by William DiPaolo
We recently rolled out a new version of Funding Suite – our first major update since 2007.
If your day to day doesn’t involve software, the challenges of rolling out a new version of cloud-based software to an entrenched client base may not be obvious. To your customers, a new version always means new software. New software means climbing a learning curve, which means effort, time spent training instead of working and often feelings of “incompetence” as one navigates unfamiliar screens looking for necessary functionality. A new version of software never follows the “build it and they will come” mantra.
Why Introduce a New Version
To help you understand cloud-based software think of it as three layers: 1) the database (where the data is stored), 2) the business-logic (how the data is used) and 3) the user interface (how humans interact with the data). End users always define the quality of your software from the perspective of layer 3, the interface. If you sell to businesses and users navigate your interface daily, the software becomes a virtual city with familiar streets and shops by which they conduct business. Eventually your users fail to perceive an interface at all and simply perform their work through rote familiarity.
Software companies crave this level of corporate entrenchment. And achieving it is economic bliss. Until its not.
Familiarity with an interface also means that your corporate users have “locked on” to aging interface technologies. As time goes by (and not much time), interface innovation transcends old ways of working, communicating or otherwise interacting with data. In a word – new interface technologies allow more work done faster and cheaper. If you see this potential, it is time to introduce a new interface to your client base – before your competition beats you to it.
How We Introduced Funding Suite V. 3.0
Funding Suite v. 2.0 uses an HTML based interface created in 2007 that is clunky and cartoonish by today’s standards. Its rigid framework made it difficult to add new functionality. Although clients often raved about our technology, we realized it was time to re-architect Funding Suite’s virtual city. And we had to do it in a way that didn’t upset thousands of clients who unconsciously navigated its streets every day.
To begin we created a webservice for every existing Funding Suite feature. This procedure separated the old interface from the underlying logic and database layers in the way one might remove plastic faring from a motorcycle frame. We then created a new interface that tapped into these webservices – while also ensuring an expandable environment to host new, as yet unimagined enhancements. A virtual “city without walls”, if you will. We are also in a position of easily embedding any of Funding Suite’s functionality directly into any other interface directly, such as an LOS or CRM system.
Since we left the database and business logic untouched, clients can now log in to version 3.0 or 2.0 as desired. Files ordered or actions taken in one system, show in the other. One can leisurely explore the new Funding Suite environment, while popping back into the old, more familiar city when needed. Slowly, as our clients grow more comfortable with the benefits of version 3.0, they will naturally spend more time there.
Eventually, almost without effort, the “new” version becomes the “familiar” version – and unconscious navigation through Funding Suite’s streets resumes.