What we have learned from digitizing processes

IT companies in Sri Lanka

Digitising previously manual processes is basically what popularised the personal computer across the world. Being a software development company which helps businesses around the world reap savings by migrating hitherto manual processes into the 21st century, we have learned a thing or two about what to do and what not to do.

Understand the process very well

Successful digitisation must begin with a careful and thorough understanding of the existing process, the envisaged solution, and what needs to be done to bridge the gap. The key to getting this right is to consult with all the relevant stakeholders, and application of domain knowledge. It might sound simple, but simple things often get overlooked.

Take the case of Compare Networks Inc. (CN), for whom we act as the principal software development partner. CN came to us to develop an iPad app which allowed companies to upload, organise  and distribute their marketing collateral to their field sales staff – spread around the world, through a web-based content management system (CMS).

As a software vendor for multi-billion dollar life science companies, CN had seen firsthand how hard it was for sales people in such large global firms to keep track of promotional material for hundreds and sometimes even thousands of SKUs. Given their technical expertise, CN drew up a vision for solution, and validated it with their customers. They were successful with this pre-selling exercise. They brought their inputs to us, and we built a product, which is known today as ‘imSMART’. Through imSMART they completely digitized the outdated practice of distributing printed marketing collateral, creating a saving of 11 million dollars a year for one imSMART customer alone.

The final product ended up being a runaway success and in our opinion, that was purely because CN took the effort to develop a great overall understanding of the situation at hand and validate their idea for a solution with actual clients. As a result, imSMART was a perfect fit to the problem of disseminating promotional material to a global sales force, and customers never had to go through the misery of adapting to an under- or over-engineered product.

Build an MVP and make it quick
Most digital transformation projects end up making the mistake of trying to build a fully fledged solution from the get go. This is not a great idea because it leaves little room for any flaws to be ironed out prior to implementation.

With imSMART, CN understood this very well. Their MVP was entirely focused on building a basic solution which satisfies the core need. Once the MVP was built, it was validated through user testing. Once initial user testing was complete, CN was free to build in any additional features as necessary.

Involve the end user in testing
Typically, testing may be done using an in-house team of quality assurance analysts, or even by the founders of the very startups for whom we build apps.

In our experience, this is not a great idea, because the frame with which a designer or founder looks at an app could be completely different from how an actual user would look at an app.

Goodmarket, which is one of our clients, is a good case study on how to do user testing right. Goodmarket is a market place for ‘doing good’, and aims to connect consumers looking for socially conscious, non-toxic, organic, and ethically produced goods with the vendors, who are often cottage industries fragmented around the country. By virtue of their scale and size, these vendors are not able to put forward any independent verification to prove their ethical credentials.

Goodmarket wanted to create a platform which can take care of this verification process and act as a self-service portal of sorts for both customers and vendors looking to buy and sell ethical, socially conscious products. We had the privilege of building the Goodmarket’s platform for them, and one of the key drivers of the platform’s eventual success was all the testing that was done with end users, who are often not very digitally savvy.

The insights gained from placing the app in front of everyday users paved the way for us to optimise for form and function, thus making sure that the platform is in alignment with the Goodmarket’s business objectives.

Not every process needs to be digitised

And finally, not everything needs to be digitised. We live in a world which worships automation, and digitisation of processes is pretty much a buzzword that is thrown about in corporate boardrooms mindlessly. The criteria to decide whether a process ought to be digitised is as follows: If things are binary and require less human judgement, go ahead and digitise. If there is a lot of subjectivity involved, you may be better off with leaving the process untouched.

Cover image credits: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash