Welcome to 2012!

The-Lean-StartupThis is an email I sent to my company (@ExumaTech) this morning outlining our focus for 2012. I am reading “The Lean Start-up” by Eric Ries if you can’t tell:

Happy New Year Everyone –

2011 was a good year for Exuma. Through the collective hard work of everyone on the team we had a profitable year and we were able to share the fruits of our labor with everyone. 2012 can be an even better year for us. We must continue to be vigilant about maintaining healthy profit margins and doing the right thing for our customers.

At Exuma we not only want to be profitable and “wow” our customers, but we want to build a sustainable business. This is done using an iterative methodology called “Build – Measure – Learn”. It’s really simple. We turn ideas into products, we measure how our customers (existing and future) like them, then we decide whether to keep it, or chuck it and try something different. We should focus on being able to speed up the cycle and get feedback quickly so we can make adjustments quickly.

Our big development initiative this year is 7.0. You might think that the feedback loop on 7.0 would be a long cycle. Actually I would be a big mistake on our part if it was. Although it is not likely that we will be releasing 7.0 in 2012, we must continue to get feedback both internally and from customers on what it is we are building. One of the mistakes we identified in the TPOS project was not getting feedback early enough in the development cycle. Development tried to make special orders and returns work just like the old POS. Lots of time was wasted working on functionality that was clumsy and initially no one thought to rethink the process and gather feedback. We lost nine months due to the absence of a good feedback loop.

Outside of 7.0, our two main initiatives in 2012 will be hosted (DockMaster in the cloud) and mobile. We are working to bring the cost of our hosted solution down so we can be more competitive and profitable. We are going to stumble and make mistakes as we define the best hosted solution for our customers. That’s Ok. It’s part of the process.

Our mobile initiative is focused on delivering very light weight apps for both smartphones and tablets that will allow our customers to access their DockMaster database while they are on the move. The idea here is NOT to bring new functionality to the mobile platform, instead we want to give our customers some of the core DockMaster features on a mobile device. These apps should be lightweight and the cycle time to develop them should be relatively short. I’ve been working on a prototype that simply allows someone to create a customer and retrieve customer information. Customers want light weight easy to use solutions for their employees. This is evident from the popularity of ThreeClix. Reselling someone else’s product is fine for things that we don’t have core expertise in, like CRM. But we must also build on our own strengths which are accounting, service, inventory and storage. If you haven’t done so already, go to http://mobile.dockmaster.com from your smartphone. This is not what the end product will look like, it’s only a prototype to help us learn these new technologies and get customer feedback.

2012 can be a very exciting year for us. I have no idea what the economy will bring, but we can continue to control and improve upon our own situation. It starts with each one of us. It starts with the attitude we bring to work each morning. Each of us has a choice to be either a shining light or a cynic? I am hopeful that the team will grow together and prosper in 2012!