Every day we are on the front lines of an age-old battle in software – simplicity vs. flexibility. We aren’t the first, nor are we the pre-eminent, simple software shop. We are the practitioners of a software philosophy that runs contrary to how most companies develop software today. Tersely put we subscribe to the premise that Simple is Better and Less is More. We do work to stay true to our simple (and humble) roots. We think about what we will look like to our customers: 6 months from now, 1 year from now, 10 years from now. The question we are really working to solve is: Can we stay flexible AND simple or is flexible just a code word for complicated? A good follow up question is: Are simple and flexible mutually exclusive or, if done right, intimately intertwined?
We work to succeed in the next generation of SaaS software, CRM Sales Tool Software to be exact, that is just beginning to gain a foothold in the market. PipelineDeals is now being used in major corporations; these customers are big and important customers for us. Additionally, our small-to-medium sized customers buying 1 – 15 seats collectively make up a critical customer base. Whether we are working with a major customer on a requested improvement or the solo marketing woman who has a cool new feature request – we are constantly looking to strike the balance between simplicity and flexibility.
Any software tailor-made just for one customer, or even a handful of customers, is a business that is building additional risk into itself. It is very tempting to chase the big customers, current or future, but choosing the bright lines where your software-as-a-service offering begins and ends is not easy. Key signposts we look to when evaluating and prioritizing the influx of customer requests include:
- How valuable is this enhancement to all of our customers?
- What is the price new, or future, customers will pay in terms of a learning curve to adjust and/or accommodate this enhancement?
- Is this a "nice to have" or a "must have" feature for most of our customers?
- Would this feature just be burying complexity in the Admin and My Settings menus, which will require more learning (i.e., time) after account sign up?
Frankly, the degree of difficulty for a new feature doesn’t truly factor in. We believe in the adage of "running upstairs" because it is harder for others to follow and it is more satisfying. I think that our intrinsic value to our customers, again current and future, is imbedded in our ability to walk the tightrope between simplicity and flexibility. We have learned from doing this for a couple of years now to identify customers early on who can be our sounding board, critical feedback givers, and enhancement checkpoints. These people do ebb and flow over time, but it is critical to maintain a solid rapport with a stable of these people. In the end our customers will vote with their dollars on our decisions, rewarding good choices and punishing wrong ones. What more can you ask for?