High-quality content management systems (CMS) and digital experience platforms (DXP) are the backbone of modern websites, helping you deliver powerful, personalized user experiences. The catch? You have to pick your platform first. 

At Oomph, we have a lot of love for open-source platforms like Drupal and WordPress. Over the years, we’ve also built applications for our clients using headless CMS tools, like Contentful and CosmicJS. The marketplace for these solutions continues to grow exponentially, including major players like Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore, and Optimizely.

With so many options, developers and non-developers with a project on the horizon typically start by asking themselves, “Which CMS or DXP is the best fit for my website or application?” While that is no doubt an excellent question to consider, I think it’s equally important to ask, “Who is going to implement the solution?” 

CMS/DXP Solutions Are More Alike Than You Might Think

I recently attended the annual Healthcare Internet Conference and spoke with quite a few healthcare marketers about their CMS tools. I noticed a common thread: Many people think their CMS (some of which I mentioned above) is hard to use and doesn’t serve them well. 

That may very well be the case. Not all CMS tools are created equal; some are better suited for specific applications. However, most modern CMS and DXP tools have many of the same features in common, they just come at different price points. So here’s the multi-million dollar question: If most of these products provide access to the same or similar tools, why are so many customers displeased with them? 

Common Challenges of CMS/DXP Implementation

Often, we find that CMS users get frustrated because the tool they chose wasn’t configured to meet their specific needs. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it was set up incorrectly. That’s the beauty of many of today’s CMS and DXP products: They don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, they allow for flexibility and customization to ensure that each customer gets the most out of the product.

While enticing, that flexibility also burdens the user with ensuring that their system is implemented effectively for their specific use case. In our experience, implementation is the make-or-break of a website development project. These are just a handful of things that can derail the process:

  1. The implementation partner didn’t fully understand how their client works and configure features accordingly.
  2. The demands of user experience overshadowed the needs of content editors and admins. 
  3. Hefty licensing fees ate away at the budget, leaving behind funds that don’t quite cover a thorough implementation. 
  4. The project was rushed to meet a tight deadline. 
  5. The CMS introduces new features over time that add complexity to the admin or editing experience. 
  6. Old features get sunsetted as new capabilities take their place. 

Most of the work we do at Oomph is to help our clients implement new websites and applications using content management systems like Drupal. We have decades of combined experience helping our clients create the ideal user experience for their target audience while also crafting a thoughtful content editing and admin experience that is easy to use.

But what does that look like in practice? 

4 Steps for a Successful CMS Implementation

Implementation can be the black box of setting up your CMS: You don’t know what you don’t know. So, we like to get our clients into a demo environment as soon as possible to help them better understand what they need from their CMS. Here’s how we use it to navigate successful CMS implementation: 

  1. Assess the Capabilities of the CMS

The first step can be the most simple at face value. Consider what the CMS needs to do for you, then find a CMS that includes all of those features. Content modeling (more on that below) is a key part of that process, but so is auditing your team’s abilities. 

Some teams may be developer-savvy and can handle less templated content-authoring features. Others may need a much more drag-and-drop experience. Either use case is normal and acceptable, but what matters is that you identify your needs and find both a CMS and an implementation process that meets them. That leads us to the next point.

  1. Test-Drive the CMS Early and Often

You wouldn’t buy a car without test-driving it first. Yet we find that people are often more than willing to license a CMS without looking under the hood.

Stepping into the CMS for a test drive is a huge part of getting the content editing experience right. We’ve been designing and engineering websites and platforms using CMS tools for well over a decade, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way about good content management and editing experiences. 

Even with out-of-the-box, vanilla Drupal, the sky’s the limit for how you can configure it. But that also means that nothing is configured, and it can be difficult to get a sense of how best to configure and use it. Rather than diving into the deep end, we work with our clients to test the waters. We immediately set up a project sandbox that offers pre-configured content types, allowing you to enter content and play with a suite of components within the sleek drag-and-drop interface.

  1. Align User Experience with Content Authoring

Beyond pre-configured content and components, our sandbox sites include a stylish, default theme. The idea is to give you a taste both of what your live site could look like and what your content authoring experience might be. Since so many teams struggle to balance those two priorities, this can be a helpful way to figure out how your CMS can give you both. 

  1. Finalize Your Features & Capabilities 

While a demo gives you a good idea of the features you’ll need, it might include features you don’t. But discovering where our pre-built options aren’t a good fit is a good thing — it helps us understand exactly what YOUR TEAM does and does not need.

Our goal is to give you something tangible to react to, whether that’s love at first type or a chance to uncover capabilities that would serve you better. We’ve found this interactive yet structured process is the CMS silver bullet that leads to a better outcome. 

Content Modeling

Another key part of our project workflow is what we call content modeling. During this phase, we work with you to identify the many content types you’ll have on your website or application. Then, we can visualize them in a mapping system to determine things like: 

With a solid content model in place, we can have a higher level of confidence that our CMS implementation will create the right content editing experience for your team. From there, we actually implement the content model in the CMS as soon as possible so that you can test it out and we can make refinements before getting too far along in the process.

Content Moderation & Governance

Many clients tell us they either have too much or too little control over their content. In some cases, their content management system is so templated or rigid that marketing teams can’t quickly spin up landing pages and instead have to rely on development teams to assist. Other teams have too much freedom, allowing employees to easily deploy content that hasn’t been approved by the appropriate team members or strays from company brand standards. 

Here at Oomph, our mantra is balance. A good content editing process needs both flexibility and governance, so teams can create content when they need to, but avoid publishing content that doesn’t meet company standards. Through discovery, we work with clients to determine which content types need flexibility and which ones don’t. 

If a content type needs to be flexible, we create a framework that allows for agility while still ensuring that users can only select approved colors, font types, and font sizes. We also identify which content needs to be held in moderation and approved before it can be published on the website. 

Taking the time to discuss governance in advance creates a CMS experience that strikes the right balance between marketing freedom and brand adherence. 

Implementation Turns a Good CMS Into a Great One

Modern CMS/DXP solutions have mind-blowing features, and they will only continue to get more complex over time. But the reality is that while picking a CMS that has the features you need is important, how it’s configured and implemented might matter even more. After all, how helpful is it to have a CMS with embedded artificial intelligence if making simple copy updates to your home page is a nightmare? 

Implementation is the “it” factor that makes the difference between a CMS you love and one you’d rather do your job without.

Interested in solving your CMS headaches with better implementation? Let’s talk.

So much of healthcare happens in person. But as the pressure to connect online continues to climb, what are the challenges you face as a healthcare marketer — and the opportunities you’d love to capitalize on? 

Whatever they are, chances are that attendees of the most recent Healthcare Internet Conference (HCIC) can relate. HCIC brings together marketers and digital leaders to explore the unique and sometimes unexpected ways digital innovation is shaping the industry. 

Though this was Oomph’s first time attending, HCIC has actually been around since 1996. The tight-knit community that’s formed over the past few decades offered a safe space for candid conversations about navigating digital in a post-pandemic world. Here are five topics that ruled those conversations, how marketers like you are approaching them, and what we see as the biggest opportunities for each. 

1. To Adopt or Not To Adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI)

A whopping 86% of healthcare companies use some form of AI. But despite the number of organizations adopting AI for everything from IT operations to workforce management, healthcare marketers are still largely stuck in an AI gray zone. 

Many HCIC attendees shared that they were unsure which AI tools were ready to use today or if using AI could introduce regulatory, privacy, and ethical concerns. Would using AI-generated photos in marketing misrepresent patients or providers? Can chatbots effectively and appropriately provide support beyond basic admin and billing functions? 

While some organizations are already building their own tools (a diagnostic AI to help call center employees determine when a caller should go to urgent care caught our eye), others are interested in out-of-the-box solutions.

Our take: Proceed with caution. AI can revolutionize patient care and operations, but it can also introduce costly and reputationally damaging privacy and regulatory issues. If you aren’t well-versed in compliance, work with a partner who is to ensure your AI actually helps — not hurts. 

2. How To Combat Skyrocketing Employee Turnover

The 2020s will go down in history as one of the most difficult decades to work in healthcare. Kicked off by the COVID-19 pandemic, employee attrition only continues to rise as more employees enter retirement or simply burn out. 

While exact attrition rates vary by the healthcare segment, data from Oracle shows that hospitals lose nearly 20% of their employees every year. For nursing homes, that number skyrockets to 94%. 

Given that the cost of replacing an employee is between six and nine months of that employee’s salary, HCIC attendees were understandably interested in swapping ideas to boost employee retention. An intranet was a fairly universal solution, but the question of what makes a truly effective intranet remained.

Our take: Embrace personalization. Talk to your employees, understand their needs, then build custom features and integrations that meet them. We saw firsthand through our work with Rhode Island-based health system Lifespan that this is an effective way to build community and engagement, both of which are key to retention. 

3. The Eternal Quest for Patient Acquisition

There are two questions that keep most healthcare organizations awake at night: How do you find patients? And, once you’ve found them, how do you keep them? 

Attendees almost universally agreed that healthcare is a long way from creating seamless experiences that keep patients coming back. Many systems are fragmented, regulated, or outdated, creating barriers to patient care that patients are all too happy to leave behind. 

Our take: We think healthcare organizations can take a page out of other industries’ books here. Like any industry, a well-designed user experience (UX) is the foundation for interactions that delight patients. 

4. Personalizing the Patient Experience

On the topic of patient experience, one of the most talked-about strategies was personalization. While personalization has long been a favorite technique of ours, we were encouraged to hear the number of HCIC attendees who shared our focus. 

Many saw landing pages as the “front door” to the digital patient experience and understood that personalization could level up those interactions. We also heard excitement around combining personalization with integration — from using implicit data from the patient’s online actions to explicit data from Epic’s MyChart to personalize the information that users see. 

Our take: In our experience, adding a digital or content experience platform to your content management system (CMS) can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. But like with anything in healthcare, the key is operating within privacy and regulatory restraints. Be sure to work with an implementation partner who’s equally skilled in technology and compliance. 

5. Finding the Right CMS

Content management systems (CMS) aren’t always a hot topic at conferences, but we were pleasantly surprised by how often they came up in conversation at HCIC — and how many opinions attendees had about them.

Most attendees felt strongly about which platforms they loved and which ones they hated. While heavyweights like Sitecore, Drupal, Optimizely, and ScorpionCMS were fixtures of the conversation, the primary takeaway is that having a good CMS experience is critical, but can be challenging to achieve. 

Our take: Take the time to get your CMS right. Choosing a lackluster CMS or underwhelming implementation partner could lock you into a multi-year headache. Many attendees we spoke to are still extremely cost-conscious in the wake of COVID, so they expect a major investment like a CMS to last at least five years. We always suggest setting a budget, mapping an ideal content architecture, and inventorying key features, then finding the right CMS to meet all those needs. 

Let’s Continue the Conversation 

The thing we’ll remember most about HCIC is the connection. As challenging as healthcare can be, it also brings people together: patients, providers, and, yes, even healthcare marketers. The five topics HCIC honed in on are important, but they’re just a snapshot of the many conversations healthcare teams are having about marketing, technology, and the patient experience. 

Our hope is that the conversation will continue until the next HCIC and beyond. If you’re a healthcare marketer, what else is on your mind? We’d love to talk about it.

There’s a new acronym on the block: MACH (pronounced “mock”) architecture. 

But like X is to Twitter, MACH is more a rebrand than a reinvention. In fact, you’re probably already familiar with the M, A, C, and H and may even use them across your digital properties. While we’ve been helping our clients implement aspects of MACH architecture for years, organizations like the MACH Alliance have recently formed in an attempt to provide clearer definition around the approach, as well as to align their service offerings with the technologies at hand. 

One thing we’ve learned at Oomph after years of working with these technologies? It isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many degrees of MACH adoption, and how far you go depends on your organization and its unique needs. 

But first, you need to know what MACH architecture is, why it’s great (and when it’s not), and how to get started. 

What Is MACH?

MACH is an approach to designing, building, and testing agile digital systems — particularly websites. It stands for microservices, APIs, cloud-native, and headless. 

Like a composable business, MACH unites a few tried-and-true components into a single, seamless framework for building modern digital systems. 

The components of MACH architecture are: 

  1. Microservices: Many online features and functions can be separated into more specific tasks, or microservices. Modern web apps often rely on specialized vendors to offer individual services, like sending emails, authenticating users, or completing transactions, rather than a single provider to rule them all. 
  2. APIs: Microservices interact with a website through APIs, or application programming interfaces. This allows developers to change the site’s architecture without impacting the applications that use APIs and easily offer those APIs to their customers.
  3. Cloud-Native: A cloud-based environment hosts websites and applications via the Internet, ensuring scalability and performance. Modern cloud technology like Kubernetes, containers, and virtual machines keep applications consistent while meeting the demands of your users. 
  4. Headless: Modern Javascript frameworks like Next.js and Gatsby empower intuitive front ends that can be coupled with a variety of back-end content management systems, like Drupal and WordPress. This gives administrators the authoring power they want without impacting end users’ experience. 

Are You Already MACHing? 

Even if the term MACH is new to you, chances are good that you’re already doing some version of it. Here are some telltale signs:

If you’re doing any of the above, you’re MACHing. But the magic of MACH is in bringing them all together, and there are plenty of reasons why companies are taking the leap. 

5 Benefits of MACH Architecture

If you make the transition to MACH, you can expect: 

  1. Choice: Organizations that use MACH don’t have to settle for one provider that’s “good enough” for the countless services websites need. Instead, they can choose the best vendor for the job. For example, when Oomph worked with One Percent for America to build a platform offering low-interest loans to immigrants pursuing citizenship, that meant leveraging the Salesforce CRM for loan approvals, while choosing “Click and Pledge” for donations and credit card transactions. 
  2. Flexibility: MACH architecture’s modular nature allows you to select and integrate individual components more easily and seamlessly update or replace those components.  Our client Leica, for example, was able to update its order fulfillment application with minimal impact to the rest of its Drupal site. 
  3. Performance: Headless applications often run faster and are easier to test, so you can deploy knowing you’ve created an optimal user experience. For example, we used a decoupled architecture for our client Wingspans to create a stable, flexible, and scalable site with lightning-fast performance for its audience of young career-seekers.     
  4. Security: Breaches are generally limited to individual features or components, keeping your entire system more secure. 
  5. Future-Proofing: A MACH system scales easily because each service is individually configured, making it easier to keep up with technologies and trends and avoid becoming out-of-date. 

5 Drawbacks of MACH Architecture

As beneficial as MACH architecture can be, making the switch isn’t always smooth sailing. Before deciding to adopt MACH, consider these potential pitfalls. 

  1. Complexity: With MACH architecture, you’ll have more vendors — sometimes a lot more — than if you run everything on one enterprise system. That’s more relationships to manage and more training needed for your employees, which can complicate development, testing, deployment, and overall system understanding. 
  2. Challenges With Data Parity: Following data and transactions across multiple microservices can be tricky. You may encounter synchronization issues as you get your system dialed in, which can frustrate your customers and the team maintaining your website. 
  3. Security: You read that right — security is a potential pro and a con with MACH, depending on your risk tolerance. While your whole site is less likely to go down with MACH, working with more vendors leaves you more vulnerable to breaches for specific services. 
  4. Technological Mishaps: As you explore new solutions for specific services, you’ll often start to use newer and less proven technologies. While some solutions will be a home run, you may also have a few misses. 
  5. Complicated Pricing: Instead of paying one price tag for an enterprise system, MACH means buying multiple subscriptions that can fluctuate more in price. This, coupled with the increased overhead of operating a MACH-based website, can burden your budget. 

Is MACH Architecture Right for You? 

In our experience, most brands could benefit from at least a little bit of MACH. Some of our clients are taking a MACH-lite approach with a few services or apps, while others have adopted a more comprehensive MACH architecture. 

Whether MACH is the right move for you depends on your: 

  1. Platform Size and Complexity: Smaller brands with tight budgets and simple websites may not need a full-on MACH approach. But if you’re managing content across multiple sites and apps, managing a high volume of communications and transactions, and need to iterate quickly to keep up with rapid growth, MACH is often the way to go. 
  2. Level of Security: If you’re in a highly regulated industry and need things locked down, you may be better off with a single enterprise system than a multi-vendor MACH solution.  
  3. ROI Needs: If it’s time to replace your system anyway, or you’re struggling with internal costs and the diminishing value of your current setup, it may be time to consider MACH. 
  4. Organizational Structure: If different teams are responsible for distinct business functions, MACH may be a good fit. 

How To Implement MACH Architecture

If any of the above scenarios apply to your organization, you’re probably anxious to give MACH a go. But a solid MACH architecture doesn’t happen overnight. We recommend starting with a technology audit: a systematic, data-driven review of your current system and its limitations.

We recently partnered with career platform Wingspans to modernize its website. Below is an example of the audit and the output: a seamless and responsive MACH architecture. 

The Audit

  1. Surveys/Questionnaires: We started with some simple questions about Wingspan’s website, including what was working, what wasn’t, and the team’s reasons for updating. They shared that they wanted to offer their users a more modern experience. 
  2. Stakeholder Interviews: We used insights from the surveys to spark more in-depth discussions with team members close to the website. Through conversation, we uncovered that website performance and speed were their users’ primary pain points. 
  3. Systems Access and Audit: Then, we took a peek under the hood. Wingspans had already shared its poor experiences with previous vendors and applications, so we wanted to uncover simpler ways to improve site speed and performance. 
  4. Organizational Structure: Understanding how the organization functions helps design a system to meet those needs. The Wingspans team was excited about modern technology and relatively savvy, but they also needed a system that could accommodate thousands of authenticated community members. 
  5. Marketing Plan Review: We also wanted to understand how Wingspans would talk about their website. They sought an “app-like” experience with super-fast search, which gave us insight into how their MACH system needed to function. 
  6. Roadmap: Wingspans had a rapid go-to-market timeline. We simplified our typical roadmap to meet that goal, knowing that MACH architecture would be easy to update down the road. 
  7. Delivery: We recommended Wingspans deploy as a headless site (a site we later developed for them), with documentation we could hand off to their design partner. 

The Output 

We later deployed Wingspans.com as a headless site using the following components of MACH architecture:

  1. Microservices: Wingspans leverages microservices like Algolia Search for site search, Amazon AWS for email sends and static site hosting, and Stripe for managing transactions.
  2. APIs: Wingspans.com communicates with the above microservices through simple APIs. 
  3. Cloud-Native: The new website uses cloud-computing services like Google Firebase, which supports user authentication and data storage. 
  4. Headless: Gatsby powers the front-end design, while Cosmic JS is the back-end content management system (CMS). 

Let’s Talk MACH

As MACH evolves, the conversation around it will, too. Wondering which components may revolutionize your site and which to skip (for now)? Get in touch to set up your own technology audit.

On the hunt for the right vendor to help with your website refresh or app launch? Creating a request for proposal (RFP) is often an essential – and even required – first step. But much like digital experiences themselves, RFPs can range widely in quality.

At their best, RFPs clearly educate potential partners about your needs and help you compare your choices more easily. At their worst, RFPs are vague, complicated, and time-consuming for everyone involved. That can prompt some vendors to bypass them completely, leaving you with a less-than-stellar pool of options.

Many agencies see RFPs as a high-risk, low-reward business development strategy and are selective about responding, since they can eat up so much time. Case in point: The average company spends 32 hours and has 9 team members work on each RFP, yet wins less than half of them.

Despite all this, RFPs aren’t going anywhere. So how can you create an RFP that will actually attract the type of partner you want?

At Oomph, we review hundreds of RFPs every year to find the projects that are best suited for our skills. After sorting through the good, bad, and truly ugly, we’ve established an internal scoring system for potential RFPs — and learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Here are nine key factors that can help ensure your RFP stands out from the rest.

1. Embrace open communication.

By establishing open lines of communication from the outset, you can build a sense of trust and clarify questions to ensure the proposed solutions meet your needs.

If holding calls with individual vendors isn’t an option, hosting a pre-bid call is one effective way to gain face time with several prospective partners at once. Connecting live can give you a sense of how your two teams will mesh. For example, if an agency flakes on the call, those issues will likely only get worse during the project itself. On the flip side, a vendor who gets your goals and needs can often give you a more customized and accurate estimate.

2. Be as transparent as possible with your budget.

Ah, the million-dollar question: How much will this all cost? Some organizations decline to share a budget in their RFP, either because they’re not allowed to or because they don’t want vendors to inflate their price to match the stated budget. But omitting a dollar figure can quickly lead to frustration on all sides: You don’t want to waste time sorting through responses that aren’t in your budget, and agencies don’t want to respond to potential clients who can’t meet their rates.

By providing a targeted cost, you build trust with potential partners and avoid wasting time on solutions that are out of your price range. When including a budget, be clear on how vendors should respond. Do they need to list every expense as a line item or can they group costs? Should they include additional items that they think could enhance the project?

If you’re in an industry where you can’t share a budget, consider at least including a not-to-exceed figure. Otherwise, be prepared to sift through huge swings in costs. This is one instance where getting specific about your desired solution can actually be a good thing. Noting that you’re looking for a templated website vs. a custom build, for example, can help you avoid getting some proposals that come in at $20,000 and others that come in at $200,000.

3. Give ample time during the process.

RFPs are a lot of work and you don’t want to rush. A hasty process can increase the likelihood of mistakes, omissions, or incomplete responses from potential partners.

If you’re accepting questions on your RFP, make sure you leave enough time after answering them for agencies to formulate their response. If you have a second round, create some breathing room for agencies to prepare, especially if you’re expecting a presentation.

4. Provide the basics on your company.

Vendors want to know who you are and what you’re about. This includes basic details like the products or services you offer, your location, and your audience.

You should also include details on what makes your organization different. What sets you apart? What’s your mission? This will help vendors better understand your company’s goals, allowing them to tailor their proposals to your specific request.

Finally, let vendors know who will be spearheading the project on your team. Are there multiple decision-makers? Will your board need to sign off? Sharing information on your working style can help attract vendors who are a good fit and ensure they plan for the right level of collaboration in their scope.

5. Focus on your project goals, not the solution.

When creating an RFP, it’s easy to get caught up in the specific deliverable you think you need. But try to think big picture.

What do you want to accomplish? What was the impetus behind this work? For example, if your online leads are slowing down or it’s been ages since you last refreshed your design, share the details in your RFP. Make sure to include any project constraints as well, like if you want the winning firm to use your existing technical setup or if you’re open to new solutions.

By focusing on challenges and goals vs. proscriptive solutions, you allow potential partners to propose ideas that you may not have considered — but could be more effective than your initial solution.

6. Let applicants know which response formats are (and aren’t) OK.

List out the required elements you want to see in a proposal, like solution overview, a proposed timeline, and relevant work samples. Providing a standard framework can make it easier for agencies to assess the effort involved before deciding whether to respond and help you compare the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches. If any items are high-priority, be clear about where you expect applicants to spend the most time.

While providing details on what you’d like to see in the proposal is a smart move, be flexible if possible on how agencies deliver their response. If your project involves design work, allowing agencies to submit a PowerPoint deck instead of a written response can give you a glimpse at their design skills and how they interpret your brand based on the RFP. If you need proposals submitted in a specific format, go digital if possible. Most agencies will click “Pass” on any RFP that requires submitting 10 printed copies of a 30-page response.

7. Be clear on what will set applicants apart.

Think about what would make your partner a perfect fit for your organization. Is it experience in your industry or working with your preferred CMS? Is hiring a woman- or BIPOC-owned firm important to you? Are you eager to find a local agency that you can collaborate with in person?

By explicitly stating what will set top-tier candidates apart, you not only motivate vendors to put their best foot forward, but also give them the guidance they need to do so. Providing specific evaluation criteria in your RFP can also help ensure that the vendors who respond are the ones best suited to your project’s needs.

8. Consider your invites carefully.

The RFP process is meant to help you choose a single partner to meet your needs. Finding your ideal match requires carefully considering their expertise, proposed solution, and alignment with your company’s culture and values. So when you send your RFP, aim for quality over quantity in responses. Reviewing proposals from vendors who lack the necessary skills or who are a poor fit can lead to wasted time and, ultimately, a less successful project.

Beyond posting your RFP across your channels, think about how to proactively find the best partner for the job. Doing research in your industry and even asking competitors or affiliates who they’ve worked with can help narrow down your search.

9. Hold off on those references.

We get it – it’s helpful to get a second (or third, or fourth…) opinion when choosing a partner. However, it’s best to wait until you’ve narrowed it down to a few potential partners before reaching out to their references.

Why? You don’t want to waste your time contacting references for vendors who may not end up being a good fit for your project. Some vendors also may not want their clients contacted over and over again for early-stage RFPs. By waiting until you’ve narrowed down your list, you’ll likely have better, more specific questions to ask the references based on the vendor’s proposed solution.

Creating a Win-Win RFP Process

With the help of a well-crafted RFP, you can attract top-tier vendors who will be eager to flex their creative muscles and propose solutions that achieve your project’s goals. By prioritizing transparency, setting clear expectations, and valuing communication, you can establish a strong foundation for a productive and successful collaboration.

Need a fresh perspective on your digital project RFP? We’d love to talk about it.

Ever get a proposal back from an agency and think, “It would be cheaper and easier to do this ourselves?”

Here at Oomph, we’ve been getting the agency vs. in-house question for years. And we totally understand why. How appealing is it to get the full-time eyes and expertise of an employee, rather than paying a similar price for what can feel like less time from an agency?

You’re not the only one thinking it. With resources and budgets tightening across industries, many companies are asking themselves how to balance price, speed, and quality in their digital work – and if agencies are the answer. In fact, a recent marketing relationship survey found that 22% of brands are actively bringing their marketing in-house, a 5% increase from the previous year.

But before you follow the trend, consider all your options. The truth is that there are times when it makes sense to hire in-house. Yet there are also plenty of situations where an agency partner can produce better work at a lower cost.

Here’s what you need to know about agency vs. in-house to decide for yourself.

The Pros of Hiring In-House

For brands that need easy access to a steady resource for ongoing work, an in-house hire might be the right fit. Bringing on a staff developer can offer benefits like:

Quicker collaboration

Full-time employees (FTE) are just down the hall or, at the very least, on the same Slack channels as you. That means you can drop a file to them to get quick edits on a new landing page, or break out the whiteboard spontaneously to brainstorm some ideas for future app features. This convenience can help facilitate more off-the-cuff creativity. It also sidesteps a lot of the red tape it takes to get websites approved and live.

Knowledge of the brand and business

Your FTE has a singular focus: you. It’s their job to know the ins and outs of your organization, and they won’t have to split their time with another brand’s work. Since your FTE will already be tapped into what works for your brand, you won’t have to spend so much time overseeing their work. What’s more, FTEs can draw from their depth of knowledge to deliver digital experiences that are truly unique to you.

Strategic alignment

A lack of strategic approach is one of the top three reasons why clients end relationships with their agencies. While agencies are packed with strategy and creative experts, that expertise is far-reaching and may extend to industries or platforms that aren’t relevant to your business. When you hire in-house, you can get laser-focused on finding a candidate with the work experiences and technical skills to align with your broader vision.

The Advantages of an Agency

At their best, agencies act as an extension of your team. What’s theirs becomes yours, meaning you’ll have access to a broad range of talent, skill sets, and resources. Your agency relationship can open doors to:

Multidisciplinary expertise

It’s reasonable to expect your full-time developer to be an expert in coding sites and apps. But what about SEO? Content marketing? UX/UI? Data and analytics? Copywriting?

Large websites, platforms, and applications call for all of these specialized skills – and so many more. That’s a lot of seats to fill and a pretty hefty budget to make the case for. If you hired and managed all of those individuals, you’d spend all your time trying to keep them busy.

With an agency, you get access to all of that expertise on an as-needed or contract basis and someone to manage them for you.

Cutting-edge capabilities

Technology evolves at a breakneck speed. Since internal teams typically just touch their own platforms and technologies, they often have less exposure to new tools and processes than agencies. For most agencies, learning is baked into the culture through dedicated professional development and skills learned through serving a broader range of clients.

Here at Oomph, we know part of our value is advising on the emerging technologies that might benefit your business. That’s why we create intentional spaces, like our monthly engineering guild, for our teams to explore and discuss new tools. The knowledge-sharing that agencies like ours engage in trickles down not only to their conversations with you, but into the projects and products they deliver.


Imagine you’re in the middle of building a new digital platform. What if your sole developer leaves, as so many employees do?

On average, companies lose 18% of their workforce every year to turnover, 12% of which is voluntary. While this rate varies from industry to industry, it’s still likely that you’ll one day lose team members to the draw of higher salaries and better benefits. Agencies offer a level of consistency that FTEs just don’t, backfilling any departures to keep your initiatives humming along.

Agency vs. In-House: Which Is More Cost Effective?

While it’s true that you’ll likely pay more for an hour of your agency’s time than an hour of your FTE’s, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Agencies are often a more cost-effective option because:

Full-time salaries are on the rise

According to a 2021 US News Report, software developers made a median salary of $120,730. Have sticker shock yet? Keep in mind, that doesn’t even include the additional costs of employment like benefits, PTO, and hardware and software.

Agency time is more efficient

Efficiency is a priority for any agency. They’re typically paid for the number of hours it takes to do a project – no more, no less – so they’re incentivized to make every minute count.

A FTE may not be so enterprising with your time. Not to mention that with FTEs, you also pay for:

The relationship can scale up or down

Imagine you’re launching a new website. To get it across the finish line, you need a wide variety of team members and a huge chunk of hours. But what happens after that website goes live?

With an agency, you can easily scale your engagement up or down to account for the ebbs and flows of digital projects. For example, you might hire an agency to provide a basic retainer package for post-launch site maintenance, and then add new features as you need them via specific scopes of work. In many cases, the cost of an agency support package could be as much as half the cost of hiring just one person full-time.

When To Hire an Agency

We have to say it: There are some situations where only an agency will do.

Now, we aren’t saying that agency has to be Oomph (although we’re always here to help if you need us). But we are saying that agencies may be the best fit if:

  1. Development isn’t a core capability of your business: Businesses that lack a deep knowledge of web development may struggle to effectively manage an in-house developer, or even worse, end up with technical debt they’re unaware of.
  2. You have a specific project to complete: Big projects are a great reason to work with an agency because you can essentially expand your team for a limited time, then scale back once the project wraps up.
  3. Your needs fluctuate or your team is maxed: Some months, you’ll have a surplus of development projects and your team will feel up to their eyeballs in to-dos. Other months, those projects slow down. A support package with an agency can flex along with your business’s needs, giving you the option to add more hours during busy times. While leveraging freelancers may sound appealing here, the constant ramp-up periods and lack of institutional knowledge that comes along with using contractors can actually slow work down. Agencies bring a blend of outsider perspective with flexible, ongoing partnership.
  4. Your needs are multidisciplinary: It rarely makes sense to hire a 10-person team for a specific project. But your agency can offer all the skills you need (and probably even more that you aren’t utilizing yet) without the hassle of managing an entire team or even overseeing multiple freelancers.

The Agency vs. In-House Bottom Line

Here’s the real tea: When it comes time to decide to “build vs. buy,” so to speak, there is no one right answer. There are pros and cons to each approach, and it really does depend on how your team is built now and where you need it to go.

Both approaches can work. And while we’d love for you to partner with Oomph, we also know that the most fruitful agency-client relationships are those where the agency’s capabilities merge seamlessly with the client’s needs. For that reason, we also believe in the best of both worlds – putting our full weight behind projects, but knowing when it’s time to play a supporting role to the FTE main characters.

Need help deciding? Let’s talk about it.

With low-code and no-code development tools, anyone can be a developer. Right?

Oprah You're a Developer

That depends. While working in low-code/no-code tools may feel like you’ve unlocked the power of the digital universe, there are still many projects that require traditional full-code solutions.

According to Zapier’s recent no-code report, over 50% of no-code users started in the past year, many of whom are self-taught. Industry analysts also expect that by 2025, over 70% of the applications organizations develop will rely on no-code/low-code tools. That’s not surprising, given that these tools lower the barrier to entry – and the cost – of developing new sites and apps.

With a slew of effective low-code/no-code solutions on the market today, the question isn’t whether you should use no-code/low-code tools to evolve your digital footprint. It’s how and when you should use them so that the tools work for your organization, not against it.

What Is Low-Code/No-Code?

There are three ways to build websites or apps: full-code, low-code, and no-code. Developers hold the keys to the proverbial full-code city, but low-code and no-code open the door to people without a coding background.

While it’s tempting to brush off low-code and no-code as “same same but different,” the differences do matter. Understanding what they are and how they work will help you choose the best route for whatever digital property you need to build.

Low-code development

Low-code development uses APIs, drag-and-drop tools, code and process templates, and more to help build websites, apps, and workflows. These tools typically require some coding skills, but nothing like what you’d need to create a full-code solution. That makes it much quicker and easier to create a product using low-code development than writing all of the code from scratch.

No-code development

No-code development uses visual builders and other simple tools that allow people without any coding skills to build digital experiences. Through drag-and-drop, visual flows, and templated plug-ins, you can build something beautiful without having to touch the code at all. They’re one step more accessible than low-code solutions, making them compelling options for organizations that need fast and cost-effective development.

Pros and Cons of Low-Code/No-Code Development

Low-code/no-code tools take a lot of the time, cost, and aggravation out of traditional development – but they’re not a cure-all for your coding challenges. Before you dive in, keep their strengths and limitations in mind.

Pros of low-code/no-code

Cons of low-code/no-code

When Should You Use Low-Code/No-Code Tools?

For simple projects where hitting budgets and timelines is more important than highly customized design, low-code/no-code tools can be a great solve. They’re especially good for:

What Should You Look For in a Low-Code/No-Code Tool?

Before you choose a solution, consider whether anyone on your team has basic coding skills. If yes, low-code tools may be up your alley. If not, consider narrowing your focus to the many no-code tools around.

Whichever route you go, look for these features in both low-code and no-code tools:

When Should You Bring in an Agency To Build a Full-Code Solution?

Sometimes, only a custom or full-code solution will do. The more unique you want your digital property to be, the more likely it is that you’ll need to call in an expert. We also suggest you look for support if:

Get Help Leveraging the Right Tools for the Right Projects

You wouldn’t build a house on shaky ground, would you? Then why build an experience on a platform that might not actually be able to support it?

Though no-code/low-code tools certainly democratize the web development market, they aren’t a silver bullet. If you know that whatever you’re building is simple enough that a no-code/low-code tool and your existing team can support it, we say go for it.

But if you’re even a little uncertain, consider getting an outside opinion on how to lay a strong foundation for your next development project.

Want help deciding whether no-code, low-code, or full-code is best for you? We’d love to talk with you about your needs.

Not a lot of people get excited about creating an annual report. Yay! Let’s dive into last year’s operational metrics! If you and your colleagues fall into that camp, this statement should help stoke a little enthusiasm:

A compelling annual report can make the difference in reaching your goals for the coming year — and maybe even exceeding them.

Your annual report (also known as an “impact report” at many nonprofits) can be pivotal in earning the trust and support of key stakeholders. Read on to learn how a strong story, good design, and the right format can transform your company data into an invaluable outreach tool.

Why the Quality of Your Annual Report Matters

A good annual report communicates more than just financial performance and forecasts. It provides stakeholders with a deeper understanding of what you do, why you do it, and how well you do it — and gives them a reason to trust, invest in, and/or work with your brand.

This is crucial for nonprofits that rely heavily on fundraising or volunteers, or for-profit companies that need to attract and retain investors and employees. In the health and wellness sector, it’s a key opportunity for organizations to show how they’ve followed through on their commitments to contribute to the health and wellness of communities.

With an engaging design and thoughtful content, an annual report can be a powerful tool for fundraising, marketing, and recruiting. Done well, it’s also a good way to strengthen your brand reputation.

By contrast, a poorly done annual report can downplay your strengths and successes. It can also diminish your brand image, particularly if your website and other channels are more thoughtfully designed. In that case, the annual report may feel like an afterthought to readers who rely on its information.

How Your Annual Report Can Engage Key Audiences

While current and potential donors or investors tend to be the primary audiences for annual reports, there are a number of other stakeholders to take into account. Employees, customers, alumni, partners, and community leaders are all part of the ecosystem that benefits from, and drives value for, your organization.

Creating a multi-faceted report with content that speaks to different audiences can help you earn the trust and support of a range of key stakeholders. Here’s how.

Strengthen your investor or donor base

With an easy-to-digest record of accomplishments and impact, your annual report can help convince current and potential donors, sponsors, or investors that your organization is a solid investment. It’s also a great way to recognize those who helped you achieve your goals over the year or to reconnect with disengaged supporters.

Motivate your employees or volunteers

An engaging report can congratulate your team on their wins and highlight the innovation, commitment, and cooperation that underpin your success. By showing people how their work affects everything from stock value to community impact, you’ll reinforce why the work they do every day makes a difference and how they fit into the bigger picture.

Capture more customers or clients

Whether they’re buying your products or receiving the benefits of your services, most people want to do business with brands that genuinely care about them. Your annual report can include stories and visuals that showcase your mission and core values, as well as highlighting initiatives that put customers or clients first.

Enhance vendor or partner relationships

External partners want to know what they can expect from you and what’s expected of them — and just about everyone wants to feel appreciated. Your annual report can leverage data to show your financial strength and longevity while highlighting the level of quality and commitment you expect from vendors and partners. It can also spotlight those who went above and beyond, reinforcing those relationships.

6 Best Practices for an Engaging Annual Report

It’s not easy to distill an entire year’s worth of data into a single report that’s digestible, engaging, and convincing. The best annual reports tend to combine clear and purposeful storytelling with a little creativity.

Choose a unifying theme

One of the best ways to craft a cohesive narrative for your annual report is to choose an overarching theme and create relevant content around it. Centralizing your accomplishments around a main message will keep the report focused and better support your core objectives.

Some organizations anchor their reports by opening with their mission statements. Others use marketing-driven catchphrases like “Poised for the 21st Century.” We love the 2021 annual report from AIDS Foundation Chicago — it’s built around the theme “A Better Normal,” opens with a leaders’ letter, and includes a list of strategic priorities linked to different report sections.

Use visual elements to express impact

It’s easy for a message to get lost if it’s not presented in the right way. Design matters! Use things like photos, infographics, and other visual elements to bring your goals and successes to life. This will also help keep readers engaged with your content. In a nutshell: aim for more visuals and fewer words.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island 2021 Annual Report does a great job of using impactful imagery and colorful visuals to illustrate their mission and key accomplishments.

Make it interactive

At the end of the day, you want people to read what you’ve put together. One of the best ways to keep readers engaged is to create an immersive experience with interactive features. Let your audience click through slides, watch videos, or expand graphics for more information.

TOMS’s 2022 Impact Report combines videos and dynamic visuals with lots of clickable content to cover a ton of info without making readers wade through long blocks of text.

Create a web page, not a PDF

While PDFs are easy to share online or in print, they can be clunky to interact with, they’re hard to read on mobile, and they’re notoriously inaccessible.

Here are some important advantages to building a web page instead:

Plus, since they’re native to web browsers, web pages make it easier for readers to navigate to additional resources or take action. And, well, PDFs just aren’t as much fun to scroll through as the 2020 Mailchimp Annual Report.

Employ data visualization

Numbers alone are easy to skim right over. Visual representations of data, however, get readers to think about the content in a more constructive way, like identifying trends or significant changes. Visualizations also help transform complex data into easy-to-understand information that’s more enjoyable to read.

Start Network’s 2019 Annual Report shows how to use color, graphics, and animation to bring life to your data.

Connect the data to real people

This is especially important for nonprofits and for-profit social enterprises, where it’s crucial to convey the impact of your work. You can humanize facts and data — and make an emotional connection with readers — by including stories and images showing how your product or service impacted the lives of real people.

For a wonderful example of how to incorporate real stories, check out Fairtrade Foundation’s 2019 Annual Report.

Why It’s All Worth It

Think about all the marketing and outreach methods your team uses to attract support for your organization. Of all those methods, the annual report provides a unique chance to showcase the full breadth of your value and impact. To unabashedly brag about yourselves, if you will.

For health and wellness organizations in particular, an annual report is a great opportunity to share community impact over the past year and highlight important investments or initiatives that impact the health and lives of the individuals they serve.

Is it a significant investment? It can be. But if you invest in making your annual report as engaging and compelling as possible, it can pay for itself by helping to fulfill your fundraising or recruitment goals — and spotlighting the crucial role your organization plays in the world at large.

Need help crafting your next annual report? Reach out to us today.

There’s a phrase often used to gauge healthcare quality: the right care, at the right time, in the right place. When those elements are out of sync, the patient experience can take a turn for the worse. Think about missed appointments, misunderstood pre-op instructions, mismanagement of medication… all issues that require clear and timely communication to ensure positive outcomes.

Many healthcare organizations are tapping into patient engagement tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) to drive better healthcare experiences. In this article, we’ll cover a number of use cases for AI within healthcare, showing how it can benefit providers, their patients, and their staff in an increasingly digital world.

Healthcare Consumers are Going Digital

Use of AI in the clinical space has been growing for years, from Google’s AI aiding diagnostic screenings to IBM’s Watson AI informing clinical decision making. But there are many other touchpoints along a patient’s continuum of care that can impact patient outcomes.

The industry is seeing a shift towards more personalized and data-driven patient engagement, with recent studies showing that patients are ready to integrate AI and other digital tools into their healthcare experiences.

For instance, healthcare consumers are increasingly comfortable with doctors using AI to make better decisions about their care. They also want personalized engagement to motivate them on their health journey, with 65% of patients agreeing that communication from providers makes them want to do more to improve their health.

At the same time, 80% of consumers prefer to use digital channels (online messaging, virtual appointments, text, etc…) to communicate with healthcare providers at least some of the time. This points to significant opportunities for digital tools to help providers and patients manage the healthcare experience.

Filling in Gaps: AI Use Cases for Healthcare

Healthcare will always need skilled, highly trained experts to deliver high quality care. But, AI can fill in some gaps by addressing staffing shortages, easing workflows, and improving communication. Many healthcare executives also believe AI can provide a full return on investment in less than three years.

Here are some ways AI can support healthcare consumers and providers to improve patients’ outcomes and experiences.

Streamline basic communications

Using AI as the first line to a patient for basic information enables convenient, personalized service without tying up staff resources. With tools like text-based messaging, chatbots, and automated tasks, providers can communicate with people on the devices, and at the times, that they prefer.

Examples include:

Remove barriers to access

AI algorithms are being used in some settings to conduct initial interviews that help patients determine whether they need to see a live, medical professional — and then send them to the right provider.

AI can offer a bridge for patients who, for a host of reasons, are stuck in taking the first step. For instance, having the first touchpoint as a chatbot helps overcome a barrier for patients seeking care within often-stigmatized specialities, such as behavioral health. It can also minimize time wasted at the point of care communicating things like address changes and insurance providers.

Reduce no-show rates

In the U.S., patient no-show rates range from 5.5 to 50%, depending on the location and type of practice. Missed appointments not only result in lost revenue and operational inefficiencies for health systems, they can also delay preventive care, increase readmissions, and harm long-term outcomes for patients.

AI-driven communications help ensure that patients receive critical reminders at optimal times, mitigating these risks. For instance:

Close information gaps

Imagine a patient at home, alone, not feeling well, and confused about how to take their medication or how to handle post-operative care. Not having that critical information can lead to poor outcomes, including readmission.

Delivering information at the right time, in the right place, is key. But multiple issues can arise, such as:

By providing consistent, accurate, and timely information, AI-enabled tools can provide critical support for patients and care teams.

Minimize staff burnout

Burnout and low morale have contributed to severe staffing shortages in the US healthcare system. The result is an increase in negative patient outcomes, in addition to massive hikes in labor costs for hospitals and health systems.

AI can help lighten the burden on healthcare employees through automated touchpoints in the patient journey, such as self-scheduling platforms or FAQ-answering chatbots. AI can even perform triage informed by machine learning, helping streamline the intake process and getting patients the right care as quickly as possible.

This frees up staff to focus on more meaningful downstream conversations between patients and care teams. It can also reduce phone center wait times for those patients (often seniors) who still rely on phone calls with live staff members.

Maximize staff resources

When 80% of healthcare consumers are willing to switch providers for convenience factors alone, it’s crucial to communicate with patients through their preferred channels. Some people respond to asynchronous requests (such as scheduling confirmations) late at night, while others must speak to a live staff member during the day.

Using multimodal communication channels (phone, text, email, web) offers two major benefits for healthcare providers. For one, you can better engage patients who prefer asynchronous communication. You can also identify the ratio of patients who prefer live calls and staff accordingly when it’s needed most.

Leverage customer feedback

AI provides fast, seamless avenues to gather and track patient satisfaction data and create a reliable, continual customer feedback loop. Tools like chatbots and text messaging expand the number of ways patients can communicate with healthcare providers, making it easier to leave feedback and driving not only a better digital customer experience but potentially leading to better satisfaction scores that may impact payment or quality scores.

AI offers another benefit, too: the ability to identify and respond more quickly to negative feedback. The more swiftly a problem is resolved, the better the consumer experience.

A Few Tips for Getting Started

First, find a trusted technology partner who has experience with healthcare IT stacks and understands how AI fits into the landscape. The healthcare industry is distinctly different from other verticals that might use tools like chatbots and automated tasks. You need a partner who’s familiar with the nuances of the healthcare consumer experience and regulatory compliance requirements.

Next, start small. It’s best to choose your first AI applications in a strategic, coordinated manner. One approach is to identify the biggest bottlenecks for care teams and/or patients, then assess which areas present the lowest risk to the customer experience and the greatest chance of operational success.

Finally, track the progress of your first implementation. Evaluate, iterate, evaluate again, and then expand into other areas when you’re comfortable with the results.

Focal points for iteration:

Above all, remember that successful use of AI isn’t just about how well you implement the technology. It’s about the impact those digital tools have on improving patient outcomes and increasing patient satisfaction with their healthcare experience.

Interested in exploring the specific ways AI can benefit your care team and patients? We’re here to help! Contact us today.

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:

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:

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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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:

  1. 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 __
  2. 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
  3. 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

In summary

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.

Since the early days of Oomph, we’ve worked with clients to create a variety of online educational experiences. Platforms to practice Buddhism. Platforms for cardiologists to be better informed. For teachers to be better prepared for the classroom. For high-tech product users to become more proficient.

Here’s the process we’ve seen work:

  1. Define the purpose of the platform.
  2. Identify students’ needs and expectations.
  3. Choose the learning tools that best achieve your objectives.

…and here’s what we’ve seen too many folks do: skip the purpose and dive right into posting videos on something like Teachable. While that might work for some business models, it’s not effective for most others.

By understanding what is at stake for the learner, you can understand how to support their learning

As online learning continues to grow, we need a different way of thinking about how people learn via online systems. By considering what’s at stake in a given situation — in other words, how important is it that students learn the material — we can identify four primary categories of learning purpose. Once you know which category your platform falls into, you can design it with the tools and features that best achieve your learning objectives.

Let’s explore those four purpose categories and how they shape the online learning experience.

1. Entertainment (or “No Stakes”) Learning

Entertainment learning is driven purely by curiosity. Students might see this type of learning as truly fun, maybe even as an alternative to other forms of entertainment (like watching a movie).

In this case, there are no stakes — no real consequences for the student who gives up mid-way through a class. As for the educator, the only risks are related to losing viewers and market share. An example of this type of learning platform is Masterclass, which has mastered the art of marketing entertainment learning. Masterclass doesn’t really care if you learn the material, as long as you’re enjoying the experience.

Most entertainment learning is delivered through polished content designed to sell as many courses to as many people as possible. Neither the platform nor the student are truly invested in the learning.

What’s the purpose?

As an example, let’s say Sam the Student is intrigued by sailing. They may never actually do it, but they wants to know what it involves. In this case, Sam is simply consuming the content.

What’s needed:

Successful entertainment learning platforms focus more on user acquisition and user retention versus how well users absorb and apply the content. Such platforms benefit from:

  1. Good content production quality
  2. Celebrity and well-known “expert” instructors
  3. Effective marketing (like compelling trailers)

2. Student Stakes Learning

Like entertainment learning, student stakes learning is also student-driven. The difference is that there are real consequences, which means the student has a purpose beyond simply consuming the content. But the consequences apply to the student, not the educator. Think about studying for a driver’s license test — if you don’t pass, you don’t get your license. DMV isn’t responsible for helping you learn; they’ll just re-administer the test.

What’s the purpose?

To continue the boating example: by this time, Sam has become a frequent sailor and wants to learn how to forecast off-shore weather without needing a computer. In this case, retaining the content is essential, so they can put it to use.

What’s needed:

Student stakes learning needs to incorporate content retention techniques. It also helps to hold students accountable for their learning. Content should be shorter and focus on comprehension. Student stakes learning platforms benefit from:

3. Educator Stakes Learning

In this kind of learning, there are consequences for the student, but the stakes are higher for the educator. Think of higher education at colleges and universities, where a school’s reputation is at stake. This could also apply to a management training program, which can impact overall company performance, or to a business trying to educate users on a topic in the hopes they’ll buy a related product.

Comprehension and completion are key in educator stakes learning, which is why it often includes a certificate of completion or an accreditation of some kind, so the educator can verify that the student actually learned the material.

What’s the purpose?

Sam has now decided to become a commercial boat captain, and their potential employer wants them to pass a certification course. Here, Sam’s demonstrating knowledge of the material is highly important to the educator.

What’s needed:

Because educator stakes learning hinges on comprehension, it’s important to focus on helping students both retain course material and sufficiently demonstrate their knowledge of it. These kinds of platforms often include:

4. Broad Stakes Learning

Broad stakes learning impacts the student, the educator and often society in general, and knowledge of the material must be refreshed on a regular basis. Consider a warehouse that trains its staff on the proper use of heavy equipment. For an employee, their job is likely on the line; for the company, the safety of their workforce and their reputation is at stake; and for all the company’s employees, there are issues of personal safety and trust.

What’s the purpose?

Sam now aspires to become a ferry boat captain, which means they’ll be responsible for passengers, vehicles, and cargo. The local authority requires that they pass a certification each year to demonstrate current knowledge of the material, to ensure they’ll be a safe and competent captain.

What’s needed:

Ongoing retention of content is critical here, along with staying current on new information. So, broad stakes learning platforms generally use bite-sized material with frequent reviews, quizzes, and feedback. Students learn a topic, review the topic, review it again, and take a quiz; if they missed any questions, they’ll likely get additional help and get tested again. Later on, there may be additional communications and usually a refresher course or two.

Learning platforms that support broad stakes learning often use the tools from educator stakes learning, with some additions:

A Different Way of Thinking

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all digital learning experience. That’s why a medical association administering doctor certifications needs a very different platform from, say, an HR department offering manager training. Different industries leverage different kinds of learning, which require different educational tools.

If you’re planning to embark on an online learning initiative, be sure to align your efforts around your core purpose. Without a clear roadmap, well, we’ve seen what happens. Remember how online learning was thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic? One thing became painfully clear: not every online learning platform actually worked.

That’s because many of those platforms were thrown together without regard for basic learning principles. Above all, online learning platforms must be built to serve the purpose behind the educational experience. Like we said earlier: define your purpose, identify your students’ needs, and choose the right tools for the job.

Looking to develop an online learning experience for your organization? We’d love to help you develop the best possible tools. Contact us today to learn more.

With all the hype swirling around technology buzzwords like blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it can be hard to understand their real utility for your business. But as practical applications continue to emerge, more business leaders are starting to see adopting blockchain as a business priority (PDF) — and, potentially, a competitive advantage.

To help you make sense of it, we’ve compiled a high-level look at blockchain technology and its sister concept, Web3, along with some ideas for how this technology could be relevant to your business right now.

First, What are Blockchain & Web3?


“Web3” has become a catch-all term that refers to a decentralized online ecosystem where platforms and apps are owned not by a central gatekeeper, but by the users who help develop and maintain those services. To many, Web3 is the next iteration of the internet.

The first version of the internet, Web 1.0, was largely made of individual, static web pages created by the few people who understood the technology. We are currently in the midst of Web 2.0, which provides a platform with tools for non-technical people to create their own content, essentially democratizing authorship. With it, we saw the rise of social media platforms, shopping giants like Amazon, and work tools like Office and Google Suite. This also meant that much of our individual data — our posts, reviews, and photos — have been centralized into these behemoth systems.

The promise of Web3 is the opposite approach: decentralized content, with much greater control over what you create and in what ways your data is associated with your activity.


Web3 achieves its goals of decentralization via blockchain, a digital ledger that exists only on the internet. This ledger uses a complex cryptography system to create encrypted “blocks” of data, ensuring that all the transactions that are written to it are verifiable and unalterable.

This ledger is open to the world to access. It’s not hosted on a single server owned by one company, but instead across a vast network of computers. The technology keeps all transactions up to date everywhere at once, and maintenance fees are paid by those that access the data.

What makes the blockchain so valuable across sectors is that it helps reduce risk, eliminates fraud, and provides scalable transparency. As a chronological, decentralized, single source of truth, the blockchain creates trust in data. As an example, at its most basic level, this open ledger makes it possible for me to verify that you conducted a certain transaction on a certain date (like a digital receipt). But it can do much more than that.

Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can put the blockchain to use.

What Can Blockchain Do for Healthcare?

We’ve already started to see innovation around Web3 in the healthcare space, much of it focused on patient health records. Given the increasing fragmentation of healthcare, the strict privacy regulations in this space, and the high risk of data breaches with current systems, the healthcare industry is a good candidate for blockchain use and the security benefits of decentralization.

Use case: patient records

To imagine how the blockchain can change healthcare, let’s consider a typical patient who sees their general practitioner and requests a visit with a specialist. To ensure continuity of care, the patient’s health records must be sent from the primary doctor to the specialist’s office quickly and securely. Since most patients don’t have copies of all their medical records, they’re relying on their doctor’s office to transfer this sensitive data.

With the blockchain, patients can own their own medical records and control who has access to them. Doctors can add detailed entries to the digital ledger, which can be shared with other medical professionals as needed. Patients can also revoke access to anyone at any time.

Improving access to patient information across providers is crucial for the healthcare industry, given that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Current medications and their side effects could be part of the blockchain ledger, to help reduce complications. In addition, smart contracts that automatically seek out potential conflicts between medications could be added to medical records.

This example barely scratches the surface; luckily, there are many companies already in this space, figuring out how to store patient data via blockchain in accordance with current regulations.

What Can Blockchain Do for Education?

You may not immediately think of educational applications as benefitting from blockchain technology. But paper records are one area that’s ripe for disruption, since moving to a digital format would make communication between institutions much more efficient. Here’s an example.

Use case: student transcripts

Having transcripts stored on a blockchain would make it easier for students to transfer their educational history from one school to another. It would also ensure that educational institutions, or even employers, could easily verify that history. In fact, MIT has been issuing digital, blockchain-stored diplomas since 2017.

Beyond transcripts, the Open Badge Passport issues digital badges that recognize learning, skills, and achievements by scraping information off the blockchain about individuals’ extracurricular activities. This allows students and others to demonstrate soft-skill talents that are valuable to have but not typically recorded by a degree.

What Can Blockchain Do for Ecommerce?

Product registration has long been a way for companies to gain access to buyers’ contact info (more than a way for customers to protect their investment, as advertised). Using blockchain, product registries can serve a greater range of purposes, offering value to both consumers and companies. That’s because when it comes to provenance — the place of origin or earliest known history of something — a blockchain is a perfect public record-keeping tool.

Use case: product registries

For high-ticket items that can be sold on the internet, like jewelry, designer clothing, or rare books, a blockchain entry can be used to prove, and verifiably transfer, an item’s ownership. This user history could not only help bolster the secondary market for verified products, it also reduces the ability of counterfeiters to pass knock-off products as the real thing.

Imagine this approach for high-ticket items like autos. Supporting vehicle transactions that take place online or offline, a blockchain could store vehicle maintenance and crash reports. This trove of information could boost the resale value of a vehicle, because potential buyers can access the vehicle’s entire maintenance history. If the data is connected to onboard sensors, it might even include engine efficiency and tire wear.

What Can Blockchain Do for Non-Profits?

In this example, we combine blockchain, NFTs, and smart contracts to create a unique approach to a fundraising classic. Quick primer on NFTs: blockchain-based tokens that represent digital media like music, art, videos, etc… and can verify authenticity, past history, and sole ownership of a digital item. Smart contracts are preset functions that fire on a blockchain when specific conditions are met.

Use case: silent auctions with NFTs

Non-profits could take a new approach to fundraising with NFTs. Let’s say an artist creates (as a donation) a series of NFTs that are auctioned off to the highest bidder, with ownership of the artwork transferred via a blockchain. Or museums could sell digital representations of their collection, potentially fueling new derivative artwork. Artists could remix classic works into new art, providing additional promotional and fundraising opportunities. The classic silent auction gets upgraded.

But let’s take it a step further. Smart contracts on those NFTs could perpetually pay a royalty back to the original artist or the organization as a portion of any future sales of the artwork. That means one year’s fundraiser could potentially reap monetary benefits for many years to come. The contract could take any form negotiated by the artist and non-profit — future royalties from ownership transfer pay the artist while the initial artwork was a donation, or the artist and organization split future proceeds, etc…

Blockchain can not only help overcome challenges such as consumer privacy concerns and sensitive data management, it can also help organizations seize new opportunities for growth.

What Can Blockchain Do for You?

While blockchain technology was first conceived as a mechanism to support Bitcoin, today it offers tons of uses across industry sectors. This kind of advanced technology may seem only accessible to companies that can afford expensive developers, but the cost to incorporate blockchain technology into many business operations is often less than you think. Plus, new vendors are emerging all the time to provide blockchain technology for a broad range of applications.

Blockchain can not only help overcome challenges such as consumer privacy concerns and sensitive data management, it can also help organizations seize new opportunities for growth. Think about your company’s biggest challenge or goal, and there might be a way blockchain technology can address it.

Interested in looking at ways to incorporate blockchain into your company’s digital assets? Let’s talk.