According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US, only 44% of small businesses successfully make it through four years of operation. One reason is that because of their size, small businesses cannot master the skills that larger organizations have (such as marketing, sales, service and technology). So, it should not be a surprise that they have a hard time competing in the marketplace.
One of the areas that has been a weak spot for small businesses is the use of technology in general and software in particular.
From a software vendor standpoint, small businesses were traditionally overlooked as a target market. In fact, in the 1990’s, common wisdom was that successful software vendors should focus on large enterprises, where the money resides, and apply the direct sales model, with a $100K+ price tag. The wisdom at the time was that smaller price tags did not justify a direct sales force, and required indirect selling. Selling through resellers, however, was and still is hard to crack. It’s hard to get resellers to commit to sell a product before it gets traction. And even later, it’s hard to educate resellers to sell a product proficiently.
From a small business point of view, buying software is—simply put–not easy. How can a small business be expected to have the skills to evaluate new software? How can they be expected to master how to operate the software? How can they be expected to integrate it with other software? And, when it comes to on-premise software, how can they afford to deploy and manage the software?
But then SaaS came along.
Posted in Application Design, Application Lifecycle Management, Automated Marketing, Consumer Software, Customer Support, Enterprise Software, Future of Software, HubSpot, Internet Software, Internet Technology, Marketing, New Ventures, Pricing, Product Design, Product Management, Product Planning, SaaS, SaaS Go-to-Market, Salesforce.com, Small Businesses, SMB, SMB Market, Software, Software as a Service, Software Design, Software Marketing, Technology, User Experience Design, User Interface Design, Web Applications, Web User Experience, Web User Experience, Web User Interface, Webcollage
In case you’ve missed this monumental event, Apple designer Jonathan Ive was knighted last week by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace.
Indeed, Apple (with Jonathan Ive’s dominant participation) has revolutionized how consumer electronics products are designed. Starting with its color iMacs, which introduced color as an important buying criteria into the mainstream consumer electronics market, and later (as discussed ad nauseam) with its iPods, iPhone and iPad products, Apple has led the market with respect to how products are designed.
In the non-software world, product design has been acknowledged to be a vital part of product success. Industrial design has become a profession, driving product design in multiple industries. Furniture company IKEA has grown based on offering “highly designed” (and arguably, mediocre quality) furniture. Sodastream, a publicly traded $700m maker of home carbonation products, has started growing after putting focus on product design.
When it comes to software, however, there isn’t even a well-defined role, position, or step in the process that addresses the full spectrum of product design. Continue reading
Posted in Agile Software Development, Application Design, Application Lifecycle Management, Enterprise Software, Future of Software, Marketing, Product Design, Product Management, Product Planning, Product Roadmap, SaaS, Software as a Service, Software Marketing, Software Methodology, Technical Documentation, UI, User Experience, User Experience Design, User Interface Design, UX, Web Applications, Web User Experience, Web User Experience, Web User Interface, Website Design
Tagged Apple, iMac, iPad, iPhone, Knighthood, London, software development lifecycle, technology
Earlier this week I’ve had a chance to present WebCollage’s agile development methodology at a local Agile Practitioners meeting.
At WebCollage, we are releasing a new version of our SaaS based solution to our customers every two weeks. We released 23 versions in 2011, and will be releasing the 6th version of our software over this upcoming weekend. In other words, we are firm believers in agile development and in its ability to help obtain continuous market feedback (here’s a previous post on this topic).
For various reasons, though, agile development has become somewhat synonymous with one specific approach, namely Scrum. Realizing that Scrum is widely accepted, I previously expressed an opinion that Scrum is perhaps an interesting recipe, but is far from being the best approach to SaaS agile development (and web application development in general). I have received quite a lot of feedback on that other post, some with contrarian views arguing that Scrum is perhaps a silver bullet after all.
There’s always something to be said for using the most popular approach. As an old IT saying goes, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. In this regard, there are intrinsic advantages to using Scrum, most notably the industry ecosystem: ability to easily find knowledge, share best practices, etc.
Insomuch as the actual methodology goes, though, there are simply better alternatives for many software development scenarios. Here’s a sketch of how we at WebCollage develop software, and the advantages it has over Scrum. Our approach is an adaptation of Kanban/Lean software development.
Posted in Agile, Agile Software Development, ALM, Application Lifecycle Management, Future of Software, Iterative Development, Kanban, Product Roadmap, SaaS, Scrum, Software, Software as a Service, Software Engineering, Software Updates, Web Applications, Web User Experience, Website Creation
Tagged agile development methodology, Agile Software Development, development scenarios, web application development
I regularly try out new web applications, and I am often amazed to see web applications that assume that a “short introduction video” will get users to understand what the product does and how to use it.
Sure, people love videos, and watch tons of funny cat videos. But, application tutorials aren’t funny cat videos, at least in most cases. For one thing, especially if you’re marketing a SaaS application to business users, it’s likely that users don’t even have headphones connected at their work space; or, similarly, that they doesn’t feel comfortable watching videos with their peers around. As likely, they may want to start using the application right away and may not want to take the time to watch an introduction video. But, most importantly, a video is just one tool in one’s toolbox, and getting users from point A (say, registered for a free trial) to point Z (they’re the guru of your product and help their peers use it) takes much more than a video.
Earlier this week, we at WebCollage have launched a new revision of our Content Publisher welcome pages, so I thought it may be a good opportunity to share the techniques we’ve come up with in terms of communicating our application functionality to first-time users.
I tried to outline 7 “tools” you can use to get first-time users to understand and hopefully like you web application. Here goes–
Posted in Application Design, Customer Support, Marketing, Product Design, Product Management, Product Planning, Product Roadmap, SaaS, SaaS Go-to-Market, Software, Software as a Service, Software Engineering, Software Marketing, Software Methodology, Technical Documentation, UI, User Experience, User Experience Design, User Interface Design, UX, Web Applications, Web Help, Web User Experience, Web User Experience, Web User Interface, Web Writing, Website Creation, Website Design