Making the move to a delivery culture

The case for continual delivery

Taking a year or more to launch new products, services and features is no longer an option. In the digital economy, you’ve got weeks — sometimes just days — to respond to customer needs, pilot prototypes, then iterate and improve them based on customer feedback.

Creating a culture of continual delivery is how you generate that kind of speed. And for most businesses, creating such a culture will mean a change of mindset, and a whole new way of working.

But let’s be clear: it’s well worth the effort. It will allow you to keep up with your customers’ ever-changing demands, by rolling out new releases weekly instead of yearly.

It will also help you to prove the viability of your solutions early on; adapt them as customer expectations evolve; or abandon them if they don’t work out.

Even better, you can invest in solutions as you go along by releasing tranches of money at each stage. That beats betting big on something that might not make it to launch.

Putting a delivery culture into place

Continual delivery isn’t something you make happen overnight. It needs to be embedded at every level of the organisation.

In our experience, a delivery culture consists of three elements:

  1. Solutions that solve actual problems
  2. Design-led development
  3. Structures that promote continual delivery

Matching solutions to problems

“We need an app. We need AI. We need a chatbot”.

If we had a penny every time we’ve seen firms design digital solutions, without working out what problem they’re trying to solve…

Solutions should only ever be developed in response to customer needs and issues. Investment decisions should be made by asking one simple question: how will it deliver more value to customers?

That may sound obvious. But let’s face it, it’s not generally how things work. Firms usually allocate financial resources by business unit — and that’s how they can end up with solutions without problems. Fearing missing out on the ‘next big thing’, department heads hurriedly commission the latest digital solutions, without considering whether they’re what the market is demanding.

Truly digital organisations know this. Take Airbnb. The renowned digital disruptor discovered that most of the potential to improve its customer experience actually lies offline. Analysis of its customer journey showed that only 5% of customer interactions occur on digital platforms.

Taking a design-led approach

Design-led development is the fastest and most effective way to give customers the experiences they want. But how does it work?

Here at The Unit, our design-led approach is based around two key principles:

The design sprint

We can’t claim they’re our idea, but we regularly put design sprints to good use.

Invented by Google Ventures, design sprints rapidly frame challenges. So you know you’re solving the right problems before you start looking for the answers.

Design sprints take you from mapping a problem, to testing a prototype solution, in just five days. We’ve used them to improve billing communication for an energy client’s six million customers.

The accelerator

Our accelerator process is a series of delivery sprints. It allows us to design, develop and launch a minimum viable product (MVP) in only 16 weeks.

We find the accelerator particularly powerful when implementing parallel revenue streams in complex settings. For a modest initial outlay, the approach can quickly prove an intricate hypothesis.

Creating the right structures

A delivery culture should never be seen as just a ‘digital thing’. For continual delivery to work, your whole organisation must put customers at the heart of everything it does.

That means breaking down silos between functions.

Too often, we see digital teams passing their rapid-fire solutions to IT — only for their work to join the long implementation backlog. IT and digital must be one unified function.

You’ll also need to integrate DevOps into your digital team. In a delivery-led environment, developers should have responsibility for testing and monitoring the solutions they’re working to create.

Delivery-focused structures go further still. They demand genuine cross-functional teams, with knowledge being shared within and between them.

Most digital departments use the agile methodology, with sets of scrum teams working on different solutions. The trick is to foster knowledge-sharing across the scrums, because that’s how you promote company-wide innovation.

At The Unit, we put together — you guessed it — units of blended, cross-platform teams. Our units are made up of colleagues working on separate projects, but the same tech. For example, they may be creating similar features, or using the same APIs.

Find out more

A delivery-led culture is vital for success in the digital economy. It will help you get the right products, services and features to your customers, as fast as possible. Drop us a line to discuss how we can help you instil one.