Businesses Must Be ‘Highly Adaptive Beasts’

How can brands survive when the entire environment is changing, and the speed of change is constantly increasing? Focus on the client and be ready to evolve.

Businesses Must Be ‘Highly Adaptive Beasts’

An often-quoted saying is: “The only thing you can be certain of is change.” In today’s world, that might be more accurately stated as: “The pace of change will continually accelerate.”

Trends are playing out in ever-smaller cycles, and customers are becoming increasingly demanding. The entire business environment is changing at such a pace that in three years’ time much of what we have today will be obsolete.

Many organisations are facing similar challenges—those of a changing environment, regulation, and the breakneck speed of new technology, which also allows late starters to catch up quickly. This means innovation is a constant arms race. New social changes such as the influence of millennials, as well as changes in fashion and tastes, mean organisations need to be highly adaptive beasts if they are to survive the long game.

In the Adobe white paper “The New Normal: Customer Experience First” (Adobe is’s parent), the message is that being agile is a key aspect of the new world. At William Hill we have built a culture with a flexible approach, with an ongoing process of evolution across process and products. We rapidly respond to change to take advantage of new technologies and processes. We measure our time to market in days and weeks, rather than months or years.

As Adobe says, a Fortune 500 company’s lifespan is now 15 years. As one of the more established businesses in bookmaking, we are acutely aware of the need to change and adapt to remain competitive and relevant in the ever-changing world.

Getting Over The Past

The two key challenges for any organisation trying to become highly agile are history and scale.

History is what creates a strong culture for businesses, however, the negative aspect is a deeply embedded culture and fixed mindsets. History also creates the spectre of legacy systems and technical debt (when extra development work arises in future from code that was easy to implement in the short term but that was not the best overall solution). These are two terms no business leader wants to hear. Scale, meanwhile, means that change takes time, lots of it.

We are also moving to a world where time frames are becoming shorter and where businesses need to behave both tactically and strategically. Building a business that truly fits around a deep customer experience is an ongoing and challenging process. Interestingly, user experience (UX) has been one of the key driving forces creating this culture shift in many businesses, including our own.

Taking the principles and process of UX and embedding them into the business has shifted our thinking across all teams and departments. Creating a stronger focus on customers and their entire experience across all brand touch points is key.

As Adobe says, personalisation is a key focus for all businesses moving forward. We need to keep asking ourselves how we can better service our customers, both as a group and individuals.

Plotting A Chart To Success

At William Hill, we have created our own user-centred design (UCD) process, using a range of processes and techniques we found. Consistent evangelising of UX and a customer-centric view of the world has transformed our people and business. Using the agile backlog principle is a very effective way of responding to the ever-changing world and landscape.

We have a clear vision for the future together with action for today and tomorrow. Our view becomes lower resolution the further out we move, but even super forecasters struggle with longer timescales, so we maintain an effective focal length with an eye on the future.

Business Of The Future

We are rapidly moving to a knowledge-led business—a business where we use insights and data to create our products. Using hypothesis-led design we formulate solutions and then road-test our thinking with customers.

We see our UX team as user experience scientists, combining science and art in ways not seen before. Mixing this up with our agile process gives us a strong competitive edge.

Success may one day in the future be measured by the ability of an organisation to respond to change, rather than what it can do today.