The Importance of Client Autonomy

The last two years of our history as a company have revolved around a fundamental decision about the company we wanted to be. That decision has a direct impact on the product we develop and, in turn, this product inevitably has an impact on our daily operations.

We decided that we didn’t want to be a huge company with 3,000 employees. We want to be a company with a brilliant team. Just a few people, but people who are experts, who enjoy their work, and who are passionate about document management. People who earn a good salary, are happy, and give their all to the product and projects.

How do you scale a business if you don’t want to be a huge company? The answer lies in the client needing us less and less in order to meet their needs. Our product must be necessary for them. It must be useful to them. There must be a huge difference between doing things with Athento and doing things without Athento. But the client shouldn’t need Verónica Meza, Victor Sánchez, or any other team member so much.

Capacity for dynamic configuration

Capacity for dynamic configuration? This is the crux of the matter. This means several things in a software product like ours:

  • The client doesn’t need me to configure a solution.
  • The client can see changes made in real time.
  • The client has the necessary material to understand how to work with the product.
  • The client is able to tell us what he or she needs in order to be more autonomous and for the product to help him or her meet more and more needs.

How can we create this capacity?

Of course, all of these points have specific, direct implications. In order to achieve these goals, it requires a lot—and I mean a lot—of work. Some changes are easier than others. It also involves making decisions regarding design, including deciding to change some of the technology.

For us, the change also involves implementing numerous configuration options into the UI that were not available before and launching many product tools (release notes, roadmap contribution tools, interface monitorisation tools, amongst others).

Documenting all of these changes is an arduous task. The product almost always moves faster than we can document it. This product speed has also brought new challenges: we’ve had to grow in terms of procedures, QA, re-engineering, etc.

Is it worth it?

At the beginning of this year, I was in Bogotá and Buenos Aires, mainly providing training to partners and users. We have also done lots of documentation work (and yet we still have much more left to do).

Today, halfway through 2019, I am very satisfied to know that there are clients who are already configuring their own processes (procurement, verifying documentation, approval of receipts, etc.). We can tell when new processes are implemented when we receive tickets to our help desk in which the client asks how to do something or why something isn’t working as expected.

I am also excited to see that clients want more. Even if they haven’t set up new processes yet, clients are asking us how they can be more autonomous“Teach me how to do this”, “I saw this function in the release notes, is this available to us as well?”, “Can I use this function for that?”

Perhaps someone who has worked their entire life in the industry might tell us “well, because of that client autonomy, you aren’t going to make any more money in customisation and parametrisation services.” At this point, my answer is clear: it doesn’t matter, because that’s not our business. Our business is to retain clients over the long term and for a client to stay with you, you have to give them a product that works for them: a product that isn’t stagnant, that evolves with their needs, and that helps them cover more and more use cases.

Our business is to be useful. To meet that goal, we have to have a more autonomous client.

I’m not going to lie, this type of change in mind-set is not easy—not internally and often times not when it comes to the client. Changes in the product also means that the client may have incidents.

But if you ask me, I think it’s worth it. We have to work towards a more autonomous EMC in all senses. Towards content services, an ECM, ordocument management that provides more not only when it comes to automisation, but also in regards to managing it yourself.

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About Almudena Delgado