The cost of quick fix thinking

Categories: AgileArchitectureDevOpsDigital TransformationInsightsPerspectiveTechnology

At one time or another, we will all have been guilty of quick fix thinking. 

It’s a human tendency to want to try and find the considerably faster, easier solution. Even when we’re warned about the consequences, putting a plaster on a problem can be tempting if it delivers short term benefits. 

But is the cost of quick fix thinking really worth it? 

In recent months, four of the world’s biggest tech giants collectively laid off more than 150,000 workers, prompting many to question their long-term growth strategies. For some, these organisations misinterpreted short-term market conditions as colossal shifts – this was evidenced by the hiring spree that took place during the 2020 pandemic, followed by mass lay-offs two years later. Others believe these mass-layoffs represent true adaptiveness – reducing salary overhead makes way for investments into new technology such as OpenAI or the Metaverse, as well as the introduction of automated processes for tasks such as HR. As Google CEO Sundar Pichai alluded to, Google will “direct our talent and capital to our highest priorities”.

So, what’s the true cost of quick fix thinking vs long-term strategy? Let’s explore.

The cost to an organisation:

The tendency to prioritise short-term gains over long-term sustainability can be particularly challenging in the tech industry where rapid innovation and distruption is the norm. For many firms, the pressure to keep up with competition and deliver results can lead to the integration of “quick fixes” – solutions that do a job but haven’t been considered or optimised for reusability and longevity. 

Relying too heavily on quick fixes can have serious consequences and begin to show cracks in how your digital infrastructure supports the adaptiveness of your organisation. Here are a few ways it can impact businesses:

People

Take the recent layoffs. Layoffs may provide short-term cost savings, but they can also lead to the loss of valuable employees and expertise, decreased productivity and staff morale – nobody enjoys watching their colleagues sign out of Slack for the last time. When you consider that loyalty isn’t something that can be easily bought back, it’s important organisations carefully assess the long-term impacts of layoffs before implementing them. 

It also provides a big opportunity for competitors to onboard talent previously valued by other firms. 

Reputation

Having the time to properly assess and forecast market conditions is a luxury but, as the recent pandemic proved, not always a given. Whilst adaptiveness remains key to business survival, misinterpreting market conditions due to speed of problem-solving can lead to poor decision-making. Poor decision-making can ultimately damage a brand’s reputation. If sustainable, calculated, long-term solutions that address the root of the problem are prioritised, rather than just addressing the symptoms, the decisions made could become more valuable.

Missed opportunities

Prioritising short-term gains over long-term planning can lead to missed opportunities and decreased profitability over time. This includes missing emerging markets or disruptive technologies, which can negatively impact growth opportunities and put organisations at a competitive disadvantage. 

Yahoo, the web services provider, is a prime example of this. The firm failed to keep up with the changing landscape of the internet and search engines. Rather than investing in building their own innovative technology, they relied on quick fixes and acquisitions of other companies to remain competitive. But this quick fix didn’t produce the desired results. Yahoo lost its market share to newer, more innovative search engines like Google, which offered a better user experience – and less adverts!

Misalignment

As digital transformation has accelerated, new risks emerge. A quick fix approach can result in a lack of alignment between an organisation’s strategic goals and their digital transformation efforts. Firms should take a calculated approach to digital transformation, building processes and platforms with adaptability at the core, so quick fix thinking can take place without railroading the organisation’s north star strategy. 

This enables bigger picture thinking to work alongside more agile-based decision-making, building in scope to invest in the right technologies, talent, and culture to drive meaningful and sustainable change in the long and short-term. 

When push comes to shove:

In times of uncertainty, the temptation to resort to quick fixes as a way to address immediate challenges is difficult to resist. Most notably, this is because organisations aren’t afforded the luxury of weighing out the long-term pros and cons of decisions needed to be made at pace. They need something effective that will solve the problem at hand.

Data from a 2021 study, conducted by Forrester, commissioned by GlobalLogic, found that whilst Firms made huge strides forward with their digitisation to counter this driven by an existential need to transform and the real threat that if they didn’t, they would fail to meet customers’ needs. As a result, some changes were quick fixes that need optimisation.”

In fact, only one in five respondents said their organisations have a suitable digital transformation strategy that will remain relevant beyond the next 12 months. 

For financial services firms, the shift towards digital has been progressing since the 90s. In fact, the Royal Bank of Scotland launched the first completed internet banking service in 1997. Since then, we’ve had mobile phone top-ups, statements via text messaging and then in 2011, RBS launched the world’s first fully functional banking app, with other firms following shortly after. 

These projects played a defining role in bringing digital customers closer to their finances, moving with speed thanks to the pace of changing consumer demands and fierce competition in the industry. They also had a security blanket, in the shape of an in-person service.

Come 2020 and that security blanket was taken away. In its place was a drastic increase in contact centre requests, state-backed emergency loans and security risks – such as video and voice communication surveillance, data security controls, and individuals falling victim to cyber issues. 

Many firms were forced to revisit projects parked in the pipeline or deploy proof of concepts to service a 100% digital audience. But whilst most firms delivered a product, not all products were made equal. 

A cautionary tale

In response to the pandemic, the Bank of America quickly launched several digital tools and resources to help customers manage their finances remotely. While these initiatives helped meet immediate customer needs, they highlighted ongoing challenges in the bank’s digital infrastructure and customer experience. Some customers reported difficulty accessing the new tools or navigating the bank’s website, while others expressed frustration with the overall quality and accuracy of the information provided. 

In July 2022, they were fined $225 million for their mishandling of state unemployment funds during the pandemic. This led to people’s accounts being unnecessarily frozen due to a fault fraud detection program leading to delayed payments for people relying on jobless benefits.

The Bank of America’s reliance on quick fix thinking may have contributed to a disorganised, unclear customer experience. As evidenced above, this hindered the bank’s ability to deliver a service, and build trust and loyalty among its customers during a critical time. It also highlighted a potentially bigger issue: adaptability wasn’t factored into the broader organisation strategy. 

This meant that when the pandemic hit, there wasn’t the infrastructure or processes available to support such a dramatic pivot in business strategy or pace of decision-making. The problem here is that when push came to shove, firms such as The Bank of America had to navigate digitally native problems with engineering processes, project management styles and tools set up to deliver in waterfall-based models. This could have caused any one of the following: 

  • Feedback loops may have been limited – affecting performance and quality of the end product. 
  • Existing platforms may have been incapable of scaling or adapting – meaning investment into new platforms or ‘plasters’ applied to existing platforms to make things work in the short-term. 
  • Longevity of solutions was side-lined – leaving firms with strategy that wouldn’t survive the next 12months.
  • Quick decisions may have created additional tech debt and chaotic technology landscapes.
  • Paying more than necessary for products and platforms that are incapable of scaling up or down to meet business demands.

The Bank of America isn’t the only firm to have been caught out during the pandemic. In fact, there were hundreds, thousands more. But there were also many that adapted, implementing quick fix thinking in environments prepared for agile-based models, whilst keeping sight of customer needs and longer-term strategy. 

In the words of Albert Hitchcock, Non-Exec Director at Nationwide Building Society and former COO & CTO at Pearson, 

“[The bank has a] real focus on digital – how the organisation brings new products and services to market ever faster. How do we create a more sustainable and adaptable tech environment and very importantly, how do we serve our members?”

The future:

Quick fix thinking will continue to be a prime mindset, often where there is pressure to produce results at pace or something unthinkable happens – such as a global pandemic. But it can also be used as part of everyday innovation cycles and helping the business to pivot towards new business opportunities. 

The problem is, organisations aren’t introducing the flexibility needed to allow quick fix thinking to flourish in their environments, so when this mindset is used, it can create short-term wins rather than long-term solutions. 

When you consider that both long-term strategy and quick-fix thinking have a role to play in a modern organisation, you can begin to invest in technologies that bring out the best in both. For instance, the rise of data analytics and artificial intelligence can provide organisations with better insights into market conditions and customer needs – enabling quick fix thinking that supports a broader, more informed, business strategy. 

Architecting from a flexibility perspective and investing in tools that aid agile practices not only helps your organisation, it can support sustainability goals. As Paul Williamson, VP Architecture and Solutions, Digital Customers and Markets at bp, notes:

“We spend a lot of time thinking about the strategic landscape that we want to use and where we have technology investments and how we want to optimise them and get the most value of them. And at the same time, thinking about “what are the things we’ve got to deliver in the short term for the business?” Whilst we get there and balance that, we have to be mindful of the trade-off we make and any tech debt we may incur on the way or short-term decisions.”

Next steps:

In a world that is constantly changing and adapting, preparing for the unexpected is no longer something that can wait until the next quarter. 

Partnering with GlobalLogic will help you take that first step (and hopefully many more) to becoming an adaptive organisation. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Albert Hitchcock reflected on Pearson’s partnership with GlobalLogic; “GlobalLogic helped me to build the platform micro services in the cloud, creating the ability to deliver adaptive educational experiences online. And I think that’s very exciting because it means that we can serve learners around the world anywhere they are through whatever device they’re on.”

Let’s build an adaptive future together.

Reach out today.

Author

Author

GlobalLogic Marketing

View all Articles

Top Insights

Manchester City Scores Big with GlobalLogic

Manchester City Scores Big with GlobalLogic

AI and MLBig Data & AnalyticsCloudDigital TransformationExperience DesignMobilitySecurityMedia
Twitter users urged to trigger SARs against energy companies

Twitter users urged to trigger SARs against energy...

Big Data & AnalyticsDigital TransformationInnovation
Retail After COVID-19: How Innovation is Powering the New Normal

Retail After COVID-19: How Innovation is Powering the...

Digital TransformationInsightsConsumer and Retail

Top Authors

Mark Norkin

Mark Norkin

Consultant, Engineering

Sujatha Malik

Sujatha Malik

Principal Architect

Juan Rella

Juan Rella

Solution Architect, Technology

Top Insights Categories

  • URL copied!