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LV Operator’s Studio | Challenges CTOs face at startups

The growth of a business, especially a digital one, depends largely on its tech architecture. Some founders understand this before it’s too late, and thereby infuse tech into their business DNA right from the start. On the other hand, there are founders who decide to incorporate the tech roadmap only when it becomes an utmost necessity for business growth. But, coming up with a tech roadmap and aligning it with the business vision at a later stage is not easy. These are situations where CTOs don’t get sufficient bandwidth or flexibility to architect tech solutions that can truly catalyze the business. 

In this episode of the LetsVenture Operator Studio webinar series, Kumar Rangarajan (Founder, Slang Labs), Satish Gupta (Tech Head, Slang Labs), and Vijay Gabale (Co-founder of Infilect) share their experiences on laying out the tech roadmap in their business ventures. While Slang Labs provides in-app multilingual Voice Assistants that can be used out of the box for Android and Web Applications, Infilect specializes in visual content intelligence by parsing large-scale visual content such as photos & videos. 

The panelists discussed the challenges that CTOs face while designing & implementing tech roadmaps and went on to shed light on the best practices that should be followed to plan an effective tech architecture. They also highlighted a few short-term & long-term tech goals that CTOs should focus on for the best business outcomes.  

Takeaways from the webinar on building a robust tech roadmap

  • An efficient tech team: Founders should play their cards right and build a core tech team from the word go. This tech team should understand the business vision and be proficient in the required tech skills. Also, the team should have the will to go the extra mile to get working prototypes of the product ready promptly
  • Design a tech stack for the long run: Identify and design a tech stack that stays aligned with the organizational vision in the long run. The primary functionalities or offerings of the product may change in accordance with market needs, but the basic architecture should not change much. Frequently changing tech architectures tend to disengage existing customers and that might prove to be a major pain point in retaining customers. New functionalities should be implemented atop the original tech stack, but the transition of existing customers to the new version should be smooth. 
  • Make a modular product to achieve atomicity: Each building block, command, or component of the tech solution should solve a particular problem and should do that effectively. This way problems will become localized and solving them won’t require a major part of the tech stack to change. When requirements will change, you will only have to change the composition, and not the components of your tech architecture. Thus, your original tech stack will become more re-usable or atomic.  
  • Stay open to feedback from customers at the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) stage: Feedback might help identify gaps that you might have missed. Bridging these gaps at an early-stage might improve your tech stack for the better.
  • Keep tech overheads minimum at the early-stage: While designing the roadmap, you should dedicate more time to R&D, and identify & leverage already-available CI/CD (Continuous Integration – Continuous Deployment) solutions or services from third-party vendors. Try and avoid large overheads like maintaining the DevOps framework on your own at the early stages. You can always leverage serverless cloud functions and databases where you don’t have to maintain or configure the load capacity. These solutions will keep your tech overheads less and allow you to focus more on the GTM (Go-To-Market) strategy. Once you reach the growth stage, you will have enough resources to migrate the CI/CD pipeline in-house.   

While sharing his personal experience on implementing the tech roadmap at Infilect, Vijay says, “Our goal is to revolutionize the e-commerce and retail space with disruptive AI solutions that could crawl on pictures and identify products. The idea was clear at the beginning but as we ventured ahead, we found out that there was a major gap between consumer demand and supply, and to bridge that gap we were required to optimize our supply chain better. We had to scale our tech solutions better.” He continues, “Fortunately, we had invested enough time in the initial R&D for our tech architecture. Therefore, we were able to make the desired changes without modifying the original tech stack much.”

“There are 2 approaches to building a tech roadmap. You are either exploratory or not,” says Satish. “Exploratory founders will make their fair share of mistakes, but they will learn from those mistakes and eventually come up with tech solutions that serve the purpose. I would advise CTOs to show the first prototype of the product to customers as soon as possible, ask for feedback, incorporate them on the tech solution, and continue iterating until desired results are achieved”. 

“It is necessary that CTOs quickly identify the tech challenges that might come their way in the future,” says Kumar on a concluding note. “There will be times where the tech architecture and the business will be anti-parallel to each other. This is where short-term tech solutions need to be built with a keen eye on longer business outcomes. No matter what, the most important thing to lay the tech foundation right.” 

Watch the full webinar here:

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