The definition of evolution is to include, improve and transcend what has gone before. Our evolution has not been a traditional one because our main focus has been about creating a great experience for each customer. This has always been the essence of our growth, as I truly believe a good experience creates customer loyalty, and that’s everything, because software functionality can only go so far.
There are pros and cons for this approach. It has built an expectation amongst our customers: if something is requested then it will get built, but, this has sometimes led us into cul-de-sacs. But if you have a pre-prescribed plan and it doesn’t meet the customers’ needs they simply won’t pursue it.
Essentially, the evolution of our system is a contest between our customers’ needs and what their budgets allow. When we first started out, our software was centred on the ‘refer element’: data moved from medical professionals to exercise on referral programmes (EOR). It provided the ability to view a record that had been received alongside the ability to create four to five standard reports, which evolved to include the creation of activities and activity sessions eighteen months later. Once in place, customers needed a booking system so we added that. Then self-booking for participants; our development has never been a fixed road map.
We then began to understand our customers not only wanted the data coming in, they also needed the tools to manage it. Happily, this was an easier evolution as most of the elements were already in place but we needed to bring these solutions to the forefront of the system.
The tempo of our evolution has also altered: from slow to quick (sometimes too quick!) In hindsight, we all need to reflect more, a concept that we call “slow the swing” which is difficult when the day-to-day needs have to be attended to. In recent years we’ve transitioned to an agile methodology. In essence, smaller ‘sprints’ of development released every month, drip-feeding regular updates more quickly to our customers to suit our ‘instant’ world.
More recently, we have started to investigate every need request and to determine how that request features in our ‘bigger’ world. If the fit is not there then we need to really understand the importance and whether we undertake development.
As a younger business our aim was to give all our customers what they needed but the results sometimes only pleased a small percentage. Ultimately we needed to sustain clearer sight of the bigger picture: a challenge for any small business. We need to have a large corporation mentality but with the sensitivity of a small business, which is really challenging, and I believe there’s harmony in the middle with a coherent growth map that’s influenced by the bigger picture of our customers’ overall needs.