Business Value of Design with Andrew Fulton

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Fast growth and an ever-more-valuable brand are gratifying, but for Andrew Fulton, CEO of the digital product firm Dawson Andrews, he’s in it for the long run.

Dawson Andrews is a global and independent digital product house with offices in Belfast and Sydney. Dawson Andrews specialise in driving commercial value through digital products and services, for startups and international businesses.

Dawson Andrews’ clients include Toys R Us, GSMA, Danske Bank and leading Irish retailer Bathshack.

We are inviting their MD, Andrew Fulton, as a Keynote Speaker to the UX Conference on May 16th. In his presentation, Andrew will be sharing the Business Value of Design.

Andrew’s digital experience began in corporate finance and analytics before founding digital product studio Dawson Andrews. Since it’s launch four years ago they have become digital partners for fortune 500s and some of Ireland’s leading e-commerce brands. Andrew brings a commercial focus that has resulted in multi-million Euros in increased revenues for his client partners.

Andrew will unpack an approach to design that puts economics at the forefront. Well known for his no-bullshit approach, Andrew brings a commercial perspective to UX and unpacks how it can build tangible business value.

Here are the excerpts from our Q&A with Andrew Fulton.

How do you measure success?

In work, it all comes down to a few numbers at the end of the day. Are we growing value for Dawson Andrews as a company? Are we growing value for our clients’ businesses? Did we make the boat go faster? We design and build digital experiences, both largely subjective tasks that requires discretion to place a value on. At DA, we do our best to measure everything to prove or disprove value with fact rather than opinion.

The speed at which we grow is important but the means by which we get there are far more important. Short term gains can easily become vanity metrics – We’re aiming for long term sustainable growth over 20+ years.

What was the hardest lesson in your first year of business?

We’d been working on a big e-commerce project when our client (Toys R Us) went through a chapter 11 bankruptcy in our second year of trading. US bankruptcy process is vastly different to the UK where we’re based so it wasn’t easy to navigate. Managing the volatility and exposure of outstanding service contracts, and managing our cash position was probably the hardest lesson. We dealt with it well, without compromising job security for our people which is what I’m most proud of. It certainly made us a robust & resilient company.

If given the chance again, would you take a high-value contract with a soon-to-be bankrupt retailer?

Yes. We’ve now done it a few times and consider ourselves ‘search & rescue’ specialists. I wouldn’t consider us a risky business, we’re actually relatively conservative but with the right mechanisms in place to mitigate against high exposure we’re happy to work with troubled companies just as much as we like to work with large sustainable brands.

How is Dawson Andrews different now from when it started?

At the beginning we worked on smaller projects for smaller companies, building & designing apps for startups and SMEs. Whilst we still like this type of work now and again, we’re now working on larger digital transformation projects with bigger multinational companies.

We’re also a lot more focused on our own products. Our first product, Ripley Chat is live and generating license revenue.

What’s your proudest accomplishment in your business?

Probably building out the team we have today. We’ve got great credibility amongst our client base, long term contracts & partnerships and plenty of sustainable growth ahead.

What’s the biggest myth in business?

Build it and they will come.

Instead – find ‘them’ first, ask them if they ‘need it’ rather than if they ‘want’ it. If they need it bad enough, they should be willing to pay part of it upfront.

With so much accomplished in such a short space of time, what are your hopes and dreams to what Dawson Andrews can aspire?

We’re aspiring to become one of the best digital product studios in the world which means opening more studios in different regions. We’re also pushing forward hard with DAX – our R&D & Ventures arm of the studio where we create & launch our own IP, conduct joint ventures and build product revenues. We’ve done it successfully with Ripley as I mentioned earlier but we’ve a few more irons in the fire which we want to push forward on. I guess the grand plan is that we have our core services business which is delivering best in class digital experiences for our clients and a portfolio of owned products that may or not be split into independent businesses.

Of course, you should never chase two rabbits in case you catch none so whilst it’s easy to tout a plan, executing on it is a different matter.

What attributes contribute to a successful digital firm? Can you share with us your management philosophy?

Hire good people. Get the heck out of their way.

How are your business and industry transforming? What are some of the major changes and trends you are anticipating?

The biggest one I see is that digital leaders inside of companies are only now becoming numbers & ROI driven. Sure, data-driven methodology has been used for a number of years but marking that against ROI and financial performance of the company is something that has been neglected. This is starting to change because CEOs, CFOs and other leaders who have P&L responsibility are starting to understand digital more and more. Their skepticism towards digital spend is filtering down through their team who harness this scrutiny by really digging into it and ensuring digital spend is producing business value.

What’s the last thing you Googled?

How to fix a boiler!? Being handy isn’t exactly what I’m known for but a youtube video did the trick.

Meet this genius and seasoned digital professional at 3XE Digital’s UX & Design Thinking Conference on May 16th, 2019.

Event Schedule – User Experience & Design Thinking Conference 2019

Book your seat – Group Offers & Special Deals Available