Failing fast at the coal face

SUMMARY:

We’re here to make a dent in the universe. That means we have to question all assumptions about what we do and why we do what we do. And so while long years of experience help, they sometimes hinder. Even so, new apps mean an abundance of choice.

ooopsWe’re here to make a dent in the universe. We have to question all assumptions about what we do and why we do what we do. While long years of experience help, they sometimes hinder. Even so, this is a great time to be thinking about new business models and how those take shape in the 21st century. The good news is that we have lots of tools to help us. out

As the diginomica project took shape, I was struck by just how much the world of applications has changed in the last few years and the extent to which we benefit as a result of the swing away from on-premise applications to cloud tools and services.

Almost from the get go, I found myself deep into finding plugins for the site, trying things out, chatting with developers, figuring out the ways in which they approach problem solving and then make decisions about what works and what doesn’t cut it. There were important considerations you only get to understand through user acceptance testing. Even then, it has been possible to plug and unplug functionality with relative ease. All this is a far cry from the early 2000’s when we were horribly constrained both in design and functional richness and where every change meant a painful check in and out process, often at significant cost.

For me as a quasi-developer dusting off my CSS and PHP skills, it has seemed as much of a change as the move from Wang 2200 to Apricot Xen was back in 1983 when I was embarking on a career as a partner in a firm of British chartered accountants.

The real shocker has been just how little we’ve had to expend in order to launch a functioning business that straddles a number of countries. Services like Powwownow have enabled communications between ourselves and partners at a fraction of the cost of international call rates. Having said that, the telcos still try to rip us off for making calls to 08XX numbers via cell hones. Then there are industrial grade hosting and optimizing services. In the past, these would have been out of reach but today you can get a very good service for around $1,000 pa. Google has provided the backbone for communications that helps keep all our docs and important topics in reasonable order.

I’ve been even more impressed with the quality of help and guidance that new service providers give as part of the pre-sales activity. The days of clunky help desk, uninformed reps and hiding the real deal behind the salesperson’s back are well and truly over. Nowadays vendors have got to show live running apps to get anyone’s attention.

All of which has made decision making far easier and faster than in the past. A service doesn’t do it for you? Dump it. Got a try before you buy offer? Go for it and spin the wheels. Compare that to even five years go. We would have had to go through lengthy evaluations and then hope for the best that our decisions are not mistaken. Now we can make those mistakes early in the buy cycle and move on. I call it failing fast at the coal face.

One advantage we have is that the team have extensive networks built up over many years. That meant we could get a lot of testing done very quickly and at minimal cost with people we trust. The feedback was gold and we are very grateful to those who kicked the tires and gave us honest feedback on what works and what was slipping through the net.

It isn’t over. diginomica.com IS the outward face of the business and it will evolve. But if the last few months have been a proxy for what the future holds then I am grateful that the giants on whose shoulder we stand gave us a fresh way to look at how businesses can be built. diginomica could not exist without their efforts. I sense that will be a recurring theme as we dig deep into the transformational nature of the new classes of apps coming at the enterprise alongside the emergence of frictionless business as the metaphor for future business models.

As a side note, we have very few hard and fast processes in place. That’s helped by a relatively simple business model and structure. If that sounds a tad chaotic then you’d not be wrong but what we DO have in place work well. Even so, I see us having to create processes we cannot currently envisage as the portfolio of partners expands, as we accomodate different partner needs, as our publishing calendars flesh out and as our roles as individuals develop over time.

As many colleagues are fond of saying – we live in interesting times – and we’ll continue to share experience as we go through the highs and lows of making this thing work.

Images courtesy of hypertrak and hubba