How to win the digital race – A deep dive with Rubicon Red CEO, Matt Wright

Q&A with CEO Matt Wright, where he discusses the current climate of digital disruption and the framework for an operating model that can deliver a first-rate digital experience.

We’re excited to announce Rubicon Red Co-founder, Matt Wright as our new Chief Executive Officer.

Rubicon Red believe digital technology provides the catalyst to reimagine what’s possible and continuously innovate to transform businesses. With the accelerating rate of change in the market, Matt and his team are hard at work fulfilling our mission of helping customers ‘cross the Rubicon’ in their successful adoption and application of digital technologies.   We create compelling digital solutions that integrate the digital value chain and power the connected enterprise, delivering effortless customer experience for your customers.

It is our digital operating model that sets us apart and enables our customers to innovate rapidly and continuously test and evolve their ideas into compelling digital experiences for their customers, delivering outcomes quickly, in a low risk and cost-effective way.

We recently sat down with Matt to delve a little deeper into the current climate of digital disruption and the framework for an operating model that can deliver a first-rate digital experience.

Q: Matt, thanks for your time and congratulations on your appointment to CEO. Would you care to elaborate on the current state of the digital economy? What are the common themes you’re seeing in the market that are causing disruption for organisations?

Thank you, and my pleasure - what we're seeing in the market is an acknowledgement and realisation from companies that they need to continuously innovate and improve the customer experience to stay abreast of consumer expectations and ahead of their competition. With this goal in mind, they're realising they need to move away from more traditional methods of conducting one-off projects to a more product-centric approach. Companies are looking to make ongoing improvements and refinements to their products/solution to continuously improve the digital experience over time, which in turn enhances the overall customer experience that they deliver.  This approach to ongoing product/solution delivery is what we call “product-centric” a term referenced by Gartner.

Technology led disruption isn’t new, but traditionally the impact across industries was limited to just a few, however the breadth of industries being disrupted is now across the board, and it’s the acceleration of that disruption that is occurring faster and faster. Companies like Uber and Netflix have almost appeared overnight, it’s the speed at which companies can emerge and continuously innovate that is disrupting the marketplace.

Q: You mentioned the acceleration of disruption, what do you think is its biggest facilitator?

There’s no one component that’s driving the acceleration, but rather it’s a combination of several different factors. In saying that, the move to cloud as a delivery model is a huge catalyst because it provides easy and affordable access to the latest technology. This allows companies to rapidly deliver minimal viable products (MVP)/solutions, experiment with them and learn from customer feedback, and scale exponentially. A common attribute that we see with these "born digital" companies is that they're leveraging these technologies to deliver a rapidly evolving and compelling digital experience.

Q: Moving to SaaS does provide a number of benefits, in that it allows organisations to quickly put in place modern applications to better manage their core business processes and transactions. However, we don’t believe that organisations that are just adopting SaaS, will have what it takes to leap frog their competition.  The fact is, most of their competitors will often have that very same SaaS application and given the limited ability to customise SaaS, those competitors will, therefore, also have those very same best-of-breed processes.

If you want to be a leader in your industry, you then have to ask yourself – ‘how can I build on these core cloud systems to create a compelling digital experience that differentiates me from my competitors?’. This is where Rubicon Red focuses a lot of our energy.

Q: Forgive me for asking the obvious then, but how can an organisation best develop a compelling digital experience?

First and foremost, to develop a compelling digital experience that resonates with your customers you need to adopt a customer-centred approach. This involves taking a holistic view of the entire landscape, the end-to-end digital value chain, including the key stakeholders inside and outside the enterprise. This enables you to determine how the various elements need to come together to deliver a simplified yet compelling digital experience – this is key to prioritising and focusing your efforts in the areas that will deliver the most significant value first.

IT used to be about automating internal processes and housing key pieces of data, it wasn’t about facilitating the customer experience. The old model of ‘one project at a time’ doesn’t foster change very well. In fact, that model is actually designed to minimise change as a means of controlling cost. Organisations now need IT that accelerates change and innovation, and the companies that do this best are those that continuously improve the digital experiences for their customers. Everyone is in what you could call a digital race – they’re trying to run as fast possible without a finish line.

To best deliver on this ability to continuously evolve the digital experience, organisations need to adopt a new digital operating model, one that embraces change and enables rapid iteration to continuously deliver new digital experiences.

Q: It goes without saying that this operating model would vary from business to business, but is there are a basic structure that can be implemented?

You’re right in saying that it varies because there is no one size that fits all. But, we have developed a digital operating model, that draws on the experience and success of the “born digital” companies. This model can quickly be applied to organisations looking to innovate, enabling them to iterate rapidly to deliver digital solutions that can continuously evolve to fold in new requirements and changing business priorities over time.

Q: Okay fantastic. Would you care to elaborate on what this operating model consists of?

Sure – For the better part of the last five years Rubicon Red have been working on an operating model to address the digital disruption that organisations are currently experiencing. It comprises three key components; Product-Centric, DevOps, and Cloud-Native. When all three are integrated through the digital value chain, the connected enterprise can really start to flourish.

Product-Centric

This approach recognises that the digital experience you’re providing is a core element of delivering the overall customer experience – built on agile principles, it needs to be updated, improved, and evolve over the period of time that you’re delivering it. To maintain a competitive advantage over your competitors, you constantly need to be able to improve on a product or service. With this approach you acknowledge that there isn’t necessarily an end-date for the service/app/product, it is repeatedly tested and improved upon.

Commence with a small release of a new product/service, and then add new features over time and get feedback from key stakeholders in regard to how its performing and the value that it’s delivering. Ask yourself, is it delivering business value? Is it delivering value to the customer? Traditionally speaking, controlling change is how you control cost, but a product-centric approach flips that theory on its head. With a product-centric approach, you have a fixed capacity, the team running the service/product remains the same, so the business is forced to prioritise based on business benefits. We find this is far more effective in terms of managing cost, but also delivers far superior outcomes.

One thing I should clarify, people often say to me “I am not building IT products, I’m in the business of delivering services, products or solutions for my customers – so how is this relevant?”.  This product-centric approach refers to the way we go about delivering your solutions – it takes the discipline of engineering, coupled with well understood agile practices to iterate so you can deliver rapid outcomes to an evolving list of requirements based on your most recent offering. In essence, it means you have your own dedicated team of gun designers and developers working on your evolving set of requirements, with the ability to pull in specialist resources as required.

DevOps

In the past, development and operations teams would operate inside their own silos that are often in direct conflict with one another, resulting in extensive lead times to get changes into production. For organisations with just one or two project rollouts a year then you can live with that, but when you’re doing it every one to two weeks you need a streamlined process.

DevOps is about integrating these distinct teams and end-to-end processes together, plus automating as much as possible to enable faster and more reliable releases, which is critical when you are delivering releases more often.

DevOps is also about changing the whole cultural approach for how the team works; for example, making it the development team’s responsibility to provide operational support once the service/product is live. Through integrating different parts of the organisation, you can leverage multiple perspectives which helps teams write better quality code. You also find as a result that the developers gain a better understanding of the customer – resulting in a positive cultural change to focus on the customer.

Cloud-Native

We see a lot of organisations lifting and shifting existing applications to the cloud. There are obvious advantages to having applications in the cloud – but if they haven’t been built specifically for the cloud, you’re not really taking advantage of the full plethora of cloud possibilities. It’s more a case of scratching the surface as opposed to fully leveraging it.

Cloud-native applications give organisations incredible scalability, resiliency, performance and reliability because they can scale on demand, based on your specific needs. As they’re built to accommodate automation, they offer improved quality of service with respect to disaster recovery (DR) and overall availability of the service/product.

Q: Is it safe to say that although all three of these parts of the model offer key benefits to an organisation, to fully leverage each component you really need to combine them together?

Absolutely. Each component offers something a little different, but when you bring the three together, the sum of the parts is much greater than the whole. When you begin to build the digital experience, you don’t initially really know what it’s needs to look like – as an IT person you don’t fully understand the business challenges you want to solve, and from an executive perspective you don’t understand the underlying technologies needed to deliver the business outcomes. I always say it’s about the ‘art of the possible’, you’ve got all these options open to you but which one is the right one? And that’s where we come in, we help customers establish a digital operating model so they can continuously test and evolve their ideas into compelling digital experiences for their customers, delivering outcomes quickly in a low risk and cost-effective way.

Q: Do you have any examples where this 3-pronged operating model is delivering results?

Sure - we’ve been working with the University of Adelaide for a few years now. So, at the end of each academic year, thousands of Year 12 high school leavers inundate the university’s customer service lines to discover their adjusted ATAR scores, which can be the difference between them gaining admission to their preferred courses, or missing out. Unfortunately, the calculation process was complex and labour intensive which made it difficult for staff to serve multiple students at any one time. As a result, average call wait times were regularly over 40 minutes. As a collective, we decided to develop a chatbot for ATAR calculation which would provide better support to applicants.

Since the chatbot pilot was first introduced in 2017, and with the subsequent rollout for 2018, the University has slashed the number of calls to the service centre by 55% and reduced call wait time by 13x.  Students use a self-service approach to get the answers they need from their preferred channel, and those students that need more help can spend the time they need with service centre staff.  The solution can scale to meet the future demand for the service and it has reduced the cost associated with handling calls on Results Day, the busiest day of the year for the University Service Centre.  If you would like to learn more and find out how we used the digital operating model to achieve these results, feel free to view the case study on our website.

Q: Those are some impressive results Matt! For a prospective organisation reading this, what would you recommend as the first step towards operating with this kind of model?

I would recommend reaching out to someone like Rubicon Red. We’ll take the time to understand your challenges and distil your requirements across the entire value chain. With this holistic view, we will partner with you to determine how best to develop and integrate all the elements to deliver a simplified yet compelling digital experience for your customers, that will scale as your organisation grows.  For us, it's about making it as simple as possible for organisations to achieve that desired digital experience for their customers.

So, give us a call and discover firsthand how we can help you establish a digital operating model so you can continuously test and evolve your ideas, delivering compelling digital solutions for your customers quickly, in a low risk and cost-effective way.