The other day, out of curiosity, one of our clients asked me: “How are you guys able to build and maintain the quality on so many platforms simultaneously?”
That question prompted me to pause and think about this:
What are some of the things that make it possible to build and maintain multiple online platforms simultaneously without overwhelming the capacity?
As I started to write out the answer, I decided to go ahead and share two “ingredients” or “secret-sauces” that works for us and enable us to serve multiple clients simultaneously without compromising on either quality or support.
So What’s The First Secret Sauce?
Just like in the movie “Kung-Fu Panda,” — don’t read the rest of this sentence if you haven’t seen the movie yet — the “secret” turns out to be a blank scroll.
No really, the reason we at nextCoder are able to crank out a lot of platforms is not because of a secret-sauce recipe, rather, our carefully (and painstakingly) selected and molded “ingredients” (think building blocks) that we continually evaluate, test for fit, improve and build upon.
Because we are intentional about it, these building blocks are ready to be attached together to become the online platform that serves a particular industry domain. But in their disassembled state, they are just like “a blank scroll.”
See, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — that’s the era of DLL-thunking, MS C++ vs Borland C++ vs Intel C++ to you, young programmers — the choices to make when developing an application is which compiler, which sorting algorithm, which expensive optimized libraries, even which memory manager. The concepts such as Open Source code repository, data sharding, virtualization, JIT compilation, UI-templates, Aspect programming, had yet to become mainstream.
Today, we have the luxury to pick and choose from literally hundreds of already-made “blocks of code” to build our platforms with. Some are Open Source, some have to be purchased, some are as complex as a whole application or platform framework, some packaged as neat little libraries, and the others, a network of code snippets and functions. Internet browsers (big or small, desktop or mobile) is everywhere, and themselves, serve as a platform that does the heavy-lifting.
Therefore as platform builders, we can focus more on helping businesses map their needs through the use of data modeling, system configuration, deployment models (see Docker.io if you want to see an impressive technology) and of course: Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.
Ok, That’s The First One, Out with The Second
The second ingredient has to do with how we fit our client’s business model into the building blocks we just talked about. Having done a lot of deployments across different business domains, we found that there are a lot of businesses out there whose data and information can fit the following model:
Basically, beyond infrastructure facilities such as security, user, configuration, email, role-specific dashboards, scheduling, notification system, full-text indexing which comes with every online platform worth its salt, we usually can organize data in the business in one or more grouping hierarchies, which typically ends with the main business object. What is this main business object? you may ask.
The main business object is typically tied to how the business serve their customers. So for example, in the legal industry, the main business object would probably be legal cases, for a bookstore, the books, for a landscape-maintenance company, it’s probably the customer’s property, for a gymnasium, its member’s goals (lose weight, gain weight, get fit, etc.). The Main Business Object is what most people associate with what the system manages.
Then predictably, almost all of the businesses that we came across associate the main business object with the same concepts such as trackable / auditable notes, links and tags, custom fields (who does not need a handful of these…?) and the ability to sort, search, and filter under various contexts.
Speaking of contexts, all of us know that chronological context is used all over the place, “when” something happens, and what else happens “after that” will always be the primary way in which we process information. Thanks to the Geographic Information System (GIS) technological advances nowadays, Geospatial data is fast to become the next super-context which will find its place in many aspects of our lives.
Then after all this are put together using the building blocks, we begin the implementation of the proprietary process owned / copyrighted / trademarked by the client’s business or personally. We have been very blessed to work with innovative business owners whose brilliant process is just waiting for a good home to be built.
This process fits the definition of an Online Platform where construction and enhancements never really ends. All of our platforms exhibit this characteristics.
The combination of carefully selected building blocks and the right level of abstraction (at the business object level) gives us the ability to serve many clients simultaneously through our platforms.
This is not something that we take lightly, in fact every processes that we created and use takes this as one of the main goals, by which everything else is taken into consideration. Why is this so important? Because this is the only way we can extend two biggest benefits to our clients:
- Continuous technical improvements, an improvement created for one platform can and will be replicated to the others
- Consistent quality and ease of maintenance, which translates into lower cost
Given that most of our platforms are priced in accordance to the number of usages, the growth of our clients’ business means growth for us as well. This is, to us, the prime motivation to go the distance towards excellence.
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, we are living in the “golden-hours” of the Information technology, where the efforts of many finds its uses to benefit a much larger portion of the population than ever before.
We are the beneficiary of many-many hours spent by dedicated and incredibly smart people. At nextCoder, we intend to pass along these benefits to help as many business as possible out there. In other words, it’s time for the “secret-sauce” to be enjoyed by many, many more.
- Will Gunadi