Going with the Flows: The building blocks to free up fast innovation
“If you can think it, you can flow it..”
Mike Broughton, CTO for new igaming software as a service (SaaS) start-up, Flows, treated me to a demo of the technology, which aims to empower gaming industry employees with the agnostic building blocks to drive innovation quickly and at scale.
Notice I chose the wider term of employees – and not tech staff – as the service has been designed, at least in part, to free up some of the load on development teams.
As Flows CEO James King, who joined Broughton for the demo, nicely described it: “We want to deliver API-led connectivity that liberates resources, delivers choice and which allows our partners to innovate and to move quickly.”
During our demo, Broughton actually referred to one of his target audiences as “clever customer service staff and managers”, so he was testing himself by trying to educate me.
In any case, he set about the challenge – kindly setting up a test named ‘Luke’s Flow’ to showcase how the data ‘flows’ from the starting input node through to how it impacts, in this example, player journey. This doesn’t necessarily always result in action – it might just be to monitor a segment of players or check names against a KYC checklist.
Importantly, the data – or the ‘firing pin’ (just a cool phrase I picked up) – can be accepted in any form. As Broughton explained, this might be from a server, a web page, your mobile phone, an app or a stream of data he described as a ‘hosepipe’, such as Kafka or Rabbit.
I’ll pick up on the hosepipe part, as I think it’s a helpful analogy to try and convey how this works. In this example, the hosepipe allows Flows to connect to the backend solution of, let’s say an operator, and start to improve the experience for its players.
“We can add this type of functionality to any operator you have as long as you can get us the data,” said Broughton. “We can then enrich your customers’ experience, making it unique for each operator. That’s exactly what this is doing, in this instance.
“You literally point the data source to us, press the ‘learn’ button, wait until your messages have been digested, which could be minutes depending on use case. And then we’re good to go in real time.”
At this point, he picked ‘deposit callback’ (anyone that makes a deposit), to fire the start of our new test flow. He then showed how to build the flow, using the example of a user with a > €1,000 deposit and lifetime deposits of 1 (so the users’ first deposit), to show how you could quickly tag a new player as a potential VIP.
This flow progresses from left to right as you look at it, flowing in on the left hand side of the box and out on the right. Green would indicate a positive onward flow (on to the next stage), whereas a red line would indicate no (if indeed, the flow continues at all).
The result of this flow might have been to alert staff to a VIP, perhaps through a Slack or Skype message (any app you use can be quickly connected), but that’s just scratching the surface of its potential.
Broughton shared a host of other use cases, for example interacting with a player’s geolocation (identifying in real time their exact location) then checking against an integrated weather API and offering a ‘sunshine bonus’ for those it knows are in places where it’s raining (but this could have also been used for geoblocking where required), or even customised front end displays depending on whether you are logged in or how much balance you have left.
He continued by contrasting two other possible flows; the first where you might apply a ‘cooling off’ period to a player on an unlucky spin streak, and the second where you react to a successful bet placed by highlighting the odds for the same outcome in the next event.
In fact, there were so many other examples shared by Broughton. I won’t go into too many more (you can reach out to King for a demo), but he did raise another interesting point about the drawbacks of legacy software – particularly those which have issues in connecting multiple third party systems.
He said: “Imagine you’ve got a number of disparate systems, you’re an old boy in the business and you’ve got five or six systems that don’t talk to each other. You can actually use us to do the integration and become your systems glue.
“So if we have, for example, Server A and Server B which don’t talk to each other, they can both talk to us. So we can do everything necessary to connect them.”
Another criticism of legacy software, and perhaps development and innovation on a more general level, is that it can be slow – product roadmaps can be long and cumbersome and often populated with reactive projects opposed to proactive ones.
“It’s a bugbear for people in the industry that we feel we can solve,” said King. “Whether you’re a supplier or an operator, the speed of integration is too long. It might be weeks if you’re lucky, but typically it’s months depending on the sort of platform you have. With Flows, you will be able to have something up and running in days, even hours.”
Finally, I’ll leave you with one final Flows benefit to ponder. Genuine innovation in the gaming space may often be overlooked because of the expenses involved.
If you’re adding to a roadmap, you need to be pretty sure it will work because likely you’re counting the production costs either way. However, in this case you’ll only be charged for each time you set off the ‘firing pin’ (sorry, I wanted to use it again) on a single flow (which could be anything from creating a small flow through to a full blown feature build).
King explained: “What’s great for the commercial model of a business is that we are doing it based on volume. So if you write 1,000 flows, but you only initiate one of them, you’ll only be charged every time that single one is firing. You can keep writing them and testing them, maybe thinking that’s a good one to plan for the future.
“But you won’t be charged continual production costs. Again, if you’re talking to developers or product teams, and you’re getting them to work on anything that may or may not end up going live, there’s a heavy cost involved. It’s a huge benefit of working with Flows.”