A growing business is undoubtedly a great joy for your company and a huge envy for your competitors. However, there is the other side of the coin. When a business scales up, previously stated purposes and benchmarks become irrelevant. The components of the business strategy (including IT roadmap) need to be revised and changed to suit the new business situation.
There is no universal way to build a 100%-efficient IT plan, especially in a dynamic business environment, but there are several common aspects that growing companies should keep in mind when developing an IT strategy.
Business processes rely on huge volumes of diverse data: communication with customers and business partners, financial records, employee details, internal documents, customers’ purchasing behavior and more. The more your business grows, the harder it is to ensure that corporate IT solutions work together and their functionality is sufficient to cover internal IT needs.
Spreading to new locations is a sound intention of any ambitious business. Today, globalization makes it much easier than it was decades ago. Yet, geographical expansion entails the necessity to revise and change a company’s internal operations, including those related to IT. New offices must be integrated with the corporate network. IT support is likely to become 24/7 if it’s not yet.
New products and services
Diversifying products and services is a serious step forward. Still, it inevitably drives the need to revise your IT strategy. For example, a company will need to modify internal databases, update the channels for customer interaction (add functionality to customer websites and apps) and resort to new effective IT tools for marketing and online sales, as well as diversify the methods for collecting information about customer tastes and preferences.
Mergers and acquisitions
Enterprises often buy other companies to enter a new market, get competitive advantages or broaden the range of products and services. Growing companies also merge to join forces. But joining organizations often use different IT solutions, which must be integrated and tuned to fit new common business objectives.
IT leaders’ stumbling blocks
When you know about potential difficulties connected to business growth, it may seem that IT strategy development is quite simple: a company outlines the goals for business development and implements appropriate IT solutions to support these goals. However, the real situation is more complicated due to a number of circumstances.
Lack of time to prepare for the changes
A strategy is developed in advance to achieve certain objectives. However, a growing business uncorks surprises at every step, and business leaders often have to modify their goals and priorities on the fly. The same is expected from IT leadership: they should react promptly and adapt to changes quickly. A serious hurdle: winning decisions are not always on the surface, and it takes time to get them and develop into digestible ideas.
Potential and real changes always lead to a certain level of uncertainty (or, better to say, an uncertain level of uncertainty). You cannot predict how exactly new products will behave on the market, how the customer will react to them, and what your competitors will do. You can hardly avoid at least some degree of chaos. The purpose here is to identify it and minimize its influence on business processes if possible.
Resistance to change
An IT strategy for a growing business should be a bit ahead of the times. It supports the current state of affairs and at the same time allows IT leaders to look into the future to some degree. But it may be difficult for IT teams in non-IT industries to follow latest tendencies. Some leaders (both business and IT) are even eager to focus on current operations and get really stuck to their IT strategies.
There is some sense in this approach: why should I change anything if it works as is? Why invest additional effort and money in unpredictable things? This approach might work with a little luck. But following it, companies ignore the options of development and run the risk of floundering an outdated IT agenda. Growth and changes can be painful, but nothing is more painful than staying stuck to the agenda that doesn’t work anymore or gives you only a half of possible benefits and, to some extent, retains business growth.
Key areas for IT leaders
The role of IT leadership is to help the organization maximize its competitive advantage with an effective IT strategy that supports or even creates that advantage.
Focus on strong sides
A good strategy is based on your business strengths and those aspects where you can get the most benefits. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the strong sides of your business and give them additional digital support (instead of improving weaknesses).
Find new opportunities and threats
As your business grows, you are likely to uncover new opportunities. At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks that come with new activities and take necessary steps to protect your business.
Enterprises are getting overloaded with data from various sources: customer service points, operational & transactional systems, media and more. A growing company can employ big data analytics to get meaningful insights from these data: to monitor market tendencies, understand competitor strategies, identify early signs of potential problems and reduce risks.
You may get new valuable ideas with IT consulting services. Of course, you cannot completely rely on the opinion of IT consultants as they don’t know the full picture of your business. However, they can share their experience and prompt to find priceless solutions to your corporate pains.
In a fast-growing business, decisions may throw the company in different directions. Many ad hoc decisions are taken, many ideas appear to be not so profitable as it was expected and remain unsupported. All that leaves IT components in a chaotic state and reduces their effectiveness.
IT infrastructure never becomes organized without intervention. Entropy management aims at small corrections to keep IT components on track rather than letting things run on their own until there is a much larger breakdown or problem. Enterprise architecture should possess a certain degree of flexibility to be ready for the changes when they are needed.
Align IT and business
A good IT strategy is developed to support a business strategy. This approach assumes that business goals are stated before it comes to serious IT planning. However, in a growing enterprise, top management is likely to modify business goals to jump at new opportunities or abandon unproductive approaches.
When a business scales up, it’s important to be sure that the IT solutions keep up with business goals and modify the IT strategy if there are any discrepancies. Otherwise, there is a risk that IT leaves behind the business, and IT and business strategies become misaligned. It makes an IT roadmap less effective (if not harmful).
Be flexible in choosing vendors
A growing business may be interested in new IT solutions to effectively cover the increasing volume of internal operations (if legacy systems don’t cope with the task), provide digital support for new internal processes, enable better and faster services and more. Even if a company develops in-house or has an established chain of tried-and-true IT vendors, it can benefit a lot from new IT partnerships. The focus should be on selecting reliable software providers and minimizing the risks of new cooperation.
Collaboration with existing vendors may also change a lot when they offer new cooperation options, start doing more on their side or get integrated into the design process.
It’s important to evaluate what various vendors can offer and choose the best matches in terms of quality, time and costs of delivery.
Once you have a competitive product or service and sell it at a reasonable price, the next thing that matters to your ecommerce business success is the customer experience provided. Website design is its vital part as customers interact with your company via the website and often don’t set the two apart. Therefore, a digital experience designed on the website equals your company’s image in the minds of your customers.
More reasons why website design is worth taking seriously
The role of design goes far beyond the website look. Professionally designed, your online store obtains:
Branding strength. A website is your opportunity to tell customers how your company positions itself on the market and what values or social views it supports.
Enhanced website usability. Design always starts with the UX part to plan each type of customer interaction within the website. What you win is minimized user efforts whenever is possible and increased meaningful engagement with the site content.
Technical excellence. Modern websites are responsive to render well on different screen sizes and provide for convenient viewing and shopping experience across devices. Also, they are mostly designed with SEO purposes in mind to support your customer acquisition plans down the road.
Technology advances. When reasonable, your website design is planned with the latest technologies and approaches in mind (like AR or on-site personalization). Since not all are worth adopting for your business, you should have the ROI of each technology integration estimated to opt for the most rewarding ones.
Different conversion funnels planned. A classic conversion path leads customers from product discovery directly to online buy. But customers don’t always behave as you expect, so professional web designers plan and map on the website more complicated journeys with half-way conversion points such as:
Upsells and cross-sells.
Design elements to add to core ecommerce pages
An ecommerce website may house any number of SKUs and generate any traffic volume – disregarding the size, it always has several typical page types to design.
Homepage. As the most frequent landing page in ecommerce, the homepage pursues a fundamental goal – to entice customers to start a shopping journey. Hence, design elements must:
Establish a brand identity: brand message, mission statements, trust builders.
Provide for easy navigation: a properly organized product menu, shortcuts to products with the highest selling potential.
Trigger immediate interest: promotions and deals, customer service perks.
Catalog page. On a catalog page, you don’t only showcase your products – you start selling them. To prompt customers to product discovery, you should:
Help customers find the products of interest: product filtering.
Give a quick view possibility.
Instill product quality: a summarized product rating, a number of product reviews.
Offer alternatives of further actions: add to shopping cart or wish list, save for later.
Product page. Customers are already interested in your product. It’s high time to take the stress out of the decision-making process and:
Give comprehensive product information: product description, assembly tutorials, user guides.
Be illustrative: product images, videos, demos.
Help to select the right product configuration: a size chart, a size guide, product builders.
Enhance product credibility: product reviews, social media tags, product labels (‘bestseller’, ‘influencer’s choice’).
Advertise similar products: cross-sells.
Offer personal assistance with the product choice: live chat.
Shopping cart. This page is an intermediate step between a customer’s buying intention and an actual buy. Planning its design, remember to:
Give a summary of selected products: quantity, parameters, price.
Outline delivery options and costs.
Allow customers to edit the order.
Offer complementary products: upsells.
Checkout. The best practices in checkout design dictate to:
Ask for account registration and give an opportunity of guest checkout alike.
Simplify fill-in forms not to demand much of a customer’s time.
Offer several payment options.
Give estimated delivery time depending on the delivery option selected.
Inform customers about what happens next: you send an email with confirmation details, customers can track the order progress in their personal account.
Non-catalog content page. Your content marketing strategy may require diverse content types: a blog, lookbooks, tutorials, deep product dives, interviews, etc. Though designed differently, they all bring you customer engagement and even impulse conversions if you:
Softly sell your expertise or product value.
Openly advertise relevant products that fit the information you share.
Check the correlation between sales and website design
It often happens that an ecommerce company follows general design recommendations and invests a lot in customer acquisition marketing, but the conversion rate remains low. So, here is a very important question to answer before giving way to redesign hassle: ‘Does my design hinders sales?’
Given the abundance of interactions throughout a customer life cycle, ways to frustrate customers with poor experience are numerous too – from a consistent shortage of their favorite products to delays in order delivery. In both cases, customers will end up with a competing company. If you suspect design issues, there are several ways to confirm whether they directly impact your sales volume.
Investigate web analytics. If the analysis shows high traffic generated by your SEO efforts and marketing activities, yet a high bounce rate and short dwell time not ending with conversions at any of your planned points, the digital user experience is obviously flawed. Your website design doesn’t inspire trust, and its usability is begging for improvement.
Request an independent design audit. While UI design is largely a matter of subjective opinion, the UX part can be expertly assessed by designers. Upon audit completion, you get a report with UX flaws uncovered and can make a redesign decision deliberately.
Assess your website experience against web design trends. As for digital user experience and beyond, ecommerce has become truly customer-centric. In website design, trends demand enjoyable experience tailored and convenient for diverse customer groups. Your customers don’t lower their expectations and want from you the same design excellence.
Where to focus your redesign efforts
Even if you are not up for large investments into full website redesign now, you may apply improvements to certain aspects that won’t go unnoticed by your customers. Here are shortlisted best practices for ecommerce web design.
Use quality product images, zoom-in, videos, 360-degree views, 3D models.
Take after a real-life shopping experience with augmented reality.
Ensure elaborate navigation, filtering and search experience.
Go for clean and spacious UI with a light background, which resonates with a larger audience.
Add on-site personalization to serve customers relevant content, promotions and product recommendations.
Make the website responsive to various screen sizes.
Don’t break design consistency across the website.
Avoid visual clutter.
Ecommerce design examples for inspiration
Each product and service line in ecommerce bears its design specifics – some spark designers’ creativity while some demand for a minimalist approach.
Not only a product line, but your business model also impacts the digital experience to design on a website. Study the highlights of B2C and B2B website design rules below illustrated with interactive demos created by ScienceSoft’s team. Don’t miss to play them in the first place!
B2C website design – bet big on convenience and personalization
Personalize website content, promotions and recommended products for customer segments and individuals.
Encourage impulse buys with content marketing, upsells and cross-sells.
Facilitate a customer’s search across the website.
Offer guest checkout.
B2B website design – bet big on trust and loyalty-building
Integrate custom pricing and automated discounting depending on order volume.
Add a possibility of shipment to multiple addresses.
Moving your IT environment to the cloud is a sequence of decisive steps on your way to the IT infrastructure’s scalability and security. Once you migrate successfully, you cut down on your IT expenditures as opposed to maintaining an on-premises infrastructure. However, a small business on the edge of migration faces the initial challenge of the right choice of a cloud vendor. To help you make an informed decision, I share the advantages of Microsoft Azure, one of the leading cloud providers.
Azure provides opportunities for scalable storage to meet the growing data and performance needs of a small business. Azure Blobs allows such scalable storing of unstructured data and can be powered with big data analytics capabilities when the need arises. And with another Azure Storage product, Azure Files, and the SMB protocol it supports, you can perform swift data migration to the cloud with no coding involved.
Azure-hosted apps can integrate with Microsoft’s SaaS tools to increase the productivity of your employees and provide advanced analytics. For example, you can embed SharePoint functionality in your Azure environment to build up task management or document processing workflows for your team or leverage the broad analytical capabilities of Power BI to get insights from your data stored in Azure.
With Azure, small businesses can get a maintenance-free cloud-hosted email server (Microsoft Exchange Online) synced with Azure Active Directory for backup and access management. With Exchange Online, you do not need to update your email servers manually to get the up-to-date functionality. You have antispam and antimalware protection already included together with the support of mailboxes up to 50 GB each and access to the email service from mobile devices. Doubt Azure is the Most Feasible Choice?
Azure features the globally spread Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN), which routes data streams to/from the geographically closest Azure servers, thus reducing response latency of your web resources. The edge servers of Azure CDN automatically scale up to handle traffic surges. On top of that, Azure CDN includes advanced analytics features to monitor traffic and user engagement.
Azure Backup makes snapshots – images of your system’s actual state – to restore the data and operability of your cloud services and apps as of the snapshot timestamp. With Azure, you can schedule backups and ensure the security of backup data with data encryption and multifactor authentication.
You can secure your Azure environment with advanced access management via Azure Active Directory and firewall services. Also, there’s Azure Security Center, which carries out continuous security monitoring across your Azure environment (manually deployed Log Analytics agent supports hybrid environments) and alerts you about misconfigurations and threats as well as about how to remediate them. Besides, Azure-based infrastructures support HIPAA compliance, which means that Azure services are recognized suitable for secure storage and processing of protected health information.
Azure offers free tools for lift-and-shift infrastructure migration and provides services (e.g., for IoT, AI, machine learning, and blockchain) for the facilitated rebuilding of your legacy apps for which such migration is inapplicable. Check our project of accounting software migration to Azure, to see how rebuilding legacy software with Azure services can ensure its smooth migration and enrich its functionality.
Dіgіtаl trаnsfоrmаtіоn fоr а rеtаіl bаnk may rеquіrе а new approach to providing customer service and managing the bank’s employees. Оf соursе, thіs approach wіll bе unіquе tо еасh bаnk, аnd dеfіnеd bу іts rаngе оf рrоduсts аnd sеrvісеs, соrе bаnkіng sуstеms, ІТ budgеt аnd the vіsіоn of а dіgіtаl futurе.
In this article, we discuss what options for going digital banks have and what challenges they can meet on the way to digitalization.
Тhіs situation сrеаtеs hugе operational rіsks аnd possible sуstеm fаіlurеs, which may result in total loss in reputation. А саsе іn роіnt іs Rоуаl Ваnk оf Ѕсоtlаnd’s mаssіvе sуstеm fаіlurе іn 2012, fоr whісh thеу wеrе fіnеd £56 mіllіоn. Аt that tіmе, Сhіеf Аdmіnіstrаtive Offісеr Ѕіmоn МсΝаmаrа рlеdgеd thаt аnоthеr ІТ dіsаstеr thаt wоuld lеаvе mіllіоns оf сustоmеrs unаblе tо mаkе рауmеnts wаs ехtrеmеlу unlіkеlу, оnlу tо hаvе а sіmіlаr оutаgе 6 mоnths аftеr thе fіnе wаs lеvіеd іn 2014.
2. Failures in meeting compliance regulations
One of the biggest advantages of going digital, the ease with which their customers can get necessary services, poses serious challenges in terms of compliance. Thus, digital banks should develop a whole new strategy to meeting regulations as, for example, Know Your Customer (KYC) rules and the rules for tax reporting under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).
Аvаіlаblе орtіоns: Buіld, buу, acquire оr раrtnеr
Роssіblе орtіоns fоr а dіgіtаl mіgrаtіоn dереnd оn thе sіzе аnd the аbіlіtу оf a bаnk tо mаkе thе nесеssаrу сhаngе. Тhеrе іs аlsо а dесіsіоn tо bе mаdе оn whеthеr tо орt fоr а соmрrеhеnsіvе рlаtfоrm оr dіgіtіzе оnlу оnе аsресt оf thе busіnеss аt а tіmе.
Вuіld уоur оwn рlаtfоrm
A custom solution is a good option for banks that hаvе thе rеquіrеd ІТ сарасіtу аnd thе budgеt tо develop their own digital platform. ВВVА banking group іs оnе оf thе bаnks thаt tооk thіs rоutе, јustіfуіng thіs аррrоасh bесаusе thеу wаntеd tо bоth hаvе thе рlаtfоrm thеу nееdеd аnd thе undеrstаndіng аnd соntrоl оvеr hоw іt works. Ѕmаllеr bаnks mау fіnd it а vіаblе орtіоn іf thеу саn fіnd suіtаblе раrtnеrs.
Вuу а ready-made solution
Buуіng а ready-made platform іs а gооd орtіоn in case you opt for speedy trаnsfоrmаtіоn. Although, there іs quіtе а lоt оf wоrk іnvоlvеd іn gеttіng уоur рurсhаsе tо ореrаtе аs rеquіrеd, whісh wіll need the help of professional соnsultаnts.