Consumer demands towards IT have dramatically changed over the years. Besides, there is a huge divide between younger and experienced users. A large part of the experienced ones are continuously trying to catch up and might not always be willing to adapt to change. On the other hand, an increasing group of younger users are demanding a seamless experience across devices, space and time. They want to have access to all the newest features and their loyalty lasts as long as you will be able to fulfill their needs. How to satisfy them all? How to make your existing solution match the increasing user demand, while at the same time face aggressive new entrants without any legacy issues. These are challenging times ahead of us, fortunately in many cases technology might provide a helping hand.

Listen to your customer and answer their needs
More than ever before it is important to really know and understand your existing, and even more important, your potential customer group. This means that you really will have to get out of your building and meet with your (potential) customers. Explore the issues they are facing, the needs they have, what other solutions they are (considering) using. Try to find out how you can fill the gap in their needs and adjust your solution towards their demand.

Watch out for listening to your loudest customer(s) only, focus on the majority demand and not necessarily on nice to haves for a few complainers. Depending on your findings of this research process, you can consider how you would like to develop your solution into the right direction. We advise to follow an Agile/iterative approach. Introduce (small) changes step by step, frequently verify with end-users and dare to change the direction when this seems appropriate. Adopt a prototyping way of working and dare to admit that certain features do not seem to deliver the value you were expecting and drop them. Don’t waste your valuable time and money on things that won’t deliver value in the end.

Offer the best possible customer experience and engage with your customers
Get to the next level in customer experience, it will be worth the investment. Stand out from the crowd, dare to change! Disruptive new market entrants have adopted different ways of reaching out to the customers. In general, they care a lot about the look and feel of their user interface, and probably more important, they invest a lot of time in creating the best possible user experience. For a user it should be fun and easy to do business with you. In today’s demanding market the look and ease of use really count.

This goes beyond reaching out – it is about stimulating customers to engage across multiple channels. You will have to seduce them and then turn them into your brand/product advocates. Continuously simplifying your User Interface to make it a best fit for all can be risky as well. Snap Chat used to be a platform popular among youngsters. Recent, UI “improvements” intended to make the platform more accessible to others, which led to an outflow of youngsters towards Instagram. It is therefore, important to know who your user base is and to stay loyal to them, unless your market research data shows that such a switch can be more profitable.

Time is money
Especially, new market entrants, aim to disrupt the (may be your) market by being extremely quick in adapting to new trends and user needs. Solutions like Facebook, Spotify and Netflix can introduce new features on a daily basis. They are testing new features with a small part of their user base frequently as well before rolling it out to their full audience. Decreasing time-to-value is the term given to such an approach today. This potentially demands a business transformation from your end, including reconsidering the way you offer your solutions to the market. The subscription-based model is currently one of the more prevailing ones, but it is not easy to migrate from i.e. a license-based model to a Software as a Service (Saas) subscription model. Besides, there is a huge risk that existing legacy systems will not (fully) support this direction, which means you will have to consider modernizing your technology environment.

A transformation from license based to SaaS means among others you may have to migrate from legacy systems, rethink your pricing models, change your billing environment, provide frequent updates, consider (test) automation and customize your offerings in no time.The right technology infrastructure should be the fundament to support that change.

Technology should support business agility and scalability
As indicated above modern solutions should enable innovation, agility & scaling of your business. Besides, security will be a serious concern as well. To be able to support this all, a microservices based architecture prevails. Opposite to the large monolith systems of the past this approach enables the development of certain feature sets as independently operating sub-systems. If you need to change a certain feature, you will only have to update the service providing it. This prevents massive upgrades to newer solution versions, including all its related test efforts.

This allows as well for a high level of automation, which really makes it possible to introduce new features on a daily basis as many popular solutions currently do.If this has all been setup in the right way, hosting it on the cloud is now the most common solution. The advantages of this among others include increased reliability, scalability and security. It will allow you to serve a global audience of (new) users.

Not sure what the future brings? Stay vendor-agnostic and do not lock in your business. Build your own services in areas where you feel you can gain most competitive value, and smartly use existing services in the market to quickly build a solution, without becoming too tightly coupled.

Peter Horsten

VP Software Development at Aspire Systems
Peter Horsten is VP Software Development Europe at Aspire Systems. He enables clients to optimize their business results through the right digital solutions. He overlooks the delivery process for Aspire’s European clients and heads the nearshore center in Poland.

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