Speed of reaction to market needs is becoming crucial to competitiveness, but gaining speed means managing the cost and the risk of change
The basic rules of successful business engagement haven’t changed much since early man discovered the benefits of bartering goods in a rough form of trade. Modern business owners still use this model: it’s about knowing what clients need and being able to deliver on these needs in exchange for profit.
While these rules remain static, business environments have become far more dynamic – and considerably faster. Think of it as shooting clay pigeons as they fly through the air. You need to adjust your sights and shoot just ahead of your target to make sure that as those clay discs move forward in their trajectory, your projectile is there to meet it head on…and you have to do it quickly. The business implication is that not only do you have to change your action – you have to change your strategy to meet rapidly changing demands. Not only do you need speed, you need to apply that speed to customer demands that will migrate.
So the elements of speed and adjusting your reaction to customer needs has come into play. Businesses who take aim at their customers’ needs and try to shoot incrementally closer to what they think might be the bulls-eye of client expectations are doing it wrong already: primarily because delivery methodologies are slow and expensive to change.
How then can businesses stay competitive in an environment that changes at this speed? Of course the first step is to more regularly assess the needs of clients, and to adjust before one’s competitors do. Then one needs to be able to do business where and when customers demand it, and to adjust communication and business models quickly and seamlessly. When it comes to taking your business mobile, one simply has to look around and recognise that there are compelling ways for businesses to shoot just ahead of target. This requires both a cultural adaptation that recognises that change is a constant, and the technological platform to be able to react fast and at low risk and cost levels.
Making sure that you can engage with your target market on their terms will within a few years become non-negotiable. Businesses that cannot do this will disappear. This is why more and more businesses are developing mobile strategies and launching apps to further convenience their customers.
With this in mind, the success of your business is purely contingent on whether you are able to engage with your target market on their terms and to do so at low levels of cost and risk, – faster than your competition.
The best development and application delivery environments allow you to do just that: develop and launch business-boosting applications once, across all platforms and quickly respond to feedback or requests by adjusting the solution.
What’s more is that in South Africa, and indeed the rest of the continent, business now have access to best-of-breed application delivery platforms such as OutSystems Platform (which is rated best in the world on the scale of flexibility and usability).
A platform such as this makes it possible to develop and deliver applications six times as fast and to deploy them to any platform. Add rapid iteration to that, and it becomes hard to ignore the benefits of using the correct tools for the job of taking your business mobile.
Measuring the true cost of change
Given the chequered past of application development, CFOs have been sceptical of attempts to introduce new business-driving applications. And with good reason: tying up and prioritising IT skills and resources into certain applications and delaying development of others has hurt top lines. But history has also taught us that application development takes a long time and often involve overruns and problems that no one was able to predict. They often become budgetary and operational nightmares.
There used to be a real risk of undertaking application development that would starve the bottom line, and yield little return on investment. Happily, times have changed. New age application development and deployment environments such as OutSystems Platform enables businesses to develop applications using the skills and legacy systems (whether that’s a server environment or an ERP system) at hand. Seamlessly building on and integrating with what you have means you are spending so much less on developing and deploying business-boosting innovations.
Because businesses can use the developers and systems they have in place, and develop business solutions on average six times faster – businesses using these tools are saving up to 75% of their development costs and significantly reducing risk and development time. Because the old rule still applies: the quicker you change, the less it costs. Less development time, quick deployments, empowering the workforce you have to drive the change and using the systems at hand means that developing apps have suddenly become significantly less risky, and a whole lot less expensive.
Add to that the fact that developers are using open, industry standard code and server stacks without being locked into a proprietary framework – the long-term cost benefits reveal themselves. The IP belongs to the user, and once the app is deployed there is no long term reliance on OutSystems or any of its component parts – securing the investment for the long haul.
In the end, however, it still boils down to the customer. Loyal customers have their needs addressed instantly. When developers can respond to customer needs quickly without compromising the integrity of the application – it means costly development and the risk of downtime has been reduced.
And with the cost of change dramatically reduced, the cost of doing nothing, and the inevitable result of stagnation has just become so much higher.