Driving digital transformation can prove to be a challenging exercise with the vast number of options available. How do you choose a platform which aligns with your digital strategy and ecosystem?
The short answer is it completely depends on your strategy. Nonetheless, there are 5 considerations that should be reviewed whenever you design or procure a new platform.
Buy vs build
One of the first considerations for procuring a new platform is whether to build a bespoke solution in-house, buy one off the shelf, or go down the SaaS route.
There are advantages to each approach, but the main questions to answer are:
- What problem are you trying to solve, and is there an out of the box solution/service which already solves it?
- What are the associated costs?
- When does the solution need to be delivered?
The last two points are notoriously difficult to get right if you plan on building a solution. Off-the-shelf and SaaS solutions commonly offer a transparent and fixed cost, or at least a predictable cost in terms of the latter, and are much faster to deploy and roll out to the wider business. The main trade-off here is less control over the application.
Data management & Integration
There’s nothing worse than having to manage the same data across multiple applications. In an ideal scenario, applications should only be concerned with the data they need to function, and any data that needs to be shared across applications should be managed between those applications to avoid duplication and a management overhead nightmare.
APIs can help alleviate this problem and help avoid reinventing the wheel by encouraging integration between applications in favour of rebuilding.
When deciding on a platform, consider:
- What data needs to be shared between this application and existing applications?
- What are the available options for managing data externally?
- What APIs are available?
- Would it be easier to integrate with certain parts of the application rather than replacing everything?
For example, if you need users to be able to authenticate against the application, you can automate the provisioning and de-provisioning process. This may come with an initial setup cost but will save a lot of manual intervention in the future.
This is somewhat related to the previous point. Generally speaking, the more data that is available over APIs, the more analytics can be gathered to help drive insights. This isn’t just related to APIs, there are plenty of other tools such as Google Analytics and Matomo which provide a different set of analytical tools, driven by the web traffic to the platform.
To be clear on the definitions:
Data: Information within the platform
Analytics: Discovering patterns and trends from that data
Insights: Obtaining value from those analytics to drive improvements throughout the organisation
The main considerations here are:
- What analytics tools are available? (e.g. Google Analytics)
- Outside of analytics tools, what is the availability of data which could be extracted by other means? (e.g. APIs, CSV extracts)
Analytics tools can help you answer many of the questions you face, to name a few:
- Which areas of the platform are most popular?
- How many users are using the platform on a regular basis?
- Are there any parts of the platform which are redundant, and need a rethink/remove?
- Where should we be focussing our energy with the platform in question?
- What devices are users using to access the platform?
- What time are users accessing different types of data?
Cross-platform support is basically a guarantee nowadays, especially with web applications. It’s easier than ever before to support working from mobile and tablet devices as well as a desktop.
More and more users expect this level of support from applications, whether that be to just check their calendar on their daily commute or to completely switch to a smaller device for certain types of work just based on preference.
Choosing a platform that enables this flexible approach to work will provide a better experience for end-users. Pair this with analytics and it will be easy to see which types of work are most popular with different platforms, and where to optimise certain areas of the platform.
Security & updates
Last but definitely not least, security. With cyber-attacks constantly on the rise, it’s crucial to make sure that your users and information are safe. As attacks evolve and become more advanced, so do the methods used to prevent them. Information security is something that needs to be constantly monitored and prevented, which in itself is a story for a separate blog. When specifically talking about securing a platform, one of the most common considerations is how to keep the platform as up-to-date as possible without disrupting other workflows.
This is one of the reasons SaaS models have become so popular. Updates (not necessarily security-related) and maintenance are handled by the supplier, often without any disruption, allowing you to focus on your users.
Talk to us
If we can support you with designing or procuring a new platform, or you’d simply like to learn more, please get in touch.