When you think about digital engineering companies, you probably think about 0s and 1s, computers, and bots—and you’d be right! Having cutting-edge technology is critical for digital engineering companies, don’t get me wrong, but it’s far from the only thing you need to succeed. As much as this industry exists in the virtual world, what truly matters is the impact it has on the real world in which you and I live. Therefore, humans are really what make or break enterprises in this line of work.
In this article, I’ll explore 5 characteristics of human-centric digital engineering companies:
Understanding the Digital Landscape
It’s very easy for a technologist to become fixated on one technology or one part of a process and lose sight of how it fits into the big picture. This inhibits you from identifying opportunities to add value, though. Digital engineering companies must understand how all the pieces of the digital landscape puzzle fit together to drive a business.
For example, you might be great at order processing, and fixate on doing the best order processing you could ever possibly do. But what about all the workflows that happen after an order is processed? It’s possible that your solutioning would conflict with other processes, or that other areas outside of order processing need advancements. Avoiding tunnel vision will give you context into the entire business process and illuminate other value-add opportunities.
In my experience, clients often compare themselves with other companies in their industry. In these situations, there’s no substitute for knowing that specific sector really well. Having your finger on the pulse of your customers’ domain will provide insight into the following:
Successful digital engineering companies know their customers’ business as well as or better than they do. Having this insight will help you craft an innovative and future-proof solution to the problem.
Innovative Commercial Thinking
The other thing that companies like us need to do is to be ready to think innovatively around commercial models
It’s easy for a company to just charge that by the hour—that’s the safest way to get paid if you’re in our position. But we probably wouldn’t add as much value that way as we would if we were on an outcome-based payment model. This assures the customer that we are, indeed, invested in their success.
For example, a client might come to me and say, “I need 10 Java developers.” Obviously, I can give them 10 Java developers and bill by the hour. But if a client says, “I need to grow my sales by 10% per year,” that’s a different story. Now, I probably wouldn’t set up a payment structure where I’m compensated only when they achieve their goal—that’s too much risk.
Instead, I would propose the customer pay just the cost of the Java developers plus a premium for every percentage they achieve beyond 5% sales growth. I’ll still take some risk this way, but it also increases both our rewards because when the client wins, I also win. They’re holding me accountable by not paying me as much as if they don’t succeed themselves.
A Deep Understanding of the Customer and Their Problems
There are plenty of companies out there that just come in, do their job, and leave, taking very little interest in the customer. In some cases, they may be able to get away with it. But to be truly successful in digital engineering, there needs to be a high level of empathy between the vendor and the customer.
During my client meetings, I seek to understand what they want to achieve in the future. I take this approach because I can’t expect them to know exactly what issues they should prioritize or what the course of action should be. And so, as the digital engineering expert, it is my job to advise them on what they should be focusing on, be it new technologies, industry-wide themes, or business challenges.
From there, my team and I take a deep dive into current processes and infrastructure to identify opportunities to innovate. And with our experience, expertise, and resources, we can align our initiatives with our clients’ goals for a human-centric digital engineering strategy.
What we do here at Apexon is cultivate the attitude of taking an interest in everything we do. This top-down mindset allows us to empathize with the client and gain deep insight into their problems, opening the door for a successful and long-term relationship.
To be a successful digital engineering company, you must possess top talent. In order to obtain top talent, you must also set a very high bar for hiring.
If you’re really discerning about who you hire, you can create exceptional teams and deliver high-quality services. Conversely, if you lower the bar and hire people just to fill a seat, usually it comes back to bite you because that person requires a lot of support and even then, can’t make the impact you expect.
To me, talented people must possess 3 qualities:
Digital engineering companies need bright people on their teams because they can understand digital technology more intuitively and get work done faster. Really sharp people can hear the problem once, take interest in it, and really get under the skin of it. Your most perceptive team members should also be the individuals you show off to clients—they can embody the capabilities of the team and assure customers that their project is in good hands.
I admire tenacity. When they get knocked down—a normal occurrence when working with cutting-edge technology—tenacious people get back up, keep smiling, and look at the problem again.
Innovative thinkers are great assets to digital engineering companies. When faced with a problem, they can approach it from a different angle and find a novel solution. We also value entrepreneurial spirit, which helps us find new ways of collaborating, borrowing ideas, setting up new workstreams, to solve problems better.
Becoming a Successful Digital Engineering Company
This industry wouldn’t exist without technology, plain and simple. But it wouldn’t be expected to be worth $3,546.80 billion by 2028 if it weren’t for the humans behind it. A digital engineering company’s ability to understand the digital landscape, cultivate domain expertise, reshape commercial thinking, understand customers’ problems, and build talented teams determines whether it will succeed or fail. And that is the power of human-centric digital engineering.