products, services and features is no longer commercially viable. The digital economy demands continual delivery.

Businesses must be able to rapidly develop solutions in response to customer needs; pilot prototypes among their customers; then iterate and improve them based on customer feedback.

Continual delivery has a number of essential benefits for the digital era.

Firstly, it allows firms to keep up with customers’ fast-changing demands, by deploying new releases intra weekly instead of monthly or quarterly.

It also means they can prove the technical feasibility and business case for a solution early on; then adapt it as customer expectations evolve – or quickly move on if it’s unsuccessful.

In addition, they can invest in solutions sequentially, releasing tranches of money at each stage of iteration. This is preferable to ‘betting big’ upfront on something that might not ultimately work out.

Establishing a delivery culture

Embedding continual delivery isn’t easy. It requires a delivery-led culture to be instilled at every level of the organisation.

In my view, a delivery culture has three key components:

1.   Solutions that solve genuine problems

2.   A design-led approach to development

3.   Structures that unlock innovation and enable continual delivery

Matching solutions to problems

“We need an app. We need AI. We need a chatbot…” I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen businesses set about designing the digital solutions they think they need, without actually identifying a problem for them to solve.

Solutions should only ever be developed in response to customer needs and issues. Every investment decision should be based on one criterion alone: how will it deliver more value to customers?

But in reality, firms tend to allocate financial resource by business unit. This can lead to solutions without problems. Senior stakeholders worry that their department lacks the ‘next big thing’ in digital, so they commission a major project to introduce it. As a result, significant spend can get wasted on initiatives that aren’t aligned to market needs.

Truly digital organisations understand this. By analysing its customer journey, Airbnb – a renowned digital disruptor – found that only 5% of interactions actually happen on digital platforms. Most of the potential to enhance its customer experience lies offline!

Taking a design-led approach

Design-led development is the fastest and most effective way to solve customer issues.

The Unit’s rapid design-led approach follows two main principles:

1.   The design sprint: Invented by Google Ventures, design sprints very quickly frame challenges, to make sure you’re solving the right problems before you start working on answers. Design sprints take you from mapping a problem to testing a prototype solution within five days.

The guys at The Unit put design sprints to good use, for instance in improving billing communication for an energy client’s six million customers.

2.   The accelerator: The Unit’s accelerator process aims to design, develop and launch a minimum viable product (MVP) in just 16 weeks, over a series of delivery sprints. Their approach is particularly useful when implementing parallel revenue streams in complex settings. With a low initial outlay, it proves complex hypotheses for real.

Creating the right structures

Your delivery culture cannot be confined to your digital team. It must spread throughout the organisation. Each part of the business has to put your customers at the heart of everything it does.

The first step towards establishing this mindset is to break down silos between functions – and most importantly, between digital and IT. Too often, digital solutions are passed on to IT, only to join a long backlog of projects waiting to be implemented. IT and digital must work as one unified function even if they are two different departments in your own organisation.

You’ll also need to integrate DevOps into your digital team. In a delivery-led environment, the developer’s role includes the automated testing and monitoring of the solutions being created.

But delivery-focused structures go further still. They require genuine cross-functional teams, and the cross-pollination of knowledge across them. Digital departments generally work to the agile methodology, with sets of scrum teams working on different solutions. You’ll need to foster knowledge-sharing across these scrums, if you’re to promote innovation throughout the organisation.

The Unit does this by creating ‘units’ of cross-platform blended teams who are working on separate projects, but on the same technologies – for example, creating similar features or using the same APIs.

Find out more

Creating a delivery culture is the surest route to making your organisation fit for the digital economy.

It will ensure that you get the right products, services and features to your customers as fast as possible.

If you’d like to know how The Unit can help you achieve a delivery culture, I’d be delighted to speak with you.