Since its earliest forms, technology has existed as both opportunity and solution, and humanity has come to rely on it as such. Although in modern times, our relationship with technology sometimes looks like a chicken and egg scenario, the events of 2020 have brought into sharp relief the value that all these apps, sites and services add to daily life. As we adapt to living with Covid-19, it is clear that technology is essential to finding our collective path forward.
And now more than ever, the development of solutions for everyday and ongoing needs must come at speed. We had grown accustomed to new tech popping up, causally remarking how there should be an app for whatever need we had in a given moment. But when the in-person, brick-and-mortar world shut down, the line between nice to have and need to have was drawn, and technology had to respond in the moment.
In recent years we have witnessed the potential for technology to transform established behaviours and everyday transactions into increasingly sleek, integrated and online experiences. Several solutions redefined markets so effectively that we have adopted the product names into common language: we split an Uber, get an Airbnb and Netflix and chill.
Anyone who once carried a video store membership card knows how quickly change has come, and anyone whose birth was announced on social media accepts the ever evolving online world simply for what it is: reality.
Change comes quickly for a variety of reasons. A new need emerges. The opportunity to improve an existing service arises. Consumer demands mature as we become more comfortable with and accepting of the technology developed to address it all. Soon, the companies and products that didn’t evolve are replaced, and those who remember their names get that trivia question right.
Over the past decade, companies of all sizes have taken steps to digitise their offerings and operations, with varying degrees of success . Now with Covid-19, the organisations and service providers who were on the road to digitisation have had to speed things up.
While digital equivalents already existed for a majority of daily needs, much of our most basic day-to-day interaction took place in person. School, travel, grocery shopping, filling a prescription and fuelling our cars was all done face to face — and almost overnight became potentially life-threatening activities.
Companies who offered a digital or contactless alternative saw adoption soar, as those still planning a hands-free offering scrambled to catch up.
Luckily, software engineers were ready. Years of experience in navigating new technologies, building solutions and bringing the world into the cloud have taught technical teams what works. Particularly with our increased reliance on open source software and the principles behind it, technology innovators have established best practices for solution development, deployment and maintenance.
The benefit to both businesses and consumers is that creating apps and digitising services doesn’t have to take long. Those years of technical experience and the resulting knowledge is allowing our day-to-day to continue more or less as we know it — and enabling the people responsible for innovating what’s next to carry on.
Accelerated delivery of technology solutions is not just possible, it is now the standard. And the key distinction of accelerated development in 2020 is that the tools and applications rolling out across nearly every industry , from education and healthcare to banking and logistics, are not quick fixes. They are engineered software solutions designed and built to last. A recent report from McKinsey identified trends in consumer behaviour in the wake of the pandemic, classifying each by their likelihood to become part of what they call the ‘next normal’. The report defines the behaviour group with the greatest potential to continue post-Covid as “Fast Accelerators: exciting replacements for in-person experiences that will likely persist in the next normal.”
As McKinsey reports, “Fast accelerators, which include offerings such as telemedicine, have grown 91 percent since the pandemic hit, with 48 percent of consumers expressing an intent to embrace them in the longer term.”
The group second-most likely to earn long-term adoption, according to the report, are the new applications and experiences with momentum behind them, such as wellness apps. Both groups are underpinned by accelerated delivery and innovative thinking — using technology to address urgent and emerging needs in a way that adapts to our new way of living and interacting in the post-Covid world.
The reason technology leaders and software companies are able to respond so quickly and effectively to the need for rapid digitisation is that we’ve unwittingly been laying the groundwork for decades.
In fact, accelerated delivery is exactly what we do at NearForm and what we have done for years . The learnings of our experience in designing and developing solutions that enable clients to innovate at speed and scale according to need form the basis of our Accelerator tech stacks, which we leverage to jumpstart projects and instil best practice from the beginning.
Shortly before the pandemic, we used our Polaris accelerator to create an open banking reference app with IBM . Today, we’re using it repeatedly as we build contact tracing apps for governments and public health authorities across Europe and North America.
By relying on experience, learning from what works again and again, and continually improving the technology we depend on, such as by contributing to open source, we make rapid development and deployment standard practice at NearForm. Now it’s becoming standard practice full stop, and for good reason.
It could go without saying that accelerated development means a faster time to market. More importantly, however, it enables speed to value, letting companies realise the payoff of a new platform or solution sooner, whether that is cost savings, consumer growth or user adoption.
A methodology of accelerated delivery must allow for iterative improvements and ongoing development. By its nature, that allows companies to quickly develop and test ideas without requiring a full upfront investment. The solution can evolve over time if it proves successful, relying on the same methodology to spin up new features or expand functionality.
This also allows companies to react quickly to emerging market trends or changes in consumer behaviour. That inherent flexibility can set up solutions to scale as needed, giving organisations the ability and confidence to try projects, test new markets and empower their internal leadership to reach for new ideas.
The key to success with rapid development is keeping the focus on doing it right, not just delivering quickly. That requires taking a thoughtful, architected approach. It means engineering the frontend as you would the backend . And it can mean foregoing the new technology for the proven, tried and tested one, building on key learnings from the projects gone before.
And therein lies the real value of accelerated delivery done right: when you know what works, you can do it again and again, setting your team, your product and your company on the path to repeatable success in software development.
It’s why accelerated delivery is not just a response to the current crisis. Rather, it is a solid step forward into an uncertain future and the answer to the question of how technology will help shape the coming years.