All posts by karibahorses

Project Plan

Action plan to deliver the solution

Objective – rollout out ‘Software as a  Service’ to Riding Schools, Equestrian Centres and Liveries to allow them to better manage their business.

The software will be accessible via a logon to a secure website where the administration for the stables can be carried out. The software will allow reports to be produced, appointments and schedules to be maintained and emails to be issued.

The plan for implementation can be broken down into 4 specific workstreams:

  1. Software Design and Development
  2. Website 
  3. Marketing
  4. Business support

Each workstream will have its own specific list of activities that must be carried out with a series of dependencies between the workstreams. These dependencies will form part of the critical path and will require effective management to ensure the workstreams remain aligned. For example, there’s no point in developing the software unless the website is being built in similar timescales.

Amongst the numerous imponderables is how long this will take to deliver. Whilst, for example, Dean Maxwell’s Foundation works on a 6 month timeline from concept to implementation, I think it will take that long just to confirm the requirements, especially as the day job will get in the way and prevent me contacting people in office hours.

I’m therefore going to give myself 12 months to deliver this to the first paying customer which should be just in time for Spring and the opportunity for the customers to adopt and learn the system before the peak season in 2015

Validation update

Since the last post, I’ve spoken to several more stables and a common theme is emerging. It is clear that there are issues in managing the associated paperwork, as well as the finances and accuracy of the data. Several stables spend many hours collecting, collating and recording all the disparate pieces of information required for accurate invoices and allow the effective management of the business.

Everyone I spoke to was happy to talk and prepared to spend time explaining how they operate their business. Many also discussed their issues and concerns and what they would expect the software to achieve. They all agreed to provide further information if required and several were very keen to be involved in the testing and piloting.

One point of note was that many people only saw the software as another means of recording information. It reminded me that I need to better identify and articulate the benefits. I need to ensure that stables recognise that the software will not only save them time and money but also provide multiple opportunities to increase their profits. This can be achieved through better and more targetted marketing, as well as the review and analysis of trends and spending profiles.

Whilst the software will  need to significantly reduce the amount of time taken to manage the business, it will also need to add value if it is to be of use. One area of development must therefore concentrate on making it easy, (through reports and marketing options) for stables to make a tangible return on their investment.

Was it worth it?

The whole process was definitely worth it. As a result of the validation phase, I’ve gathered valuable information that has demonstrated that there is a clear requirement for software to manage the business. It’s revealed that a considerable amount of time is spent on the paperwork and that many businesses are failing to capitalise on the rich seam of information available in their data.

The software will need to manage several quite complex processes and its success will likely depend on how well the software manages this requirement, how easy the software is to use and whether the businesses need to considerably change the way they do things in order to adopt the software.

One encouraging aspect was the support available from the Stables; many are quite happy for me to speak to them further to identify or clarify the requirements and several have invited me down to discuss the elements face to face and see how things are done. This support will not only make a huge difference to getting it right first time  but also create natural customers for the software.

Overall, the validation has given me confidence that there is value in proceeding and I’ve got several clear requirements including a further business opportunity. Onwards…

Concept Validation

In the previous post, I discussed the importance of ensuring that there is a strong need for your idea and that, if possible, potential users should be involved to ensure the design meets their aspirations and requirements. There are too many stories of entrepreneurs investing significant amounts of time and money developing a solution without reference to the target market.

This invariably ends in tears as the resulting product usually fails to sell as a crucial aspect was omitted or misunderstood thus rendering the whole thing a waste of time. Ignoring your target market can be fatal as assumptions are never tested and principles such as ease of use are forgotten.

Bearing this in mind, I was keen to approach the market and test the validity of the concept and, more importantly, establish if this was something the market needed and, if so, how badly.

1. The approach

In order to validate the concept, I needed to talk to owners of stables, equestrian centres, liveries and riding schools and establish whether the paperwork required to manage their business was onerous enough to warrant a software solution. I was looking for the owners to lament at the sheer difficulty in maintaining the records and the amount of time it took to manage their ‘system’ whether in collecting all the information or keeping it up to date.

I was also interested in whether the smaller yards (<10 horses) would be interested in such software or whether the overhead wasn’t high enough to justify its use.

The approach was split between emails and phone calls. I wanted to use the email first to test the waters before stepping into the world of calling people out of the blue.

i. Email

For the email, I used the format suggested by Dane Maxwell in one of his interviews with either Pat Flynn and/or Andrew Warner. I asked a simple question around whether they were looking for software or whether they were happy with any software that they were using. I found email addresses via Contact forms or directories such as Yell, etc

I emailed 41 stables across the country (ie Liveries, Riding Schools, Equestrian Centres) and received a response from 9 yards (21% response rate). Those responses were then categorised as either:

  • no interest (use pen and paper, or yard too small , etc) – 3 replies
  • use software currently (tailored or microsoft) – 2 replies
  • would like software – 4 replies (almost 10%)

The latter resulted in replies with people clearly experiencing difficulties in managing their business, with one reply offering to help with the software development. Calls are now scheduled to follow up these and establish both the difficulties and requirements.

ii. Phone

So I then picked up the phone and contacted 50+ stables across the country and used a script I’d put together to introduce myself and explain that I was exploring the need for software and would they be happy having a quick chat?

Assuming they were, I then asked a series of questions, initially on the size and type of their operation, how they manage their business, and whether they use software. The results were very interesting:

60% didn’t answer the phone (& very few had an answerphone)

Of the 40% who did answer the phone:

  • 60% were not interested (too small, use their own system, etc)
  • 20% were definitely interested
  • 20% required following up

Of those who were interested, there was a definite demand to ease the pain of managing their business. The administration, and associated paperwork, of managing and maintaining records for lessons, liveries and ad hoc requirements is a huge overhead for some; one lady spends at least 2 full days a week managing the paperwork for her livery business.

Hello World!

Hello, this blog is my way of recording the steps I’m taking to create a new software product for the horsey world. I plan to use it to capture the steps I’m taking, the actions I need to think about and the resources that I’m using to make it happen.

Hopefully, it will act as an educational journey for others who wish to do the same thing. The problem today is that there is too much information about setting up and running internet businesses, so much so that the sheer volume of data tends to overwhelm with conflicting ideas of what works and what doesn’t, what order things should be done in, etc

I’ve read many websites and listened to as many, if not more, podcasts on the subject of creating and implementing a viable internet business and I realised that unless i just got on with it, I’d never actually deliver anything. That’s not to say that the information gathered has not been useful because it undoubtedly has, its just that there’s always another article, another website, another tweet that grabs your attention and causes you to go and read and absorb its contents.

I think I now understand what needs to happen, the process to follow and the priorities I need to put in place; I’ll continue to allow myself to be distracted by more gurus but their input should now be of the tweak it rather than fundamentally change the selected approach

So stick with me on this journey, it should be interesting!