Adapt or Die: Flexibility of Digital Product Architecture as a Factor of Revenue Growth

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

This is a well-known quote by Charles Darwin that never actually came from Charles Darwin’s pen. It is taken from the work of business school professor Leon Megginson. However, this doesn’t diminish its relevance. The principle of Adapt or Die remains one of the most important in the survival of both biological species and businesses. 

Of course, adaptability and flexibility should be built into all business components. However, in the last decade, digital systems and platforms have come to the fore. The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly completed this transformation. Today, if your business is not online, your business probably does not exist.

Let’s discuss what an adaptive digital solution is, what principles it should be built on, and what questions you should ask first if you are choosing a vendor to create or upgrade your digital presence in the world. But before we move on to abstract concepts, let’s look at a concrete example.

Fintech business: Adapting to the Rapidly Changing World

Let’s imagine a European fintech company that creates a digital solution for online B2B payments in 2013. Like any other company, it has a development strategy – for the business as a whole and for its financial platform. 

However, let’s keep in mind that the average lifespan of digital solutions is 10 years. After that, they either lose their relevance or change so much that they become a new solution with a new life cycle. But the maximum duration of the planning period in business is 3 years.

What does this mean? When a digital solution is created, the strategy for its development covers less than a third of its life cycle.

Let’s try to imagine what the roadmap for this product could look like.

2013: Confronting the Legacy

So, it’s 2013. The software of most banking systems is legacy, created decades ago. These systems are heavy and slow. Making corporate payments takes a lot of time and effort. This is not a big deal for SMEs, but it is quite critical for large corporations that service huge contracts and make dozens or hundreds of payments every day.

That’s why our startup decided to create a product for enterprises. As a result, finance departments of big European corporations got a system that saves them time and effort, adopted advanced security features, and gained a much better user experience. 

Everyone is happy.

2016: Embracing a Global Shift

Three years pass, and 2016 comes. The world is globalizing, processes are accelerating. Small and medium-sized companies are starting to interact with more partners and vendors. Local businesses are entering international markets. The result? The limitations of legacy banking systems are becoming a pain for them as well. 

Our fintech company analyzes the market needs and realizes that it is time to offer its services to this audience – otherwise, competitors will do it. But a payment system designed for big enterprises will have many redundant functions that are irrelevant to SMEs. So, it needs to be adapted.

This is where we finally come close to the issue of flexibility and adaptability of digital systems. How quickly our heroes can adapt their product to the needs of a new audience depends entirely on the system’s architecture.

Scenario 1. Let’s assume that the system was originally built as a set of separate, relatively independent modules. Bingo! Now it’s not a problem to remove unnecessary components. Those that remain will continue to work and interact with each other normally.

The result: the product was adapted with minimal time and money. The company managed to capture a new audience segment before its competitors and is already actively earning money with new customers.

Scenario 2. The system was built as one large monolith, where all functions are interconnected and interdependent. If you eliminate a part of the functionality, the other part loses its efficiency. The product needs to be completely redesigned.

The result: competitors managed to enter the market, offer their solutions, and start making a profit. Meanwhile, our company spends precious time and money on upgrading the system.

2019: Dare to Expand

We are moving forward. The year 2019 is upon us. Our European company understands that they are mature enough and ready to conquer the US market. However, the financial system in the United States has its own regulations that must be integrated into a fintech product before entering the market. Our company again has two options:

Either its solution allows us to make the necessary changes quickly to start making a profit in the new market;

either the previous lesson was not learned and the system remained monolithic. Before entering a new market, they again need to spend a lot of money and time making changes.

2021: AI. The Future is Now

And then 2021 came and artificial intelligence took over the world. Companies are eager to start using its benefits as soon as possible, and those products that are among the first to integrate it will receive increased attention from potential customers.

Needless to say, the modular vs. monolithic structure of the solution again will either become a factor in generating additional profit or a source of additional costs.

Ready, Set, Execute: The Practical Part

So. The advantages of a well-thought-out digital product architecture are clear. The question remains: how exactly to approach this task if you are just planning to develop your solution?

Or where to start if your product is already working, but it’s very difficult to add or remove something, and every update turns it more and more into a clumsy and unpredictable Frankenstein?

Let’s dive deeper into the ins and outs of flexible digital systems in the upcoming article. Furthermore, we’ll explore the factors for choosing a technology partner. They ensure the creation of an adaptive digital platform tailored just for you.

Geir Egil Myhre

Founder and President

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