In each HeadSpin Corner episode, our VP of Developer Products Jeena James talks to experts and thought leaders at HeadSpin and in the industry about what’s new in both the testing community and digital experience space, the latest industry trends, how to achieve digital business success, and more. You can find more episodes here.
Our SVP of Solutions and Ecosystems, Eravi Gopan, joined us in our virtual HeadSpin office to talk about the era of the digital native. Eravi has been at the frontlines of the technology ecosystem helping to build leading enterprises across multiple sectors, from telecom to manufacturing, for more than two decades. He has a strong track record of driving high customer satisfaction. He offers his insights into how both companies and end-users can thrive in the experience economy.
Read on or watch our interview below to hear our discussion on the three factors that define success in the digital universe, how digital is disrupting both new and existing spaces, and how the current pandemic is accelerating digital transformation in just about every industry.
Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and an app or game that you absolutely love right now.
I’m honored to be in the HeadSpin Corner. I’ve been in California for a while now — more than 15 years — in Cupertino at the home of you know what. I’ve always been at the crossroads of tech and business. My journey’s mostly been a creative venture in terms of creating new enterprises and new ventures on the way. In terms of what I love to do, if I get time from HeadSpin, I play with my son and this has introduced me to a new game called Mope. It’s quite a fascinating game and is very social. So, we actually play the game along with his friends.
How did you take the career path you are on currently, and what made you join HeadSpin to focus on the enterprise side?
I wouldn’t say a lot by design, but more by accident. That’s how life is, I suppose, and that’s how life is lived best. I started my career as a product manager in a start-up. It went bust in the dot-com bust, and then I joined a larger company and had a great journey there in terms of that company went from being a 100 million dollar company to an eight billion dollar company. It was great to be part of the journey because I landed up in places where we were trying to do things for the first time, and that was an amazing learning ground for me. I got to work with a lot of different varieties of industries — telecom, banking, online media, a lot of tech (the last 10-12 years has been a lot of Silicon Valley Tech: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, SAP).
It’s been a very interesting journey from that perspective. I was probably an entrepreneur in a large company, so I always had a thing about being a creator rather than a person who runs something which is already created. Having worked with enterprises for the longest time, I thought HeadSpin is a great platform to bring it all together. I had experienced HeadSpin before and had used HeadSpin to solve problems for my clients before, so I knew the power of the platform. All of that put together, plus a happy accident, brought me here.
We have truly arrived in the era of Digital natives and our current global, socio-economic and humanitarian situation makes it even more imperative that we adapt and move forward. What defines success for enterprises for you during these times?
Do you agree that we’ve come to the point where we’re all digitally native, especially given the socio-economic conditions right now and the global pandemic that we’re in. What are your thoughts around being digitally native, and what could enterprises do today to navigate and succeed?
I think today we live in times that we couldn’t have imagined just a few weeks or a few months back. First of all, a lot of respect to the frontline workers and the folks who are doing the hard work while we can afford to be on a Zoom call. A lot of gratitude and thanks to all of them. What this pandemic has brought forward is the fact that digital natives are the only way to survive and thrive in today’s world. You can really see the difference between digital natives, and the rest when you look at the results, and the bankruptcy filings or when you look at the companies looking for leverage and cash.
There is a sectoral impact for sure, in terms of hospitality, transportation, and anything related to that, but on the other side, it’s also when you look at enterprises which companies have been able to transition to becoming a digital native enterprise, rather than a traditional company with a lot of discrete elements to it.
When you talk about starting with enabling frontline workers — do they have the kind of tools that are required, do they have mobile, do they have information at their fingertips, are they able to get insights that they can act on very quickly? If you look at companies, are you able to operate in a world where most of your physical assets are not accessible anymore? This is an interesting time that we’re living through where really the folks who will succeed and thrive will be the folks who can make the transition to being a truly digital business.
Tell us a little more about how HeadSpin’s journey has been with enterprises.
It’s amazing to think HeadSpin is a four-year-old company which has come thus far. Four years, come to think of it, is a very young company, but at the same time I can clearly see that we are the third generation of HeadSpins so to say. That’s how fast we have been evolving.
HeadSpin started off as a dev platform created by devs for devs. That’s where we started with our Zoogler and Y Combinator kind of background and genesis that we had. Clearly, the second generation of HeadSpin is when we became a platform to test real-world scenarios, when you could actually run automated tests in real-world situations, on real devices, and real networks.
The last seven to eight months is when I think we’ve entered the third generation of HeadSpin, which is where we are an enterprise platform for experience insights. Why is that relevant in terms of digital natives? What defines success in the digital universe? Putting it very simply it’s three things:
- Speed. In the good old days, the big differentiator for companies was capital. The larger companies kept on becoming larger. Even if they were not the innovator, they could catch up with anybody based on the might of the capital. Today speed is what sets you apart. You cannot catch up with the Tesla, which has out-innovated everybody else, that fast. They are years and years over everybody else. You cannot catch up with Netflix that easily, because they have out-innovated everybody else by far. So, speed is a very defining factor in digital success.
- Intuitive experiences. The idea might be fantastic, but how easy is it for your customers and users to experience what you have and get what they have to do with you?
- Flexibility. People want to consume as they please and want to mix it with others. You have to be open, you have to be flexible, and you have to work with a lot of other things.
These three things — speed, intuitive experiences, and flexibility define digital success. That’s really where HeadSpin as a platform for experience insights comes in, because we play into all the three kinds of factors which define digital success.
Going off of that, it reminded me of the platform that we’re consuming right now: Zoom. It is one of those digital successes in terms of speed and in terms of being flexible, because there is no barrier to entry or premium you have to pay upfront to actually be part of the Zoom platform.
What are your thoughts on how speed, flexibility, and even capability and innovation are being translated with other companies? Do you have any examples such as Tesla? Are there other enterprises that you’re working with where you see that?
Absolutely. It’s interesting how telecom is fast evolving. If you look at the fact that 5G is already here, and we are now experiencing 5G networks in many parts of the world, that changes the game completely in terms of the fact that many value chains will now get redefined based on the fact that you have that kind of resource available. Hence, you don’t have to do it the traditional way.
We can just look back 20 years back to when we had dial-up connections, narrowband, broadband, and now that’s going to be 10 times, 20 times, 30 times of that. Imagine the potential that holds. Telecom is a clear example that comes to my mind where you can see the company’s acquiring media assets. For example, Verizon just bought BlueJeans.
They were clearly thinking about what the end-users want from them, what they can deliver to them, and what kind of experiences they can deliver to them. We are in an experience economy, so if I want to succeed, my users will come to me for the experiences I deliver. Telecom is a good example of the transformation happening right in front of our eyes.
When you think about the partners, enterprises, categories, and industries that HeadSpin supports, are there specific verticals or industries that do really well? Is this applicable to any or all?
First, it’s a broad phenomenon. It’s actually not industry-specific. Going back to that meme from Marc Andreessen in 2011 about how software is eating the world, we are now in a phase where software has eaten the world. It’s a very broad phenomenon where across the board the most discreet of industry value chains are digital or becoming digital. Manufacturing, for example, is as discreet as it gets, because there’s raw materials and you bring the raw materials to the factory, then you distribute it, get it to the retailer or wholesaler, and then get it to the end customer. If you look at that kind of a value chain, that has been digitalized. That’s truly software-driven at this point in time.
So, it’s a broad phenomenon. The three factors that I’ve mentioned apply broadly to everybody. Having said, there are some industries in which it’s manifesting a lot more than the rest. Fintech is a great example. Take Stripe for example. Who would have thought a company, in just a matter of seven to eight years, would redefine the space of payments? What’s the imperative? The imperative is speed, intuitive experience, and flexibility. Of course, they made it very cheap in the whole process, but Fintech is a great example of that.
Another example of that is healthcare. Healthcare is fast evolving, because empowering the end-user and consumer to manage their health is becoming a big phenomenon. Jeena, you come from Google, so you’ve seen the explosion of variables, the explosion of fitness-driven thematic apps or platform-kind of place. Those are getting serious now, because you have a monitor app, then the models, whether they’re implants in people or it’s monitored using an app and the patient knows what’s really going on with their body at any given point in time.
Healthcare is definitely another space where we see a lot of disruption happening as a result of this. Another is online medium. I think the pandemic has got a lot to do with it, but the consumption of online media is through the roof, and nobody’s going to go back. Once you’ve experienced this form of consumption, this ease of consumption, and this flexibility of consumption, nobody’s going to go back from here.
I never used Instacart before or many of us had never used Instacart before. Now, all we do is Instacart and Amazon Fresh. That’s what the pandemic has done. I don’t think we’re going back. It’s so convenient and useful, because you don’t have to spend two hours trying to do your grocery run for the week. So, I’m personally an evidence of the transformation.
From my experience working with developers and businesses in Android as a tech ecosystem, I’ve observed how Android has disrupted and continues to innovate with the developers. From your experience, how are tech ecosystems fundamental to enterprise success and growth?
I’ve learned a lot about how disruptive Android has been for you. You can read a lot, but it’s nothing like hearing from somebody who’s lived through that transformation. I’ve heard the war stories from you about how you’ve seen indie developers become billion dollar enterprises right in front of your eyes. That’s fascinating.
From an enterprise perspective, I’ve seen the rise of the three horsemen. If you want to include a fourth, I think there’s an aspiring fourth there. The three, at least, which are Microsoft with the Azure platform, Amazon Web Services, and Google with the Google Cloud Platform. We’ll keep the fourth as the joker in the pack. There’s a whole bunch of people aspiring to be the fourth right now. Those are the four or five defining platforms for the enterprise at this point in time. When you talk about being a digital native, I think these tech ecosystems are going to be the fundamental fabric behind it. You build companies on top of these tech ecosystems at this point in time.
They are like the infrastructure. In the good old times, we used to have land and power and water and all of that, and these platforms are looking to that in the digital universe. That’s a great thing for us because we are all about ensuring amazing flawless experiences in the digital universe. That’s what we stand for, and that’s what we enable as a platform. So when companies and enterprises build their businesses on these tech ecosystems, it is fairly complex because it’s not one thing. They will consume a core platform, and then that’s got different elements to it that a lot of ecosystem players in the tech ecosystem will come and provide services on top of it.
Through all these connections, endpoints, and edges, you have to still deliver amazing end-user experiences because we go back to the three success factors of the digital economy. Through all this, you have to have that enabled. That’s where we come in. I think that’s what we’re seeing today. If I look at one of the examples of a company which is doing a massive cloud transformation, they were running all their services in their on-premise data centers in different parts of the world, and today they have moved on to one of the big tech platforms.
Now, they have lost control over a big part of what they would have considered the infrastructure. They own the application and they own the service and the end-user still has to get that flawless service in respect of the fact that it’s actually deployed on a tech ecosystem which has got different variables to it. That’s where we come in. In 40 locations across the world, we’re actually helping them ensure that the end-user is having an awesome experience.
I love this famous quote by Steve Jobs, which is “A customer doesn’t know what they want.” Come to think of it, HeadSpin is playing into that in the sense that the user doesn’t know what they have or what they need. HeadSpin is ensuring the user gets what they need, and that’s how we play together.
When you have this digital infrastructure provided by the tech ecosystems, HeadSpin ensures that the end-user is at the center of that. That’s so critical for these enterprises, because if the end-user is happy, they stay with you, you grow your business.
To that point, I would also say that the end-user may not know what they want or what they need, and once they get what they want, they don’t really need to know the technology that powered it. It’s the experience that really matters. HeadSpin as a platform or provider doesn’t have to be present or front-and-center, but still powering that kind of an experience. The users get what they want and are delighted with, and the technology takes care of everything else.
So, investing in the right technology and the right platform provider in this case becomes more crucial, because when something is not working as intended, you can actually step into the platform and drill down into the areas of performance.
You make a wonderful point, and I think that was beautifully said. This can get very technologically complex, and people can forget the end-user, because ultimately you’re trying to make things work and you’re trying to deliver a service. I can give you examples of that.
If you look at App Performance Monitoring (APM), it’s fascinating. I think they’ve been a big part of the digital transformation that we have seen, but what I am hearing from our customers again and again, is the fact that thanks to APM, they have tons of digital signals and tons of data points. Their question is what do they do with it? If they ended up engaging with each of those signals, they wouldn’t have enough bandwidth and resources to do that.
That’s where HeadSpin comes in, because HeadSpin will start with the user experience and the user journey. As the user journeys through their experience, what is happening? What are the signals which are weak? What are the signals which are strong? What’s aiding a good experience? What’s impeding a good experience? Then they can go act on it.
We are saving our enterprise customers — especially developers and gamers — from the data deluge they have thanks to all the tools out there which provide the data, and allowing them to focus on what’s important: the end-user experience. So, you make a great point of saying that we probably make this whole world so much more simple. Let’s focus on the end-user experience.
What is next for HeadSpin in the enterprise space, and what’s next for you as you think about navigating the space as well?
I think the most inspiring thing has been to see our team in action. It’s a fascinating bunch of people who have come together at this point in time. I think we got a phenomenal bunch of ideators and thinkers, and we have an amazing bunch of engineers. What I’ve observed over the last so many months is that our product is fast evolving. I’ve seen entire modules stand up on a product which was not there just a few weeks back. We were always the kings of mobile, and now we are becoming the kings of enterprise browser applications. We are becoming the kings of cloud application experience and becoming fairly significant when it comes to edge experiences.
I think there’s a big journey there that’s getting accelerated month on month in terms of new features that we’re delivering, because of the fact that we are able to support as many points as one can think about. The power and beauty of our platform is that we are not beholden to native apps or browser apps. We support screenless devices, HDMI capture devices, gateways, and more. Every other week, a customer comes up to me with a device they have created and asks whether we can make this work and how they can look at user experience on that device. More often than not, we are able to support the device. That’s the power of our platform.
In the era of COVID-19, field testing is so important. A lot of interesting companies are coming to us saying they can’t send people out there across different cities in different parts of the world to do field testing and asking if we can enable this amazingly interesting device that they have created and allow them to do field testing.
So, our platform is fast evolving to satisfy these kinds of needs. That’s on one side. We’ve become relevant to enterprises in terms of just features from shanties and whatnot. In terms of working with enterprises, the first thing that’s important is marrying enterprise use cases, opportunity statements, and problem statements to our platform. That’s where solutions really come in to bring those kinds of areas, problem statements, and use cases to our platform and create a solution out of it.
That’s one thing we’re focusing on a lot: ensuring that we speak the language of our customers and are able to solve problems which are important for our customers. In the journey of doing that, we are partnering with tech ecosystem players, because they are fundamental to the infrastructure of this world, and then working with specialist players who bring certain things for certain industries. They have solved problems in certain industries and they, along with HeadSpin is a big value to our customers. From an engagement perspective, really working with partners and system integrators who have the capability to work at scale right. Take HeadSpin, take a third-party solution, and work with the tech ecosystem player and then deliver it at scale to a large customer.
That’s where that partner ecosystem really comes. I think what defines success for us is having large customers and customers who stay with us and bring a lot more use cases to us and become larger and larger with us. That’s sort of how we are working with that evolving enterprise ecosystem.
Any parting thoughts?
This too shall pass. I think that’s what I would say. Hang tight. We are here to help you, and we will stay very close to our customers. I think the next few months will be fairly defining not just from exiting the current situation the world is in, but also from entering a new universe of possibilities where companies are truly in the digital universe.