Product Feature Request Pruning

In my experience the issue tracking / feature request system that you use as part of your product management strategy will quickly become bloated with lots of ideas from different constituents (employees, partners, customers, media, analysts, etc). It is important to be very opinionated with your product’s functionality and to fight hard to keep the application focused.

One of the things I recommend doing is similar to old saying that you should give away any clothes you haven’t worn for a year: you should delete any request older than six months that hasn’t come up again in the past six months. This strategy helps clear out items that kept getting re-prioritized lower. The act of letting the requests sit there and fester creates noise — delete them now.

Tips for a User’s Conference

We’re putting on our third annual User’s Conference tomorrow and have 123 registered attendees (sold out!). After having done it for a few years, we’ve come up with some recommendations for those who haven’t done one before:

  • Charge 50% more than you think to cover costs as there are always expenses you didn’t anticipate (shuttle buses, swag, videographers, etc)
  • Book the least number of rooms possible to still get a good rate — you don’t want to be on the hook for extra rooms and hotels will always add more at your rate once you’ve filled your allotment
  • Use a nice conference center and hotel — we made the mistake last year of using a nice brand hotel that was 20 years old and woefully out of date. The conference is a reflection of your company.
  • Make sure your company employees know that the conference is a time to engage with customers and prospects — don’t just chat with other employees.
  • Have fun!

I’m a big proponent of User’s Conferences and recommend them as a great way to engage with your customer community.

Commercial Real Estate Economic Nonsense

Our office lease ends in six months and we’re in the process of looking at lease options. We have an amazing office now (MTV’s old office) and would like to extend the lease for one year. The building won’t do it — they won’t do anything less than a two year extension. They claim that they are worried that with all the new buildings coming on the market they’ll be left with more empty space and want to solidify longer term deals now. Wait, we’re offering to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to them for a space that is going to sit empty indefinitely and they are saying no. It doesn’t make sense.

My take is that the building management companies are so far removed from the building ownership companies that are so far removed from the pension funds that own it that there is a moral hazard of sorts. Economic wastefulness continues to amaze me.

Y Combinator for Atlanta – Part 2

My previous post on a Y Combinator for Atlanta has generated a good bit of off-line interest. Here are the most common questions I’ve been asked:

  • How would you choose the teams?
  • Do you think there will be enough interest and applications?
  • How will it differ from the original Y Combinator?
  • What happens to the teams at the end of the program?
We’ll find out these answers and more over the next 12 months.

Transitioning to a SaaS Business Model

Just under a year ago we started the process of overhauling our business in an effort to have 75% of our total revenue be recurring. It is very difficult to transition a traditional, enterprise software model to that of a SaaS type model. Our particular niche in the market was not suited to charging an annual per user fee for installed software (although some vendors in other B2B markets have made it work). We decided on a two pronged approach:

  • Offer a hosted version of our installed software, with a monthly per user fee
  • Build a new system from the ground up with a multi-tenant architecture

We started with 25% of our revenue as recurring and I predict we’re 1/3 of the way of a three year process.