Part II – Get it RIGHT! – Technology, architecture and how to engage partners

In the Introduction and Part I, I shared lessons learned about all the necessary “soft” factors how to achieve mind-blowing results as Reliance Jio did and will do in the future. Obviously, technology, architecture and work management (how to achieve results and outcome) play a major role and are more “classical” ingredients of success. However, also here, many unconventional ways have been taken:

 1. Design Decisions – scalability, performance, resilience, automation and a lot more

One of the strongest elements of success were solid, well thought through and stable design decisions. Building up a network for a country like India, building up a platform for many hundred millions of customers means many totally new challenges. Thus, some key requirements were defined in the beginning. Amongst them were (1) the capability to acquire more than 150.000 new customers in the peak hour / 1.5mn per day, (2) to rate more than many hundred million customers real-time, (3) automate every process, (4) digitize the retailer ecosystem via apps and (5) run the company only by data from platforms/systems, not from manually collected data. Probably the most influential one was “digital only and mobile first” in everything we did.

These design decisions did not materially change throughout the process. They led to intense cooperation within our company as well as with the corresponding partners. Massive load testing and major adaptions of large COTS systems for the backend systems had to be made – with much stronger products of these partners in the end. Lots of the thought process, however, had been done by our excellent engineering teams. The implementation of design decisions was always verified by independent Quality Assurance and an innovative way towards testing from a customer perspective.

2. Think extremely big – follow-up in the tiniest (important) details

Typically, large organizations practice delegation as important principle. However, in start-ups, we very often see a completely different behavior: Founders, owners, top leaders drive – guided by their conviction and insight – every detail, especially product, customer experience and technology. Only by direct involvement and ownership of the few decision makers, fast implementation and fast adaption can happen. It is fascinating to see, how this typical behavior for smaller start-ups scales (or does not scale) up to large organizations.

In our case, real big thinking was done in our aspiration for design decisions and excelling customers’ expectations. To successfully implement these, there is now better way than to expose all the development and partner teams to these ambitions. Only by daily reviews of progress in customer facing platforms, easiness of use, differentiation from competition, applying the approach of real internet companies (rather than telcos), all teams were aligned and were provided decisions, which they could immediately implement. Also, specific focus was put on scalability, performance and resilience as well as “100% automation” driven by our platforms. This ensures a very fast implementation as well direct impact to customers. It comes at cost for lower efficiency (more “turns”) and sometimes limited quality of the first drops. However, it ensured, that after failing fast, better results were implemented within matter of days.

Obviously, this can only work, if not “everything” is being reviewed in all details. It proved very successful to us, that we were focusing on four things, where to go in every little detail: (1) customer experience – digital only/mobile first/one click, (2) scalability to ensure millions of new customers per day, (3) 100% automation in all our platforms to enable a scalable model for whole of India and (4) adherence to our design decisions.

3. Treat and challenge technology partners as (co-)owners of our business success

In a mission to achieve something new and not done before, there is no way of defining a comprehensive “requirements document” and run a classical RFP. This would not only be too lengthy, it would also not reflect the many learnings on the way and limit massively the ability to react and change very fast. So, we have chosen a different approach: For all pillars of our platforms we have decided for major technology partners, who have a lot to gain with our unique reference, but who not necessarily would have been the dominant player in the respective domain. Specific examples are in Radio and real-time charging.

While above ensured maximum attention and resource mobilization of the partner, we had to assume, that the technical resource pool with specific experience relevant to us would be limited. So, we had to do two things to ensure progress: (1) Deploying a highly experienced own technical/architectural team to drive the partner and (2) manage the partner via/with its CEO. Another important element was, to always identify potential competing partners and even actively ask two partners to build a solution in parallel. Especially the latter used to be extremely effective, though no classical company would be doing that as it would be seen as “wasting money”. But in contrary it gives substantial benefits, because the final solution is in place faster and more fit fur purpose (while spending some more effort and money than necessary for one solution only).