Thought Leadership

Innovation Versus Optimization in Mobile Apps

Amanda touches on the Hierarchy of Business Needs and discusses how its foundation is built upon revenue. Watch the video and read more

Welcome back everyone. Last week, we touched on the Hierarchy of Business Needs and discussed how its  foundation is built upon revenue. 

Now,  you haven’t seen my first video, please go back and watch it as we dive into the Hierarchy structure and provide real-world examples, then come right back!

Today, we are going to further  dive into how to isolate an opportunity for a strategic initiative within the different levels of the hierarchy and how to cycle through the process until you’ve achieved your ideal.  

Many times, throughout this process of isolate, identify, communicate and cycle, the question frequently comes up: do we have the right tools in place to achieve our ideal outcome?  

This is inevitably where the big debate between innovate vs. optimize comes into play.  Based on years of experience in this questionable space, I’m going to help you determine which strategy is best for your organization, but first, a little background

Most of our clients innovate or optimize some of their original processes they carried forward with them from the early days of their growth, meaning that many of these processes are built either on paper or in spreadsheets.  

The good news is that these types of processes are always ripe for a return on investment - there’s usually piles of cash sitting behind digitizing those processes, and for good reason.  

Earlier I mentioned that improving bottlenecks at the Process level of the Hierarchy can have immense impact at the Efficiency level, and depending on how large your team is, a digital investment can yield multiples in savings.  

First, you identify the area of digitization.  My personal favorites are processes run by paper, spreadsheets or other manual processes.  Look for spots that are bottlenecks in your process or require heavy human intervention or a lot of conversations.  Where in your organization are you most frustrated?

Next, ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Is your workflow highly customized?  
  2. Is it a differentiating factor in your organization?  
  3. Or is it standard or relatively common in your industry?  

If your workflow is highly customized and your secret sauce, this is an indicator that you’ll want to invest in innovation.  This  is because there is likely not an existing tool on the marketplace that will give you the flexibility you need to keep your employees engaged with their existing workflows.  

Few  product companies will create a tool for only one customer, and that’s ok.  

Companies of all sizes invest regularly in custom software development in order to streamline their most important  processes, and  to gain a competitive edge in their industry.  The ultimate goal in going custom, is to achieve discreet impact designed to protect engrained, valuable workflows.  

In layman’s terms, you want your application  (either web or mobile) to closely mirror  what your team does on a regular basis - only  in a digital format. In this case, it’s very important not to confuse innovation with disruption.  As we’ll discuss in a second, disruption can actually be done through optimization of existing tools.  Disruption is not a prerequisite for innovation, and that’s an important distinction. 

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Consider this scenario...If your workflow is relatively standard and common in your  industry (give example of type of industry and workflow), it may be less expensive and time consuming to consider optimizing an out-of-the-box tool.  A classic example of this is Salesforce.  Salesforce is a customer relationship management system that helps track customers and tasks.  Of course, nearly everything within Salesforce is as customizable as you want it to be, and customers can modify what they want to fit their data/reporting needs, their customer follow up cadences, and their tasks and reminders.  There is a slight change in workflows in order to match the core functionality of the system, but overall, using a tool like this streamlines a relatively standard workflow without requiring too much change from your team members.

Earlier, I mentioned that disruption doesn’t always mean innovation.

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In short, disruption either eliminates or drastically changes an ingrained workflow, and this may not be relevant or helpful for your business.  

Many of our clients tend to follow the trends from previous disruptions in consumer behavior and apply that to their B2B environments with great success; however, pursuing a direct disruption requires:

  1. thoughtful planning
  2. longer timelines
  3. reserves in revenue in case the disruption backfires.  

Our most successful clients experiment with disrupting their industry through low-barrier experiments, like testing a new process on paper or spreadsheet first, observing the results and refining the approach before investing in a brand new technology to disrupt workflows.  . Disruptions can occur either through innovation or optimization efforts.  

Okay, let’s recap...

  1. Both innovation and optimization efforts can provide valuable gains for your business throughout the Hierarchy of Business Needs, 
  2. Knowing what you want to do and why will help you make sure the investments you’re making yield the outcome you want.  
  3. Building awareness around the required technical expertise, your ideal investment and timeline are critical factors in determining if you are able to tackle this project on your own or if you need to source a vendor.  

Next week, we’ll dive into the hardest part - how to effectively vet a vendor  (assuming you don’t have an internal team to help you with this.)

Talk to our team to scope your next project.