Business innovations can be classified as frontend or backend.
Here's the difference:
- Frontend innovations = market-facing* improvements including enhanced product features, more effective UI/UX, updated branding, marketing and sales campaigns
- Backend innovations = improvements to internal processes such as streamlining project management, employee training programs, implementing more robust order tracking software
What's the advantage of bucketing innovations into these two?
Well, it clearly delineates the two sides that necessarily comprise any functional business with long-term prospects.
Sometimes it’s not just about “improving the product” on the frontend and instead what will move the needle are relatively unsexy backend changes to (for example) how you track goals, write internal documentation or enforce team accountability.
In other words, it's not one or the other.
Yes, getting initial traction (i.e. your first sales) always starts with frontend innovations that your market finds value in (and will pay for).
But at some point corresponding backend capabilities need to be implemented to maintain or grow those frontend outcomes.
For example, say you've achieved strong product-market-fit (PMF). You need corresponding backend systems in place to continue to attract leads (PMF doesn't necessarily mean you also have virality or even word-of-mouth), convert them into customers, and then fulfill your service and collect payment.
What about when initial traction has already been achieved?
Even then, it's still more common to lead with front-end innovations since backend infrastructure will only be added in response to frontend growth. The exception is when you proactively build backend changes in anticipation of expected frontend growth, or to improve other existing backend processes already supporting the frontend.
So what's the takeaway from all this?
It’s that you shouldn't always be looking at market-facing frontend changes to improve your situation.
With the popularity of the oft-used "(but often misinterpreted) phrase Product-Led Growth", it's common for founders to focus either exclusively or excessively on adding to, and tweaking the frontend.
But sometimes, the resolution lies in fixing backend bottlenecks.
Knowing the distinction between frontend versus backend innovation allows you to effectively leverage the two concurrently as you:
- Build increasingly greater awareness and trust in the market...
- And then responsively build backend processes for scaling that awareness and trust into larger and more frequent sales
*By market-facing, I mean anything that prospects, customers and users interact with.