Adaptability is the new competitive enabler.

There was a time when customers were pleased just to be offered a digital solution. However, customer expectations have evolved dramatically, and pressure is growing to deliver increasingly advanced functionality. Companies now face the challenge of maintaining profitability while seeking to fulfil ever-changing customer demands and master a complex landscape of new digital technologies.

Thriving in this dynamic and quickly changing landscape will require a shift to a new way of working that combines advanced digital technology with strong commercial awareness. To grasp important opportunities and build a competitive digital advantage, companies must learn how to adapt quickly to do new things — rather than do one specific thing well.

They must discover how to experiment quickly and often, not only with products and services but also with business models, processes and strategies. In this article, we discuss how digital advantage gives organisations a competitive edge and offer insights into how NearForm combines progressive technologies and commercial awareness to create digital advantage for our clients.

How digital maturity creates competitive advantage

The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated just how little control we have over external events and the changes they can bring, but it also showed how effectively some organisations can navigate those changes if they are equipped to defend themselves against threats and exploit new opportunities.

The 2021 Deloitte Digital Transformation Executive Survey underlines just how important digital capabilities are for helping companies to leverage accelerated change to their financial advantage. It revealed that digitally evolved companies were about twice as likely as their less digitally mature rivals to post net profit margins and annual revenue growth substantially higher than the industry average.

The reasons these digitally mature companies are better equipped to leverage volatility to their competitive advantage include the following:

Faster time to market

The ability to blend masterful data analysis with targeted artificial intelligence (AI) helps companies to identify problems and market opportunities faster than their less capable rivals. Such insights could mean you are working on a solution to a customer issue you have surfaced before your competitors are even aware of the need.

In addition, technology that facilitates automation frees your teams from manual tasks to focus on more productive work. Rather than devoting their energies to routine operational tasks, they can apply themselves to value-added projects and take the time to experiment with new technologies. The use of cloud platforms and cloud-native development methods offers huge potential for engineers to build once and move on to other more valuable work.

Scalability

One of the main benefits of on-demand cloud computing is that it facilitates ramping up or scaling down demand in response to sudden increases or decreases in demand. This kind of agility is central to creating digital advantage.

Process mining and robotic process automation (RPA) are other weapons in the digital armoury that can accelerate efforts to understand and automate processes to manage surging transaction volumes. As customer queries rise in line with demand for products and services, chatbots can handle any spikes.

Agility

Digitally mature companies embrace a fail-fast culture to maximise their responsiveness. They also tend to rely on strategic partnerships to get immediate access to skills they need but do not currently possess in-house.

By adapting their cultures and investing in technologies that leverage real-time data and automate manual processes, companies can pivot fast in response to new threats and opportunities. That means moving from traditional project thinking to the more modern approach of platform thinking, in which multiple services are designed to power multiple solutions.

Silos are broken down, freeing employees to align themselves with business objectives rather than specific technologies and optimising the company’s resources to conquer new markets and opportunities.

How to gain a digital advantage

At NearForm, we apply a combination of modern technology and commercial agility to deliver digital advantage to our clients. We have learned how to align our teams and maximise their productivity — and we help our clients do the same, emphasising technology that is cloud native, open source, data-driven and design-led.

Cloud native

Customers demand a consistent user experience, and that’s what cloud native can help you provide. A cloud-native infrastructure enables your web applications to remain highly performant, reliable and personalised. It facilitates constant improvement and allows you to scale automatically and effortlessly as demand dictates — but you pay only for the resources you use, reducing operating costs.

Cloud-native applications built on microservices use these small, reusable building blocks to create entire applications, but each microservice remains independent of each other and can be updated or modified individually. This modularity allows you to deploy new features quickly, frequently and dependably — enhancing the experience for both customers and developers.

NearForm uses cloud native infrastructures to create dynamic applications built on open source technologies that prioritise continuous integration and continuous development (CI/CD) in developing your product. You can roll out code changes quickly, easily and with minimal risk.

Open source

NearForm has close links with the open source community. We believe that open source has a vital role in turning the world into one where digital services make people’s lives easier and more fulfilling. Companies can be more agile and integrate new technologies quickly because the source code is completely accessible, making it easy for teams to connect open source solutions to the tools they normally use.

Embracing open source also helps organisations to attract elusive tech talent because prospective employees know they can avail of the best modern tools for them to do optimal work. Furthermore, open source platforms provide access to a bank of contributors, where companies can seek advice on resolving issues and getting the most out of the platform. Community members also contribute directly to open source projects.

Data-driven

Data is among an organisation’s key assets for building a digital advantage, as long as it is managed properly. If you structure and define your data engineering processes well, your operations will be more efficient, and you will be able to extract more value from your data. Data architecture needs to be well defined and performant to provide accurate results in real time.

At NearForm, our data engineers work closely with our clients’ teams to ensure they understand how the architecture of their data infrastructure works. This means they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to maintain and scale the data warehouse after a product is released.

We use the open source data query language GraphQL to unify multiple APIs into one convenient gateway, boosting developer productivity and reducing resource consumption by serving only the required data to the application.

Design-led

NearForm embraces design-led development, a holistic process in which designers and developers work together to ensure that every stage of the development life cycle aligns with the end user’s requirements. This approach builds a solid foundation for scaling design and generally starts with a series of discovery workshops.

Held remotely over three successive half days, these workshops bring together the project’s key stakeholders on the project and a NearForm senior product designer and senior technical director. Together, they agree on the project objectives, strategy and vision and, at the end of the workshop engagement, the client has a roadmap for product design and development.

This roadmap includes a comprehensive product prototype, a full architecture overview and a timeline of milestones that allow clients to gauge their progress. With the prototype and product roadmap finalised, the development team have what they need to dive straight into the project. Communication between the NearForm team and the client is paramount throughout the entire process to ensure everything is in place as planned for the product launch.

Harnessing digital for competitive advantage

We have discovered that embracing a strategy with proven progressive digital technologies at its heart and aligning business goals with digital priorities is what empowers companies to secure an edge over their rivals in a constantly changing world.

By investing in the kind of technology that makes your organisation highly adaptable and using data to constantly enhance your outcomes and decisions, you can gain that commercial advantage in the market and continue to grow and scale into the future.

Knowing the technologies that work in your specific context, learning how to apply them really well and harnessing them in ways that improve your efficiency and agility can help turn you into a market leader ready to adapt in line with evolving customer needs.

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