I was just at WPC, and I heard over and over again the same challenge from software developers: customers request new features that will benefit only a few users, but fulfilling those requests means ditching their roadmap and spending less time on features with wider appeal. Can you, as a software developer, do both? Believe it or not, there is a solution that allows you to fulfill customer requests and stick to your roadmap. What are the options you have?
Happy customer, sad roadmap
Customers of software companies aren’t generally concerned about your roadmap. If there’s a feature “missing” (from their perspective), they want it now. And to add to the challenge, customers frequently expect their feature to be added for free. With limited development resources, you’re left bumping critical (profitable!) roadmap features in favor of short-term customer good-will.
Sad customer, happy roadmap
On the other hand, you can stick to your roadmap and risk some customer dissatisfaction.
CodeTwo makes products to enhance Exchange and Office 365. Their Sales and Marketing Director Szymon Szczesniak told me the company’s disciplined engineering culture prevented any request from distracting their development team unless it would be of broad value to their product and customers. Sometimes, he explained, this did mean they lost sales, but it was an acceptable price to pay to keep their quality so high.
Happy customer, happy roadmap, happy YOU
At the end of the day, the reality is you don’t have to sacrifice either your roadmap or your customer’s happiness. There’s a third and much better option: partnership.
At Digital Mettle, we partner with software companies to help them solve this challenge. Our partner companies refer their customer directly to us as their “solution provider partner,” and we proceed to fulfil the need with a custom add-on to the original product. Our partner gets to say “yes” to customer requests without sacrificing their roadmap. The customer is happy because they have the feature they wanted, and, because they own the add-on entirely, they can take it in whatever direction they choose.
Here’s how it works:
Our partner BrightDoor provides marketing tools and a specialized CRM and inventory system to the real estate industry. In 2011, a customer approached them and requested a mobile application to directly connect real estate prospects to inventory and marketing materials contained in the BrightDoor product. BrightDoor’s developers were in the middle of a major release of their core product and could not be reassigned to meet the client’s request, so instead of refusing the request, they asked us to develop the requested mobile application, owned by their customer, in approximately four months using BrightDoor’s existing APIs.
The customer has been very happy with the app, evolving it several times to meet their changing needs. Even after BrightDoor added a mobile solution to their core product, the customer decided to continue using the mobile app they own and can customize however they like.
We all know that cooperating with partners who have complementary expertise means being able to say “yes” to a whole lot more clients and client requests. As Michael Worthington of our partner BrightDoor said, “Whether you’re in an entrepreneurial start-up mode or trying to expand your existing software platform to address ever-shifting client needs, you have to move quickly. This can often lead to disappointing, half-baked solutions. However, if you have a software development partner that truly understands you (and your clients) and couples that with insightful guidance and outstanding, quality code, then you truly have something valuable.”
Next time you get one of those one-off feature requests that you know is not going to improve your future sales, consider the potential benefits of referring that request to a custom development services partner.
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