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Bake Off, the key ingredients to success

The BBC’s popular Great British Bake Off series has hit our screens once again, and at Siteset we’re excited about it! We hold our own monthly Bake Off challenges with such themes as gingerbread, macaroons, swiss roll, marshmallows, and of course Christmas. It is a little bit of light hearted fun, but competitive, and something that everyone looks forward to (even if just for the tasting). We even have our own Pinterest board, where we pin our entry photos and recipes; but only after the event, until then they are a closely guarded secret!

Image of Christmas style cake pops

The Bake Off programmes have now moved to BBC One, after the last series hit a record 9 million viewers. This got us thinking about why the programme has proved such a success, and how our own Bake Off competitions impact our business on a day to day basis. Essentially, what makes a good baker and how we use these same essential skills to strengthen our business.

Put simply, baking is about following a recipe. This seems simple enough. You have ingredients and you follow step-by-step instructions to turn these into something amazing. But as any baker knows, it is important to read the instructions carefully and apply a consistent and methodical approach to ensure success. Indeed, often it is also about applying your own experience to the process in order to make sure that the outcome is as good as it can be.

And this is what we do in our business. With every project we apply a consistent, methodical approach to ensure a successful outcome. But we also know that whilst the recipe is the same, there is a lot of common sense and adjusting to suit the conditions that is needed.

Last year we converted over 1,500 websites to a new design and structure, within a three month period, for a leading financial organisation. Our ingredients were the existing site content and a dedicated team, our recipe was a sound, experienced and proven approach to the project, and success was achieved because we took these and, through our step-by-step approach, were able to make judgements and adjustments along the way that led to over 30,000 pages being converted in record time.

Anyone can follow a recipe, but it is making sure you follow it carefully that is the key. The other day, whilst making courgette fritters, one of our staff misread how much milk to add and ended up with a rather wet batter and this was because she had misread 50ml for 500ml! It is this attention to detail that is imperative when following a recipe. It is also this same skill that we use with regards to regulatory and compliance. Our compliance team are the gatekeepers for our clients. They can fully audit a website, assess just one area or many, and oversee any and all changes. Their attention to detail is second to none in our business, but more importantly, it is what ensures that our clients get an excellent service and a superb end product.

Of course it is not just about following a recipe and one skill that is essential to any baker is being able to multi-task. For example, whilst making a chocolate roulade you need to melt chocolate on the hob, roast nuts in the oven and whisk a light and fluffy batter. All of these things need to be done simultaneously and to a certain standard in order for the roulade to work and this means that multi-tasking is a prerequisite. Our dedicated service team are some of our best bakers because of this important skill. On a day-to-day basis they could be managing domains, updating content, offering phone support or creating websites. No two days are the same so this skill, like bakers, is crucial to them.

Another key skill is the ability to problem solve. As any baker knows, things don’t always go right and you need to be able to think quickly and improvise in order to ensure success. This is often seen on the Great British Bake Off series, where someone has forgotten to add a key ingredient or contestants are having to rethink things because they have run out of time. The ability to problem solve is a great skill to have as a baker, but also crucial in the digital age. We too often use this key skill when it comes to scoping out a web application or a process automation project. We look at each project as a puzzle and then find the most effective solution for our clients. Of course, it is essential for our developers and project managers to be excellent at these skills as well. Anyone who has run a project of any size knows that things always go wrong, be they external factors, changes in the requirements or simply that the approach hasn’t worked in quite the way you wanted it to. In these situations solving the problem by thinking around the issue and finding a new solution is essential.

As we see time and time again on the Great British Bake Off, learning new skills is essential. How many times in the course of the series do you hear a contestant say “I’ve never made this before”. At Siteset we like to challenge ourselves with our own Bake Offs by trying new things. The latest example of this was marshmallows. Not many, if any, of us had made marshmallows until this challenge. Most of us found ourselves learning through trial and error exactly how to make them. As a company we see this culture of continuous learning as fundamental to our business. The world around us is constantly changing and in order to help our clients manage this we need to be knowledgeable. Everyone in the company stays up to date in their field through reading, training and attending events, and this knowledge is documented so other people can benefit from it. We also play around with new technologies and ways of doing things and by this trial and error we make ourselves and a stronger and more agile team.

No baker sets out to fail and that is why they practice. You do not get light and airy cakes or a perfect loaf unless you practice. If a baker wants to produce high quality items they need to go through a process of trial and error to discover what will work for them, every time. And through this process they also gain the knowledge and understanding to troubleshoot and fix problems when they arise. Our ethos at Siteset is the same. We ensure we deliver first class projects for our clients by applying what we have learned from all our previous projects. This is vital when it comes to the testing stages of a project. What we also see as pivotal to any project is the use of Agile. Our project teams are cross-functional giving us flexibility and a wider knowledge base to work from. In our experience, this ensures a higher quality project and delivery. It means we can react quickly and we aren’t reliant on one person for each discipline. Would you rather have one person who can bake a cake and another who can bake bread, or one who can do both equally well?

All of the really successful contestants on the Great British Bake Off share another key skill and that is creativity. It is an intangible skill that can add that extra bit of magic and, as we have seen in the programmes, can turn a simple biscuit challenge into a Wild West scene to wow the judges. Our design team have bags of creativity, which is great when it comes to design. In terms of our Bake Off it also means that we get some amazing entries too. Some are incredible creations, like the Christmas cake pops, and others are fascinating but possibly not quite so successful. But whether successful or not, our creative team will always bend, or push the rules to come up with something interesting. And this applies to design too, they will always come up with some creative designs and our cross-functional teams also ensure that our client’s requirements are the most important thing to remember when we get creative.

As the contestants of the Great British Bake Off are reduced during the course of the series, you can see the relationships building and the contestants becoming a supportive team for each other. Just as on the TV, our own Bake Off competition nurtures a team ethic, one of sharing and support. After all, we are all working towards a common end. There are often long conversations in the office about recipes, with hints and tips shared. Siteset believe that our company Bake Off instils strong team values that carry across our whole business. And this tight knit working environment is what allows us to form strategic partnerships with our clients. We bring our teams combined skills to every project that we work on, ensuring a holistic and creative viewpoint.

For us the Bake Off is a monthly competition and an active part of the Siteset culture. It requires active participation, the willingness to fail and learn from it, be part of a team and learn new skills and how adapt them. This is not just a recipe for a good TV series, or baker, but a successful digital company like Siteset.

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