CEO of 28 by Sam Wood, David Jackson, talks us through their decision to triple investment in analytics and technology in order to grow and lead the space in online, at-home fitness.
28 by Sam Wood (part of Australian Life Tech) is a technology led health & fitness company. Through web, iOS and Android platforms, members have access to customised workouts, meal plans, expert advice and a vibrant community.
With over 350k people having participated in the program since its inception in early 2016, the business’ success is underpinned by innovative technology, analytics and a customer centric focus approach across all functions.
We operate in a high growth, dynamic and competitive sector. In order for 28 by Sam Wood to maintain a leadership space in digital at-home fitness, we have tripled our headcount over the past 18 months and made material investments across analytics and technology.
With significant subscriber growth achieved during this period we have spent a lot of time reflecting on how our investments have enabled growth. The key learning for us as a business is the need to take a disciplined approach to technology investments to ensure that there is not only alignment with strategy but ownership from our team. With all industries subject to volatility and disruption, there can be a tendency for technology decisions (or any investment decisions) to be fuelled by competitive reaction or even fear – this will result in expensive projects and diluted enterprise value.
To ensure we remained disciplined and focused on value accretive technology, we asked four primary questions.
1) Does the investment align with our strategic objectives?
We started by building a clear view of where we wanted the business to be and what the measurable outputs would look like in three years’ time. This provided a key point of reference to validate and challenge key investments and ensure that all decisions were aligned. It also allowed us to map technologies back to specific metrics and ensure that all projects were steppingstones towards our strategic objectives. Everything else was irrelevant.
2) What technology do we need to realise our strategy?
For a digital business like ours, it was obvious that technology was going to be the key enabler to help us execute our strategy. We needed to build our core platforms- web, iOs and Android and then continue to layer features that would give us an edge in the market and keep our members engaged. There is no point in investing in technologies that excite your team but do not align with your strategy or are irrelevant to customer needs. The glue holding this together was data and analytics to optimise our product and measure how it impacts value.
3) Who will own the technology and how do we engage the entire organisation?
With a high growth business and a team that had expanded from 5 to 25 heads in less than 2 years, the human element was critical. It was important that everyone in the business, no matter their role, understood our technology ecosystem, understood why each component was relevant to our customers and how we were going to leverage it. We nominated individual owners of technology to ensure that each component was utilised, we realised the ROI and could see the customer impact. Layering new technology on any business without human buy-in will simply result in an expensive organisation.
4) How do we learn before committing?
Small businesses cannot make expensive mistakes. Whilst we had hypothesis about the technology platforms we needed to build, we constructed rapid pilots to validate our thinking and critically analyse data. This enabled us to strengthen investment cases and ensure all decision making was grounded in data and fact. We would also test our pilot outcomes within our broader network to understand other experiences of people with similar technology.
Speed to market is critical and this structured process allowed us to drive efficient decision making that was aligned with our strategy. Empowering your team to take ownership of these technology investment unified a single view on how we impact customer experience and create value.
David Jackson is the CEO of Australian Life Tech.