DISRUPT HQ: 5 features all businesses need in a technology plan

Disrupt HQ is a comprehensive ten-part series designed to give Australia’s new generation of innovators the advice and guidance they need to successfully grow their business. Proudly sponsored by Braintree, which has been powering payments and helping thousands of next gen businesses like Uber, Airbnb, and Github grow from their first dollar.
Braintree’s Tyson Hackwood. Photo: Supplied.

No two companies are alike, and technology plans shouldn’t match either. Capability, cost, and need are just three aspects that go into your technological decision-making, but there are also some other questions to ask. For example: is yours a company that uses technology? Or is it a technology company?

We spoke to our panel of leading Australian entrepreneurs and investors to find out what they look for in a technology plan.

Whether you are running, planning, or transforming a business, here are fundamentals you need to know.

1) The user comes first

The first and most important thing is to put your users first in everything you do. It’s far too easy to design a solution that only engineers will appreciate, or that solves a problem only those in your inner circle really have. The solution: keep asking yourself what the users really want and need.

“Focus on keeping it simple and getting the basics right,” says Tyson Hackwood, head of Asia for Braintree Payments.

“Don’t get distracted by too many bells and whistles. Have a clear understanding of what your user base appreciates your product for and make sure that your delivering against that core idea before building upon it. And always test.”

Testing is key, and this is where your users can actually help you. A/B test, keep an eye on how your users react, what they really use.

“Where appropriate capitalise on understanding your customer. More often than not, if they like your product, they’re willing to give you information about themselves. Collecting this data will be valuable in how you refine and further develop your product experience in the future.”

2) Know your strengths

Benjamin Chong, partner at Right Click Capital

All companies are good at something. It’s your comparative advantage, the reason you’re a company at all: it’s what gives you value, or why you have customers. Pay attention to what this and constantly refine it.

“A company’s secret sauce is the thing that differentiates them from their competitors. It’s the special (hopefully unique!) capability, whether now or in future,” says Benjamin Chong, partner at Right Click Capital.

“If the secret sauce is an algorithm, what is the plan for its refinement? Are the ways the algorithm can be improved to offer better results? Perhaps there’s a way to reduce the algorithm’s processing time without adversely impacting results.”

“If the company has a clear conception of its secret sauce and a plan to keep it up-to-date, they can then consider what’s required to make it happen. Do they need to hire more engineers? Do they need a particular set of skills or expertise? A hiring plan should work hand in hand with the company’s technology plan.”

3) Constant testing and improvement

Technology never stands still. Look at how Google has evolved, or how Facebook blew past Friendster and Myspace. There’s always work to do, something that can be fixed. This means constant testing, discovering pain and friction that can be eased.

But working like this requires the right mindset — one open to learning and improving. This is what Muru-D co-founder Annie Parker looks for in a technology plan.

Muru-D co-founder Annie Parker

“Most founders are great with the build part – they love that bit, but struggle with test and learn. Are they really open to constructive criticism or do they ignore this and only listen to the good feedback that proves their hypothesis? Are they willing to totally scrap an idea and move on? That’s what you have to be prepared to do if you’re really going to learn all the lessons you need to.

4) Building on the base

Scale is the defining paradigm of the latest technological revolution. Being able to service the world from a laptop, taking on giants with a small team, going global with a push of a button. But it’s also something that should be built into your technological philosophy, says Blue Sky Ventures partner Elaine Stead.

Stead is looking for “a platform that has been built for scale and an ability to easily and modularly add features as the consumer, the product and the relationship between the two becomes more sophisticated.”

5) Ability to scale at speed

Seek CEO and co-founder Andrew Bassat.

Going global, fast, is the mantra of many Australian investors and entrepreneurs. While many focus on the first part of that mantra, it is the combination of speed and scale that is necessary. Ideas spread fast in this technological world, and it doesn’t take much for someone to beat you to the punch. When you’re dreaming up your technological plan, you can’t just think big, you need to think about speed of delivery as well.

“When we’re investing in technology or creating our product roadmap, we’re always looking to see how the investment and solutions can be applied across more than just one market,” says SEEK co-founder Andrew Bassatt.

Bassatt follows this up with a question: “Is the plan or solution provided the fastest and most efficient way to bring a solution to market?”

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