October 2021

Trusted teams: powering digital progress in an uncertain world

What we’ve learned from a year of testing, tweaking and moving fast

A year ago when Brett and I created Loomery we did so based on a few shared beliefs about businesses and the world of digital products.

These beliefs have shaped our approach to building the company and delivering work. A year later, it’s a good time to look back and ask: did these beliefs turn out to be true? What’s changed and what have we learned?

Belief #1: Every business is a software business

It was ten years ago that Marc Andreesen coined the famous phrase “software has eaten the world”. As the software revolution of the last decade has unfolded, every business is either busy becoming a software business or it’s being eaten by one. This brings a swathe of exciting implications for technologists like us: new business models, new ways for companies to reach customers, new ways to go to market. Even technology-enabled companies of the 90s and 00s are undergoing their own transformation as new technologies create better, quicker and simpler ways of doing business.

What we learned

We started Loomery early in the pandemic, knowing there was a world of uncertainty ahead. Technology quickly became a catalyst for rapid change in every industry. Over the last year we’ve worked in industries we know well, such as media and eCommerce, and industries which have been new to us, such as education and private equity. In each case, organisations were grappling with the changes COVID brought about. For some companies the pandemic presented an unexpected opportunity. Our client Naked Wines has doubled in size over the last 24 months, becoming a £400m revenue business. Mail order booze is lockdown resilient, who would have guessed!?

The transition from a business that uses technology to a truly digital, exponential age business, is not easy. Especially when that shift needs to happen fast. Making software central to how you buy, sell and reach customers is a people challenge; a cultural challenge; a leadership challenge. ‘Digital transformation’ (beyond being an overused buzzword on airport advertising posters) is an interesting thing because there’s so much behind it. Organisations start at different places of digital maturity and move at different speeds. Every Loomery client has exciting transformation plans, currently constrained and slowed by the squeeze on great technology talent. Finding great product teams cost effectively, quickly and flexibly is harder than ever.

How we’re changing Loomery

We want to help solve the technology supply crisis and unblock our clients’ digital progress. Long term we want to develop a new generation of product leaders. Right now we’re busy growing our community of expert makers, capturing our remote teaming approach and defining a new, competitive, flexible commercial model. We’re reshaping Loomery as a faster path to product progress.

Belief #2: Software creation in large organisations doesn’t have to take months or years

We knew it didn’t have to be so slow to ship software. In Ben Horowitz’s latest book What You Do Is Who You Are, he says that in many situations you’re better off making a wrong decision fast and changing your mind as soon as you know it’s wrong, rather than waiting six months for more confidence. This premise should apply to most software development: ship something, ship it fast and start learning about what it is and how customers react.

We believed that if we designed a digital agency around the premise of shipping at start-up speed, staffed it with a smashing team, and built a lean process around the idea of shipping a first product quickly, that it would appeal. We had high hopes for the latest generation of low-code and no-code platforms as an accelerant in our development toolkit.

What we learned

Thankfully, we’ve proved to ourselves that it doesn’t have to be slow to craft great digital products. Over the last 12 months we’ve helped a leading university digitise their onboarding experience, shipping the first version of a new website in three weeks. We’ve helped a private equity firm create new communities across their portfolio companies, shipping iOS and Android apps in two weeks. We’ve helped a media giant work out how to maintain the power and commercial value of their live events through a new mobile proposition in four weeks.

Our bet on low-code tools is still in play. We’ve pushed Adalo, Bubble and Webflow to their limits for clients, delivering experiences in days or weeks that would normally take months. We’ve learned some of the tools aren’t ready for the true scale that enterprise demands: there will continue to be a place for custom builds yet. We’ve also seen the tooling landscape progress in leaps and bounds over 12 months. We’re hugely excited for the future promise of visual software creation.

For most people, though, it’s not the tooling slowing things down. More often we’ve seen challenges with strategy, process, people and culture holding back digital progress. You can have all the latest tools and gizmos but if you’re asking the wrong question or trying to answer it in the wrong way, you’ll never move far or fast.

How we’re changing Loomery

From here on we’re placing greater emphasis on the process, people and behavioural factors that accelerate digital progress. As a company born in lockdown we’ve thought carefully about how to make a remote-first company successful. It’s clear this thinking is just as helpful to our clients as it is to us. We’ve already captured and codified our modern teaming approach in a playbook, diagnosis tool and coaching plan for the benefit of our clients.

We’re as focussed as ever on ‘making’. We now start conversations with clients by establishing what the first thing we can build is. We emphasise that the first thing is just that. We use the language of v0.1 rather than talking about MVPs (too many MVPs are too big and all that ever gets shipped, without a sense of what happens next). Even conversations about digital strategy move forward faster when made real by design or code.

Belief #3: Speed of change is the only sustainable advantage

We live in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Everything is in flux, and will continue to be. COVID is unlikely to be the last life-disrupting event we will see. In this world of change, it’s those who learn and adapt fastest who win. Having great ideas is never the problem; it’s executing too slowly that kills innovation and businesses.

What we learned

The last year has shown us several businesses too slow to change: Arcadia and Hertz to name just two. On the flip side, we’ve seen those able to respond not just surviving but thriving. We’ve been amazed by the ingenuity and inventiveness shown in the face of extreme constraints. As 2020 drew to a close we highlighted our favourite stories of businesses pivoting with pace and rethinking how they do things.

Moving fast is powerful, not just because it releases value sooner but because it unlocks new ideas, reveals new lessons and creates new connections. But is speed itself the competitive advantage? Speed is simply a function of people and process. We’ve seen that it’s the exceptional people, happy in their roles, empowered to take risks and make decisions, working efficiently and collaborating effectively that gives the 10x advantage.

How we’re changing Loomery

We’re focusing Loomery on providing the best possible, trustworthy product teams, whenever clients need them. High-performing teams who deliver value consistently and repeatedly.

We’ve rebuilt our engagement model to create the flexibility clients need to react and reorient. We’re making it incredibly easy to add or remove roles, or even pause the whole Loomery team. We have ready-to-go team formulas that can be quickly deployed for common product challenges. Our average team deployment time is down to 2.4 days and we’re determined to keep it there.

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Ultimately we want to treat Loomery as we do the products we create. We want to test, learn, change and grow. We’ll continue to do that as openly and transparently as we can.

Loomery: trusted product teams, when you need them.

If you need a faster path to product progress, get in touch.

Keen to join the Loomery Maker Network? Find out more.

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