Relatively Speaking – Jackfruit and Software Product Development

Sundeep Reddy Mallu

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) ,an extremely large, spiny behemoth of a fruit has much in common with software product development than that meets the eye. We explore those marked traits between the two in this blog post.

Trivia Question– Jackfruit is the National fruit of which Country?

The jackfruit tree on first pass is HUGE, thick leaves giving no view of what’s inside, no visible fruits to look at (unless the fruits are hanging out along the trunk). Jackfruit tree occupies more space than an equally aged mango tree or a chiccu tree.

Software Product Development has similar attributes – Large investments upfront, no tangible product to ship for sometime, tough for outsiders to understand what is being done and financially in the hock till product generates profits.

Four key behaviors that are common among Jackfruit and Software Product Development are discussed below

# 1 Trail of failures

A look at the base of the tree would show the scars / failed attempt at bearing fruit. Fruits of all sizes lay fallen/ dried up under the tree. This signifies the failed attempts at a jackfruit growing up.

This is similar to different ideas that are experimented during software product development. Not all great ideas become fruitful. Many good ideas/ intention die a slow death similar to the fruits in below picture. This doesn’t stop the jackfruit tree from attempting to grow the next fruit. Same should be the approach, in software product development, with adding new features or focussing on new ideas when they surface.

Gramener started off by building predictive forecasting models for Energy Management Company (EMS, DSM Et. al), these efforts were a failure. Our next goal was to build a Visual Analytics Platform. A string of failed attempts at strengthening the platform followed.  All the early failures are testament to the things we have tried that did NOT work. In our current state we are a Data Science company assisting multiple businesses, not just Energy Management companies, make sense of their data and assist them in their journey for productivity improvements.

# 2 Patience is key

Jackfruit takes approximately 8 to 10 weeks for a fruit to fully grow and become ready for consumption. During this period there is likelihood for the fruit to fall off due to weather or any external conditions.

Product development follows a lifecycle. A product’s journey from an idea to marketable/ usable state is long. There is potential for quick wins like a demonstrable prototype/features in the product. Companies have to stay vested at such milestone and not take leg off the pedal. A feature working in a product is NOT same as the entire product working. We should nurture product teams to completely build a Product.

Gramener’s persistence in build a Visual Analytics platform finally paid off. Gramex , a flagship IP based Visual Analytics platform is the outcome of years of labour and patience. The platform serves as an accelerator for Visual solutions development. We have client engagements as short as 2 weeks from ideation to production deployment. Work with government agencies took off after many years of persistence. Autolysis our Augmented Analysis product took 5 years of development before an end-user could use it.

# 3 Taking shape per opportunity

Most jackfruits have symmetric shapes, but a few of them have weird shapes. This is due to lack of space in growing in one way, the jackfruit adapts to the space around it but does NOT stop the growth.

Product development should be nimble enough to relook at what features should be added to product. Based on market needs/ feedback we should relook at what features should be added/ removed from the product backlog. If found prudent the product scope/ features/ goals must be modified.

Gramener’s offering started off as a Visual Analytics platform. Based on customer in-house capabilities and immediate need, we added Data Consulting, Design services and training services to offering. We tout our offering as a ServWare model. This engagement model has made us successful in gaining market share.

On the technology front, we are always on look out for the enhancing Gramex platform. We have incorporated – Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, NLG and NLP capabilities.

# 4 Fruits of labour

The outcome we toil towards, the milestone we long for.

When the jackfruit is ripe and ready to eat, a single jackfruit gives out 40 to 50 pieces that are good for consumption. The seed in each piece has potential to grow into a new tree or make a curry.

When a software product is finally shipped, the journey throws up many best practices, things not to do, newer ideas of tackling different problems.

Our journey in building Gramex platform helps us build more products on it. Clustering, Data Explorer are few examples. The confidence gained by working with 100+ customers in India shaped our global expansion strategy. Today we offer services in US, Europe, Singapore in addition to India.

Trivia Answer: The national fruit of Bangladesh is the Jackfruit. Jackfruit is the state fruit of the Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.