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Move over features, Usability and Ux design are now officially acknowledged as the differentiators of successful digital products.  Even an umpteenth attempt in an existing product domain can become highly successful if one were to place their bets on this to get it right.  The test?  User acceptance and virality. To hell with customer acquisition costs and conversion strategies…..

Design will become the mainstay for product success. Here are some of the drivers that could provide some clues:

1. An incisive analysis and focus on user journeys across interactions and actions that get a “job” done.  Don’t turn SOP’s into a user journey when creating a digital interface. Rather, a set of interactive features that help a user comply with an SOP in the background. Know where the user is, their demographics and calls to actions are key inputs.

2. It’s now a known myth that only gen x or y needs a playful interface.  Almost every human being reacts to a tool that is fun to use.  This is the place where enterprise apps are failing to make a mark by a big margin.

3. Make sure that the innovation tech behind interactivity is well validated and stable.  The ooh’s and aah’s of what is possible in tech is not necessarily a great reason for adoption, if it weren’t stable.  Sometimes, innovation needs a lot of other variables for it to deliver the true promise and intent.  The eco system in which a product needs to exist may not be ready for that yet.  Don’t do it, or set the right expectations.

4. Relative performance measures and insights are great motivators for people and make great notifiers as against alerts and mail reminders.  Analytics is not just a behind the doors tool.

5. Finally, one needs a completely new set of providers to create this differentiation. A combination of skills involving gaming, ui design, animation, front end technologies like the latest in Javascript, user experience designers can virtually turn a product idea into a radically different solution. One that intends to “talk” to the users rather than “ask” a user to do something.

Andrew Wilkinson’s blog on how they made this differentiation for the $ 2.8 Billion USD valued Slack, is a great pointer to what is possible with this radically new approach.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Sep 30

“What do you do for your customers dad?”, my 12 year old asked as she looked at the latest presentation I was making about our offerings. “Digital transformation”, I told her, hoping that would make her less inclined to press on further, but that’s when I realised where the problem lied. The true beneficiaries of a digital transformation initiative are usually no less curious, or no more persisting than that. It had to be articulated in a way that is simple in form, but powerful in the promise it holds to gain their interest and a willing partnership in a digital transformation initiative.

Looking back, we noticed 3 evolving tenets of digital transformation across the work we have done:

1. Unified communications: A Digital transformation program must result in an evolution of the traditional channels of end mile communications that have been dominated by e mails or telecommunications for a long time. It is about bringing multi stream communication abilities of text, voice and video into a certain context of usage that promotes real time collaboration, and helps users avoid manual audits.

A clear outcome of such a strategy should be measurable in savings. Eg: a digital application for incident management could bring about a reduction in response times by about 70%, when it allows for users to alert a chain of command using a rule based engine and aggregated visual reports for analysis and corrective actions.

2. Omni path user experience design: Adoption and usage must be supported by single path user navigation design, taking users on a journey on a path of story telling that is intuitive in reaching an end goal or task. When you see 5 or even 3 year olds fiddling with familiar screens on your smartphones, it gives the first clues about what intuitive interfaces can do for gaining adoption. The measurable outcomes from a digital transformation strategy happen when a user is encouraged to travel the complete path of an experiential navigation journey and now when they have to labour through it.

In a digital world, an objective selection creates the required data and insights without having to ask the user to “fill” something up. Digital content management and social engineering are therefore two new major streams that can help design such digital workflows.

3. Device integrations : A true digital transformation crosses the barriers of the software hardware divide quiet seamlessly. Increasingly, devices are being seen as a more easier form of providing the users with a tool to input and interact, than screen / keyboard based interactions. Your infant browsing through a photo album on your smart phone is the first indication that users love press, swipe or wave, more than clickety clack.

It is essential to view smartphones as the first set of devices available to create seamless integrations with powerful logic based engines, extending all the way to a more complex set of sensors to discover use cases that democratise the reach of powerful digital computing. We realised that this view helps de mystify “mobility” in it’s digital transformation avatar.

“We give people newer tools, to do more work in less time using lesser resources. And they buy from us, because they are cheaper, and available faster”, I told my daughter. She nodded in half agreement, in a clear sign that I could still do a better job in simplifying it all for her. We hope so too.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Jan 09
A 4 point checklist for digital product development

The risks of next generation digital product development are widely distributed across a variety of factors impacting it. Investors and entrepreneurs are faced with a wide range of choices and questions, requiring them to navigate a digital maze of opportunities and risks. How does one distribute limited budgets? Captive vs outsourced development? or is there a hybrid? When do we launch? How do we validate assumptions? How do we support and ensure business continuity?

While the solutions and risk management approaches can vary contextually, there is a ready reckon er that can definitely guide start ups and wannabes with some pointers. Here’s a list of 4 important things to consider during those intense moments of strategy making.

1. Cost Management Vs. Cost Reduction

Good things come at a cost, but costs don’t always have to be incurred upfront. Working on a product road map is crucial to plan phase wise deployments that match your go to market and customer acquisition strategies. An initial phase that focuses on simplicity and a carefully selected set of features that express the value proposition definitively can help you manage costs in your initial phases. Most digital product development initiatives fall into the trap of doing too much too early. And this leaves very little or nothing when it really comes to adjusting to market realities later.

2. Captive development vs. outsourcing

This is one tricky subject of prolonged strategy sessions. By default, Investors are comfortable with the idea of owning development environments and core talent and often consider it to be essential in retaining intellectual property of what is being created. It is however, expensive and time consuming to go all captive prior to the idea generating real cash. In larger sized initiatives, a reasonable approach could be a hybrid strategy that combines investing in core skills to be captive while leveraging a modeled outsourcing strategy that allows the partner to transfer supportive talent at pre-determined milestones or intervals. In smaller and mid-sized initiatives, an outsourced product development mandate is not a bad idea where the output can include well documented deliveries to support future captive development and enhancements.

3. Launching early and launching quick

No digital product goes to the market successfully without a feedback phase that is often done with a familiar set of known users or a controlled group of usability testers. Agile based deliveries can definitely optimize your release strategy to include quick releases of working assets to small groups of users to validate assumptions and gain early insights on use case, usability and experience. Saving time during the beta phases can be crucial for aligning with your marketing spends and avoid frustrating delays to hit the ground running.

4. Business continuity

Setting up the support mandate, even if for a beta phase, is crucial to ensure business continuity of a digital idea. The support process itself has it’s period of settling down. Testing it in a small way during the beta phase can lay the ground for a well rehearsed digital business continuity plan. Technology, Infrastructure, User Training and User Support, are the 4 pillars of a comprehensive support mandate and should deserve equal attention as building the asset.

In summary, the road to digital asset development is a journey fraught with unknowns and surprises. However, like in a traditional business, there are experiences that could be leveraged to make it a little more predictable and less risky. Roll that dice and improve the odds in your favour.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Jul 06