When we first started this business we thought we were solving a problem that was at the front of most of the portfolio problems we wanted to solve. Our management consulting practice helped organizations think of the things they managed as portfolios and supported the approaches and evaluation of those large portfolios. The problem was always the data. We never seemed to have data that was current enough to support decision making, the cost of collecting it was high and often the data that was collected in the course of business and stored in planning systems was only a subset of what was needed to make real world decisions.

We helped clients by using a series of different tools to visualize this data and make decisions once it was in, but it felt like we were always just a bit behind the curve. Even as the software in the space matured and tools like Adaptive and Troux became more powerful the challenge was always how to get it in. We started with developing better people centric approaches and structured business processes. We became masters of of the business process, sent lots of emails and made complex spreadsheets. All in the hopes of feeding the visualization tools in order to help bring some clarity to the decision making process.

A few years into refining what we came to call “Accelerators” for supporting data collection in the context of Application Portfolio Rationalization and other portfolio centric efforts we decided to build a better mousetrap. Our first effort was a traditional Java/Oracle type application. Unfortunately the price tag was going to be higher than any but the largest of organizations would be able to pay once we got done writing all the checks to various underlying software providers for the solution. We actually got it sold into a few pretty large orgs, so we new the need was there but when the entry point into the market has six zeros you know its gonna be a long sales cycle.

We knew we needed something better, something we could sell faster and too smaller customers. We decided to re-platform via a bake off. We chose three cloud platforms we recommended to customers of our managing consulting business. One of these was Salesforce. In an interesting twist Salesforce happened to present the fewest barriers to entry into the solutions marketplace and within just a few weeks we started building the first version of ExAM. It only took us about eight weeks to have a viable first cut of an app we thought we could take to a customer.

We took the app around to a few friendly existing customers and potential customers and just weeks after finishing the app, our biggest concern was making it through Salesforce’s security wickets and into the AppExchange so that we could sell it to our first customer. That’s right we had someone say yes so fast we weren’t even in the market place yet. Total value of that sale? Less than $6K. Not to say smaller is better but we simply wouldn’t even have been able to entertain this kind of a customer in our legacy approach. Now most customer start small and then when they see how well our solution works they scale. Even better for us, Salesforce has made the “E” in Extensible Assessment Manager that much more important with customer using ExAM to be a multi-channel front end they can snap on to Standard and Customer Salesfor apps to get to to value that much faster. It’s been a wild ride but so worth it. Long live ExAM! King of data collection apps!

It’s been a wild ride but so worth it. Long live ExAM! King of data collection apps!