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Surviving the Black Swan

Applying Fierce Reduction in the COVID-19 existential crisis.

At the time of writing this blog post, we are at the earliest stages of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic in UK, where we expect this to intensify to a peak, and then calm over a projected period of 10-14 weeks to say, July 2020.

For businesses of all shapes and sizes, this means Surviving the 'Black Swan'. In navigating this existential crisis, what's needed today is the simplification of digital innovation and this can be achieved through applying 'Fierce Reduction' to Web, mobile and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) app design. This is all about achieving More for Less, Faster.

Applying Fierce Reduction

On the surface, the Design Principle of Fierce Reduction counters the problem of wallowing in the Complex Thinking that infected the tech industry, in what was, until recently, easier times. Now we are living through an existential crisis, Web, mobile or SaaS app bloat is no longer acceptable.

The problem with tech today is that we have lapsed back into the complex world that Apple first attacked in the late-1970s: with the (then) emergence of the personal computer as the antidote to the monolithic mainframe. Although the mainframe computer is no longer at the forefront of digital innovation (albeit they remain key to large scale, mission-critical data processing), we now have another monolith to contend with: the enterprise 'tech stack' and billable people hours delivery.

It's No-Code First

The way to think about how to apply Fierce Reduction to digital innovation, with an immediate More for Less, Faster outcome, is to shift the underlying technology to a simpler, prebuilt business logic. The clear leader in this marketspace is Salesforce - and its Health Cloud, Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Lightning Platform. This is the fastest-growing software company worldwide, and the pioneers of what's often called a 'No-Code Platform'.

When simplifying tech and creating new digital innovations, we should think about No-Code, Low-Code and Code in that order: which means No-Code First. The trade-offs between templated Web designs and prebuilt modules for SaaS apps versus custom software app development are clear - and where cost-savings can be 10x or more.

If this is means shifting from a business-as-usual, ground-up Code architecture, this is not so radical as it might first sound. The inherent prebuilt business logic of the Salesforce Lightning Platform means that at least eighty percent of what constitutes most Web, mobile or SaaS apps is instantly available. For new apps this simply means avoiding the 'reinventing of (expensive) wheels'.

The problem with the tech industry today is the bloated services industry built on the billable people hours business model. This means that for large services firms operating with enormous 'benches' of technical architects and software developers, what matters most to them (and not their clients) is to maximise the billable people hours. With Fierce Reduction, the goal is the opposite: to take advantage of No-Code technology that can minimise the billable people hours in digital innovation.

Software engineering accounts for the majority of spend for the entrepreneur or enterprise creating a new tech venture, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or service. In a typical tech venture, the ratio between researcher, designer and developer is 1:5:100. However, in many tech ventures or IT organisations, this ratio is greatly influenced by how much a given app is coded ground-up, versus making use of prebuilt business logic in the cloud. Hence, No-Code First is where simplification and Fierce Reduction can significantly reduce the time and cost in creating new digital ventures or apps.

A great starting place for startups and entrepreneurs applying Fierce Reduction with No-Code is the Salesforce Lightning Platform. This No-Code Platform is a cut-down version of the Salesforce Sales Cloud CRM SaaS app, and can, as illustrated below, serve as the instant underlying infrastructure for both 'Core Apps' and 'Edge Apps'.

Core and Edge Apps

It is useful to divide the IT assets and digital innovation of any organisation into two elements: Core Apps and Edge Apps - as illustrated in the infographic above.

The Core Apps are typically the strategic IT systems, such as Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems or say, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems. In most cases, these Core Apps are mission-critical and vary in terms of their ability to enable rapid digital innovation within their often complex internal business logic architectures.

As illustrated above, Salesforce could be considered as both a Core App and an Edge App, where the former might be say, Salesforce Sales Cloud but where the latter is built on a foundation of

Salesforce Lightning Platform and becomes the underlying technology for the No-Code Platform.

For Edge Apps, the simplest No-Code outcome is where the problem being solved lends itself to the standard Lightning Experience UI within Salesforce Lightning Platform. This is effectively, a SaaS app that comprises a 2-column set of sections and fields with a desktop/laptop PC or tablet device, and where inbuilt 'responsiveness' automatically reduces this Page Layout to 1-column width on say, an Apple iOS or Google Android smartphone device.

Design System

When a SaaS app needs a UI beyond the standard Salesforce Lightning Platform Page Layouts, there is a temptation to fall back into Code and lose the inherent speed and cost-effectiveness of a No-Code approach. As shown in the infographic above, this is where we are creating a 'Design System' that extends Salesforce Lightning Design System with a 'No-Code Design Studio'. This enables a broader range of reusable Page Layouts to be created, whilst maintaining a No-Code First approach to digital innovation.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a powerful method for solving problems in a people-oriented way. Salesforce is the world's fastest-growing software company, focused on delivering digital innovations, running on a trusted, mass-scale public cloud ecosystem. Together, Design Thinking and Salesforce become a powerful foundation for 'No-Code' Platform-based digital innovation.

This is relevant to startups and entrepreneurs: building or reinventing new platform-based ventures; enterprises, focused on many aspects of problem-solving with digital innovation; and, software publishers (Independent Software Vendors), who want to create a 'Salesforce Edition' of their Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) app - all with Fierce Reduction at the heart of the approach.

Deliverables, Not Hours

Entrepreneurs and managers should never fall into the trap of paying for tech talent or IT outcomes on the billable people hours model. This just incentivises people to make the simple complex - since they are motivated to maximise the time it takes to deliver on a particular digital engagement. There is a better way: it means being paid on Deliverables, Not Hours.

At Being Guided we engage with our customers on a Deliverables, Not Hours model. This means that we get paid to deliver digital innovations on the basis of the value we create, not the time we take to create it. Therefore, our motivation is perfectly aligned with delivering more for less.

Our work is focused on solving problems through delivering Web, mobile and SaaS apps that are created on the following four key principles. This enables us to engage with the certainty of fixed-price, fixed-time outcomes for your digital innovations:

  1. Maximise use of prebuilt business logic and visual development  with No-Code Platforms and wherever possible, reusable frameworks and components. Do not reinvent the wheel. 
  2. Apply Design Thinking to better empathise with all key stakeholders, and in turn, ensure a better translation of the business challenge into a timely solution - on time, on budget. 
  3. Operate dedicated tech teams - scalable from one - nearshore or offshore - relative to the bloated costs and talent scarcity of London, New York, Berlin, etc.
  4. Eliminate risk - you only pay on Deliverables that meet Acceptance - clearly defined per 1-2 week Sprints in a Statement of Work ("SoW").


Fierce Reduction is more than a Design Principle: it is a mindset. What matters here is a firm commitment to simplifying digital innovation, through empowering non-tech people to become what is sometimes called 'Citizen Developers'.

By maximising the use of a No-Code Platform, such as Salesforce Lightning Platform, Fierce Reduction is, in many ways, a reinforcement of what Web 2.0 meant, as originally conceived by Tim O'Reilly in 2009: 'Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software'.

The statement that "Users must be treated as co-developers" and the need to speed-up iterative app development led to the Web 2.0 concept of the 'perpetual beta'. In adding Design Thinking as the method for better understanding problems and defining corresponding solutions, a No-Code Platform is true to the Web 2.0 ideal of what we now call Citizen Developers.

Fierce Reduction is all about simplifying digital innovation and splitting it into Core Apps and Edge Apps - and where the latter are extensions to the more established, traditional systems, but created using No-Code technologies, such as Salesforce Lightning Platform.


Underpinning all of this is a focus on minimising billable people hours, in the quest for faster, more effective digital innovation outcomes with Edge Apps. It's Deliverables, Not Hours from our Design Lab at Being Guided.

Let's Talk

If you believe that you need to embrace Fierce Reduction to survive the COVID-19 Black Swan, and operate in these challenging times, let's talk about how we can make this work for you.

Ian Smith

+44 7785 264 957

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