An Interview With Jonathan Healey, NetConstruct MD

What are the Digital Challenges Facing Businesses Today?

There is an endless list of challenges linked to the digital operations of a modern business, but I believe there are three key ones. The first being complexity. This issue often comes from the vast options available to brands, whether it be the number of channels, technology partners, platforms or agencies available. Making the correct choice can be an overwhelming task.

Secondly, many clients fear being left behind in the face of digital transformation. Brands feel a constant responsibility to engage effectively with their customers through online channels and suffer if they do not have the ability or remit to meet these pressurising requirements. This links to the final factor of striking the right balance of an in-house team combined with an external team.

Today, many businesses choose to build their own teams. Internal teams can often lack the breadth of experience that comes from the variety of scenarios, situations and clients that agencies routinely manage. So, there will always be a demand to bring outsiders in and utilise their specialist skills. Brands must be proactive in navigating the path of freelancers, contractors, internal teams and agencies successfully. Striking this balance creates an effective environment allowing each team to work in parallel without being threatened by one another. 

What Role Does Technology Play in Overcoming These Challenges?

This is an ironic question as technology is often part of the problem. Businesses unintentionally try to tick as many boxes as possible leading to a proliferation of services, software and solutions. They feel a pressure to know everything about everything and the core reason of why the brand exists can become lost.

Of course, a lot of other challenges clients face around complexity can only be solved by technology. Because technology enables greater efficiencies, automation and can provide insights that are especially hard to gather on your own in the digital space, I think we’ve got to see technology as a tool rather than the solution. Businesses need to steer away from this notion that you will find the perfect product that ticks all the boxes and focus more on the holistic future of how each vendor can be tied together, putting the right partners in place to reach overarching objectives. 

How Have CMS Advancements Helped Ease These Challenges?

So, there have been two major advancements in the last few years within CMS technology. The first was the emergence of open source platforms which have eased things from a cost perspective and brought CMS to the masses. These platforms may not always be the most appropriate solution, but they can be useful, even when navigating complex, costly projects.

The second is CMS platforms introducing digital marketing features that cut across the functionality traditionally associated with other marketing solutions. A vast majority of CMS’ today are not actually a CMS, but are eCommerce platforms, marketing automation platforms, email marketing platforms, and CRM platforms instead. These are all built into one solution that happens to have an element of content management attached to them, and so, CMS has become descriptive of a much broader topic than just content management. We’re seeing a reaction from the experts as technical and solution architects want to take a more purist approach to content management. This is where headless CMS’ has emerged, although it’s not a particularly mature market yet.

In terms of the three platforms we use, each one addresses the challenge of complexity in slightly different ways. Umbraco is an open source CMS with no direct costs attached to the license. This approach is all about simplicity, providing a robust, technical framework to work with. Kentico EMS offers an all-in-one solution for basic CRM and eCommerce offerings, allowing these choices to be explored vs. Kentico Cloud which is a cutting-edge headless CMS designed for multi-channel. Kentico Cloud provides the freedom to create powerful cross-channel experiences by de-coupling control content from the front-end user interface. 

How Can Businesses Overcome These Challenges?

I think we can already see solutions to some of these challenges and we need to help take our clients on the same journey we have been on. As a starting point, brands should be building their digital services around business objectives rather than feature sets. Quite often, we see projects and requirements come in and there is no clear connection between what the brand is trying to achieve and what we are being asked to do. The by-product of this is inevitably more complexities. Creating a vision, working to that vision and tying everything back to that vision ensures that each component of the project moves in the right direction.

We always advise clients to remove the parts of the website that aren’t productive in order to simplify. The alternative is to inevitably carry the weight of technical debt which then becomes a shared burden between the brand and the agency creating a desire to keep starting from scratch. Understandably, businesses are often reluctant to remove services in case their users need it, but I believe we need to be more ruthless when it comes to this as they take significant costs to maintain and hinder progress. 

Your Final Words of Advice?

Finally, and possibly most importantly, we advise clients that the little and often approach is much more effective than the big project approach when dealing with digital transformation and complexities.

The many issues brands are facing are best overcome by external expertise and collaboration with trusted agencies and technology partners. Big changes can mean big risk. Inevitably, you can’t always get around these situations, but this is where we can come in to make recommendations. We advise constant iteration based on the vision.

Building a site and then letting it sit untouched is no longer an effective way of dealing with websites. The cost of rebuilding from scratch is becoming more expensive and riskier which is why we advise clients to consider monthly retainers. As an agency, our staff, processes, technology and approach are centralised around a constant improvement mindset, and clients who have reflected this approach have seen the most benefit. 

Find out how we can help you overcome your complex digital challenges by contacting our expert team.