7 min read • Sep 18, 2020
Rahul Subramaniam is Virtasant's Head of Innovation and an expert in algorithms and Agile methodologies, with over 15 years of software development experience.
Gone are the days of lengthy planning and implementation. The cloud has made it possible to innovate and scale quickly. Head of Innovation, Rahul Subramaniam, explains why.
We are living in a golden age of innovation, and innovation is now easier than ever. At the beginning of my career as a software developer, if you wanted to start a new project or implement a new idea, you had to spend months, if not years, building the underlying infrastructure from scratch. Today, a lot of the underlying infrastructure is already built and available on the web. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are creating services that make it easy to get straight to your value proposition’s core.
Inspiring innovation is like playing with Legos. A bucket of Lego blocks holds endless possibilities, allowing kids (and adults) to let their imaginations soar. If builders had to figure out how to create Lego blocks each time they sat down to play, the process would be so daunting that they wouldn’t bother creating what they initially imagined.
Innovation today is like building with the Lego pieces already available to us. We can choose the products and services we need and put them together to create our vision. We can now start creating valuable solutions within a few hours.
The cost of scalability has more or less disappeared thanks to cloud computing. And, you can automatically scale up or down depending on demand. You don’t have to think about application or deployment in the same way you once did when designing for scale was a central concern. This is an operational revolution.
At Virtasant, we rethink scalability by having hundreds of products in our scope, with hundreds of millions of end-users. We look at multiple dimensions to drive value in our portfolio. We look at the cost of a product to understand its core value and then think about ways to increase its worth. Grant Cardone’s “10x rule” breaks this process down, applying it to any product or service. Identifying the business capabilities, insights, and product features that add ten times the utility can be a great start towards innovation.
The data within any given product holds significant innovation potential. Our team is continually looking for trends and new services from cloud providers, as new technologies can emphasize value in our products. Examples include graph databases that didn’t exist five years ago. Thanks to cloud providers, we can connect a wide range of data in new ways that weren’t formerly possible.
Machine learning is another example of cloud-based systems that make it easier to innovate. Machine learning is steep and difficult because most of your time is spent exploring the data, building the models, deploying them, and refining them. But now cloud-based systems relieve approximately 90% of the workload typically dedicated to set up and turn it into a plug-and-play system. These systems are much cheaper and easier to set up. You simply pick the pieces you want and get new machine learning insights right out of the box with minimal effort.
The change of pace in cloud platforms is relentless. The core job of our “innovation factory” is to stay on top of all these new services. We maintain solid relationships with service providers and work directly with the product teams. Having insights into the road maps and their products’ directions, we collaborate closely with them as they build their services. When the products become available, we are some of the first ones to try them out. We experiment with them, and then we break them so that we can learn and share these lessons with the developers.
Because of this, we stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation. Using the newest services, we find new ways to apply them to add value within our portfolio.
My number one suggestion for innovators looking to leverage the cloud’s capability would be to stop creating new code. For people who have a technical background, this is not easy to do. But when you are innovating, you need to spend your time working on the value proposition and the insight that you already have. The core of your innovation is not the code you write to make it happen; consider adopting the no-code mindset. Find an implementation that already exists and stitch it into your infrastructure. Save your time and your energy.
Identify what the cloud providers can offer. These providers have very reliable, highly scalable, elastic services that are all managed, secure, and ready for you to use. If you can’t find what you need there, turn to the open-source community and look for the other pieces you need to bring in. As both the cloud service providers and the open-source communities continue to grow, minimal coding is required to do most of the innovation.
Most innovation today is about seeing patterns. It’s no longer about inventing something radically new. In leveraging cloud capabilities, always consider what patterns already exist. Look at access patterns in your system or the ways that your systems talk to each other. Look at deployment patterns. Analyze the problems you encounter with your products, your services, or your customers. Find patterns, then apply the solutions.
At Virtasant, we find patterns within the data, but with an essential distinction between us and most other companies. Where most companies are working on a single product and have a myopic viewpoint, we’ve worked on hundreds of products, which makes patterns easier to identify. For unique products, we can leverage abilities that have already worked on hundreds of other products. These insights help pinpoint trends we may be missing and lead to a high-value proposition.
Almost everything you think about and how you think about it will undergo a metamorphosis in the cloud. Even the standard constructs about how you write, design, deploy, monitor, and manage code is different. The traditional models don’t apply here, and if you try to use them, you’ll almost always fail.
Approach this space with an open mind. Do your research about what you can leverage from the cloud. Learn how it works and be ready to accept the differences. Then you can get all the benefits of innovating through the cloud. The public cloud platforms offer a fantastic set of capabilities, allowing innovators to focus on solving significant problems with speed and agility.
Take advantage of this new paradigm, think differently about approaching innovation, and maximize your leverage of the cloud’s native capabilities.
By Rahul Subramaniam