The Ten-Year Road to “Why?”

Since late 2015, our team has been designing its leap into We Are Mammoth’s second decade. It’s required a candid inspection of what we do, why we do it, and what facets of our business need tailoring before moving forward. In this first article, I’ll share a few insights that’ve helped shape how we engage with the world outside of our proverbial walls. In the second piece, we’ll dig into the internal initiatives we’re taking on to align the team organizationally for the adventure ahead.

Answering “why?”

Why? It’s a simple question with an elusive answer. Why did we start the company, why have we succeeded, and why should we continue into our second decade?

Over the years we’ve had many projects that require brutally long hours, hard conversations with clients, and changes upon changes. Some of those projects are filled with purpose and fulfillment. Others sap morale and goodwill (we’ve even broken up with clients). What’s been the difference?

We’ve discovered the simple fact that we’re most satisfied as a company when the software we build improves the lives of the people using it. We’re happy when they’re happy.

This simple acknowledgement of what makes us happiest helps clients, founders, and employees alike understand that we’re not just here to take orders and build software. We’re here to make a better world with our work, however local or global our reach may be. It’s helped us adapt our company’s mission to reach farther, and challenge ourselves as a business:

Our mission statement: We design and build software for organizations to improve and transform our world.

Having a mission statement is great, but like all things in life and business, being great is easier said than done. So, our next step was to identify the key contributors we’ll need to increase the valuable work we do while minimizing the work that may pay the bills but cost big in terms of living up to our company mission.

Design: Find the problem before building the solution

Our company was founded by programmers accustomed to executing on tight deadlines. We could deliver websites to our clients quickly and accurately without a lot of overhead.

That became our business model, and it paid ample dividends for us as a nascent business.

However, our business funnel consisted of clients arriving at our doorstep, project brief in hand, bugging out about an impending deadline. Our team would swoop in like superheroes, ship out a web app based on the client’s perceptions, then move on to whatever was next in the pipeline.

We push our team and clients to ensure that everything we build (or end up not building!) serves a quantifiable, valuable purpose

To ensure we’re improving our lives, as well as those of the people using our software, we’re now focusing on the earlier phases of the product lifecycle: discovery and definition. We spend time exploring a client’s challenges up front – something we historically would’ve taken at face value. We push our team and clients to ensure that everything we build (or end up not building!) serves a quantifiable, valuable purpose. We then measure results and follow-up. There’s a term for this approach: design.

Design involves our team earlier in client initiatives to help define and quantify their objectives. Over time, it creates solutions grounded in reality rather than speculation.

With design, we’re becoming better problem solvers. That makes everyone happier.

Clients: The right companies, the right people

We seek out clients who intimately understand their problems, but don’t pretend to have all the answers. They can competently describe the challenges they’re experiencing, but defer to our expertise to design and implement the best way forward. They also have the power to influence the organization they’re working for.

We’ve also worked with clients who, quite frankly, didn’t have their users’ best interests at heart. Often times, projects were designed solely to be internal wins for department heads or c-suite executives. While this is a perfectly valid (and common!) business goal at large organizations, the problem lies in disguising them as anything more than that. Needless to say, if we don’t know the goal we’re working toward, we’re not going to attain it.

If we don’t know the goal we’re working toward, we’re not going to attain it.

So, we seek clients who are transparent about their challenges, who know the ins and outs of their organization, and are willing to bring us into their unique mix of good, bad, and ugly. No organization is perfect, but it’s the ones who know it and are empowered to improve that we’ll have the most success helping.

The projects: Life after launch

One sign of a successful initiative is the ability to learn about what works and what doesn’t, post launch. I call this life after launch. No software is perfect – but listening to users and observing how they use a system we identify opportunities to iterate and create real, lasting value to a product’s audience.

It goes without saying, that the right kind of client, coupled with our introduction to an initiative at the right time (early!) will create the right conditions for a successful, long term product lifecycle.

The right ingredients still need good cooks!

Ten years is a lot of time to look back on, and it’s a wealth of experience to help guide who and what the company becomes in 2016 and beyond. But, this post tells only a little bit of the story. Our people can be our most important asset or our biggest liability. To succeed as a business, we need more than a good business development mantra – we need talented people to drive the organization forward in a lean, honest manner. That’s what we’ll dig into in the next post.