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Build a better product by getting your feet really dirty (& what is coming next)

You can't build software to manage a business without real-life, day-to-day experience running a business.  WORK[etc] CEO explains how he brings his experience running offline businesses into product development strategy.
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Managing a business is all about being at the coalface. 

Building software to manage a business is all about what we think you’ll need to scale that coalface. 

And is the case with all software, what you do at the coalface versus what you need at the coalface are rarely 100% aligned.

Outside of WORK[etc] I advise to two businesses, Crucial Conversations – a training and HR business and Your Local Finance (YLF), a finance provider.  Intentionally both businesses are not technology plays or software based.  They are your offline, face-to-face, sales-to-delivery-to-support businesses.

Co-incidentlly, both businesses outgrew their legacy CRM’s earlier in the year. This was an opportunity to get my feet really dirty scaling that coalface.

For Crucial Conversations, ACT!, although it was perfectly functional, had become unwieldy, expensive to make available online and really only covered the sales aspects of the business.  There was no easy way to turn a sales lead into a project to manage delivery logistics and no way to automatically maintain a customer’s purchase history.

With YLF the industry standard product, a Frankenstein Salesforce mash-up that was clunky as a three wheeled cart, was going to be insanely expensive to adapt to the business model.  And even then it would end up as son-of-Frankenstein implementation.

The timing gave me an opportunity to be ultra-efficient and migrate both businesses across to WORK[etc] and by doing so switch from a Work[etc] “customer-empathy” mindset to a Business Owner “this-is-how-we-work” mindset.  At first glance, both frames of mind seem similar, but fundamentally they could not be more different.

Ever heard of the expression “this software looks like it was made by software developers?”  That is customer-empathy thinking.  We think we know what the customer wants and this is how it is.

When you step out of that mindset and actually “do”, your perspective flips.  It becomes not about how the software works, but how the business works.  I work like this and so should my business software.

Whatever your industry, whatever your product or service, it is Insight that powers greatness, not empathy.

With this in mind I went through the actions of setting up both accounts from scratch.

Right off the back of this little project came another 100 or so user-experience changes that, from a “customer-empathy” perspective seemed inconsequential.  But experience this from an insight perspective and they become not quite a big deal, but big enough to cause pain (particularly if on this particular day, you overslept, spilt coffee down the front of you and have a deadline looming … yes, one of those days).

We’ve been working on these improvements for the last few weeks and still have a few more weeks to go.  And unfortunately, wearing both my CEO and Customer hats, it is frustrating as hell that everything always takes twice as long to do.

Here is a random selection of highlights and why they were critical to training and finance businesses:

Better Form Setup.New streamlined approach to setting up actions based on web forms submissions.In the example (to the left) it is a just a few simple clicks to take a web form and turn it into a support ticket automatically assigned to an employee with priority and status already assigned.We also take a similar approach with turning forms into sales leads.
Multiple Sales Processes

Set up and manage different sales processes that better match particular products, services or divisions within your business.For example, a finance broker often has compliance requirements depending what product they are selling. A home loan might require a property valuation as part of the “sales” process and portfolio of stocks might require the customer to sign a declaration that they are an informed investor.Using the new sales processes, that finance broker can set up a discrete process (and reporting) for each product type and then manage sales accordingly. The extra bonus here is of course ensuring industry compliance is met as part of the sales process.
More meaningful dashboards.Aside from the new designs, layout and options, we’ve also created a bunch of business-wide widgets.For example, “what is my team working on?” allows you to select a individual people or workgroups and visualize on the dashboard their assigned work for the day.Recent Activity allows you to select a person or workgroup and view their activity stream on your dashboard. For example, lets say you wanted to monitor how you’re new person in support is working out. You would just select their name in the options, filter to show only support activities and there you have it – a real-time history in your dashboard of their every move in WORK[etc].
New iPhone & Android AppsBrand new, 100% native apps for both iPhone and Android.We’re talking 100x improvement in speed, local caching of data and a completely redone interface.This release also includes the long awaited Sales Leads module – create and update sales leads from your device.The iPhone app is the closest to release with final internal testing underway now and an ETA mid-November (largely depending on Apples’ review process). The Android app is maybe 4 weeks behind the iPhone.
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