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What to do with underbidding competition: how to create value with digital platforms

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Tips on how agencies and system integrators can generate value and win bids by leveraging their chosen digital platform.

A common problem among agencies and system integrators is that quality solutions and services are costly, while seemingly reasonable alternatives like WordPress and fast processes are cheaper, at least in the short run.

What can your organisation do when the competition underbids you? You can show your potential client the long term value created by your chosen solutions and your offered services. In this article, we will show you how to leverage the digital platform of your choice to gain confidence and win bids.

Speed and flexibility

Firstly, you should make sure that it’s easy to customise your chosen digital platform. This enables your organisation to solve different customer needs with the same tool, without the need to switch platforms for every new and unique project. This means that you don’t have to buy into new platforms too often, which saves you time and resources on process and training.

Your chosen digital platform should make it easy to train developers and it should be fast to get started building solutions for your clients. Furthermore, the platform should be fully compatible with modern solutions, like rich web front-ends, headless CMS, and websites.

Another important point in regard to flexibility is that the digital platform should support multiple touchpoints in the customer journey. While most digital platforms can support traditional CMS features like blog posts and landing pages, there is a need to cover even more channels and touchpoints in today’s world, like APIs, apps, automation, in-store beacons, digital signage, self-service, and IoT appliances.

Faster projects: Productivity for developers

The digital platform you will use to create excellent digital experiences for your customers should support server side JavaScript. Why? Because it’s one of the core languages behind the web (together with HTML and CSS) and thus makes it easy to train developers. As a result of the availability, accessibility, and non-proprietary nature of JS, your organisation can develop solutions faster for your clients.

Also make sure that the digital platform of your choice features comprehensive and helpful documentation, something which will aid your developers in setting up projects, comply with best practices, and get answers to common questions. As an extension to this, the digital platform should have an active and engaged developer community revolving around it, making it even easier to share knowledge and experiences—and receive help when you need it.

Another helpful feature which can boost developer productivity are project starters, which are ready-made templates to kickstart your projects. Starters often provide a predefined project structure, build scripts, library references, sample code, and sometimes even data—all in order to get your developers up and running fast.

As a final note in regard to developer productivity, ensure that the vendor behind your chosen digital platform adheres to professional development process principles. This entails for instance agile principles and continuous delivery and integration. And if the platform is open source, that is better in terms of transparency and predictability.

Productivity for editors

As a system integrator, it is your job to ensure that your client is left with a working and productivity-boosting product to enhance their digital experiences. This is the flipside of the digital platform coin: marketer and web editor productivity—the people who will work on the platform on a daily basis with content and customer experience.

Creating value for your client in this realm is done by making sure that the CMS aspect of the digital platform features a user-friendly and neat navigation, a faceted search function, powerful image handling with cropping, rotating, and flipping—erasing the need for most third-party image software—familiar keyboard shortcuts to speed up the editorial work, and a collaboration tool where editors can easily communicate, tag items, and assign each other tasks.

 

More productivity-boosting and thus value-generating features in a robust and future-proof digital platform should include a responsive admin interface, a visual page editor to build landing pages, macros to easily adapt any content to be embedded in texts, third-party marketing tools integrations, content duplication, overview of dependencies, and access and roles management.

With such features in place, the digital platform will enable your client’s editors to concentrate on what they enjoy the most: creating great content and customer journeys, instead of battling with technical obstacles and archaic user interfaces. If you highlight these features in your bidding process, you stand a better fighting chance.

As a Service

The kind of digital platform also has an impact on the potential value to be generated. Whether it is on premise or offered in the cloud as a service (a truly flexible platform allows you to choose), an “As a Service” offering may make everything more predictable for both you and your client.

With a hosted platform, your organisation can solely focus on the solution you’re crafting for your potential and actual clients, thereby making it even better. In this alternative, you can let the vendor be the expert on operations, uptime, and security, while you build functionality and digital experiences in close collaboration with your client.

Future-proof

While it may sound like a gimmick, “future-proof” denotes that the digital platform you choose can deliver digital experiences for, not only today and next year, but at least for the next ten years and foreseeable future in the realm of digital technology.

What future-proof means in this context is that the digital platform supports headless CMS, omnichannel delivery, and a customer journey with multiple touchpoints. Or in other words: that you can build solutions that meet your clients' customers on whatever digital surface they’re interacting with—whether it is a website, a mobile app, a wearable, an in-store machine, or something else entirely.

Another aspect of being future-proof is that the platform supports lean principles. The lean model aims to eliminate waste across entire value streams, rather than at isolated points, and with a modern digital platform it should be possible to define value, map the value stream, create flow, establish pull, and pursue perfection.

Something which should be a given in relation to being future-proof is the upgrade regime of the digital platform. When your organisation makes sure that the platform is continuously developed by the vendor and that it is easy to upgrade, you can assure your clients of the longevity and thus long term value. As a side note to the upgrade regime is the availability of a vendor roadmap, which makes the future features available in order to prepare together with your client.

A final note in regard to a future-proof platform is the architecture itself. Questions you should ask yourself are: is the architecture modern? Is it ready for future solutions? How is the framework, runtime, storage, IAM, and admin built up? 

Innovation vs. maintenance

If your goal is to increase value for your clients, you don’t achieve that by managing old business processes—i.e. a stale digital platform. Instead you should focus on innovation. Historically, businesses that haven’t adopted, or at least considered, new technologies and solutions have disappeared, either going bankrupt or having gone the M&A route.

When all your resources are spent on maintaining an existing system or handling technical debt, red flags should be raised. This most likely means that the current platform you’re working on is too rigid, archaic, compex, monolithic, and sluggish. This, in turn, means that all your resources are wasted on chasing old debts, instead of generating new value possibilities for your client.

The bottom line: Make sure that your chosen digital platform is flexible, modular, fast, modern, and open—as this will make quick reworks and reinventing yourselves possible.

Open source

An open-source digital platform has several benefits for both you as a system integrator and your client, in terms of both project process and value. First off, an open-source platform reduces the chance of lock-in—to be stuck with a costly, but inefficient platform for years to come. Open source means that the source code is open and you can freely use the platform without an agreement with the vendor. You are also safer if the vendor goes bankrupt or discontinues development, since you have access to the source code and you can do bug fixing and improvements on your own.

Transparency goes further than you seeing the source code of a platform: it enables you to see what has been done in the past and what is planned for the future—thus getting valuable insight in the work processes and professionalism of the vendor. This in turn allows for greater predictability, for both you and your clients.

Open source also tends to have active and engaged communities, with developers making what they perceive as real and lasting contributions to the product in question. This can prove to be a tremendous value, as it maximises the probability that the platform won’t stagnate.

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To sum up: If agencies and system integrators really want to demonstrate value for potential and actual clients, and thereby winning more bids, they should choose a digital platform that is fast and flexible, allows for both developer and editor productivity, is offered as a service, is future-proof, focuses on innovation, and is open-source.

A collaboration or partnership with the vendor is therefore preferable if you would like to keep one step ahead in the bidding process.

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