The uncertainty and disruption of recent years has seen many IT budgets squeezed, with a drive to maximise Return on Investment (ROI) leading many organisations to focus on reducing costs wherever possible. This might be by:

  • Consolidating disparate platforms to deliver direct savings, or introducing a new layer of middleware to update legacy systems for greater efficiency (something we’ve written about in this blog post).
  • Migrating to the cloud to remove hardware overheads, while supporting greater scalability to ensure investment is targeted when and where it is needed.
  • Improving the performance of current software systems to avoid costly downtime, issues requiring expensive fixes, or even more damaging problems that can affect reputation and customer trust.

As we tentatively emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations might now start to think about how their platforms can not only save on costs, but facilitate growth to drive the business forward. Indeed, there is a clear imperative for these organisations to shift their focus to growth, as the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the disruption we were already seeing in the digital space, and raised audience expectations about what they should be able to achieve digitally.

Close up of tablet device with laptop in background

How investing in your systems can drive growth

There are many different ways your software systems and digital platforms can support organisational growth, depending on your strategic vision and goals for your business. For example:

Increasing traffic

Building a larger customer base starts by making more people aware of your offering – with your website an important ‘shop window’ to attract and convert new customers (particularly if you operate in the ecommerce space, where your digital platforms are a direct driver of revenue).

It’s vital that your systems are able to support increased traffic and transactions, to avoid the costly downtime and loss of audience trust mentioned previously. This is something legacy systems in particular may struggle with, due to high levels of technical debt that are often only discovered when change is required.

Legacy systems can also suffer from a lack of flexibility, leaving you unable to take advantage of further opportunities to grow your audience. For example, site performance today plays a significant role in organic search rankings, and Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) activities are a powerful way of translating visitors into customers – requiring a modern platform optimised for technical SEO considerations, and able to support an incremental and iterative programme of CRO.

(If you want to learn more about these and other signs your software is no longer fit for purpose, take a look at this article on the subject).

Diversification

As well as building on your existing audience, there is the potential to drive growth by diversifying into new areas – another space that’s been impacted by the pandemic disrupting traditional business lines/models and revenue streams, with many examples of businesses pivoting with the help of digital technologies.

For example, many Business-to-Business (B2B) organisations have expanded into Direct-to-Consumer (D2C), while organisations across a range of sectors (from hospitality to petcare) have introduced subscription services as an alternative revenue stream. Online platforms have also proved vital for education and training providers, and those in the entertainment sector to stay connected to their audiences, and of course there has been significant investment from the public sector in digital touchpoints and resources (particularly with regards healthcare services).

Close up of doctor in a white coat using a smartphone

Even as restrictions lift and these emergency responses are no longer required, the convenience and flexibility of online channels remain attractive to users, and organisations are exploring how they can maintain and grow them over the long-term. This could be achieved by integrating new processes, platforms and systems into the main digital infrastructure, or by investing in a secondary CMS to run these offerings as existing business spins back up.

Whatever path you choose though, all activity should be guided by a strategic development roadmap that allows you to evolve and improve your offering, in response to stakeholder and customer feedback.

Expanding reach

Digital technologies also present the opportunity to expand into new markets, whether this is through adding product lines, reaching new audiences, or entering additional territories. Again, this growth will be hindered if your legacy systems aren’t flexible enough to accommodate the necessary changes – or if usability challenges mean your teams can’t effectively manage new content types, page layouts and on-site functionality.

New systems, platforms and integrations can also help your organisations enter desirable markets in a more targeted way, while streamlining the process of managing what may be disparate lines of business. For example, many modern Content Management Systems (CMSs) support multi-site and multi-installation setups, enabling you to serve international audiences in their preferred languages and currencies (which we’ve written about in more detail here).

Even greater flexibility may be achieved through headless architecture, where centrally-managed content is delivered to a wide range of front-end applications through third-party or custom-built integrations. And if you’re looking to test your approach before committing significant development investment, you can partner with existing marketplaces – as we covered in this discussion featuring senior industry leaders at Groupon, Klarna and OKdo.

Driving innovation

There is huge potential for growth through the delivery of innovative products and services, particularly if you’re working in an established market that’s traditionally been slow to act on digital opportunities – think of the emergence of disruptors such as Revolut, Starling and Monzo in the banking sector, or the recent success of Octopus Energy in the utilities market.

By investing in digital at an infrastructure level, these brands are able to respond to new consumer behaviours, and unlock new levels of convenience and satisfaction. They also benefit from rich qualitative and quantitative user data (supported by effective data capture, cleansing and management processes) that can reveal further opportunities for innovation such as Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), voice interfaces and ‘as a Service’ offerings, which are all rapidly becoming part of the mainstream.

Person wearing a virtual reality headset

Of course, another factor uniting these successful innovators is a clear focus on the customer experience – requiring a flexible and up-to-date platform that supports dynamic, well-designed templates to help both attract and retain customers, for long-term sustainable growth.

Tips for taking a growth-focused mindset

While the benefits of targeting growth strategies are clear, if you’ve spent a long period driving cost savings it can be difficult to adjust your mindset to this new approach. Taking some time at the outset to understand where you want to achieve growth – and why – can help focus your strategy, through activities including:

  • A SWOT analysis of your current situation – where are you strongest, and what could be improved? What opportunities are out there, and what threats need to be mitigated/avoided?
  • Customer research and outreach – what are you currently doing that needs to change or stay the same, and what else do your customers want to see from your organisation or industry?
  • Market research – what are peers, innovators and competitors doing in the space? Who are the current leaders, and how can you compete?

The insight you capture here will also inform how you position your strategy to other stakeholders. This must be done with care, highlighting long-term return on investment, and quantifying the gains you expect to see where possible. Setting clear goals will help here, as will regularly reviewing your performance against these goals, to demonstrate progress and keep investment targeted where it’s delivering greatest growth.

A roadmap for the future

Digital still plays a vital role in driving cost savings and efficiencies – but if you’re not also looking at how you can grow and innovate, you may soon find yourself left behind. If you’re not sure where to start, working with a trusted development partner can help translate your ideas into reality. Choosing a multidisciplinary team (such as those we have here at Box UK) means that you’ll also be supported through the end-to-end process of defining, validating, developing and delivering solutions to drive growth for your business, as well as ongoing continuous improvement activities to evolve and extend your offering.

If you’re interested in learning more, take a look at the work we’ve delivered for clients in the past, and get in touch to set up a call to discuss what opportunities for growth are out there for you with one of our expert consultants.

About the Author

Andrew Skinner

A highly-experienced business development professional with over 15 years of software industry experience, Andrew has worked across the UK and Europe with organisations such as Aviva, Sainsbury’s, Legal & General, Barclays and Welsh Government to support their commercial success through the development and delivery of custom software solutions.