For retailers, COVID-19 has really heaped on the pressure in terms of digital transformation. It was all there before – the urgency for retailers to create new experiences for their customers around new channels, services offerings, products and bundles. But this weird situation has undoubtedly put a foot on the acceleration pedal – a recent study showed that since lock-down, online food shopping has doubled to 14%. It had previously taken 22 years to get to 7%.

Many retailers have been blindsided, but the ones faring better are those that have adapted quickly to the new norm. And that means a change in how they approach digital and gear-up their digital organisation. For example, in the past, many old school retailers relied too heavily on a small core team – but this approach is flawed and can be a hindrance. Retailers need to switch to a more strategic way of working, which spreads the delivery responsibility across a more sustainable delivery function – your digital initiatives are much more likely to be successful this way.

So how do you ensure you deliver the right digital initiatives at pace, without relying solely on a small core team?

Here are some ways to speed up your digital production line:
Step 1: Get your digital organisation set-up for success
All too often, clients have the right people involved, but they aren’t organised in the right way. For example, they might not be clear on where decision boundaries start and stop. Or they might not understand digital production line handoffs – where a piece of work is handed from one role to another. There are some organisations that are supposed to be lean, but you would be surprised how much time and effort is wasted in some areas of the digital production process – as well as being a waste of resource, it also has an impact on the value of the digital initiative.

Step 2: Prioritise your digital backlog
Prioritising your digital backlog provides a focal point for the development teams and will ensure the right initiatives are being built in the correct order. This will provide you with a list of approved, sized and prioritised digital initiatives that are aligned to your company’s business strategy and sit ‘above the line’ in terms of team capacity i.e. you are able to deliver them using existing capacity.

Step 3: Get laser-focussed on managing your ‘Hopper’
To make sure you can deliver digital change as quickly as you need to, it is vital that the team is focused on targets. This centres around ‘filling the hopper’ (the ideas funnel) – where the user experience team works with product owners to understand their needs and translate them into prototypes. Then the product owner and business analysts translate these prototypes, making them viable for users. The hopper then prioritises them. ‘Emptying the hopper’ is where the scrum master and development teams come in – they pick up the idea, develop the user story and then release value (functionality, capability etc.) at regular intervals. Any problems are highlighted and resolved straight away, so they don’t impact the speed of delivery – and teams can use KANBAN boards to do this. We also use some clever ‘widgets’ to aid velocity (throughput progress) and team productivity – this enables clients to get to the root cause of issues and resolve them speedily.

Step 4: Embed regular feedback loops
It’s important to have a regular ’show and tell,’ a forum to provide feedback and give the green or red light to ideas. These sessions can also be used to review the prototype wireframes – the roadmap of these ideas – which reduces the risk for future sprints working on different phases of the agile development process. This helps to manage stakeholder expectations and makes sure that you’re not too far down the wrong track if, during one of the ‘show & tell’ sessions, senior leaders decide they wish to make some tweaks, or re-think the whole idea – which ultimately is the underlying principle behind more iterative delivery.

For retailers, there is no cookie-cutter answer to the perfect digital journey, because each organisation is unique. But following these steps to establish or finesse your digital production line – and making sure you stick to best practice while you do it – will help you get on the right path.

At Valcon helping our clients to respond to and solve these challenges is what makes us tick. If your business is encountering similar challenges and you’d like to speak to us about how we can help, please get in touch.