14 June 2011
The MA2 story 3: whatever next?
By Andrew Clifford
What would you do if you found yourself in charge of an exciting new product?
When we started developing MA2, we only intended to improve its support for assessment and analysis. Along the way, we accidentally created software with much broader potential. Our next challenge is to turn this software into a viable product and a viable business.
The potential of MA2 gives us some interesting opportunities, and we need to make some decisions.
- Should we promote MA2 as a general-purpose application development tool, or only use it ourselves to develop solutions for other people?
- Should we keep to our original scope of assessment, analysis and advisory solutions, or should we expand the scope to include related areas such as surveys, content management, online databases and dashboards?
- Who should we market the product to? Our plan had been primarily to target consultancy companies, but is it time to broaden our horizons?
- How should we make the product available? Although it could be sold as installable software, we have always in the past offered it as software-as-a-service (SaaS).
Although it is tempting to rush out and promote our product as a revolutionary wonder-tool, we are very aware how hard it is to convince people to use new tools and work in different ways. We have to demonstrate value rather than preach about it. We therefore made some decisions.
- Initially we are going to be selfish with our technology. We will use it ourselves to deliver solutions, rather than promoting it as a general-purpose tool. It will be much easier to promote the general-purpose nature of the software when we have created many solutions using it.
- Although we do want to open up the full capabilities initially, we do want customers and partners to create their own solutions. The software allows us to create "metaproducts", or templates for solutions of certain types. We will start with an assessment and advisory metaproduct, which will make it easy to package questionnaires, expert system rules and reports into an easy-to-use product. We can create more metaproducts as the business develops.
- Users are the lifeblood of software, and we need to increase our user base. We will focus on making the product easy for casual use. We will let people use MA2 for free to try out products and understand the value.
- We will stick to the SaaS model for now. We will focus our business on creating and marketing a compelling Internet-based offer, rather than diluting our energy on chasing installed software business. Technically, it will allow us to focus on building compelling solutions, rather than supporting packaged software.
- We will keep an open mind, and be prepared to change direction and try new things as the business develops. MA2 allows us to be very flexible, and we need to exploit this flexibility in our own business.
Having a technical background, I find the move from software development to business development very daunting. Our new technology gives us huge opportunities for success, but there will be challenges along the way. I am scared and I am excited, in equal measure.
Next: User interfaces, style and art
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