The circular economy aims to help the environment by reducing waste, mainly by keeping goods and services in circulation for as long as possible. Unlike the traditional linear economy, in which things are produced, consumed, and then discarded, a circular economy ensures that resources are shared, repaired, reused, and recycled, over and over.
What does this have to do with your digital platform? In a nutshell: everything.
From tackling climate change to creating more resilient markets, the circular economy is a systems-level solution for global environmental and economic issues. By building digital platforms for the circular economy, your business will be better prepared for whatever the future brings.
The Circular Economy isn’t Coming. It’s Here.
With environmental challenges growing day by day, businesses all over the world are going circular. Here are a few examples:
- Target plans for 100% of its branded products to last longer, be easier to repair or recycle, and be made from materials that are regenerative, recyclable, or sustainably sourced.
- Trove’s ecommerce platform lets companies buy back and resell their own products. This extends each products’ use cycle, lowering the environmental and social cost per item.
- Renault is increasing the life of its vehicle parts by restoring old engine parts. This limits waste, prolongs the life of older cars, and reduces emissions from manufacturing.
One area where nearly every business could adopt a circular model is the creation and use of digital platforms. The process of building websites and apps, along with their use over time, consumes precious resources (both people and energy). That’s why Oomph joined 1% For the Planet earlier this year. Our membership reflects our commitment to do more collective good — and to hold ourselves accountable for our collective impact on the environment.
But, we’re not just donating profits to environmental causes. We’re helping companies build sustainable digital platforms for the circular economy.
Curious about your platform’s environmental impact? Enter your URL into this tool to get an estimate of your digital platform’s carbon footprint.
Changing Your Platform From Linear to Circular
If protecting the environment and promoting sustainability is a priority for your business, it’s time to change the way you build and operate your websites and apps. Here’s what switching to a platform for the circular economy could look like.
From a linear mindset…
When building new sites or apps, many companies fail to focus on longevity or performance. Within just a few years, their platforms become obsolete, either as a result of business changes or a desire to keep up with rapidly evolving technologies.
So, every few years, they have to start all over again — with all the associated resource costs of building a new platform and migrating content from the old one.
Platforms that aren’t built with performance in mind tend to waste a ton of energy (and money) in their daily operation. As these platforms grow in complexity and slow down in performance, one unfortunate solution is to just increase computing power. That means you need new hardware to power the computing cycles, which leads to more e-waste, more mining for metals and more pollution from manufacturing, and more electricity to power the entire supply chain.
Enter the circular economy.
…to a circular approach.
Building a platform for the circular economy is about reducing harmful impacts and wasteful resource use, and increasing the longevity of systems and components. There are three main areas you can address:
1. Design out waste and pollution from the start.
At Oomph, we begin every project with a thorough and thoughtful discovery process that gets to the heart of what we’re building, and why. By identifying what your business truly needs in a platform — today and potentially tomorrow — you’ll minimize the need to rebuild again later.
It’s also crucial to build efficiencies into your backend code. Clean, efficient code makes things load faster and run more quickly, with fewer energy cycles required per output.
Look for existing frameworks, tools, and third-party services that provide the functions you need and will continue to stay in service for years or decades to come. And, instead of building a monolith platform that has to be upgraded every few years or requires massive computing power, consider switching to a more nimble and efficient microservices architecture.
2. Keep products and services in use.
Regular maintenance and timely patching is key to prolonging the life of your platform. So is proactively looking for performance issues. Be sure to regularly test and assess your platform’s speed and efficiency, so you can address problems early on.
While we’re advocating for using products and services for as long as possible, if your platform is built on microservices, don’t be afraid to replace an existing service with a new one. Just make sure the new service provides a benefit that outweighs the resource costs of implementing it.
3. Aim to regenerate natural systems.
The term “regenerate” describes a process that mimics the cycles of nature by restoring or renewing sources of energy and materials. It might seem like the natural world is far removed from your in-house tech, but there are a number of ways that your IT choices impact the environment.
For starters, you can factor sustainability into your decisions around vendors and equipment. Look for digital hosting companies and data centers that are green or LEED-certified. Power your hardware with renewable energy sources. Ultimately, the goal is to consider not just how to reduce your platform’s impact on the environment, but how you can create a net-positive effect by doing better with less.
Get Ready for the Future
We’ve long seen that the ways in which businesses and societies use resources can transform local and global communities. And we know that environmental quality is inextricably linked to human wellbeing and prosperity. The circular economy, then, provides a way to improve our future readiness.
Companies that invest in sustainability generally experience better resilience, improved operational performance, and longer-lasting growth. They’re also better suited to meet the new business landscape, as governments incentivize sustainable activities, customers prefer sustainable products, and employees demand sustainable leadership.
Interested in exploring how you can join the new circular economy with your digital platforms? We’d love to help you explore your options, just contact us.
In our previous post we broadly discussed the mindset of composable business. While “composable” can be a long term company-wide strategy for the future, companies shouldn’t overlook smaller-scale opportunities that exist at every level to introduce more flexibility, longevity, and reduce costs of technology investments.
For maximum ROI, think big, then start small
Many organizations are daunted by the concept of shifting a legacy application or monolith to a microservices architecture. This is exacerbated when an application is nearing end of life.
Don’t discount the fact that a move to a microservices architecture can be done progressively over time, unlike the replatform of a monolith which is a huge investment in both time and money that may not be realized for years until the new application is ready to deploy.
A progressive approach allows organizations to:
- Move faster and allow for adjustments as needed
- Begin realizing returns on investments faster
- Reduce risk by making smaller investments and deployments
- Ease budgeting process by funding an overhaul in stages
- Improve quality by minimizing the scope of tests
- Save money on initial investment and maintenance where services are centralized
- Benefit from longevity of a component-based system
Prioritizing the approach by aligning technical architecture with business objectives
As with any application development initiative, aligning business objectives with technology decisions is essential. Unlike replatforming a monolith, however, prioritizing and planning the order of development and deployments is crucial to the success of the initiative.
Start with clearly defining your application with a requirements and feature matrix. Then evaluate each using three lenses to see priorities begin to emerge:
- With a current state lens, evaluate each item. Is it broken? Is it costly to maintain? Is it leveraged by multiple business units or external applications?
- Then with a future state lens, evaluate each item. Could it be significantly improved? Could it be leveraged by other business units? Could it be leveraged outside the organization (partners, etc…)? Could it be leveraged in other applications, devices, or locations?
- Lastly, evaluate the emerging priority items with a cost and effort lense. What is the level of effort to develop the feature as a service? What is the likely duration of the effort?
Key considerations when planning a progressive approach
Planning is critical to any successful application development initiative, and architecting a microservices based architecture is no different. Be sure to consider the following key items as part of your planning exercises:
- Remember that rearchitecting a monolith feature as a service can open the door to new opportunities and new ways of thinking. It is helpful to ask “If this feature was a stand alone service, we could __”
- Be careful of designing services that are too big in scope. Work diligently to break down the application into the smallest possible parts, even if it is later determined that some should be grouped together
- Keep security front of mind. Where a monolith may have allowed for a straightforward security management policy with everything under one roof, a services architecture provides the opportunity for a more customized security policy, and the need to define how separate services are allowed to communicate with each other and the outside world
A microservices architecture is an approach that can help organizations move faster, be more flexible and agile, and reduce costs on development and maintenance of software applications. By taking a progressive approach when architecting a monolith application, businesses can move quickly, reduce risk, improve quality, and reduce costs.
If you’re interested in introducing composability to your organization, we’d love to help! Contact us today to talk about your options.
Never Stopping, Always Evolving
Leica Geosystems was founded on cutting-edge technology and continues to push the envelope with their revolutionary products. Leica Geosystems was founded by Heinrich Wild and made its first rangefinder in 1921. Fast forward to the 21st century, and Leica Geosystems is the leading manufacturer of precision laser technology used for measurements in architecture, construction, historic preservation, and DIY home remodeling projects.
Oomph and Leica collaborated on an initial project in 2014 and have completed multiple projects since. We transitioned the site into a brand new codebase with Drupal 8. With this conversion, Oomph smoothed out the Leica team’s pain points related to a multisite architecture. We created a tightly integrated single site that can still serve multiple countries, languages, and currencies.
Feeling the Pain-points with Multisite
Leica’s e-commerce store is active in multiple countries and languages. Managing content in a Drupal multisite environment meant managing multiple sites. Product, content, and price changes were difficult. It was Oomph’s challenge to make content and product management easier for the Leica team as well as support the ability to create new country sites on demand. Leica’s new e-commerce site needed to support:
MULTIPLE COUNTRIES AND A GLOBAL OPTION
MANY 3RD-PARTY INTEGRATIONS
The pain points of the previous Multisite architecture were that each country was a silo:
- No Single Sign On (SSO): Multiple admin log-ins to remember
- Repetitive updates: Running Drupal’s update script on every site and testing was a lengthy process
- Multiple stores: Multiple product lists, product features, and prices
- Multiple sites to translate: each site was sent individually to be translated into one language
Creating a Singularity with Drupal 8, Domain Access, & Drupal Commerce
A move to Drupal 8 in combination with some smart choices in module support and customization simplified many aspects of the Leica team’s workflow, including:
- Configuration management: Drupal 8’s introduction of configuration management in core means that point-and-click admin configuration can get exported from one environment and imported into another, syncing multiple environments and saving configuration in our code repository
- One Database to Rule Them All: Admins have a single site to log into and do their work, and developers have one site to update, patch, and configure
- One Commerce Install, Multiple stores: There is one Drupal Commerce 2.x install with multiple stores with one set of products. Each product has the ability to be assigned to multiple stores, and price lists per country control product pricing
- One Page in Multiple Countries and Multiple Languages: The new single site model gives a piece of content one place to live, while authors can control which countries the content is available and the same content is translated into all the languages available once.
- Future proof: With a smooth upgrade path into Drupal 9 in 2020, the Drupal 8 site gives Leica more longevity in the Drupal ecosystem
From more detailed information about how Oomph leveraged the Domain Access, Country Path, Commerce, and Commerce Store Domain modules, the project’s lead developer, John Picozzi, conducted a talk for Drupal GovCon all about it.
LEARN VS. SHOP
Supporting Visitor Intention with Two Different Modes
While the technical challenges were being worked out, the user experience and design had to reflect a cutting-edge company. With the launch of their revolutionary product, the BLK 360, in 2018, Leica positioned itself as the Apple of the geospatial measurement community — sleek, cool, cutting-edge and easy to use. While many companies want to look as good as Apple, few of them actually have the content and product to back it up.
The navigation for the site went through many rounds of feedback and testing before deciding on something radically simple — Learn or Shop. A customer on the website is either in an exploratory state of mind — browsing, comparing, reviewing pricing and specifications — or they are ready to buy. We made it very clear which part of the website was for which.
This allowed us to talk directly to the customer in two very different ways. On the Learn side, the pages educate and convince. They give the customer information about the product, reviews, articles, sample data files, and the like. The content is big, sleek, and leverages video and other embedded content, like VR, to educate.
On the Shop side the pages are unapologetically transactional. Give the visitor the right information to support a purchase, clearly deliver specs and options like software and warranties, without any marketing. We could assume the customer was here to purchase, not to be convinced, so the page content could concentrate on order completion. The entire checkout process was simplified as much as possible to reduce friction. Buying habits and patterns of their user base over the past few site iterations were studied to inform our choices about where to simplify and where to offer options.
More Nimble Together
The willingness of the Drupal community to support the needs of this project cannot be overlooked, either. Oomph has been able to leverage our team’s commitment to open source contributions to get other developers to add features to the modules they support. Without the give and take of the community and our commitment to give back, many modifications and customizations for this project would have been much more difficult. The team at Centarro, maintainers of the Commerce module, were fantastic to work with and we thank them.
We look forward to continuing to support Leica Geosystems and their product line worldwide. With a smooth upgrade path to Drupal 9 in 2020, the site is ready for the next big upgrade.
While One Percent for America (OPA) had an admirable goal of helping eligible immigrants become U.S. citizens, the project faced a major stumbling block. Many immigrants had already been misled by various lending institutions, payday loans, or high-interest credit cards. As a result, the OPA platform would need a sense of trustworthiness and authority to shine through.
The platform also had to handle a broad array of tasks through a complex set of workflows, backstops, and software integrations. These tasks included delivering content, signing up users, verifying eligibility, connecting to financial institutions, managing loan data and investment balances, and electronically sending funds to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Given the challenges, our work began with a month-long discovery process, probing deeper into the audience, competitive landscape, customer journeys, and technological requirements for the platform. Here’s what we learned.
The Borrower Experience
Among those deep in the citizenship process and close to finishing the paperwork, many are simply waiting to have the funds to conclude their journey. For them, we designed as simple a workflow as possible to create an account, pass a security check, and apply for a loan.
Other users who are just starting the process need to understand whether they’re eligible for citizenship and what the process entails. We knew this would require smart, in-depth content to answer their questions and provide guidance — which was also a crucial component in earning their trust. Giving away genuinely helpful information, combined with carefully chosen language and photography, helped lend authenticity to OPA’s stated mission.
The Investor Experience
OPA sought to crowdfund capital from small investors, not institutions, creating a community-led funding source that could scale to meet borrowers’ needs. A key innovation is that funders can choose between two options: making tax-deductible donations or short-term loans.
If an investor makes a loan, at the end of the term they can decide to reinvest for another term, turn the money into a donation, or withdraw the funds. To reinforce the circular nature of the platform, we designed the experience so that borrowers could become investors themselves. The platform makes it easy for borrowers to change their intent and access different tools. Maturity dates are prominently displayed alongside “Lend Again” and “Donate” actions. Testimonials from borrowers on the dashboard reinforce the kinds of people who are helped by an investment.
The Mobile Experience
Our research made it clear the mobile experience had to be best in class, as many users would either prefer using a phone or didn’t have regular access to a tablet or computer. But, that didn’t mean creating a mobile app in addition to a desktop website. Instead, by designing a universal web app, we built a more robust experience — more powerful than most mobile apps — that can be used anywhere, on any device.
However, tasks like signing up for an account or applying for a loan need to be as easy on a mobile device as on a desktop. Key UX elements like step-by-step workflows, large touch targets, generous spacing on form fields, soft colors, and easy-to-read fonts produced a highly user-friendly interface.
Together with our technology partners, Craftsman, Motionpoint, and Platform.sh, we built an innovative digital platform that meets its users exactly where they are, from both a technological and cultural standpoint.
This groundbreaking work earned us a Gold Medal from the inaugural 2022 Anthem Awards, in the Innovation in Human and Civil Rights category. The award recognizes new techniques and services that advance communities and boost contributory funds.
In our ongoing partnership with OPA, Oomph will continue working to expand the business model with new features. We’re proud to have helped build this impactful resource to support the community of new Americans.
While the terminology was first spotlighted by IBM back in 2014, the concept of a composable business has recently gained much traction, thanks in large part to the global pandemic. Today, organizations are combining more agile business models with flexible digital architecture, to adapt to the ever-evolving needs of their company and their customers.
Here’s a high-level look at building a composable business.
What is a Composable Business?
The term “composable” encompasses a mindset, technology, and processes that enable organizations to innovate and adapt quickly to changing business needs.
A composable business is like a collection of interchangeable building blocks (think: Lego) that can be added, rearranged, and jettisoned as needed. Compare that with an inflexible, monolithic organization that’s slow and difficult to evolve (think: cinderblock). By assembling and reassembling various elements, composable businesses can respond quickly to market shifts.
Gartner offers four principles of composable business:
- Discovery: React faster by sensing when change is happening.
- Modularity: Achieve greater agility with interchangeable components.
- Orchestration: Mix and match business functions to respond to changing needs.
- Autonomy: Create greater resilience via independent business units.
These four principles shape the business architecture and technology that support composability. From structural capabilities to digital applications, composable businesses rely on tools for today and tomorrow.
So, how do you get there?
Start With a Composable Mindset…
A composable mindset involves thinking about what could happen in the future, predicting what your business may need, and designing a flexible architecture to meet those needs. Essentially, it’s about embracing a modular philosophy and preparing for multiple possible futures.
Where do you begin? Research by Gartner suggests the first step in transitioning to a composable enterprise is to define a longer-term vision of composability for your business. Ask forward-thinking questions, such as:
- How will the markets we operate in evolve over the next 3-5 years?
- How will the competitive landscape change in that time?
- How are the needs and expectations of our customers changing?
- What new business models or new markets might we pursue?
- What product, service, or process innovations would help us outpace competitors?
These kinds of questions provide insights into the market forces that will impact your business, helping you prepare for multiple futures. But you also need to adopt a modular philosophy, thinking about all the assets in your organization — every bit of data, every process, every application — as the building blocks of your composable business.
…Then Leverage Composable Technology
A long-term vision helps create purpose and structure for a composable business. Technology is the tools that bring it to life. Composable technology begets sustainable business architectures, ready to address the challenges of the future, not the past.
For many organizations, the shift to composability means evolving from an inflexible, monolithic digital architecture to a modular application portfolio. The portfolio is made up of packaged business capabilities, or PBCs, which form the foundation of composable technology.
The ABCs of PBCs
PBCs are software components that provide specific business capabilities. Although similar in some respects to microservices, PBCs address more than technological needs. While a specific application may leverage a microservice to provide a feature, when that feature represents a business capability beyond just the application at hand, it is a PBC.
Because PBCs can be curated, assembled, and reassembled as needed, you can adapt your technology practically at the pace of business change. You can also experiment with different services, shed things that aren’t working, and plug in new options without disrupting your entire ecosystem.
When building an application portfolio with PBCs, the key is to identify the capabilities your business needs to be flexible and resilient. What are the foundational elements of your long-term vision? Your target architecture should drive the business outcomes that support your strategic goals.
Build or Buy?
PBCs can either be developed internally or sourced from third parties. Vendors may include traditional packaged-software vendors and nontraditional parties, such as global service integrators or financial services companies.
When deciding whether to build or buy a PBC, consider whether your target capability is unique to your business. For example, a CMS is something many businesses need, and thus it’s a readily available PBC that can be more cost-effective to buy. But if, through vendor selection, you find that your particular needs are unique, you may want to invest in building your own.
While building a new member retention platform for a large health insurer, we discovered a need to quickly look up member status during the onboarding process. Because the company had a unique way of identifying members, it required building custom software.
Although initially conceived in the context of the platform being created, a composable mindset led to the development of a standalone, API-first service — a true PBC providing member lookup capability to applications across the organization, and waiting to serve the applications of the future.
A Final Word
Disruption is here to stay. While you can’t predict every major shift, innovation, or crisis that will impact your organization, you can (almost) future-proof your business with a composabile approach.
Start with the mindset, lay out a roadmap, and then design a step-by-step program for digital transformation. The beauty of an API-led approach is that you can slowly but surely transform your technology, piece by piece.
If you’re interested in exploring a shift to composability, we’d love to help. Contact us today to talk about your options.
Wingspans’ primary audience is digital natives — young, tech-savvy users who expect fast, frictionless interactions and relevant content. Fail to deliver, and they’ll abandon you in a heartbeat.
The new platform needed to provide a scalable, flexible foundation for a range of content and tools being developed by the Wingspans team. We had to turn a collection of disparate pieces — story content, user data, school information, and more — into a cohesive digital framework that could grow and evolve. Above all, Wingspans needed a design-first approach, wrapping the educational aspects in an intuitive, engaging digital experience.
While storytelling formed the heart of the Wingspans platform, the site’s interactive features would be crucial for getting students to explore and engage with the content. Building on Lindsay’s familiarity with the educational market, we mapped out the content architecture, workflows, and functions for a host of interactive features to keep students engaged.
For the tech stack, we turned to a mix of microservices to provide a stable, flexible, and scalable architecture with lightning-fast performance. These included a Gatsby front end, Firebase database, AWS cloud storage, Algolia site search, Cosmic JS content management system, and more. We also worked to ensure the technology reflected Lindsay’s empathy-driven approach. For instance, we customized Algolia to deliver search results specifically tailored to a student’s profile and interests—in other words, an encyclopedia that understood its users and presented its information in a distinctly human way.
The platform’s most impactful feature is how easily students can find and bookmark career stories that resonate with who they are. With over 700 stories and 40 mini-documentaries available, each with an associated set of lessons, the site’s personalized search function and ultrafast content delivery are key. On the backend, the customized CMS and robust content architecture make it easy for the Wingspans team to align content with users’ profiles and browsing activity.
Bringing it all together, the Career Builder feature lets students select stories and content to create a customized career roadmap that they can share with parents, teachers, and counselors. A core element of the platform’s personalized user experience, the Career Builder brings Wingspans’ central premise to life: If you can see it, you can be it.