Software is a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.
My long-time client, a general contractor, called me this weekend with a “great idea” for some custom cloud-based software that will transform his business. I get calls like this all the time; these requests usually go something like this:
- Client is in pain
- Build a new software system
- No more pain
This is cloudy thinking.
I asked my client about his real objectives, and he started rattling off requirements for this piece of magic software. The problem with this thinking is that it may give you what you want, but it doesn’t necessarily give you what you need. Most consultants, especially in the software business, will approach these projects as opportunities to rack up endless billable hours to create a brilliant application that doesn’t do a damn thing to help the customer’s real pain.
We discussed the underlying pain he was suffering. It had nothing to do with inefficient software. He had too much business! He was turning away jobs because he simply didn’t have the personal bandwidth or manpower to scale his operation up.
He also revealed a secondary goal – to expand nationally. As a local contractor, he can’t possibly take jobs nationwide. How could he be everywhere? He has a strong brand – one we could leverage as a marketing tool. So we created a plan.
Social CRM to the rescue.
I implemented a cloud-based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to manage his growing national referral network, and to ensure consistency in his branding. Through social media and other channels, we advertised him nationally, and referred jobs out to local contractors under his brand, sharing the revenue. The local contractors were free to use whatever software systems they liked, so long as the end customer received reports and other materials using my clients’ branding.
While I did create some custom software, it was not at all what my client originally envisioned.
However, it is what he needed. Software is simply the enabler of a solid business plan. We approached the business plan first, and the implementation details later.
We started with a request for new software, but followed this line of thinking instead:
- Understand the pain
- Define a business objective
- Determine measures of success
- Evaluate the value of the effort
- Alleviate pain
Much better, right?
I am passionate about building cloud-based systems and leveraging technology to solve business problems. However, it’s ultimately the business problems I help solve which creates the real value, not the tools used to get there.
Is your head in the cloud?
Challenge Questions for Business Leaders
- What pain are you suffering, for which you’ve been considering a technology solution?
- What are your longer term strategic goals?
- What have you tried before that didn’t work?