Turning Ideas into Online Services

“Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That’s not the place to become discouraged.” – Thomas Edison

When it comes to ideas for online services or delivering your business digitally, this discouragement most often comes when the technology looks overwhelming and the experts want to tell you how hard it is, rather than what to do next.

It’s not a lack of great ideas or a lack of opportunity that is stopping the next world changing cloud service – it’s a lack of conversations with people who know not only the opportunities of the cloud, but also how to make the technology just work so you can focus on developing the idea itself.

In the coming years, most businesses will be delivering some part of their service digitally, many through online services or SaaS.

Those who get their services online early can have a huge advantage over their competition, but without proper planning their planned online presence could become a burden rather than an opportunity.

Choosing the right digital partner is key to creating a service people want to use.

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you choose.

Do speak to people who run their own SaaS product or online services – you want your digital partner to not just be experienced in software, but also be experienced in the whole lifecycle of SaaS and have first hand knowledge of how things like automations in billing, or streamlined account management genuinely affect their own businesses, not just their technology.

Don’t use separate app and software developers – when you are providing a service to people online, its important that people can use the service wherever they want, and in the way they are most comfortable. Too many people separate out their core service software development and their app development with the app development often going to a company who’s primary focus is marketing not SaaS.  This approach is not only painful in the short term but also leaves an ongoing legacy of: decreased agility, separate development costs and apps that continually lag behind the features of the main service, creating frustrations for both you and your users.

Do build it a piece at a time – there is no reason to try and have your online service do everything before you launch it and get the benefit. Going through a large scale development for six months or longer is unnecessary for most online services. Consult with your digital partner and understand what your minimum viable service is, and make plans to launch it. Understand what your ongoing development priorities are, and plan to have them added over time while you’re marketing and already making sales on your live service.

Don’t listen to anyone telling you to host things yourself – your own personal reach in hosting is going to be geographically limited and is going to be far less scalable than a ready-to-go global cloud-based solution that’s ready for when your user numbers explode. If you’re having to be thinking about the hardware requirements yourself, you’re unnecessarily distracted from growing your service.

Do have a plan that includes the whole lifecycle – planning an online services involves much more than documenting the idea or a software development plan. These are important, but an overall online service plan includes not only these, but decisions on scaling triggers, decisions on future priorities, decision on administration and moderation, decisions on user support and online help. This is where consulting with an online service expert rather than a traditional software or app developer makes a difference. At Ambidect we’ve done this stage so many times that we even offer the creation this plan for a fixed price.  Make sure you have a plan for your whole service before you even start any development.

Don’t get discouraged – online services can take some time to get moving. Remember in many cases you’ve invested to be online before your competitors to get an advantage, but this doesn’t mean everyone is going to discover your service overnight. Keep building your online presence, and you will find new signups come in waves, coordinated by your social and marketing activities.

Do make sure your service is an integral part of your overall service delivery – unless your business is solely built around your new online service, don’t treat it as separate to your existing non-digital business. Look for cross-over and cross-selling opportunities. Can your non-digital customer’s experience be enhanced by your digital platform? How do you identify those using your online service who would be well served with additional services from you, digital or otherwise? Digital service delivery will be part of most successful businesses within five years, but unless you are solely a SaaS company that doesn’t mean your business will stop doing what it already does well.

Don’t spend too much – look for a fixed consulting cost for designing and planning your online service, look for predictable fixed or committed costs for development, and look for upfront visibility of costs for hosting and running your service that don’t scale faster than your service income. Don’t believe those who tell you such costs are unpredictable, that’s usually a reflection of a lack of SaaS expertise in those giving you the advice than a reflection of the complexity of your planned product.

When I set up Ambidect with Tim in 2012, we had a vision of online services that worked on everywhere, and on everything. Our vision has always been that technology should empower people. It should never be the thing holding anyone’s ideas back.

This vision has allowed us to get involved in our lots of exciting SaaS products and online services for varied audiences, as well as pour our passion into our own Learn with Mobile service that seeks to empower people through the use of technology.

As leaders in online service development we’re excited to see what great ideas are still to be digitised and provided online to change people’s lives for the better. Will the next one be yours?


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