5 mandatory pillars to build a fantastic product company in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabian companies are working towards the Saudi Vision 2030, and most of them are developing digital product companies therefore this article demonstrates the 5 pillars that every Digital Product Company in Saudi Arabia should consider.
As a Saudi modern leader, you know that your company needs to adapt to meet the challenges of today’s digital landscape. If you’re not sure where to start, this concise article will equip you for your digital product creation journey.
As José Pedro Pinto, Chief Marketing Officer of BNP Paribas Personal Finance wrote in his foreword of the Amazon bestseller ADAPT Book:
Those of us with leading roles already understand that our businesses, whatever sector we’re in, are
changing fast. Transformation is not new for most companies that have seen reasonable success over
the past few years. Most leaders and teams are already familiar with the need to evolve and continuously
seek improvement through lean management.
It is, however, clear that the digital age presents new and multidimensional challenges for all of us. Boosted
by digital, customer expectations and behaviours are changing at an incredible pace. To adapt and become
more agile, companies are compelled to change their day-to-day processes, even their values and, ultimately, their culture.
All these changes were accelerated with Covid-19; many long-established traditional businesses, both large and small, that relied predominantly on a bricks and mortar presence, footfall and face-to-face transactions, didn’t make the ride out of the storm so well.
Such failures are a tragedy and represent huge losses to the well-being of developed world economies, let alone the heartache and anxiety caused to the many thousands of individuals employed by those businesses.
Prior to the pandemic, I was already concerned that too many businesses, founded on the principles of industrial-age models, were ill-prepared to withstand the onset of the digital era. Unless they embrace the urgent need to adapt their operation, many more businesses will die.
Unless that is, executive leaders are willing to adopt a Digital Product Development Framework, beginning with a well-articulated digital agenda and a readiness assessment. This will then enable them to reimagine their organization’s business processes, following a roadmap to create unique digital services and product propositions.
In Saudi Arabia, the scenario is a bit different but because of “The Saudi 2030 Vision” there is a huge need to build successful Digital Product Companies.
We suggest to use a Digital Product Development Framework that is the subject of my latest book Adapt which outlines an iterative process based on the five pillars of my ADAPT Methodology™.
- Approach: how to acquire new customers in the digital era.
- Data: learning how to utilize your data to optimize your business and customer experience.
- Agility: the need to build a company that can react and responds quickly to changes in the market.
- Product: developing and implementing a digital product strategy.
- Transformation: why and how the entire organization needs to change so that it can competitively thrive in the digital era.
This Digital Product Development Framework seeks to provoke thought and raise awareness of the measures that can then be implemented. It’s essential that Saudi Executive Leaders must be willing themselves to adopt its principles and to actively drive that transformation.
Change is not always welcome and can be difficult to implement under the best of circumstances. However, we all need to learn the lessons of Covid-19; wishing we had been better prepared in the first place masks the real issues created by the onset of the digital era.
Whilst hindsight is great, it’s meaningless unless change happens as a result. Having the foresight to adapt to the digital era, therefore, has never been more crucial.
ADAPT METHODOLOGY® – Digital Product Development Framework
APPROACH – Pillar 1 From The Digital Product Development Framework
The digital era has revolutionised and disrupted how customers prefer to engage and purchase from businesses with very few exceptions. Even before the world was turned upside down by Covid-19, customer behaviors were shifting towards purchasing goods and services via online platforms and are far less loyal than they were 30 years ago.
This means that companies need to understand their consumers better to promote loyalty and they also need to acknowledge that the digital era drive increasingly drives sales. Understanding the impact of both is vital, as is the awareness that the traditional mass marketing model (large scale print and broadcast advertising) no longer exists.
Standing out in the crowd has never been more important, nor has the customer been in possession of more knowledge about the product they wish to buy. The good news is that customers are still there, but they need to be approached in a different way.
Traditional mass marketing relies on interrupting them without an invitation to engage, running the risk of alienation or the message being ignored. The digital era has empowered customers to become more curious and savvy.
They know what they want and they’ll carry out their own research in order to inform their purchasing decisions.
This needs to be your immediate focus when deciding how to approach them because this will offer you two key valuable insights going forward:
- If your products and services are in alignment with customers’ evolving behaviors.
- How to create relevant products and services that will connect with your customers.
No matter if yours is a multinational or a sole trading concern, the digital era impacts the business of all sizes. Lose sight of that and customers will lose sight of you.
DATA – Pillar 2 From The Digital Product Development Framework
As complex as it might first appear, it’s not a prerequisite for a business Saudi leader to become an expert in Big Data and analytics. It is necessary, however, to become more aware of the enormous potential that data offers and how it can affect strategic decision-making.
In today’s digital environment, data is more than an aggregated accounting exercise, it’s a truly valuable commodity, more valuable than oil. Understanding how you can deepen your relationship with data will greatly enhance your business intelligence since it’s one of the most important assets any business owns.
Achieving deeper levels of intelligence of evolving employee, operations, and customer data allows a business to leverage it and convert that into revenue and profit. However, amassing silos of raw data (supply chains, sales, turnover, and profit) serves no useful purpose as it only skims the surface of what data can really do for a business.
Only when an organisation understands how to integrate all of this data across all departments is when the health of the business can be measured. A more holistic approach to data then better informs the strategic decision process of the C-Suite executives. Those decisions are then based on valuable insights gained from customer behaviour which informs the business how and when it can deliver by knowing:
- Where they are.
- What they want.
- When they want.
To achieve this 360-degree perspective, the three key areas of data I identify within my methodology are:
- Business process data that sit at the center of your daily ops.
- Product, or service, data that deliver the business’ core value proposition.
- Customer data that provides insights into building a more complete customer base picture.
Once a cohesive data strategy is implemented, Saudi leaders are then free to take their businesses to a new and completely different level. Love it or loathe it, data is one of the most crucial pillars for a business if it’s to survive and thrive in the digital era.
THE ADAPT BOOK
Adapting your company for the digital era is not an easy task, especially for established organisations that were always very successful but the times changed! ADAPT is a great book for leaders that want to guarantee they will not become irrelevant in the digital era!
AGILITY – Pillar 3 From The Digital Product Development Framework
The marketplace is continually evolving, which is why Saudi executive leaders need to consider introducing agility in order to meet conditions as they change.
The good news is that it’s not too late to embrace and discover how to apply agility in order to create a future-proof business. This needs to be part of a graduated shift in mindset, away from setting annual goals as per more traditional Waterfall practice where the risks are high (and costly) should a new product or service fail on release to the market.
Adopting agile on the other hand offers far greater flexibility and variability whereby a business can invest time, money and resources into iteratively creating products that will begin earning revenue, and more quickly. That’s why I urge all Saudi executive leaders to rethink it as a strategy because Waterfall is no longer relevant, given that more agile competitors are reading and responding to evolving market conditions.
The mistake many Saudi executive leaders make is viewing agile as a process that should be delegated to a consultant expert for the IT department. However, Agility must be applied cross-functionally, not just at the team level. Left within a departmental silo (as often is the case) eventually it will suffocate.
Agile has the potential to reduce risk, accelerate value delivery and maximise opportunities for the business to react and respond quickly. Its success will rely on the Saudi executive leaders embedding themselves within the whole agile process from inception, or else the whole process will be ineffective.
For a successful Saudi executive leader to stand out in the digital marketplace, they must understand the need for following three key steps:
Failure to follow these three basic steps will lead to a failure of proper implementation and the business will ultimately suffer as the result of the disconnect between the executive leadership (because it doesn’t implement agile through example), middle management, and the product teams working on the front line.
For an organisation to change, its leaders must change, too. Saudi executive leaders cannot create the organisation’s agile strategy if they’re not prepared to apply agile to the way they work themselves and be fully involved with its implementation. It requires a top-down cultural and operational change that permeates throughout the whole organisation.
Failure to do so will only extenuate any existing disconnects and within a matter of time, the organisation will fatally malfunction, as I have seen happen on many occasions. It’s also the only solution if a business wants to continue fulfilling its vision, mission, and values in its bid to serve its customers in the digital age.
PRODUCT – Pillar 4 From The Digital Product Development Framework
Keeping products alive in the digital era is of paramount importance if they are to be relevant to existing and new customers. Many traditional businesses remain stuck in a project mindset and ultimately, many of those projects die following a long drawn-out, and costly period, I call the “urgency paradox”.
However, rethinking our relationship to the product, and learning how to adapt it iteratively via incremental releases into the market, will shift the Saudi executive leader’s focus away from projects to products. That will greatly enhance the way in which products, as well as the business, relates to customers.
Agility provides the tools to rethink the product portfolio with the maximum flexibility, from strategy through to delivery. The problem for many businesses, including traditional ones is understanding clearly what happens before delivery? How do they decide what to deliver, when and at what cost?
The paradigm shift, from project to product needs to be part of every executive’s thinking so that they are more focused on:
- What products does the business intend to deliver?
- How can the business better deliver those products?
This paradigm shift in thinking means that every product team should be viewed as a value stream and should behave as if it were a start-up, continuously scanning the market and trends and evolving its business model by using discovery as its foundation.
The product aims to continuously solve customers’ problems and create real value for them. It also offers the opportunity to fail fast and learn from the feedback without losing momentum. Failure is an integral pathway to the ROI.
TRANSFORMATION – Pillar 5 From The Digital Product Development Framework
Many start-ups still believe they’re modern and fit for the digital age when, in fact, their organisational structures are founded on building blocks laid down 100 years ago.
The final pillar is dedicated to transforming your entire business into a modern organisation, one that’s optimised for the digital era. This requires a deeper dive into the heart of the organisation itself into areas where transformation is most needed in order to re-shape it, fit for the digital era.
If you want to take a deeper dive into this pillar you can download my book Organisational Mastery that describes this topic in maximum detail.
With that in mind, I’ve identified five key areas that enable transformation:
- Translating strategy into operations – total clarity on where a business wants to be within the next five years. I introduce practices such as working with Agile Portfolio Management and OKRs in which ideas, vision, or objectives are generated.
- Reducing time to market – businesses that optimise for efficiency are also optimised for both speed and value delivery for their customers. By committing to properly implementing OKRs in respect of product development and delivery, the customer remains the central focus of what the business wants to achieve for the customer, and how to meet their needs and improve customer satisfaction.
- Continuous improvement – change can only happen if team members are allowed to collaborate in problem-solving, thus co-creating change. It can not be forced upon them. Executives must be at the heart of this by creating a direct coalition with and listening to their front-line operators that hold the deep operational knowledge and skills to co-create a solution and drive continuous improvement.
- Knowledge sharing – it has the power to transform through implementing informal communities of practice and to allow the whole organisation to benefit where the outcomes are arrived at via quality-driven solutions discovered through collective knowledge sharing of ideas. More significantly, it reduces decision-making delays because teams are no longer dependent on the top-level authorisation. The four levels of knowledge sharing I recommend implementing are:
- Team – sharing with direct team colleagues.
- Product – team sharing with other teams inside of the same product.
- Organisational –sharing with cross-product teams best practices, anecdotes, problems and solutions.
- External – attending outside events/conferences/meetups to exchange learning, problems and solutions, with opportunities to recruit.
- Innovation – the risk in ignoring innovation is that products can become obsolete and irrelevant, and as a result, market share is lost to disruptors and competitors. Committing space, energy, time and resources to innovation is, therefore, essential. Too much, haphazard innovative thinking can lead to a backlog of ideas that never get to see the light of day. The solution is to allocate one week at the end of each quarterly cycle in which new ideas are tested and validated. Then, identify the one potential revenue-generating idea that really stands out above the rest and is worth pursuing. That idea is then incorporated into the portfolio management at the beginning of the next quarterly cycle along with its own OKRs, including the financials. This creates a cadence of planning that integrates innovation in complete alignment with the quarterly and overall business strategy. Products are then released into the market quickly, adapted to feedback and generate revenue, faster.
With “The Saudi Vision 2030” the entire country is booming with digital product companies but it’s not enough to build companies, it’s necessary to build them in a way they become sustainable and profitable for the long term to make Saudi Arabia a worldwide reference.
With a proper Digital Product Development Framework like ADAPT Methodology®, organizations can continually find ways to increase the value to their customers creating a more positive experience for the customer, and producing more generous results for the company.
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