Build better software, faster (with Contentful) - Digital Platforms and MACH Architecture with Andrew Kumar
Everyone wants to build better software, faster, but what do we mean by that? In this post we’ll break it down and explore the importance of all four components — building, improving, software and speed. By understanding the importance of each component, you can avoid solutions that make tradeoffs between flexibility, extensibility, quality and speed.
Innovation is built, not bought
Brands like Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker and Casper Sleep disrupted industries by building digital-first experiences that engaged consumers in ways the traditional brands couldn’t. They built something new that their competitors couldn’t deliver with an out-of-the-box solution. Being the first to market is a competitive advantage that you can’t buy off the shelf.
Lyft, the international ridesharing app, built an innovative driver education portal with Contentful, because the typical bought knowledge base systems were not meeting their needs, goals or objectives. By choosing a flexible solution for their knowledge base, Lyft ensured that they can quickly and easily expand their support options to meet future customer demands and preferences.
Build versus buy is an age-old question, but in a market where consumers are constantly bombarded by similar products and services, build is the clear choice. How can brands differentiate themselves if they use the same suite of tools as their competitors? Brands and organizations need to level up their skills, tap into partners to fill gaps and roll up their sleeves to build software, experiences and applications that add value to the lives of their consumers.
IKEA recently transformed its iconic catalog into an all-digital experience that aligns with the way their customers shop. “We are not starting from scratch,” says Konrad Grüss, managing director at Inter Ikea Systems. “We have been transforming many aspects of how to reach and interact with our customers, and the work continues to find new ways to amplify unique IKEA home furnishing knowledge, products and solutions in the best possible way — to inspire the many people through new ways, channels and formats.”
Note that Grüss says they didn’t start from scratch. IKEA uses the Contentful content platform, which empowers them to assemble applications, digital products and experiences from reusable components. With Contentful, digital teams can easily collaborate and pull together content, integrated technologies and data to build something new, drastically reducing time to market, without sacrificing quality.
Building or assembling empowers brands to meet customer needs in new ways on the front end while tailoring backend systems to their unique business needs. Each company has different customer value props, KPIs and workflows that drive and measure business value. Building from modular components enables you to start with the minimal tools needed to go to market fast.and integrate new tools as you iterate and scale.
Assembling from components results in software that is flexible, extensible and scalable. You can quickly swap out or rebuild components based on market feedback without disrupting the whole stack.
Improve quality of the digital products and experience
While delivering new experiences faster is important, it’s equally important to improve the customer experience end-to-end. Enhancing existing experiences while building new experiences in parallel brings companies closer to delivering the seamless, connected experiences customers want.
How many brands are talking about machine learning and artificial intelligence, when they can't send a decent email or process an unsubscribe request in less than 10 business days? It’s like putting new windows on a house without fixing the peeling paint on the shutters and trim. The juxtaposition of legacy and new feels jarring and unpleasant.
One of the fastest ways to show value when you replatform to modern technology is by fixing the basic building blocks of your customer experience. Making these touchpoints faster, cleaner and more pleasant and intuitive to your customers provides an immediate lift for both customers and the people who have been struggling with the quirks of backend legacy systems.
Contentful’s powerful APIs help customers start building better software, faster, by acting as the connective tissue between legacy systems and modern technology. Our content platform can pull content and data from the systems you currently rely on into your modern DX stack where it can be integrated with other tools and distributed across new channels. In this way, you avoid the disruption and challenges of decommissioning legacy systems while still making impactful improvements in operations and customer experience.
Simple fixes and incremental improvements have tremendous potential at scale. For example, technology communications leader Vodafone UK loses an average of £38K revenue per 30 minutes of outage. By using Contentful’s delivery infrastructure, automation and workflow capabilities, they are able to reduce the risk of downtime and reliably deliver digital products and experiences at scale. Other customers use Contentful to streamline repetitive processes. Using Smartling’s native integration with Contentful, Lyft eliminated 75% of the workflow related to translation management, enabling it to scale faster across markets in eight languages.
It’s all connected to software
Your technology choices can be a competitive advantage or a constant pain point as you scale digital products and experiences across the enterprise and customer journey. All apps and digital experiences are connected to the software you use to build, deliver and maintain them. For every experience there is content; it’s a core ingredient. By putting a content platform at the heart of your DX stack, you instantly pull together the sprawl of products, channels and content repositories into one hub where it provides a solid foundation from which to scale.
A content platform unifies each stage of the customer journey. It cuts across silos and channels so that you can deliver seamless, connected experiences. Integrating the best tools and platforms into a modern DX stack with content at the core, empowers teams to deliver as a coordinated squad. Challenge the status quo and break down those silo walls. Encourage designers, developers, and content practitioners to co-create solutions.
The new digital playbook is about empowering the people we call builders. These aren’t just developers; they’re anyone in your company who cares about building something better for the customer. While pockets of innovation and centers of excellence can get the ball rolling, it’s vital to roll those skills out across the enterprise and connect your builders with tools that support collaboration and work in parallel.
This is one reason why we are excited to offer tools that make the Contentful platform accessible to both developers and content creators. The App Framework and Compose + Launch bring teams with diverse skills together on one platform without creating unnecessary dependencies between editors and developers. With tools like these, the modern DX stack empowers everyone to focus their talents on building better software, faster, together.
Speed matters: speed to market, author, update, remove
The old adage time is money, has never been more true than in this fast-paced digital world. Whether you’re racing to be first to market, or scrambling to take down content that was accidentally published too soon, minutes matter. During the pandemic, brands that already had digital capabilities and were able to accelerate their speed to market fared the best.
Equinox Media, a division of the famed Equinox Group fitness company, was already planning to launch two new at-home fitness products in 2020: a digital fitness app and an at-home SoulCycle stationary bike with digital access to classes. When the pandemic shut down the physical product launch, they quickly pivoted to an all-digital roll out and were able to begin direct-to-consumer marketing six months ahead of the original plan.
Another example is GoodRX. The company had already invested in a modern stack that accelerated their ability to publish authoritative medical information hubs. Building on these capabilities GoodRX launched a Covid-19 hub in less than two weeks and rapidly followed this with an initial version of their telehealth marketplace that includes GoodRx’s own new telehealth business.
This is the pace that brands need to succeed in the digital-first era. Wait too long and good ideas are likely to be scooped by an eager competitor or no longer relevant in a fast-changing market.
Knowing time is money, Shiseido Professional, a division of one of the world’s most-recognized cosmetics brands, made several smart choices when they replatformed. First, they chose a partner, which gave them access to additional resources and talent. Second, they opted for a lean experience stack that enabled them to start small, measure success and then scale, fast. These choices paid off. Shiseido Professional now operates at twice the speed and half the cost. Learn more about how design firm R/GA built a complete modern content platform for Shiseido Professional in just five months.
Using partners to shore up skills, learn agile thinking and modern tooling all contribute to greater speed on multiple fronts: speed to implement, speed to experiment, speed to market, speed to fail, learn and iterate on new ideas.
In the modern enterprise, teams build a catalog of blueprints that help them build faster. Each time teams use these blueprints and reusable components, they iterate on them, continually gaining speed by making each deployment faster than the previous one.
Your content strategy, product and experience are not set in stone. Building better software, faster, is a competitive advantage that enables brands to experiment and respond to changes in the market, customer expectations and the business itself.
Learn how you can unlock digital innovation and speed by putting the stack approach at the center of your strategy.