From digital product roadmap to execution powerhouse

If you work on a product or digital team, chances are good that you’re currently looking for a way to quickly and effectively manage or update content across multiple platforms. That is essential to optimise your customers’ experience or improve digital interaction. But the growing number of mobile and web-based applications makes that more difficult than ever. In this interview, Arien Kock, head of Software Engineering at Worth, explains how you can turn your digital product roadmap into an execution powerhouse.

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Accelerating innovation

Growing, accelerating or simply staying a step ahead of the competition is a big challenge for many teams due to this focus on digital and rapidly changing customer expectations. In your opinion, why do many product teams want to accelerate but cannot?

Arien: "It’s difficult to assess in advance what a digital customer experience should look like. People choose off-the-shelf software because it seems to meet all their requirements. Unfortunately, in practice it turns out that a lot of configuration is still needed."

Arien and Ernout discuss the product roadmap at the office of Worth Internet Systems

Delivering on customer expectations

A recent ‘State of Marketing’ report from Salesforce found that a staggering 80% of customers agree that the customer experience a company offers is just as important as its products and services. What is your advice for living up to that expectation?

Arien: "At its core, it’s about the fact that you often can’t assess exactly what you need before you develop a digital product or platform, so it’s wise to avoid being limited by a system. Translating business logic and commercial goals into a solid architecture in advance is simply very difficult. If you make a choice upfront, you run the risk that it will no longer fit later, and that creates complexity in your IT systems. A while back, we thought about how we could deal with this. We then developed a boilerplate (code we can reuse) for each new project that allows us to always have the flexibility we need. This flexibility is achieved by deliberately deferring choices in functionality that are also unique to each company."

Implementing best practices

Can you explain how you built in that flexibility?

Arien: "By adapting our software engineering practices, we found a way to make it easy to “do the right thing”. In other words, “to fall into the pit of success”. We do that by incorporating a set of DevOps best practices into the standard design of every project. One is Continuous Integration (CI), which automatically integrates new software code built by our developers and our customers’ developers to enable faster development. This allows us to quickly test code, receive user feedback and test assumptions we make in advance. Is it working as we intended? Can we guarantee that the functionality we built does what it’s supposed to do? We chose to remove all barriers to CI so development teams can develop and deploy much faster."

Creating a powerhouse

Our world is changing rapidly. To evolve with the needs of your customers, your digital environment must also offer flexibility. Every year, Gartner’s Magic Quadrant shows that there is an abundance of technology available to solve this problem. But what is a good strategy?

“Digital experiences and the demands of customers influence the business capabilities required and how they’re assembled. Customer needs and wants continually evolve and change over time. These changing wants and needs will continue to challenge organisations and IT.” - Gartner

Arien: "Make sure you create few restrictions to adding or changing elements in the user journey. This is a lot harder if choices about the user journey have already largely been made in an off-the-shelf product. That is actually a DXP strategy, as Gartner calls it. That’s why Worth has developed a starter kit for custom software for all web-connected/customer-facing applications. Of course, you can also use alternatives such as Liferay Portal or SharePoint, or lightweight packages like Drupal or WordPress. However, if you want fewer restrictions in determining the user journey, some things are better left undefined: things like the front-end, the way in which your database is constructed, and the set-up of reports."

Advantages of a flexible tech stack

What is the big advantage for product teams?

Arien: "You can develop custom software, but you don’t have to start from scratch. Reusing code lets you reuse certain graphic components between the website and the mobile app, so you develop faster and more effectively. Worth has built a UI library in React for this purpose. We have automated as many deployment steps as possible. And new elements are tested simultaneously, so we can manage dependencies between development teams well. We are constantly adding more components to our starter kit, such as single sign-on, a headless CMS, a forms module, and standard monitoring and user tracking. In fact, the possibilities are endless."

At Worth, we help companies create more flexibility and better serve their customers. Would you like to discuss how you can make your digital product roadmap a powerhouse? Schedule a free consultation with us.

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