Our trials and tribulations of launching a software product
By Scott McLean, COO, Odyssiant
Today marks a momentous milestone for us as the first module of our new software platform from our new software company is launched. It’s been a bit of a journey to get here, as you might imagine, and it feels like it’s been ages since it was working but not ready to go public – the joys of UI (User Interface) testing!
It all began this time last year when my business partner and I decided that the customer engagement methodology we had devised just couldn’t be brought to life with existing software – and trust me when I say that we didn’t make this decision lightly. Fortunately one of my closest friends from my school days happens to jointly run a small but perfectly formed software application development company called Concurrent Development and was immediately interested in the idea of forming a JV to bring our vision to life. I’ve worked with Pete and Fraser, his business partner, before when I needed software to support the last start-up I was involved in and so could rest assured in having firsthand experience of both working with him from a project development point of view and trusting the quality of their work.
And so Odyssiant was born. Actually, to be fair what was born was a company dubbed Newco while we toyed around with finding a suitable name. I’m not sure how strongly other new business owners feel about this, but the fact that so many .com url’s are ‘taken’ by opportunists hoping to make a quick buck from people who want that .com domain name is really annoying and, frankly, should not be allowed. Anyway, much headscratching and flinging around of domain names ended up with Odyssiant. If you’re curious and aren’t up to speed with your Greek myths, it is named after the Greek hero Odysseus who had a decade-long journey on the way back from the fall of Troy which was made famous by Homer’s book ‘Odyssey’ – a word we still use today to describe an epic journey which we felt suited our business (which is all about structuring audience journeys) perfectly.
Company formed, software design and build started in earnest and by October we were able to show an early version to existing clients of our consultancy business (The Intelligent Marketing Institute) and start to use it in anger ourselves. We felt this hands-on user testing was vital to ensure that what seemed like a good idea on paper, not only worked perfectly technically but was also suitable from a day-to-day user perspective. And thank goodness we took this approach as we have learnt so much about what it needed to do more easily, that we will have a far better product for it.
So what took so long to get it launched? It really comes down to three things. Firstly, we have learnt our lesson about scoping too quickly and cracking on with building. Basically, we overcomplicated it and spent quite a while understanding what we needed to strip back to make it do what we needed it to do really well. Secondly, we just learnt a lot from user testing as we went on – and we are deeply grateful to all our beta testers who have patiently and politely given us feedback along the way.
Thirdly, it’s our fault for setting the business up in the way we did. You see, we have not followed the standard start-up path of going and raising a chunk of cash and then spanking it all on development and then marketing. Instead our developers are building it around their existing workload commitments and we around our consultancy commitments. Without a doubt this has added at least a couple of months to its creation. But hey, in the grand scheme of things what’s a couple of months? As a result we have full control of our own company and our destiny without investors breathing down our necks for updates and for us to go faster. I’ve been there before. It’s not fun, it’s not pleasant and it’s not helpful.
But finally, today the Odyssiant Audience Journey Planner went live. We have no idea how popular it will prove – although ‘popular’ is possibly not the right word to use for a B2B tool – and by taking a unique approach to both content strategy and customer journey planning, it sits in the delicately balanced position of being in a market of one. But we have a strong development roadmap ahead which sees us launching straight into the build of our editorial production planning tool and a clear vision of what the full Odyssiant suite will deliver.
Ultimately we have hopes that we are building it for all the right reasons. We genuinely believe that we are solving a set of problems that businesses are struggling to get to grips with; namely, how to create mature content strategies that will deliver measurable commercial return, how to break down communications silos within the business, and how to deliver true customer-centricity through a complete end-to-end audience journey experience. This positivity is fuelled by the feedback and enthusiasm we have from both existing clients and prospective clients who are actively interested in both our approach and Odyssiant as a tool for helping to deliver that approach.
But now, you might say, the die is about to be cast and it will be interesting to see how the numbers land.