This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
Often in the typical life journey of a startup, it all starts with a prototype and a burst of early adopters, who are your only customer base. This initial success is enough to light up the founders to do whatever it takes to showcase and validate the product-market fit, a crucial ingredient for venture funding and future growth. It is also a phase when things are engineered for survival. The feature definitions are flexible and malleable, the use cases are primarily driven by the willing customers for the next big deal or growth spurt (assuming they are strategically aligned, of course).
Insightly is no different. We went through some similar phases of growth. We built features with a fervor. We understood and fulfilled the needs of the small and medium businesses. However, once we were outside the initial survival phase, we were very prudent about how we built our application.
Though it was difficult, we took a needed pause to evaluate our strategy for architecture and growth. Based on where we wanted to be, we made many product decisions coupled with some key architectural decisions that changed the overall DNA and trajectory of our offerings. From our founder, who wrote most of the initial code, to the early team that built many of its subsequent offerings, Insightly has always been grounded on a solid engineering foundation. This foundation is the lifeline of our company and has been a catalyst that has helped us grow exponentially.
Here are some of the engineering and architectural initiatives that not only helped us deliver compelling functionalities to our customers, but also formed the rock-solid foundation of Insightly’s SaaS offering.
Metadata driven architecture (MDA)
From early days, when we were working on our long-term product strategy and roadmap, it became very clear that we needed an architecture that could serve us for the long term and yet be flexible enough to accommodate the heterogeneous needs of our growing customer base. Being a horizontal CRM product that caters to a multitude of verticals, MDA provided the needed flexibility. By abstracting the functionality from the application architecture, we were not only able to personalize the experience tailored to each of our users, but it was also easily maintainable and less prone to errors and regressions. Converging the metadata and their instance data in real time and dynamically rendering the user Interface at runtime, helped us hit the mark with our customers.
Custom objects & custom fields
Custom Objects and Custom Fields have an equal footing as the pre-defined standard objects, that comes out of the box from Insightly. From CRUD operations to reporting, from extensibility using custom fields to API access for these Objects, they thrive and live like first class citizens within the Insightly ecosystem. The MDA architecture underneath helps us provide a consistent user experience across all the objects within Insightly.
Decoupling many of our heavy lifting modules into smaller asynchronous jobs not only helped us reach our high availability goals, but also helped us to scale exponentially and handle many more requests. It also provided the required elasticity to scale individual pieces of our software based on the statistics and monitoring we had in place. We were able to surgically fix issues that helped us in our overall performance, stability, and at the end of the day, improve on the one metric that counts the most, usability of our product and customer experience!
At Insightly, a platform strategy was always at the core of our architecture and roadmap. In addition to providing our customers with a myriad of powerful CRM features, we also wanted to extend our value creation by building meaningful extensions and integrations. Insightly provides a rich set of Restful APIs that can be used by external ecosystems to create more value to our end customers. We also allow folks to extend the capabilities by providing a seamless integration with an external serverless compute framework from within our application ecosystem.
Security is at the core of any organization that manages its customer data, and Insightly is no exception. Security is at the heart of everything we do and work on at Insightly. From a company wide initiative to be SOC2 Type II compliant, to many other initiatives like GDPR, Australian Privacy Act, and Privacy Shield, we always adhere to current industry standards and security practices. We constantly audit our applications for vulnerabilities and keep plugging away any vulnerabilities we find. From a A+ rating on our SSL server tests, to adopting best coding practices, from internal security checks to external audits, from to Pen testings to OWASP initiatives, security is embedded at all levels of our technology spectrum.
SSL Server Test Results
Keep it simple! It has been a mantra our engineers have always relied upon, and it has helped us grow as an engineering organization. While we have tackled some hard engineering problems related to architecture and scale, we have always brainstormed ourselves out of complex solutions, and relied upon sound, simple and elegant solutions that deliver the end results for us and our customers.
In the current era, mobile apps are not just “nice to have”, but are an essential part of any offering. At Insightly, we built our mobile app from the ground up using some of the latest technologies. Rather than trying to mimic the exact web user behavior, we focused on ensuring the mobile use cases were at the forefront of our design and architecture. From beautiful and polished UI to handling push notifications, from stability to performance, we wanted the user experience to be nothing but amazing!
Build versus rent
Sometimes you do not have to build everything from the ground up. It is prudent to integrate with some best of breed to provide meaningful and seamless experience to your customers. For example, we integrate with some of the best cloud companies that are the leaders in sending millions of email or managing your queues at scale, or helping you monitor the health of your applications and servers.
Engineered by engineers
Finally, the Insightly Web Application is not a standard monolithic legacy application. It’s a 21st century, enterprise grade, cloud based SaaS application built not only with the latest technologies, trends and practices, but also by some of the brightest and smartest engineers that take personal pride in how they have engineered and architected the solution. They collaboratively and consistently balance innovation and customer needs every day. In the end, it’s the engineers and the culture of our entire organization that is the true rock solid foundation of all our offerings.