Digital transformation at high speed
Most businesses today are in the middle of a digital transformation, their customers expect digital, seamless, and adaptive solutions for them. We believe that the businesses that will be tomorrow’s winners in this game are those that are able to innovate and learn at a high speed. The question is how to stay in control when the speed of change is rocket high?
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better”
Why is this quote applicable for us here today?
Companies today are all facing a significant strategic challenge with digital transformation. Customers are today trained to expect simplicity and highly personalized content. The consumer market is redefining the business market. We are all used to Google and its simplicity. Netflix. It is simple, and it is highly personalized through its driven behavior. Netflix knows who you are and what your interests are.
The customers want one-click access, 24/7 availability, and clear and easy-to-understand information about the product offering. The customers are getting used to shopping online. We also know that 98% of digital consumers are on social media, and social media is redefining the meaning of fast from days into minutes and seconds. Online users are having the same expectations when they interact with businesses throughout their day and week.
At Unleash – we truly believe a huge challenge most businesses are facing with this ever-increasing speed of change, is to balance the need for speed with the comfort and need for staying in control. McKinsey Digital points out that Speed and Agility are one of the 5 key drivers for the ongoing digital transformation in the insurance industry. We believe this applies to all industries For sure we want to innovate and develop quickly, but we also need to stay in control. Avoid doing business-impacting mistakes. Not jeopardizing the customer experiences. Even being able to run experiments on variants of the same offering, and knowing for sure which one provides the result we are after.
Still – we want to embrace speed. Speed and rapid iterations put us in a position to:
- learn quicker
- iterate more ideas
- base our decision on facts from observation and learning and not assumptions
At Unleash, we believe that the challenges mentioned above are best handled through feature activation strategies. When you release a new feature, an improved user experience or make a new offering available – we want to stay in control of who will get access and when. To us, there is a clear distinction between releasing a feature to the production environment and enabling it to the customers. What is great – this decision is fully independent of the software development team.
Let’s look at some examples practical examples
Gradual rollout strategy
A common activation strategy in use is Gradual rollout.
Imagine that your team is working on a highly complex feature that involves a high number of integrations. Obviously, the development team puts in the high effort to ensure that the feature is bulletproof, that there are no mistakes in the implementation. Still – we all know that by the end of the day, it is when the feature is made to live, in production the real test occurs. This is the moment of truth.
The possible business impact of critical issues is many for this team:
- The feature itself won’t work, hence won’t deliver the business value it’s supposed to.
- If the feature doesn’t work – the customers will call support to complain. We really don’t want to scale up the support organization every time a new, complex feature is put into production – it’s just too expensive.
- If the service goes down, full or partly, it will impact the reputation of the company
All in all, the team really wants to minimize the risk of causing this issue. One option is to spend another week, maybe even two, to really, really do all the testing possible to avoid this to happen. What this team did, though, was to deploy the feature to production, but wrap it behind a Gradual rollout strategy and by this minimized risk in three simple steps:
- First, only expose the feature to the team, and the team only
This allows the team to test and verify that it works in the production environment
- The second step was to expose only the employees of the company.
This did broaden the load on the new feature. The probability of finding issues, if any increases, while still controlling no real business impact
- Enable the feature to 1% of the customer base. This is where “real” users get access to the feature – still, if there are issues spotted, the number of users is very low and the impact is also more manageable.
Every commit to production
Another example is a Norwegian company called finn.no. Finn.no is a true DevOps company – currently putting approximately 1.500 releases to production per week. The setup in this company is that every code change that is merged into master goes into production. So what are the learnings from operating this way?
- It reduces the stress – to deploy something to production is something you do on a daily basis.
- The Definition of Done, really means “Done”, it is actually in production, you are not done with the task anytime before this.
- It is easy to identify issues – you will find them immediately, and you fix them
- You are forced to automate. When you do the same routines again, and again, you will automate what you can.
- Focus increase – less task switching (again, the Definition of Done is when it is in production, not before)
- Ownership increase – I build it, and I run it.
So, what is the flip-side of the coin?
Not all of these releases add value to the customer. Micro increments on a feature, might not make sense until there are more brought together. This is where the Default Activation strategy comes into play. By applying a Default Activation strategy to a feature, it allows Product management to stay in control of when is the feature “good enough” for the customers.
As we have seen, agility and speed are key to be successful in digital transformation. Still, one of the big challenges that most businesses are facing, is to embrace speed and agility at the same time balancing the need for control. This is where Unleash brings value – allowing the business to take control of how new features are being rolled out to its customers.
Are you ready to speed up?
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