January 12, 2021

Increase margin and profit by reducing risks in the discovery stage - Part II

This article is part of a series in which we provide an in-depth look into various aspects and techniques Spotzer uses to make our partner’s digital products and services successful.

In the previous article, we talked about the importance of discovery and the various types of risks you need to manage. We also looked at the specific approaches Spotzer takes to manage the value risk. Below, we will look at the other three risks: usability, feasibility, and business viability. 


Addressing the usability risk:

  • Workshops and training sessions. Some of our partners have been working with small businesses for a long time. It would be unwise to ignore all the knowledge that exists within their teams, so we are happy to organise workshops and training sessions to get a better understanding of the company, market and customers before going discussing the actual product or service changes. When one of our Australian partners asked us to improve their premium website tier, we spent some several weeks understanding their existing setup and challenges. Not only this establishes rapport between the teams, but we can also move much faster afterwards - and make better calls.

  • Communications. Business owners have a lot on their plates. It's easy to lose their trust when they don't feel in control of what's happening with their website. That's why we thoroughly test outbound communications that we send (emails and SMS). We can run mock-up orders through our workflow to simulate actual production and test different touchpoints to ensure you are comfortable with the design and content, and confident these notifications align with your organisation's communication approach. Same goes for everyone who talks directly to your customers. They speak your language, both literally and figuratively.

  • Trials. If you want to understand how comfortable customers are with different aspects of the solution from the website editor to the delivery process, there might not be a better tool than a limited trial. We can deliver a website for a few selected customers to test what needs tweaking before the full launch

Addressing the feasibility risk:

  • Prototyping. Creating a low- or even high-fidelity prototype, then refining it, is often an order of magnitude cheaper than a full-scale development. It also allows rapid testing of our core assumptions about the product. It is an invaluable technique that we used for the creation and evolution of Customer Engagement Portal, the briefing form, marketing websites for our partners and other solutions. Prototyping techniques can also be found in our website solutions, where more premium tiers include a mock-up stage that allows us to gather the necessary feedback without building the full website and doing costly re-work.

  • Discovery before commitments. We realise that our partners rely on us to honour commitments, including some pre-agreed dates. To provide a high-integrity commitment, we ask for the necessary amount of time to do the discovery activities on our end. This way, we investigate whether we can deliver on the promises. For example, we worked with a partner in Australia on a solution that had a fully automated Google My Business component. We had to sign a partnership with Google, investigate their API, understand how we can integrate the listing with our systems. Had we committed right away, we would put the whole project in danger.

Addressing business viability risk:

  • We understand and embrace different models. We have the pleasure of working with many companies in different corners of the world. Because their markets, goals, and business models can be starkly different, we get a chance to work and learn something new from each partner. We also try out various setups: some partners prefer a higher one-off fee and lower monthly payments; some do it vice versa; some bundle our products with the existing products in their portfolio; some use certain products as loss leaders; some prefer low margins and higher volumes; some go for the premium margins. We are happy to help partners experiment and advise on the best setups for their circumstances based on what we have learned. When you succeed, we succeed, so we always do our best.


"Change is the only constant", goes the adage. "Love the problem, not the solution", says another. Even the best teams only see half of their ideas working out. That's the nature of the business. It's challenging! It's what Peter Urmson, Spotzer CEO, called "survival of the fastest", the ones who embrace risk, are smart about it and iterate quickly. Sometimes it's as simple as decreasing the number of default pages to lower the base price. Sometimes it's as drastic as rolling out a whole new generation of premium websites to improve sales processes drastically.


In Agile development, there is a concept of a "user story" - an outcome described from the perspective of a person using the software. Agile teams build software based on user stories. At Spotzer, our favourite definition of a user story comes not from the standard manuals, but from Gojko Adzic, who defined it as "a survivable experiment". Product development is inherently risky. That's why it's essential to tackle the risks head-on, as early as possible - and why we help our partners do just that.


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