Advice from thirty years of digital transformation: Eric Feige, managing director of strategy at VShift

We have some amazing partners at Contentful. They bring forward-looking perspectives on digital building and, of course, Contentful. I spoke with Eric Feige, the managing director of strategy at VShift — but Feige identifies as a digital change agent. We discussed everything from digital transformation and decreasing risks by using decoupled tools to practices that pay off for our mutual clients.

Helping companies go digital for thirty years

Feige helps drive change within global enterprises by helping them operate more like startups backed by venture capital. That means he normally brings together diverse functions to use digital technologies and internet-based approaches to grow. He’s been implementing these approaches since he founded and pioneered a late 90s software-as-a-service platform. 

Microservices enable the future of digital experiences

How do you explain microservices to a non-technical audience? 

Many business executives tune out technical jargon like microservices and component-based architectures. I tend to drop the frustrating jargon and discuss these concepts in an emotional and relatable way.

How can microservices be an emotional topic? Well, I don’t know anyone that likes to feel trapped in a corner. But that’s how executives often feel about the technology their company uses. They feel beholden to years of investments into monolithic software and rigid infrastructure that IT departments entirely control. But IT departments are overloaded and have lost skills and resources over the years. This reality is pretty painful for a lot of business leaders responsible for driving growth with new digital products and creative digital client acquisition.

These types of executives tune in when they understand that there’s a proven method for launching new products and growing revenue with digital technologies while working through the pain of internal IT rigidity. What they get and what we can prove is:

  1. Speed to market in weeks instead of quarters

  2. Shift of control over digital experience from IT to business leadership

  3. Significant cost savings by breaking big unmanageable things into manageable parts

  4. An ability to compete with cloud-native tech firms that are venturing into non-tech industries

If you could give headless CMSes a new name, what would it be?

A few years ago, VShift stopped using terms like “headless” and “single-page-app” with business executives in favor of a three letter acronym. DWA (Decoupled Web Architecture) is much easier for a diverse group of executives to understand.

Metrics and business growth

Metrics that actually help a product improve and business grow 

  1. High-value digital interactions: Are you automating low-value interactions and competitively improving high-value interactions?

  2. Speed to launch: Are you trending positively and becoming more effective?

  3. Culture metrics: Are the skills and behaviors amongst employees changing?

What is one metric that business leaders love but you hate?

Agile metrics like velocity (user story completion rates) are really terrible in practice. I dislike velocity because it can be easily manipulated, and it really tells a story that developers are busy. The governance committees know that IT is already busy so it is not a useful metric.

What is one metric that you think all business leaders need to pay more attention to?

Culture metrics. Culture is cited as the most common factor in failed transformations and digital projects. Surprisingly, business leaders leave corporate culture to be measured by human resource departments. Since culture is such an important factor, I believe heads of strategy or profit and loss leaders, rather than HR department heads, should have responsibility for tracking and improving culture.

Looking toward the future and what’s next for experiences 

What’s one trend that you think is going to be big that people haven’t started talking about? 

A complete organizational overhaul due to 2021. We’ll be living anywhere in the world, working flexible hours, and with a diminished need for large campuses. Organizational design will need to take this span into consideration.

What is one thing CXOs need to understand, and how do you help?

Their traditional annual budget process for digital and innovation needs to change. It helps for them to think quarterly and be as flexible as possible. 

Contentful, from the outside

How did you hear about Contentful, and why do you partner with us?

We had been doing cloud-native, Decoupled Web Architecture (DWA) for years before Contentful was founded. We evaluated Contentful and developed a new digital product for the asset management industry a few years ago as we felt like Contentful’s technical product direction was (and is) most aligned to the strategies and benefits that we bring to our clients.

If you want to speak about any of these topics, you can find Eric at eric.feige@vshift.com. You can read more about how Contentful empowers agencies to help their customers transform into digital-first companies. 

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