The report was based on nominations from both clients and peers and in particular our digital transformation work and experience in Financial Services was called out. We’re of course delighted to have been picked and wanted to expand on some of the points in the profile and revisit a perspective on the landscape we shared in this previous post.

We believe our inclusion in the report, along with a small handful of similar companies, is an indication that our clients are looking for a new model and type of partner when embarking on their journey to becoming digital businesses.

Bringing in new technology or embarking on another reorg is not enough to survive. To stay competitive and responsive in this rapidly changing landscape companies need to adopt a more modern way of working. And to help, they need a partner that’s native to these ways of working, not one that’s still trying to learn these new approaches themselves.

At the heart of this new way of working are three things: a design-led process, a new way of organising, and an experimental approach that enables rapid learning.

Becoming design-led

The world of design has changed massively in the past 10 years and it’s role/influence has become ever more significant. Chief Design Officers are being hired to board positions, Stanford University has added a design module to their MBA, and leading VCs are hiring design partners which all point to the growing understanding of the value design can bring. However, many still see design as a stage in the process where screens or experiences that have already been defined are created. But it’s much more than this. It’s a hugely valuable strategic tool that can be used much earlier in the process to completely reframe growth opportunities, validate assumptions underlying business cases, rapidly filter and validate ideas and unleash customer love and growth while doing so.

A new way to organise

All too often collaboration in large companies is prevented as functional silos force teams to work in a linear, waterfall way. As ways of working and technology have evolved, so has the way to design teams. Small, empowered, multi-disciplinary teams deliver better results. Bringing strategy, design, technology together, and not just in delivery, brings a range of benefits: more diverse approaches to problem solving, reduced documentation and chances for misinterpretation, and importantly, an increase in agility and speed. And this speed is further enhanced when the size of teams is limited as lots of research and examples like Amazon demonstrate.

Experimental approach

Everyone is familiar with the saying ‘fail fast’. We much prefer the idea of learning fast. With exponential change happening all around us this ability to learn quickly, gather evidence and adapt is paramount for survival. To retain customers and maintain growth, businesses can’t rely on a narrow portfolio or slow update cycles. Making big single bets has never worked and is increasingly risky. Business leaders need to fundamentally rethink how they approach discovering new opportunities, as well as how they deliver them into market and grow them. In short, companies need to adopt an experimental mindset. In a time when it’s become so easy to test new things and capture data to validate their impact it’s crazy to continue with the big bang delivery mentality.

It’s about more than capabilities

This way of working is native to us and a few firms like us. The larger consultancies are creating or acquiring the capabilities that underpin similar approaches, but we continue to observe that they’re not bringing them together in the most impactful way.

Design is still seen as a stage that happens after strategy and before delivery rather than a skill that should be used from opportunity identification and exploration, through and past launch. As an example, customer research and testing is considered as a phase or tick box exercise when what organisations need to do is establish a mode of continual learning through these activities. Doing some research at one point in the journey isn’t the point. It’s about embedding this learning and validation mentality and actually being prepared to iterate based on what’s found.

Furthermore, despite an attempt to become agile, we’re still seeing large transformation programs lumbering along for one or even two years before they actually release to customers. The whole point of agile is to be able to take learnings from releases, and to use that feedback to change and improve a product or a service.

So we believe this is about more than bolting some capabilities together in a linear fashion. We think it’s time to redesign how growth and transformation is pursued and delivered.

For us this goes beyond design thinking, lean or agile. It’s about these things but it’s about more. It’s about the systems, environments and mindsets that enable these ways of working to flourish. We’ve brought this thinking together in our concept of a Beta Business, which we see as a new model to help companies become future ready. It’s a new way of operating with design and experimentation at the core. It enables businesses to grow with learning as a core competency.

We’re delighted that our work has been recognised by partners and peers in the FT. We’re looking forward to next year’s report, where we hope more companies like us will be featured, bringing a new breed of firm to the fore, and along with it, a much needed native approach.