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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

Digital transformation is a series of interventions, all contributing to the larger strategy of creating a virtual presence for the business in a world where the customer and the partner are willing to be present and transact, than ever before.  It is interesting to note a few seemingly disconnected digital trends that are impacting the larger picture and give you a ready reckoner to begin going digital.

1.Recommendation and personalization algorithms. Help your business deliver the right content from marketing, product or service offerings and support, to the right targets. This reduces your media spends dramatically. It is presumed that an active strategy for personalization and digitization can save anywhere between 40-50% of traditional media spends in the short term, considering the consulting money required to go digital and even more in the longer term once you have completely adopted the transformation.

2.Virtualized Presence.  A webinar or an online event is not a distant technology any more. Opting for virtual meetings using digital tools and media, along with a gradual transformation in communication habits would go a long way to keep those in person meetings minimal.  A business can easily cut down it’s travel budgets by 50% over a period of 12 months, even after absorbing investments made in virtual meeting technologies. The context for inviting users to a virtual presence should be made a little more interesting than merely replicating an offline event.

3.Multi modal digital presence of the brand. Millions of brands vying for a user’s attention across a plethora of digital channels is both a challenge and an opportunity. Digitization of the branding strategy is imperative and a plan to slowly be available on all digital channels – whether mobile, television, etc., is a must. Investments in promoting contextual relevance go a long way in optimizing a multi modal brand presence investments.

4.Mobile POS. Whether you call it e commerce or an app, POS terminals are clearly in the digital realm. Mobile seems to be leading the way here and a strategy to opt for making a beginning may pay off well in the long run.  Again, tying up the personalized and contextually relevant business presence to mobile POS is key to achieve big returns and reduce costs on maintaining physical POS terminals or processes.

5.Delivery logistics.  Digital UPC’s, scanners, soft formats and virtual delivery channels provide a networked world of options that a business does not have to necessarily own or maintain in a physical state.  Delivery logistics are increasingly virtualized with a single reference tracking option available for the business to generate a source point and return confirmation of deliveries or in a more digital sense – interaction.
In summary, adopting digital trends are not an option anymore and the rate of change and impact on your business models is much higher than what you may expect.  And you can begin the transformation by mapping available options to a cost saving strategy.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Apr 22
CIO’s and IT Vendors: Forging a New Partnership

In mid-2008, reports began pouring in that CIOs’ budgets had shrunk from double- to single-digit growth, or had even become stagnant. The sharp business downturn in 2009 and a resultant shift of business focus on survival strategy put the spotlight on traditional IT spends.

Since 2011, there is a clear trend and acknowledgement that the new IT spending is shifting from process based optimizations to leveraging IT for revenue growth and creating newer markets

Roles like the CMO are being given more headroom to identify and spend for IT that aligns with business strategy for growth. This shift however is raising many questions on how the new focus should be integrated with the established IT Infrastructure managed by the CIO / CTO.   Many CIOs have acknowledged the new reality and are willing to play a larger role in aligning the current IT infrastructure to business focused IT strategy and spending.

Creative giants like Amazon, Disney and Netflix have shown what businesses can do when they get this re alignment right. They were able to create a transformational strategy that brings user centricity and rich digital experiences into play, which when orchestrated with established IT systems, created end to end fulfillment use cases and established a clear competitive differentiation.

It’s not all about size to be able to create this differentiation. The CIOs have an extraordinary opportunity to impact business success, if they can find and engage with new age IT Service vendors to help them with this transformation.

Business Infogram

In pursuit of New Age IT vendors, CIOs are most likely to be drawn toward providers who exhibit 5 core traits which have a significant impact across value proposition, operational processes and relationship models that define the new mindset.

1.Vendor brings a business perspective to user-centered solutions. Shares creative use cases during pre-sales, to demonstrate the ability to orchestrate with Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC) stack.

2.Delivers value from partnerships with platform/IP resellers, analytics firms and digital experience consultants. Demonstrates willingness to act as a conduit for driving thoughts and market needs that fuel relevance based investments in IP.

3.Offers flexible pricing models that straddle Capex and Opex, with a willingness to create no or low-cost POCs to establish the use case.

4.Offers visual insights into effort burn, for budget planning and transparency.

5.Offers managed services that transcend a “keeping the lights on” philosophy, and establish  a robust value chain for delivering end-to-end business IT support for continuity and growth.

New age IT vendor graphic

There is another interesting take on this subject from November 2013 at

In Summary, CIO’s and new age IT Vendors have a great opportunity to establish new

partnership models for creating topline business impact.

Posted by Mahendra Penumathsa on Jan 30