Write once, present many times

More and more organisations, especially in Financial Services, looking to take existing products and deliver them to different brands, a business approach called “white-labelling”. For example LV provides car insurance through their own brand but also to a number of other brands like Nationwide and What Car.

 Whilst this isn’t a new concept, how this is being supported by IT is certainly changing. In the early days the product provider would simply take their existing pages, change the logo’s, phone number and possibly the font and background. Everything else, layout, question style, text etc… simply stayed exactly the same.

 However today it is the User Experience that differentiates an organisation on-line and is core to the branding. No longer is an online brand defined simply by logo, font and colours. Thus a “white-labelled” product has to be designed specific to the brands user experience.

 However this can present a challenge for IT, because in the old approach to white label a product you simply changed the style sheet and logo files for each brand, the form stayed the same. This way anytime a screen had to change it could be maintained for all brands with one change.

 So how do we get the flexibility to have different form layout, pagination, question order, question text i.e. a “custom user experience” per brand without duplicating form logic so that changes can still be maintained in once place?

 This problem is not solved through style sheets or by frameworks like MVC.

 The answer is not easy unless you take a tools based approach. Such an approach separates the form logic (what questions, validation etc..) from the form presentation (font, colour, text, layout etc…).

 A tools based approach is required to manage the link between the logical form and all the individual presentations of that form.

 This problem is actually not specific to white-labelling but to any screens that have to be presented in different ways e.g. to manage different views of a form for different: channels, user types, countries/languages.

 Financial services firms have already taken a lead in white labelling and multi-channel strategies; other sectors are likely to follow, branding applications for particular purposes. It is not difficult to see why the need to “write once present many times” will increase in importance.

 Modifying individual applications for different user experiences is an expensive (both time and money) approach in IT development. White labelling your products – as in the case of financial services – makes implementation cheaper and faster.

 Such capability increases flexibility and allows the IT team to write once and present many times. And with employees becoming more demanding, flexibility really is the biggest selling point for under pressure IT leaders.


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