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Steven Hart
Steven HartSteve is Development Lead within the Growth team at Etch

Steve Hart, head of the Pulse team, delves into how we're taking a different approach to web development in 2020 by using the power of continuous improvement for immediate reward.

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We’re known for creating engaging and successful online experiences for businesses from a wide range of industries. Apart from that we know that it’s not enough to build a site, put it live and leave it to “do it’s thing”.

Far too often, those with limited digital maturity will approach a new website build with the “set it and forget it” mindset. This is the antithesis of how we think your digital presence should be maintained.

It’s not about sitting still; all industry trends move at a rapid pace. Fledgling websites need a clearly defined road map for continuous improvement.

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Your digital opportunity is as unique as your business. The choice of which digital path to take should be based on a clear understanding of what you stand for, what your audiences want and how you can align your digital journey with that of your business strategy.

We have a name for this level of understanding. We call it digital maturity.

Measuring your current level of digital maturity is designed to help you understand where you are now, where you want to be in a year’s time, and to identify where the areas of most need are.

There are four key areas to defining an effective digital path and establishing your current level of digital maturity:

1. Digital Strategy
As with any strategy, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. Your audiences are increasingly demanding clarity and coherence and planning to meet these growing expectations is the hallmark of a digitally mature organisation.

Digital strategy can seem complicated, but in reality it comes down to setting your ambition inline with the business and brand objectives, researching your audiences and measuring and improving as you go through a clearly defined continuous improvement programme. These are the basics you must get right ahead of your journey.

2. Content Strategy
Content is the most important aspect of how you communicate your business. Understanding how you perceive content to be organised, generated, distributed and targeted, as it stands today, is crucial for developing a strategy that produces digital communications that actually inform customers and support the needs of your business.

3. Experience Design
The sheer multiplication of digital channels, platforms and devices has made digital design increasingly complex. Audiences today are demanding high level and well thought out experiences in a market where we are consuming media almost all of the time.

4. Technical Delivery
Technology is a key part of delivering digital experiences and it should become an enabler to business, not a limitation. Does your current technology stack support or hinder the business you do? Do content updates fill you with dread? With so many feature-rich content management systems and CRMs available it’s important to consider existing day-to-day challenges and consider how technology can be leverage to solve these problems.

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With a newly crafted digital “road map” (or at least a proprietary list of clearly defined targets to aim for), it’s possible to take an existing digital presence and work towards reaching these targets.

The basic concept of continuous improvement encapsulates these four key principles:

1. Stick to small, incremental updates delivered fast and frequently
Ideas for improvement from the road map could have come from anyone. More often than not, these ideas were solutions to existing problems that needed solving in the short term.

Existing problems of this size require small and incremental changes. Large changes within a continuous improvement model can often promote feelings of apprehension and can slow the process. Rolling out a large modification while other smaller improvements are being made can result in complications and frustration.

By approaching changes in small, incremental steps increases speed to improvement, eliminating the need to wait for a strategic shift or a new product release to move forward.

2. Allow the project team to take ownership
Get everyone thinking about existing problems, whether they know the product inside out or whether they are new to it. Many ideas from the internal project team involve eliminating processes, opposed to creating them, which is a great way to be sure that all improvements add value to the product itself.

3. Act only upon real metrics and facts
Making a raft of changes over the course of a month and calling it “improvement” isn’t enough. To achieve true continuous improvement, the impact of recent changes must be measured against the original targets set out in the road map. This enables the project team to keep the product owner aligned to the originally defined targets, and trust between the two can be maintained.

If results are being achieved, great! If not then assess and modify any related tasks as needed to get back on track. The continuous improvement model enables controlled experimentation and the ability to quantify results to demonstrate the value of the work to the product owner.

4. Provide constant feedback and measurement
Constant feedback is an important aspect of continuous improvement. Frequent communication between the project team and product owner is crucial to achieving targets and to the continued trust and engagement of key stakeholders.

The continuous improvement model should enable product owners and stakeholders can follow the progress of improvements that matter to them and engage with the product team quickly and without friction. Essentially, everyone is on the same page through improved visibility and efficient communication face-to-face or remotely.

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We’re looking forward to an exciting year ahead helping small businesses thrive in an ever changing digital landscape. From building new online experiences through to improvements to existing products, it’s an exciting time for Etch Pulse.

In 2019 alone we launched a number of sites for businesses within various industries including hotels & hospitality, education, and insurance. For 2020 we already have a few more on the horizon in the hospitality, marine and technology sectors.

Stay tuned with our insights and musings throughout the year, there’s lots more to come.

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