As the adoption of digital technologies and processes accelerates throughout financial and commodity services, CIOs, CTOs, and other related executives are facing some significant challenges. How can they provide a foundation for competitive advantage, future-proof their efforts in innovation, and minimize both internal and external disruptions?

When we explore this question further, we find that the innovation process in many organizations goes through five stages: experimenting with new ideas, creating a minimum viable product, deploying and growing the application, orchestrating multiple point solutions, and scaling to enterprise level. 

Experimenting with new ideas

In the experimentation stage, many organizations reach for the easiest and most readily available tools to evaluate new models and algorithms. In financial services, this is often spreadsheets or prototyping systems that are fast but isolated from production data and applications. The benefit is rapid iteration and evaluation of new ideas with no risks or impacts to operations. The downside is that these evaluations are often done with slightly different data than used in production, making it difficult to reproduce the results in the next stage. This approach also requires re-coding the functionality at some point before deploying or scaling the application, trading speed now for delays later.

There is an alternative approach. Using Beacon Platform as a prototyping tool gives developers all the speed and capabilities of Excel, and adds the functionality of an integrated development environment, multiple-language support, access to many different code libraries, and a wide range of database interfaces. The result is early experimentation that is as fast or faster than with Excel, securely isolated from production operations but with much broader access to production data. Perhaps more important is solving the tradeoff between initial innovation speed and production deployment.

Creating a minimum viable product

Once the idea is sufficiently evaluated, the next stage is creating what is referred to as a minimum viable product (MVP). This is often a barebones application built on the original spreadsheet that a select few are given access to, keeping the focus on speed and pushing the re-coding efforts to the next stage. The drawback with this approach is that these spreadsheets tend to become increasingly fragile over time and lack any type of code governance or version control.

With Beacon Platform, moving from idea to basic application is as simple as adding a web-based user interface to the existing code. A powerful application framework abstracts away the browser-coding requirements, speeding up this stage. Moving through implementation and testing is facilitated by the Beacon development environment, which is integrated with software development lifecycle and automation tools. And fully transparent and licensed source code means the team has full visibility and control over what they build.

Deploying and growing the application

For most organizations, this is the stage where the first big challenges arise. Spreadsheets cannot handle most of the requirements of production systems, such as version control, governance, user authentication, and database integration. So the application needs to be re-coded, tested, and the results reconciled with the experimental tool. This not only delays the process of getting the new capabilities into broader use, the change in data sources and coding techniques often makes it difficult to exactly reproduce the earlier results.

Since Beacon Platform has both development and production environments, this stage becomes a matter of expanding functionality and managing deployment. Code is already moving through the software development lifecycle, including integrated version control, code reviews, testing framework, and user authorizations. So developers can focus on building out new functionality, integrating with other systems, and expanding the user base.

Orchestrating multiple point solutions

So far we have focused on the path of a single application working its way through the development process. But in most organizations there are multiple of these, at varying stages of maturity. This scenario puts more and more strain on both users and developers in the organization. Users are often left with just cut-and-paste integration as they try to navigate workflows that span multiple, disconnected apps. And developers face an increasing burden of orchestrating and rationalizing capabilities, supporting legacy applications that are long past their best before date, and re-implementing functionality from one application to another.

Beacon Platform serves another valuable function here, as the glue or mortar that helps ease the burden of integration. As a cloud and data agnostic service, Beacon can easily talk to almost anything, facilitating the movement of data and algorithms from where they are to where they are needed, and back again if necessary. Rapid development tools and a wealth of available libraries and APIs make quick work of bridging existing applications, adding visualizations and user interfaces to siloed data, and smoothing workflows.

Scaling for enterprise needs

In the final stage, the challenges are mostly about scale: supporting more users, improving performance, and integrating with more of the corporation’s systems. Some organizations delay the move from prototype to production system until this stage, making it even harder to migrate the much larger code base and user population. Others face the challenge of finding or acquiring the computing capacity required to support more users. Too often this results in yet another siloed or partially integrated solution running in the company.

As a cloud-based solution, applications developed on Beacon Platform scale dynamically from prototype to production with little or no additional effort. Simply define the required maximums with the cloud provider and Beacon’s elastic compute scheduler takes care of the rest. Comprehensive management dashboards deliver full transparency and control over cloud resources, and users get the performance they need when they need it.

Enabling innovation at scale

Beacon Platform was designed from the beginning as an agile enterprise innovation platform, combining the speed and ease of use of a prototyping system with the scale and controls necessary for deployment in the largest organizations. Transparent source code and a solid foundation of standard financial models and analytics reduce the need for reinventing common code, enabling the team to devote more of their resources to adding value to the business. As a result, it accelerates every stage of the journey from idea to scale, minimizing disruptions, eliminating the need to switch tools between stages, and fueling the organization’s competitive edge.