You may think this is a strange title for a blog post, particularly when we are always talking about integrated online marketing and how it’s essential to join the dots within your organisation. Well this is true and we aren’t having a disagreement with ourselves here. What we’re talking about when it comes to decoupling your digital services is specifically technology related and how it is important to keep control of your systems and decrease dependencies.
Having a technical background myself, I naturally like to see technical aspects and website development design patters in real life. I’m a geek, get over it 🙂 But seriously, applying the same methodologies to your business can have significant benefits just as it can within the digital world of programming and website development.
In the Programming World
I’m not going to bore you with the finer details about the technical requirements behind website design and development, I’ll leave that for another blog post. Instead, and to keep things simple, let’s look at two options. Repeating yourself or referring to what you said.
Whatever you do in business you often end up repeating yourself quite a lot. Whether this is related to staff training, staff development, internal communications, describing processes, as part of the sales process and more. This is certainly one way to do things. But what if you didn’t have to keep repeating yourself. Let’s ignore the real world for a minute and how people like people and all that. Let’s just look at the task of saying the same thing over and over again. There must be a more efficient way of working.
Referring to what you said
So as an alternative. Imagine that every time someone asked you a question, you could simply point them in the direction of the answer. Saving you valuable time and money within your business. You would naturally get asked the same questions again and again over a period of time which can soon add up into significant time savings for your personal time and throughout your business as a whole. This is where systems, design patters and processes come into play.
Object Orientated Programming
The above example about referring to what you said is called Object Orientated Programming in the website development world. It basically means that you don’t have to keep repeating yourself when writing code. Instead you can simply refer to the piece of code you need and pull in this information as and when needed.
This is extremely important as this decouples your functionality within the code and makes it significantly easier to develop and maintain over time. And this is the lesson about how you can use the same design patterns within your business by decoupling your digital services.
Decoupling your Digital Services
Following on with this same example, imagine if your entire business was run from a single computer. This computer was used to handle customer enquiries, send invoices, do accounts, manage your website, handle your customer relationship management system and more. It would be quite a challenge for many people to use the same computer doing different tasks at the same time.
Now bringing this towards key digital services that you have, let’s look at a common setup for businesses within the SME bracket, they generally have;
- A domain name
- A web server
- Email technologies
- Website technologies
- Email marketing technologies
- Social media management tools
- Integrated systems
- Stock control systems
- Accountancy systems
- Project management systems
- And many more items
Looking at a few of these, picture this scenario (which we’ve seen happen on numerous occasions). All of the following services are purchased from a single provider which is either a software company, a digital agency or some specialist system;
- Your domain name
- Your web server
- Your email technologies live on the web server
- Your website is a custom built content management system
- Your email marketing campaigns are managed through your website
- Your social media updates are automatically posted based on the content of your website
- Your project management system lives on your web server
Now, what happens when your web server dies? An unbelievable amount of businesses do not have an automated backup solution in place for their web server which is shocking and highly risky. Taking this one step further, which again is based on what we’ve seen on numerous occasions, what if your web server was managed completely by a 3rd party such as your web designer. What then happens when they go AWOL? Quite simply, you’re screwed. And this is the importance of decoupling your digital services to protect your business and make your life much simpler.
How to decouple your digital services
Think strategically and plan for the worst case scenario. Firstly, it is absolutely essential that you own all of your digital assets. Once you’ve read over that, let’s look at how you actually go about decoupling your digital services. Before we do though, it’s important to say here that there are always trade-offs based on the skill set within your business and the skills you require from 3rd parties like ourselves. At Contrado Digital, we always work in a structured way to ensure the businesses we work with have complete ownership over their digital assets. We work in a way whereby we simply manage businesses digital assets on their behalf. It’s no good us owning your website, what good is this to us, really?
Starting from the top;
- A domain name: Make sure this is registered with an actual registrar. We could sell you a domain name if we wanted, but we choose not to. Just go direct to a registrar such as 123-Reg.co.uk or GoDaddy. Keeping this under your full control will make your life so much easier if you decide to switch providers for your website. Believe it or not, some companies will actually hold you to ransom by keeping your domain name if you decide to stop using their services. Reputable providers such as 123-Reg.co.uk and GoDaddy clearly don’t do this.
- A web server: Again, make sure this is suitable for your needs and is decoupled from your registrar. Many businesses when they first start buy a domain name they then buy the addon web hosting package available too. You really need to stop and think about this because if you are purchasing a web hosting package that is unsuitable (or doesn’t have automated backups in place) then you are going to run into problems sooner rather than later. Particularly when many web hosting packages will tie you in for a minimum of 12 months, this can be a costly decision to make.
- Email technologies: Many smaller businesses around the sub £500,000 turnover mark use email technologies that are sitting on their web server. Quite simply, stop doing this. Read over our Really Simple Guide to Business Email Addresses to understand why and just get Microsoft Exchange in place throughout your business. Again, decoupling your email technologies from your domain name and from your web server. It will save you a heap of time and effort in the long run.
- Website technologies: If you have purchased your domain name from one of the many website builder type companies around, you will likely have purchased a website builder package from them too. You don’t own this and this is an extremely risky strategy as you cannot simply take your website elsewhere, you are well and truly tied into their services for life unless you start everything from scratch and rebuild your website. Start thinking about decoupling your digital services at the start. And whenever you hear the words of a a company wanting to build you a bespoke website or bespoke content management system, run for the hills.
- Email marketing technologies: We’ve seen email marketing technologies run by many companies under a form of white label system, whereby it appears that the email marketing system is being provided by an individual company when in fact this is actually being run by a much larger company in the background. In our experience, many of the basic white label email marketing technologies aren’t that good, particularly when you compare them to the extremely affordable services from companies such as MailChimp. Not only do companies like MailChimp provide a better service based on their underlying technology, they are also another step to decouple your digital services from a single company.
- And many more items….you get the point
For any set of systems, if you are dependent on a single point of failure not failing then you increase the risk of running into problems at some point down the line. Start to decouple your digital services and think more strategically about what technologies you really need in place and how you can orchestrate your digital assets in a way that works for your business.
Before we finish the details about the importance of decoupling your digital services, we need to look seriously at integration. It is essential that systems integrate together. A decoupled system that stands in complete isolation is going to be even worse for you than a coupled system. Many older systems (as in +2 years old) don’t integrate that well on the whole. Technology moves on at such a pace that it is essential to keep up to date.
As a prime example, the accountancy system Xero which is taking the world by storm allows you to integrate your website ecommerce systems directly with your accountancy package to make your life easier managing your accounts. Whether this is you personally, an internal book keeper, an internal accounts team or an external accountancy practice. Integrating website technologies directly with your accountancy system will save your business a significant amount of time in the long run. Or, of course, you could carry on doing things the old way.
Systems that integrate well together are the systems that are going to be around for years to come. Systems that work in complete isolation are going to be replaced by better, smarter and faster systems that automate work, save your business money and allow you to focus on the things that matter.
Get in touch if you would like to discuss your digital systems, their suitability and how they are going to help or hinder your business growth.