Insights

Solve Business Problems, Build Digital Products and Capabilities

Collab Blog2

By Arpit Jain, Grace Stevenson, Cory WIlliamson, Manohar Kamath

Companies often abandon large, complex technology and business initiatives because they didn't move to market fast enough before money or leadership patience ran short. The Project Management Institute has reported that only 14 percent of IT projects fail, yet a grim 43 percent exceeded budget and nearly half were delivered late.

One of the reasons behind high project failure rates is an overall increase in the numbers of digital business projects competing for limited corporate resources and talent-strapped IT departments. CIO says companies are paying top dollar for "user experience whizzes, development and operations (DevOps) engineers, data scientists and artificial intelligence professionals." Some companies simply can’t hire the right talent due to high demand.

It doesn't help that deploying new technologies and business initiatives is resource-intensive. For this reason, Information Age suggests collaborating with an external partner with experience designing and developing solutions, particularly when you need hard-to-find niche capabilities. A collaborative model gives teams the power and flexibility to pivot whenever there’s a change in business direction, as well as help them learn the craft.

A path for developing digital products, honing business and tech skills

If you lack digital product development experience and specific technology and business competencies, collaborative projects with external partners help you quickly launch products that deliver strategic business results. Through an immersive experience, you’ll co-develop a world-class digital product while learning new skills and modern digital development best practices. You can learn to tackle challenging business problems by focusing first on customer needs and insights.

For instance, a global telecom and cellular firm turned to Nerdery to help it learn how to develop and launch a cybersecurity assessment tool. Nerdery team members stepped into leadership roles within the program to help teach the company how to shape and direct the project by providing expertise in strategy, experience design, product development, UI/dashboard, APIs, framework, quality assurance and more. Through collaboration, the agile team could bypass layers of corporate bureaucracy and red tape to build and launch a solution 12–18 months before the competition had a similar offering.

The company finished the final product in time to showcase it at the annual RSA Conference, one of the world's premier security events. Gartner subsequently named them to a coveted leader position in its Magic Quadrant for managed security services providers (MSSP), which sparked an avalanche of sales. Furthermore, the team took with it newfound competencies and confidence to repeat this success on future projects.

Creating new competencies was just one objective of a recreational vehicle manufacturer that wanted to create a solution to connect operations across its supply chain. The co-developed digital product greatly improved visibility between factories, distributors and dealers, leading to more efficient operations. Nerdery worked with the company to analyze and shorten multiple customer journeys by removing touchpoints and reducing friction. In the process, the company developed new skills from our experience in engineering, user experience, backend, API development and frontend, which helped it evolve the product.

Why external partners?

External partners also have the advantage of viewing issues and problems through an objective lens: "You ask the why questions and seek to learn more," a client once shared. Indeed, sometimes, it takes an outside perspective to ask the questions a company leader hasn't realized. It's these questions and observations that lead to new solutions. Additionally, through collaboration, an outside team can help break down siloed technology across multiple functions. "Digital technology is no longer in the cordoned-off domain of IT; it is being applied to almost every part of a company's value chain," notes the Harvard Business Review.

Moreover, it helps that working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and outcomes, says strategy professor Benjamin Jones at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. That perspective diversity was crucial to the success of a project we helped develop for a manufacturing business that designs and builds specialized machinery for midsize manufacturers and fabricators.

Facing the increasing commodification of its products, the company chose to develop value-added software that would support and oversee their customers' equipment on the shop floor. The robust software suite would give the company a substantial advantage in its extremely competitive industry. To ensure it was using modern software development practices, the company turned to an experienced, external collaborator for support and guidance to help design and build the complex software. We worked directly with the company’s customers to help solve several business problems before beginning software design. To ensure success, we followed up with customers to validate and test the software’s value. Nerdery methodologies, along with expertise in user experience, mobile development, training, and product marketing were all part of this collaborative experience throughout the project’s duration.

Experience does show that collaboration works when innovation and first-to-market are core objectives of business and technology projects. The business landscape is more complicated than ever, which calls for professionals with an increasing number of specialty skills to solve vexing business and technology problems. Professor Jones likens the changes to aircraft development: “In 1903, two men designed and flew an airplane. Today, a Boeing 787 has dozens of specialists working on the engines alone. Then there are the controls, the hydraulics, the airframe itself.”

Consider collaborating with an external partner to solve your company’s business and technology problems. You'll deliver a cutting-edge digital product, grow stronger development skills and learn best practices to carry your products into the future.

Published on 09.05.19