Startups confronted with software development oftendo not know how much effort needs to be spent or how much time needs to be invested in activities that will pay off in the long run. All their efforts are focused on quickly building a product and delivering it to the market to meet their goals. Faster time-to-market and constant evolution have become the hallmarks of startup success.
Although many startups have been led to believe that product architecture is the pillar on which product success rests, that is not entirely true. Let me explain.
When creating a product from scratch, startups often end up spending a lot of time designing and implementing a host of features before the money is gone. Here, an architecture that helps them move quickly is required; not a super-solid one that is rigid and inflexible. Here are 5 ways in which startups canmeet their goals without breaking their banks, or spending too many cycles worrying too much about the architecture:
- Keep pace with technology evolution:Technology is never stagnant – it is always shifting, getting more modern and innovative with time. Assuming that your existing product will continue to be successful in the future as well is unrealistic. As technology evolves, customer needs change and trends shift, it is imperative that your product constantly improves and innovates. If you spend too much time and effort on the cementing your architecture, incorporating changes later might become impossible. It is only when the architecture is flexible and has elbow room to evolve that you can keep pace with technology, continue to solve problems and meet market expectations.
- Do it fast: The world is constantly driving forward; software must too. If you don’t incorporate the latest technology and features in your software product, someone else will. Capabilities that were unheard-of five-years ago have now become the norm; hence quickly embracing and adopt the latest features is the need of the hour. If you devote all your energy in building a solid architecture in the beginning, it might just be counterproductive if it ends up taking time and delaying your go-to-market.
- Have a goal, but don’t be too rigid about it: Very often, companies that look to develop a software product think too far ahead of what is required or what they need to do to get through the next couple of years (or months). It is inevitable that startups will pivot, products will change, and new features and needs will be constantly incorporated. Therefore, your product architecture cannot be a rigid, once-done and forgotten kind of thing; it needs to evolve as your startup’s idea/product/business evolves. Your architecture must allow you to make those shifts, some of them radical. Avoid upfront over-engineering and embrace the apt workarounds that come your way to save time and money.
- Understand your business scenario: Although it is important to evolve with time, it is also important to remember that a software product is just a tool that to accomplish certain objectives in the most efficient manner possible. If your current product meets these goals and you think it will continue to do so in the future, there is nothing wrong in sticking with what works and channeling your efforts elsewhere. However, if your business isconstantlygrowing and you need to evolve your product, then, by all means, do so!
- Don’t blindly follow the mob:It is very tempting to jump onboard the bandwagon of the “technology of the day”. Startups that have made this leap of faith have sometimes found that this is a long road to nowhere. These changes are often about the architecture. Think back to when solid, comprehensive, monolithic architecture was in vogue, then folks were talking about moving to SOA, then it was the turn of Microservices, and now, in a nod to irony, startups are beginning to question whether Microservices is the best way to allow product evolution. Yes, you need to keep up with technology. Yes, incorporating the latest technology capabilities is somewhat inevitable – but not at the cost of making your product non-scalable!
Tips to Ensure Flexibility
In a constantly changing world where technology advances and market and customer demands are so dynamic, having a rigid product architecture might not work. Since needs keep changing and products must keep evolving, architecture should support the evolution and not be bound to one particular philosophy, version or functionality. Here are some ways in which software development teams are trying to incorporate flexibility into the architecture:
- Focus on abstractions: Abstraction is one of the key aspects of quality software design. By creating abstractions for all modules and components, you can decouple different modules and make sure they talk to each other through clearly defined interfaces. Since abstractions limit dependencies, they increase readability of code and reduce the effect of change in your code. For example, a clearly defined abstraction for data layer can allow you to migrate to a NoSQL database from RDBMS without affecting any other modules.
- Use microservices: Microservices enable building single-function modules with well-defined interfaces and operations. Since they are flexible in nature, a change or failure in one service does not impact other service. This helps in building highly scalable and high-performance software as services can be deployed in multiple servers. Using a micro services-based architecture will allow you to rewrite services and even change the technology they were originally built on without any impact on the other parts of the system.
- Write unit tests: Unit testing ensures every aspect of a software product is individually and independently tested for proper operation. With a comprehensive unit test strategy, you can find bugs quickly and easily and facilitate any change in the code through refactoring. Writing unit tests will reveal areas of your system that are tightly coupled and will force you to decouple them, leading to a much more modular architecture.
- Do not over-engineer:Over-engineering is often done to make a software product more robust by adding more features than are necessary for a primary application.Thisoften leads to a polluted design. Such products are overbuilt, their performance is far in excess of what is expected or required. This generally reduces usability and increases cost and complexity. Hence, design for what you know today. Products are dynamic and hence, you cannot design for problems you don’t yet know of.
Adapt to Survive and Succeed
Every software product needs to evolve every few months to ensure it is ready to address the real-world environment. Like any business, if you’re not growing, you stand the risk of being irrelevant. The same holds true for software; as needs change, and as your competition changes, design and architecture also need to evolve. With a flexible architecture, you can make sure you are constantly adapting to the pace at which the world is moving. That’s the way to survive, and succeed.