The Fine Line Between SaaS Business Optimization and Innovation
Let’s take a minute to talk about optimization vs. innovation, especially where it applies to software, namely SaaS software. There is a very clear and distinct difference between these two core concepts, and not understanding this difference can doom you from the start. Often, people will label optimization of a design to be a form of innovation, and will often even go as far as to market it as such.
They rarely get called out on this, as consumers aren’t tech experts, though they’re far from stupid. Oh, they know something’s up, they just couldn’t point out exactly what, and so they remain silent and contemplative, tolerating the nonsense as best as they can. Well, this isn’t right, so tech people, consumers, everyone else – let’s talk about the differences between them.
Let’s cite a couple hypothetical scenarios, one is innovation and the other is optimization. Examples are the best way to learn and demonstrate, obviously, and they’re much more pleasant to read. Pleasant reading is of course retained reading.
Let’s begin. We will be looking at the fictional company, BlueRodent Graphics, a respected and successful developer of SaaS graphical development tools for cooperative cloud GD.
Case #1 – Innovation
The R&D lab at BlueRodent has been watching the trends with graphics and graphical needs. They see the forthcoming need for vastly easier 3D modeling, a feature their suite, GoldenRing, doesn’t even support. They’ve stayed away from 3D design for the longest time due to the extreme computing cost of modeling, coupled with past SaaS latency, along with the difficulty inherent to 3D modeling software on a usability end.
Alas, graphics design software is beginning to be judged not just for its 2D capacities, but for its 3D, and so BlueRodent can no longer refrain from trying to support the burgeoning medium. Conventional 3D modeling interfaces are baffling and difficult, and while modern web tech will allow for responsive interface at long last, they don’t want their famously easy-to-use GoldenRing suite to become a mess.
The brilliant R&D lab, in accompaniment with a team of UX experts, has come up with a novel new idea to represent 3D as a series of 2D sheets. In order to shape basic 3D models, all that must be done is for the user to draw lines and curves onto this sheet. They can then cut them and fold them with easy 3D motions, like origami. Anyone who’s ever made a paper airplane can easily get the basics of this modeling concept in a few minutes. Those serious about 3D, and who are used to the sleek design GoldenRing already has … well, they can master yet more innovating 3D modeling in days or weeks, rather than months or years. The origami modeling system is innovative, new, and completely changes the way 3D is to be approached. In the following years, everyone will try to imitate BlueRodent’s origami modeling technique.
Case #2 – Optimization
While the R&D lab toils to solve the 3D barrier for GoldenRing, the rest of the development staff sees another issue that’s a little more pertinent for them to address. Why is the vector graphics engine so slow and non-responsive? Pixel-based art works at lightning speed and the latency between cooperative users through the server is less than 5/1000 of a second, and yet, vectors are slow. Vectors use less data, since they’re just geometry and math, not boxes of individual colors.
This is a problem, given how popular vectors are, and how otherwise lauded GoldenRing’s vector design interface and capacity is. If it just didn’t lag so much when more than one user was working on a design in unison.
And then, one single programmer, on his third cup of coffee, has an epiphany. The pixel data for regular graphics is being handled by relaying a color and coordinate directly to the server where it echoes it back to other live users. Vectors are being sent to a secondary block of PHP where it renders the image, and redraws it for everyone. It’s still giving everyone pixels, just way too many way too quickly.
And so, the rest of the BlueRodent team listens with much eagerness as he outlines a plan to shift the vector rendering to the local interface, using HTML5 to draw the vectors live, client side, just as it has been doing for pixels the whole time. No longer will PHP draw the entire image every time, and then require it to be re-loaded by clients. And as such, the vector methods for GoldenRing become faster than Flash or Illustrator with a simple optimization of how it is handled.
This is optimization, the refinement of an existing structure to remove inefficiencies and make it perform much better.
And thus, as we followed two issues that BlueRodent addressed, we see clearly the demonstration of innovation – a new, never before conceived concept, even to solve a known issue. And we see a demonstration of optimization, to make something already in place work better just by shifting the strategy for how it is handled.
By Omri Erel,
Marketing director at WalkMe and lead author of SaaS Addict