On the Frontline. Stack for special tasks

Graphic shows a figure descending on a rope towards a desk and laptop

You are surely familiar with the typical scene used in many an American action movie, in which a team of special forces operatives, armed to the teeth, tosses in flashbang grenades, descends on ropes into a room barricaded by terrorists and, within 30 seconds, takes control of the entire situation. Sometimes we would like to solve problems with our products in the same way - quickly, spectacularly and, above all, effectively. It turns out that - keeping the right scale, of course - we are able to do it. We just need, like special units, a trained team and a set of tools.

On the front

Let's assume that you come up with a great idea for a new product - application, website, portal. Having learned by experience, you know that its mentioned greatness will be finally verified only by the so-called "Go-live" and tests on real users. Assuming also that the release cycle will take at least a few months, you postpone this moment of verification and all this time live in stress whether the idea will really turn out to be a hit. Transferring this to the world of the military, it looks like the normal process of mission planning - assembling soldiers, organizing logistics, securing supplies, transportation, building a base, digging in....

How about speeding up the vetting stage and doing it like special units rather than the regular army?

Mission planning

This stage is extremely important in both military and special units' operations. In the case of the implementation of a new product, in the first case it would probably be a process of data collection, analytics and pricing. However, if we were to apply the methodology of "special forces" operations, we could liken this stage to the implementation of a Design Sprint. The "mission planning" itself is an extremely interesting process, which we will deal with on another occasion. In the meantime, let's move on to the stage where the commander shouts....

Go! Go! Go!

We have a plan (developed through Desing Sprints). We know what we want to achieve (a testable prototype of our product). Now we just need a team and tools.

Team Foxtrot. Team Bravo?

Completing our special task team, it turns out that we need a backend team (let's call it Team Bravo) to prove the planned product, but only a modest but very agile frontend team (Team Foxtrot). Such a structure is made possible by using the BaaS (Backend as a Service) model. Using the Firebase toolkit, for example, we are able to exclude the need to create a backend as such (for the purpose of creating our Proof of Concept product, of course).

Weapons boxes

The list of available "weapons" in the Firebase arsenal is long enough to accomplish most tasks during such a mission. Logging in? Here you go. We use the Authentication module, which basically allows us to create login functionality with a single click, using one or multiple popular avenues. There are currently 12 available services listed, including authentication tools from Microsoft, Google, Facebook or Apple.

In the overwhelming majority of products we will need a database. There is no problem with that either. Firebase provides two solutions, differing slightly in application, which are based on the document database model: Firestore and Realtime Database. In most cases, to illustrate the operation of the prototype such a database will be quite sufficient. Thanks to a very convenient API and libraries available for most popular frameworks, the use of the database is simple and intuitive.

Each of our digital products would also need to be published somewhere. This, too, will not give us any trouble. The Hosting module allows us to publish our application basically instantly. A working system is available at a public link, in a domain secured by default with an SSL certificate in a few seconds - no searching for a provider, no configuration, no manual plugging in of certificates, with automatic scaling in case of higher traffic, with a built-in mechanism for protection against DDoS.

An application needs space for additional files? No problem. All it takes is one click to launch the Storage module, which we also communicate with via API.

In separate compartments of our weapons box we will also find Functions and Machine Learning modules, which will allow us to expand our Proof of Concept even further. If that weren't enough, Firebase provides an entire analytics module that won't take more than a few mouse clicks in the console to plug into our application. Within it, we get access to such essential tools at the prototype stage as Predictions or A/B Testing , as well as the familiar Google Analytics: Funnels, Audiences or Retention.

As if that wasn't enough, Firebase offers us a whole library of additional plug-ins(Extensions). With them, we can, for example, send emails to users, scale uploaded images or translate text using Google Translation API. All this, as usual, within a click of the mouse.

On the Frontend side, the matter is just as simple. The "creat-react-app" and "firebase" libraries are all you need to get started.

Return to base

Experience shows that using the tools described above, we are able to deliver working application prototypes not in months or weeks, not even in days, but with a team already familiar with their arsenal literally within hours. This approach to prototype delivery saves a colossal amount of money, and makes it easier to verify our product assumptions. Of course, such an approach will not work in the long term (i.e., realization of the target, final product), but many elements from the "armory" will still find a place for themselves in such a final product.

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Piotr Wegner

Leader of the Frontend and Product Design areas with several years of experience in the industry. Fresh graduate of Executive Master of Business Administration IT. Change manager responsible for promoting product approach. FRIS Visionary in thought and Strategist in action. He puts ambition and willingness to act first - the rest can be taught to anyone. He has been associated with Britenet for over 5 years.