Ever wondered what it takes to build a £1bn tech unicorn from a standing start? Or what happens when the Infinity Squad embarks on a mission to the silo of design?
Here, some of our most experienced engineering, design, and delivery consultants answer these questions and offer their insights into the innovation, technical excellence, and fun that characterise the way we work at Infinity Works.
Insight without infrastructure – solving sticky problems
It’s been reported that 85% of cloud data-led projects fail. This is a sobering statistic. But you can deliver insane scalability if you know what you’re doing – just look at Facebook.
One of our financial services customers had previously invested millions in a self-hosted cloud data lake. Unfortunately, the operational burden was just too great, and the project stalled. The customer wanted to build a scalable ETL (extract, transform and load) platform within its existing AWS environment, to reuse some of the existing Attache Spark business logic and skillset, and to support good engineering practices and deployment patterns. We came in with a team of data scientists and built them a new cloud platform that was fully serverless, with no infrastructure to maintain. Our team of engineers is used to solving sticky problems with real determination, not just copy-pasting code.
This system has been in production for a couple of months now, delivering critical data sets used to run machine-learning models over the client’s whole customer base. It’s an agile solution that provides our client with the data they need when they need it, without sacrificing best practice – a balance we always aspire to strike.
Demystifying delivery – people, principles, process. In that order!
At Infinity Works we support many different customers, all with unique needs. This means there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Here, we look at ‘delivery’ as a verb rather than a noun and ask: what does it really mean ‘to deliver’? We have a set of principles we follow to demystify delivery:
Firstly, favour outcomes over outputs. ‘Output’ is the code we write, the features we build, the bugs we fix. These are important, but it’s the ‘outcome’, or actual result of these outputs, that deliver value by fitting in with customers’ business goals. Our motto is to start small: nail it before you scale it.
Secondly, be open and transparent. This requires an environment of psychological safety where we encourage learning from failure. Leaders must show vulnerability and be genuinely curious, supportive, and lead by example. “Deliver better value, sooner, safer and happier” – Jonathan Smart, business agility practitioner.
Thirdly, deliver value early and effectively. This means learning quickly to minimise risks. We shorten feedback loops and continually build, measure, and learn (with the emphasis on learning).
Fourthly, champion the team. We hand over, transfer, and surrender – making sure the customer understands what’s what. Essentially, our aim is to do ourselves out of a job.
Finally, build a culture of continuous learning. Learning comes not just from success, but from fast failure and learning through mistakes. We minimise risk by taking smaller, but informed risks.
The Silo of Design
Look at this video-game style story which uses elephants as a metaphor for software and was inspired by a real Infinity Works project. Here, the ‘Infinity Squad’ goes on a mission through a labyrinth and a pipeline of lava to a ‘silo of design’ to build something new for the kingdom of elephants.
But it’s a wandering designer who finally helps the squad adapt their design by spending time with the people of the kingdom. The moral of the story: design and research must not be siloed within an organisation but integrated at a much deeper level. This is something we always aim for.
MVP for the win – keep it lean, serverless, simple and smart!
cinch is a faff-free way to buy a car online. Last year, the business wanted to pivot to a full delivery service – a platform where a customer could log on, browse the cars, choose one, pay for it, and have it delivered to their door. cinch wanted this within a very ambitious timeframe of four months. Here are four takeaways from this project:
Firstly, keep it lean. This means only build what you need – and if you think you need it, prove it. Our team built a ‘walking skeleton’, which is a basic version of the product with no bells and whistles, which we could then test out and modify as needed.
Secondly, keep it serverless. This allows horizontal scaling, eliminates infrastructure faff and you only pay for what you use.
Thirdly, keep it simple. In other words, don’t use fancy tech, don’t over-optimise, and use single-purpose lambdas.
Last, but not least, collaborate and work smart. Sharing knowledge, working through problems together, integrating continuously, and deploying frequently. The search backend was ready in an impressive four weeks. This allowed us to go live and then look at what to build next. Within months of launching, cinch became one of the UK’s handful of tech unicorns.
Maximising the value of mobile apps – one of the best jobs in the world!
The mobile practice at Infinity Works helps organisations maximise the value of their apps through engineering and strategy. What does ‘maximising value’ mean? There are several ways organisations make money from apps, and – whatever the business model – our team can help bring down the cost per acquisition per user or increase the lifetime value per user.
We do this through engineering feature changes. The better you get at this, the faster you go and the more stable and reliable your delivery becomes, allowing you to deploy features frequently and with low risk. We work with customers to understand their business goals and to work out what metrics are important by looking at the life cycles of their apps, including conversions. Then, using analytics, we can experiment, pulling different levers and seeing which maximises the value of the apps. We’ve built an effective software delivery pipeline that allows us to nudge the levers in the right direction. This is ‘data-driven improvement’. It’s so much fun to work on, as what we do is genuinely and directly adding value. Working as part of a team with this level of connection makes Infinity Works an amazing place to be.