An important part of successful innovation is often a similar one to starting a new business, in that it is key to recognize and solve people’s pains. Oftentimes value is discovered through forming solutions to a common problem. Big or small, solving the right challenge at the right time is the key to a successful innovative idea.
Grabbit, a solution for migrating large amounts of content between AEM instances, was born this way. We’ve talked about Grabbit before on this blog from a technical standpoint, now we’re going to cover the innovative process behind Grabbit, including thoughts from our AEM Technical Architect, Sagar Sane, who was integral in developing Grabbit.
Beyond the Status Quo
AEM owners usually have multiple AEM environments under management. There’s usually a production environment, and then one or more non-production environments that are used as development and/or QA servers. Before Grabbit, it was customary to use AEM Package Manager to manually create and update a number of packages, as a process to keep content in sync between environments. This was the status quo.
But there was a problem. Sagar shares, “The normal process for content syncing was extremely tiresome, time consuming and error prone.” The flaws in the regular content syncing process caused pain for our clients and their development teams.
The idea for a content sync solution arose from those challenges our clients had experienced, resulting from the normal content syncing process. The tried-and-true entrepreneurship adage served Blue Acorn iCi and our clients well here: great new ideas often form from someone’s problems. The lesson is to look for innovation opportunities in the everyday issues that you deal with. Don’t settle for the status quo.
Sizing Up the Field
You’re not done once you find your new idea, you’ve only just begun. There is no shortage of new ideas, or even good new ideas. As an innovator, one of things that you have to do is size up the field: find out if something already exists that is similar to your idea, and assess it with respect to your new idea.
Is your idea useful/valuable enough that people will use it? Is your idea different enough from what is already available on the market? Is your idea worth the time and effort that it will take to develop it into something marketable?
If there’s not something similar already out there, why not? Have others tried and failed to make something like it? Do you understand the problems and pitfalls that come with bringing your idea to fruition?
Sagar recalls performing this sort of competitive analysis before the development of Grabbit:
“We didn’t find anything exactly similar [to our idea for Grabbit], but we did find some solutions out there that tried to solve the content sync problem somewhat differently. A notable one was the ReCap tool. The recap tool provided a neat user interface to use, and some other nice features (like specifying the batch size, etc.). However, the underlying technology used by the tool remained the same, so it was subject to the same performance limitations. We wanted to try something different.”
The research for similar ideas the Grabbit team did is imperative when striking out with a new idea. You want to avoid wasting your valuable development time and effort on recreating something that already exists.
The “Business” of Open-Source Software
Sagar shared his perspective about how it’s been different working in the open-source software world vs. the closed-source realm; that it’s exciting when you’re watching the number of users grow, and challenges arise during the adoption of your software. This is almost universal with software products: the user feedback from your early-stage launches brings unexpected obstacles and user growth is both exciting and rewarding to watch.
He also gave his perspective on how the interest in Grabbit spread differently due to it being open-source, in that the sheer breadth of exposure in the amount of time that Grabbit has existed was largely possible due to it being open-source software.
Our Sr. Vice President of Digital Solutions, Steve Barberio, acknowledges the evolving differences between the open- and closed-source software worlds and how the prevalence of open-source software has increased.
Steve reminded us of a time where using open-source software was very uncommon, sometimes even taboo in larger companies:
“When you look at the history, it’s probably within about the last 10 or 12 years that it’s been ‘acceptable’ for companies to use open-source software. Before that, companies would always rely on commercial software options as opposed to their open-sourced alternatives. Companies had stigmas around or experiences with open-source software being unreliable or unsupported.”
This trend is notable; a solution like Grabbit was less likely to garner the support and usage to become a success in a climate like the one that existed a decade or so ago. But today, with the confidence and value placed in open-sourced software, Grabbit has not only helped our company work through projects more efficiently, but others have taken advantage of its benefits.
Sagar was also recognized by Adobe at Summit 2017 as one of the Adobe Rock Stars for his role in developing Grabbit.
The biggest lesson from this post is that innovation comes from challenge. Finding ways to solve people’s pain points is what generates and supports new ideas. Maybe we won’t always find the success that Sagar and Grabbit have realized, but the important thing to remember is to keep trying. Maybe your next great idea a variation on one idea, or maybe it’s a completely new venture. But by revisiting the innovative process again and again, you’ll not only discover great ideas, but you may discover a fresh and exciting journey.