Why your organization’s ability to compete depends on its ability to reinvent itself as a digital factory

Standing in the way of fresh digital products and speed to market are outdated workflow and business processes bound by legacy technology and siloed content.

Companies need to move beyond traditional waterfall models of product development, where each team waits in line to contribute their part. The modern model is agile, as people work in parallel on a cross-functional team that includes anyone who plays a part in the customer lifecycle—each doing his or her part in what can be likened to a “digital factory.”

Customers are now accustomed to a continuous stream of innovative digital products that are tailored for their individual needs. Companies that can meet these expectations are repaid with a highly engaged customer base whose interactions with the aforementioned digital products feed the targeted development of new digital products—not to mention the bottom line.

It’s the best kind of virtuous cycle, but it doesn’t come easily. In fact, for some companies it doesn’t come at all.

The demand chain and digital factories

Digital products — ranging from apps and services to websites, digital signage and customer touchpoints that haven’t even been invented yet — are now core components of businesses, brands, markets and customer value.

Organizations are spinning up new digital products on a continuous basis in response to market demand. Some of these products may be a way to build loyalty with a customer base, expand current market share, take risks and enter new markets or product lines. And it’s not just startups causing this disruption,according to IBM, incumbents are striking back by building these digital factories as well. Companies that fail to do so risk losing time, money, market share, customers and even staff as talented existing and future employees look for dynamic (and profitable) workplaces using the most current technology.

The digital factory approach enables the kind of agility and flexibility this dynamic model requires. However, for many companies this means a complete re-evaluation of how teams, processes and technologies interact.

Why? For one thing, it’s likely that existing monolithic systems and architectures run counter to the digital factory concept. The goal of digital factories is to unleash teams to spin out digital products quickly. Creating a viable product with plenty of features requires not only a transformation in processes and culture, but supporting technology that compliments developer workflows, speed and agility.

Most monoliths either address a fraction of customer needs by supplying millions of unused and cumbersome features that do not necessarily reflect the goal of organizational agility and velocity, or the monolithic solutions require significant modification and customization. Worse yet, monolithic systems being operated today within the enterprise may not be able to handle the needs of customers even a year down the line – even with massive customization efforts. Right when a customer has completed one endeavour for a particular touchpoint or audience, the next touchpoint or audience is already interacting with their competitor that is already in that next space.

Spinning up a new product or service could take weeks or even months in this model. If something isn’t quite right with the product and it has to be tweaked, the entire cycle begins again, leading to huge deficits in time and expenditure for the company.

Building the digital factory

The cloud brings companies a big step closer to a working digital factory because it enables them to decouple services and continuously deploy software using a stack of primitives. Organizations can pick and choose solutions based on how well they accomplish a specific task, rather than playing catch-up with technology and trying to add feature upon feature to an already bloated offering.

Companies can make the final leap to a larger digital transformation with a digital factory that breaks down silos and connects developers, designers, content creators and other strategic digital contributors.

Some of the major benefits include:

  • A digital factory’s modular, services-oriented architecture enables continuous deployment — not to mention speed and resiliency — by breaking everything into small pieces.
  • Teams are encouraged to experiment — the digital factory model enables teams to fail fast and inexpensively.
  • Digital factories mitigate the risk that comes with vendor lock-in and the need for significant customizations, putting companies in a position to change direction quickly and lead emerging markets and channels.
  • Digital factories increase internal morale, innovation, and the quality and quantity of talent coming inbound to help these organizations in this new world.