by Dov Rosenberg -
Over the past few years there has been a push away from monolithic business applications toward smaller applications that can be more easily modified and supported. These applications have been moved from corporate data centers to cloud service providers in a drive to save money or improve scalability.
While these changes have improved the ability for organizations to save money in support costs, they have not adapted to changes in how customers, employees, and partners interact with the organizations.
The acceleration of consumer behavior changes caused by the pandemic has forced organizations to reconsider many of their fundamental approaches to customer engagement in order to survive and thrive. Digital engineering is the key to driving exciting and engaging customer interactions while building on top of the migration to smaller cloud based capabilities.
What Exactly Is Digital Engineering?
Before you can understand the role of digital engineering in today’s business environment, you need to first understand what a digital product is.
Digital products are those services that can be delivered to customers via an electronic device1—usually network connected—such as an app, ebook reader,, or piece of software. Examples of digital products include concert and airline tickets, electronic library books, photo sharing, and social media applications. Similarly, a customer’s experience with these connected digital products and backend services can be thought of as their digital experience. Common digital experiences include purchasing something online and being able to return it to a brick-and-mortar store, or communicating with your automobile via a mobile app on your phone.
While digital products can theoretically be made by anyone with a computer and internet connection, delivering the type of digital experience that customers expect requires a more holistic approach that uses data about customer behavior, data models, and integration with other technologies.2
“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” —Steve Jobs
In addition to helping teams create new products faster, more effectively, and more aligned to customer expectations, digital engineering also includes data design and continuous optimization. Data design captures performance metrics about product usage and then reviews this information over the life of the product to optimize the digital processes.
There are a wide range of ways that digital engineering plays out in practice, but here are just two:
- Rethinking the process that cruise ship passengers have to go through to start their vacation. Traditional approaches could take hours before the customer started to enjoy their vacation. Using digital products and new integrations, a cruise line was able to create a streamlined experience for customers that was measured in minutes. This improves the overall customer satisfaction and loyalty.
- Synchronizing theme park attendance patterns with demand and other data sources to enable variable rate pricing without negatively affecting customer experience. This change helped reduce overall crowding and wait times for popular attractions, while allowing guests to enjoy more of their vacation. The side effect was that people could spend more money on food and souvenirs instead of waiting in line for a ride.
The Key Elements of a Digital Engineering Program
There are a lot of different tools, approaches, roles, and levels of complexity to digital engineering, but here are two common characteristics.
Data Capture and Analysis
To develop digital products that resonate with customers and evolve with them, teams need tools that enable them to consolidate and analyze historical and real-time usage data. Whether through visual models that help teams to better understand a customer requirement, usage pattern, or to identify a new product that can fit an unmet need, data will give teams the ability to optimize products and compare digital experiences to achieve desired outcomes. Continual monitoring and evaluation of outcomes is a critical component to a successful digital engineering engagement.
Delivering digital products brings together the strengths of many different disciplines, including technologists, data scientists, developers, and business and quality assurance professionals. These different perspectives need collaborative spaces to shape design requirements, build simulations, test and release digital products, and to continuously refine those products.
The Operational Benefits of Enabling a Digital Engineering Approach
So what does making the shift to a digital engineering approach mean for your business? Here are a few key benefits:
- Faster and more efficient design influenced by data-driven decisions.
- More capacity to respond to evolving design requirements, customer expectations, and security changes.
- Increased collaboration across functional teams, supported by the data sets that inform their workflows.
- Quicker time to market by using a lean development approach that focuses on delivering value as soon as possible.
- Stronger mechanisms to optimize products and services early instead of during late-stage testing or beta releases.
Kickstarting Your Digital Engineering Program
Like many digital transformation efforts, making the decision to transition to a digital engineering approach requires a big shift in how a business thinks about their customer’s experience and how digital products are designed to meet their needs. Organizations that can effectively harness the core elements that form the foundation of digital engineering can ultimately deliver more fit-for-purpose products faster.
Want to learn more about how your organization can adopt a digital engineering approach and realize the benefits for your customers? Connect with an expert from the RCG team today.
1. Big Commerce Essentials "What are Digital Products?" Retrieved from https://www.bigcommerce.com/ecommerce-answers/what-are-digital-products/
2. Idaho National Laboratory "Digital Engineering" Retrieved from https://inl.gov/digital-engineering