Built to Scale: Operations & Product

August 31, 2018

Last week I introduced a few steps, a sanity check, that I use to help me better evaluate whether an idea is scalable or not. In today’s post, I will explore the importance of building operations and products (apps / websites / digital technologies in general) with scale in mind.

Simply put, an online business that cannot scale its operations and product as it grows will eventually fail.


Carriage

Carriage isn’t just a food ordering app that connects users to restaurants.

They have a complex operational side to them that mainly includes managing a fleet of delivery cars and drivers, and a 24/7 customer service team.

As for their product, it isn’t a simple one either given the way orders are handled between users, restaurants, and drivers; and let’s not forget their infamous feature of tracking deliveries.

With their complex operations and product, the difference between fulfilling 10 orders a day and a 1,000 is huge for Carriage. If they hadn’t built their operations and product to scale, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up when more users and orders came in.


Dropbox

Dropbox is a US based digital storage service company that had to scale their operations and product in a short period of time as users from around the world quickly flocked in.

For them, this meant bigger, more dispersed data centers to serve their local and international users, and a better product to handle data access and storage requirements.

Again, Dropbox wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the increasing number of users and technical complexities that came with it if they hadn’t planned and executed their scaling well.


Think About Your Idea

  1. How complex will your operations get as you grow?
  2. How will the technical requirements of your product change with more users? It is important to note here that there are subscription-based cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) that allow you to add more computing power, storage, and functionality to your product with a few clicks. This is a game changer and has made scaling a product easier than ever.
  3. How much money will you roughly need to scale? Where are you going to get this money from?
  4. When is the right time to start scaling? 500 users? 1000? 10,000?


Final Thoughts

While it’s very important to take scalability into consideration from the very start, I am not suggesting you prioritize it; there are more important things to focus on when starting. Things like validating the need for a solution, building an MVP, marketing the solution, and putting it into the hands of potential customers, should always be a priority.

What I am suggesting is you be aware of the reality of scaling operations and products, realize that it might be a challenge depending on your solution, and then take the right measures like planning and putting money aside for it.

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