For these Adobe customers, agility is about more than speed
Software gives an organisation the means to be agile
Eleven years ago, the investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreessen (Netscape co-founder) accurately predicted that software was about to disrupt a broad range of industries. In 2011, Uber had just launched and was available only in San Francisco. Netflix’s stand-alone streaming service had been running for a year and the company hadn’t started making its own content. The trend of software “eating everything,” as Andreessen put it, wasn’t by any means obvious or well known.
Today, software-driven companies are not a trend. They’re the status quo. And their rise has accompanied the increasing dominance of software as the driver of how companies develop and react. It’s created another trend that’s become an everyday reality — the ability to be agile. Or, to give this much overused word a more precise meaning, the ability to react quickly and easily to change through technology.
The speed and ease with which modern systems allow you to change how you work mean agility and software are intrinsically linked. Software gives an organisation the means to be agile.
Technology should enable, not hold you back
Adobe is a software-driven company. But it’s also a company whose products help others be more agile. Carphone Warehouse, a retailer of devices and broadband services online and in-store and an Adobe customer, is a great example.
Carphone Warehouse’s digital platform was holding them back — the website was positively old-fashioned. Their merchandisers are closely involved in the daily retail business and need to work quickly. But making site changes required developer involvement to write code, by which time the retail opportunity could have been lost.
The site made it hard for the merchandisers to do a proper job. Carphone Warehouse updated prices and ran campaigns all the time, but the planning needed to get them on the site was immense, involving significant lead times. In an industry where reacting quickly to customer demands matters, this was a problem.
The answer was to give the keys to site to the merchandisers. The keys came in the form of new Adobe Experience Cloud software, giving merchandisers the ability to make changes instantly — and without the need to involve developers.
This has transformed the speed at which Carphone Warehouse can react. The merchandising team can now make changes 10x faster, enabling them to react to market changes before their competition does.
For example, it used to take a week to set up a flash sale, requiring developer input, several versions, and lots of testing. Now it takes the merchandisers half a day, freeing the developers from the day-to-day running of the site and allowing them to work on bigger, long-term web projects.
Give customers more of what they want
Freed from the cumbersome development and testing process, Carphone Warehouse’s merchandisers now move with agility. And, crucially, they can give their customers what they want. Similarly, network provider and tech retailer O2 has used Adobe software to give its customers more of what they want, this time focusing on the personalised experience.
Like Carphone Warehouse, O2 sells online and in-store. This creates some challenges, but also several opportunities — namely, the chance to use knowledge of customers’ online behaviour to improve their in-store experience. Combining everything it already knows about a customer with new data from digital interactions, O2 is creating that holy grail of marketing — a complete, accurate portrait of the customer.
Even something as routine as checking what broadband is available in your area becomes a useful source of information. O2 noticed that after using its online DSL checker, many people visited an O2 shop. Steven Burkhardt, head of digital analytics at O2’s parent company Telefonica, says this presented an opportunity.
“The pandemic actually exacerbated this cross-channel behaviour. We’ve now developed a corresponding business case, testing how we can make information about customers’ online searches available to our employees in retail shops,” says Burkhardt. “If we can do that, then customers can still be addressed in a targeted way, with bundled offers specially developed to fit their individual needs.”
Move quickly, but do it with ease
Business agility is often defined as speed of movement. But agility also means ease of movement, and building connections between the online and in-store experience helps O2 and its customers move easily between digital and real life. O2 doesn’t want to replace its stores with a website. It wants to make both offerings work together to create a better experience for the customer, and extend the concept to every channel it operates in.
This is the long-term benefit of business-as-software. Back in 2011, Andreessen didn’t specifically mention agility, but he alluded to software’s ability to make businesses more agile, to move faster, and to overtake the competition.
“In many industries,” he wrote, “new software ideas will result in the rise of new Silicon Valley-style start-ups that invade existing industries with impunity. Over the next 10 years, the battles between incumbents and software-powered insurgents will be epic.” The next ten years will see more of the same. And the winners will be the businesses who use software to increase their agility.