Great Software Is More Than A Cool Product
- By: Tom McKeown
- Blog, Press and Published Articles
- February 2, 2022
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This question is a paraphrasing of remarks made by George Berkeley in his work A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge. In the world of software development, a similar phrase can be used that reads more like: “If a software application is developed and no one uses it, does it make a difference.”
There have been plenty of great applications developed and marketed over the years that did not gain enough traction to be successful. Many of those that can be named emanated from large, successful companies. These are notable because those organizations had deep enough pockets and could absorb the failure while continuing to stay in business. However, for a smaller company with a great application, that lack of adoption can lead to no sales, no money, no more employees and, eventually, a quiet exit from business.
How can a new software application gain the requisite adoption to make a difference? It takes more than creating something cool or even extremely useful. The first step is to know who would buy the application. If the software developed is a business application, there are countless sales books available that outline who the key prospects are within organizations. In my experience, however, there are really two that are essential to know and target. The first is the user of the application, and the second is the decision-maker who will be able to buy it. There can be many users but very few — and often only one — decision-makers.
Once these individuals are identified, the application must have three key attributes and be targeted appropriately.
• Critical need. The application must fill a critical need that is causing an organization or individual pain in not having such a solution. Does it replace a costly manual process for the user, like constantly filling out and updating spreadsheets? Or does it allow the extraction of some essential piece of information for the decision-maker that can provide the business a competitive edge? CB Insights found that one of the top reasons why technology startups fail is because there is no market need for their product.
• Demonstrable value. Providing both personal and business value is key to any product’s adoption. There is the personal value that allows a user to fix a problem or streamline a process, which thereby gets them noticed. However, for that user to sell the solution upstairs to the decision-maker, there must be a business value measured in cost savings or revenue increase that can justify the investment.
• Ease of everything. Any offering from a smaller player or startup must be easy to use with benefits that are easy to consume. The industry giants can sell software that is difficult to use and require hours of training, but not a newcomer. Their offering must practically work by itself with benefits that jump right out.
Even with the above attributes, any application that intends to thrive inside a company must constantly be pushed in front of those who can derive benefit from it. The user is more likely to be a creator of content, whereas a decision-maker is more likely to be a consumer of it. As most business software applications tend to be software as a service (SaaS), that means they come up for renewal. Users might be pecking away and maximally using an application, but if the decision-makers are not seeing regular value, then that application may be perceived as not doing the job. Thus, it is essential that an application is constantly pushing benefits out to the decision-makers, and here’s how.
• Mobile accessibility. According to Statista, 55% of page views in the first quarter of 2021 came from portable devices. Don’t rely on busy executives or even staff employees having to get in front of their PC to gain the valuable insights that your product offers. Let them gain access from their pocket by using their phone.
• Natural language processing (NLP). Successful applications are those that allow the quickest extraction of information. NLP-capable applications can allow users to communicate with them through simple typed or spoken queries. Whether on PCs or phones, an application should not require navigating through a predefined workflow for results. Allow for a simple question (“How much did turnover cost the company last month?”) to be all that is required. Business applications have lagged way behind consumer ones on this key capability.
• Text and email alerts. Don’t make a C-level executive log into a system to learn that revenue per employee increased by 20% last month. Push those updates out to them wherever they are by sending time-automated or threshold-triggered texts and emails. Make good news travel faster.
It’s no small feat to create a compelling and useful software application, but turning it into a successful business requires getting it in front of people who will use it, evangelize it and pay money for it. Don’t stop short at just building the application; deliver benefits to those who can see the value and build a business that will long endure.