In the beginning...
When we started Semanta six years ago, we were just four guys with a lot of ideas about BI and data management but not much idea about sales and deployment.....well, we had a notion but we were more fixed on creating the thing we wanted to create and like all fixated fixers, as it wasn't a pressing problem, our energy and resources went into developing the idea.
Initially we focused on the first version of our Business Dictionary and Semanta Air, deploying them to a large number of local clients. Then in 2010 we decided to concentrate on the use-cases of Business Intelligence departments in big corporations. 6 months of hard work later, Encyclopaedia 1.0 was launched and we looked round and scratched our heads. Our idea was real but our sales and deployment ideas weren't. We gave a couple of presentations to potential clients and what we'd felt when we'd started building Encyclopaedia turned out to be true - the interest was real - there was a real need in BI and companies for our type of product. Only we didn't have the deployment means to satisfy it!?
Selling, deploying, and adopting are big tasks - and although we'd been deploying successfully to this point we didn't have the capacity to cope with the sudden jump in scale of the demand: you can't pick up a pre-built team off-the-shelf from the recruitment agencies (I know, we called;)). And our internal team was working flat out.
So much for our business plan!
We had a rethink.
We had a lot of contacts from our years of development and analytical work, maybe they'd help.
Finding a solution
Our initial presentation material wasn't very well thought through. The guy we hired to put in the voice-over on our sales video didn't understand we weren't looking for a Monty Python stand-in and the sales documentation made War and Peace look like an afternoon jotting.
But we cut down the material, focused on the product and met up with KPMG. They were delivering strategy for metadata governance to Vodafone Czech Republic. The discussion went well and the result was, a big fat yes. We did what I guess most people in our position would do, went down the pub and sank a cold one or two.
Now I'd like to gloss over the next stage and say it all went swimmingly well but that'd be untrue and this wouldn't be the subject of a blog. For the initial deployment, we and our partner agreed that we'd start with the Business Dictionary. We thought it'd be easy - a Business Dictionary entering a big company, how hard could that be? Harder than we imagined, obviously. We'd planned an initial adoption period of 3 weeks for the first Business Dictionary. 3 weeks came and went and we were no closer to the end - business users, it seemed, had difficulty in agreeing definitions for their terms. Instead of 3 weeks the reality was 3 months, a result that wasn't what any party would have called satisfactory.
Ups and Downs
We went back to the drawing board and rethought the adoption process. We came to the conclusion that the natural place to start adoption and deployment should be with reports and not terms. Reports are naturally easier to define than terms. Beginning the adoption process with your Report Catalogue makes it easier for business users to get to grips with it and consequently improves take up. Instead of writing and rewriting definitions, users actually use the system for what it was designed ie., searching, browsing and reading reports. We and our partner had both learnt a big lesson.
The result was an eventual successful first deployment and adoption, an ongoing customer and our realisation that business partnerships were the means to making sales and deployment that our company had been searching for. With it, our company, which was three years-old at the time, had deployed to its first two clients. It allowed us to remain focused on our core business asset - Encyclopaedia and its development. Not only that but since then thanks to our local partners, Encyclopaedia has been deployed to multiple clients nationally.
Making partnerships is a dynamic and flexible way for a small team to increase its sales, deployment and adoption. It has it's drawbacks. Partners need instructions about how the product works, how to configure it to the customer's needs and also about how to convince end-users to use it. So it requires the writing of an awful lot of documentation. On the other hand, once the documentation is on file, it's easy and cheap to keep current and the advantages that cooperation brings far outweigh the cons.
That's normally where I'd finish the blog. Problem solved, lesson learned, advantages and disadvantages seen and duly noted.
Back to the Future
Fast forward four years from that initial deployment and we're larger, busier but still trying to remain dynamic and lean. However the success we've had nationally has thrown up some new challenges, or rather opportunities, very similar to the ones we faced back then.
Last year, Encyclopaedia was adopted by Vodafone in Australia, and this Spring by T-Mobile Czech Republic. Both those adoptions had the advantage of a Premium partner present to lead the project. But we still needed to send employees onsite, including one to the Land Down Under. And those two projects are just the tip of the iceberg. Currently we have a number of international projects under development or being deployed and not only that but in the time we've been deploying our development team has been working on our product. We can now offer our clients PowerDesigner connectors, AIR! and lots, lots more on top of our initial Encyclopaedia module.
The result is that today we're facing a series of business opportunities, just as we did four years ago, and we need to take advantage of them.
At that time the challenge we faced was finding a way to deploy our product and establish ourselves on the national business stage without losing our lean business model (plus we had to swap the order of deploying the Report Catalogue and the Business Dictionary). Now the challenge we're facing is taking Encyclopaedia global.
We're looking for Partners
And this is where I end the blog - Semanta is looking for partners. We have a strong product with a rapidly growing client base. We have a determination to expand and continue this growth. I can promise you we're no longer recording Python with our sales material (It is a dead parrot). Are you interested in joining us making the next step?