When asked to write this guest blog of course I said yes, or you would not be reading this now. But when the reality of writing came to be, I had to take a step back, put myself in the right frame of mind and reflect. To any small business owner, that takes effort. There are always other things to do, other priorities.
I was specifically asked about what it takes to launch a successful app/software product and how to stand out from the competition. As I write I contemplate should I tell a story or should I provide an outline? Considering the person who asked me to write this says I speak in bullet points and recently a marketing firm looking to do business with us provided a profile of me as part of their presentation, affirming that I am a bullet point person. So, there we have it…
Believe in what you are doing above all else, then assemble the team to help you get there. I recall in one of my classes learning that entrepreneurs needed to be willing to work alone. While I now see that there is some truth to this, I have to say it is much better if you can do it with others who have a shared vision.
Since 2007, we have developed many different applications and solutions, one thing has remained constant – the process of defining the business need and the application of technology. This synergy is something that in my mind is essential. I have been defined as the most technical non-technical and the least-technical technical guy by those on different ends of the spectrum.
Today I am a digital immigrant – I moved into the technology space as a user. I am one who appreciates fully how technology can help humans do what only humans can do. But to realize what I appreciate; I need others to make it happen. I was fortunate in that shortly after founding Adcieo, I met someone who could execute on the vision. I recall being told that I could define the what, but he would say the how. This has been core to our working side-by-side for the last 13 years creating several innovating solutions supporting nonprofits, universities, government entities, doctors, and hospitals.
Each application we have developed included a similar process. We would define the business need and then identify how technology could support this need. I have been a part of meetings that were all about technology or creating a solution for an undefined problem – each of these ended in a solution not being adopted.
Thankfully, those wasteful meetings taught me early on that you always align any solution with a problem (this is not to say that the problem is not one that is anticipated in the future). Our process has always been based on need, we define use cases, define opportunities, define solutions. We then chart an experience. Everything we do in life is in experience, and how we engage with it is fundamental to how we remember it. How we remember it is how we act or react to a future experience that is in a similar vein.
Once an application is launched it is critical to understand that it is becoming stale, just like bread left on the counter. Quickly it will become hard and crusty. The approach to evolution is essential to longevity. How a company establishes a mechanism for self-evaluation, client input, and re-envisioning is product offering often defines if it is a one and done, or if it has staying power.
Assuming you believe in what you are doing, and you create the team to execute, it is most important to deliver on the service. This is the most difficult aspect. It is often about managing expectations, and this is hard because it involves people and perspectives. In our world, the soft product is most critical. I believe this is true in other industries too. Delta has long been known to keep planes in service longer than some of its competitors. If the hard product was the single aspect of an evaluation, others would probably win, however when the hard product is combined with their soft-product, their service, Delta typically beats many of these same airlines. Know your customer. Will they tolerate a faded paint job if it is clean and polished each week – or would they prefer a new car that is dirty and scratched?
We know that our clients expect uptime and service more than every feature. In my past life, I recall a product advisory meeting where the client said we want you to be a platform, we don’t want you to create every latest widget. We want stability. The widgets change year to year, month to month. So decide if you are in the platform business or the widget business – both have value, but the value proposition of the client is different for each.
Finally, how to differentiate, I find this the easy part. As most businesses become greedy. Some may not like this statement, but I do think it is imperative to re-invest. Different businesses take on debt (cost), investors (dividends), and in the end lose some of their soul. It is hard to make it happen and maintain your soul, do to so requires your team to be on board, your partners to be on board, and you must execute above expectations.
From product offering to accessibility, responsiveness, and of course cost. But value is in the relationship, and this is a two-way street. For me personally, my soul is not for sale, and nothing is worth the sleepless nights. So, know who you are, what you want, and how you want to achieve it is key.