Digital Transformation & Maturity

Lessons from Reliance Jio: Be agile and innovate

In this series of three articles, Dr. Steffen Roehn, Senior Advisor to Reliance Jio, first shared lessons learned about the necessary ‘soft’ factors needed to achieve scale as quickly as Reliance Jio has. In the second article, he focused on technology and architecture. Here Dr. Roehn looks at achieving agility and innovation in a large organization.

1. Focus on one problem only at a time and get it out of the way fast

This principle has been very effective in ensuring that all teams were only focused on the actual challenge at hand, with no room for excuse for non-delivery. It also ensured, we were flexible, reacting to the largest issue at hand with a very quick turnaround time. One of the greatest examples was the implementation – from decision to full deployment in the field – of the digital onboarding solution within just three weeks.

2. Agility, agility, agility

Agility was taken to the extreme, at least in the phase of building and massively testing our platform. While many of our partners for back-end systems have release cycles from many months up to even years, we knew that we wouldn’t be able to deal with that in our startup mentality, with our bold ambitions and in the hyper-dynamic market in India. Thus, we forced upon even large back-end providers a very agile and fast model.

We also ensured, that every customer-facing, partner-facing and employee-facing platform would ultimately be developed by our own team. That enabled agile approaches and nowadays even allows for microservice deployment in certain areas.

However, we had to compensate for quality challenges in this ‘fast fail and fix fast’ approach, especially when it came to customer experience. We therefore implemented early in the process a unique way of testing from a customer’s/sales partner’s perspective.

We hired and trained a couple hundred engineers fresh from college, providing them with comprehensive training about our services and platforms, and then asked them to use and test all our data, voice services and apps. Through this, we had firsthand familiarity of not only major flaws, but of the core target group (digital users), directly pouring their ideas into our development.

This was so successful that we decided to use this approach for almost all new future services and platforms. This is not substituting regular testing phases and testing automation, but in addition to it, giving us the extra edge to be better than our main competitors.

3. Innovation – test any relevant innovation fast

Innovation is only good if you can implement and deploy it effectively. We therefore adopted the habit of looking at many new evolving technologies, working with the teams running those companies. If they were superior and eager to go the extra mile for us, we would run two to three weeks with of proofs of concepts and take a quick decision whether to deploy or not.

By doing this, we avoided massive request for proposal (RFP) processes and had the new innovations available quickly. Very often we used multiple competing solutions/technologies to see what suited us best. Whenever we saw a technology/solution with great potential, we started to build our own technical team alongside the deployment.

What are the key takeaways from building and scaling Reliance Jio?

  1. Powerful ambitions move mountains
  2. Find the very best people – combining global experts and local talent
  3. Personal ownership for end-results – no limits
  4. Design decisions – scalability, performance, resilience, automation and a lot more
  5. Think extremely big – follow-up in the tiniest (important) details
  6. Treat and challenge technology partners as (co-)owners of business success
  7. Focus on one problem only at a time and get it out of the way fast
  8. Agility, agility, agility
  9. Innovation – test any relevant innovation fast

Finally, I would like to thank all my extraordinary colleagues from Reliance Jio and all our partners, who made this remarkable success possible.



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About The Author

Senior Advisor to Reliance Jio

Combining the entrepreneurship of a CEO, the analytical power of a physicist and the global implementation power of a CIO.

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