This post is about Linchpin Intranet in 2016. It wants to give you some background information and ask you to participate in this survey to help us understand, what you need from us. Please help.
It's been a long time for a search of our first successful product. But this search could over with this year 2015. I am talking about Linchpin, our Intranet solution based on Atlassian Confluence. And this is the first time, that I am actively asked by our product owners for an outlook in 2016 and wishes for areas of investment, that come from money that we want to reinvest in the product. They have their own and probably better ideas, but I can have my own shot. You will help me, won't you?
We have been investing in products since our early days in 1996. It's a long history of failures. Money has always come from professional services in the past. We have built two CMS systems, a newsletter tool, a tracking tool, a link exchange tool, a facebook-like community for sports activities, a social media tracking tool. If you want to be mean, you can say, that I personally have jumped on every other trend that came and lured my colleagues and our shareholders to invest in it. Biggest problem is, that we almost always did not understand, what our target group really needed. We even tried to sell organic food and other healthy "Reformhaus" options once, totally neglecting, that the ecosystem was dominated by one player that hated our solution. There is no point in trying something, that you don't know. That's why I need your help here.
The only exception is Gartentechnik.com. A company playing in such a small niche, that it's even difficult to describe to English speaking readers (from USA). In Germany there are a lot of very small dealers that sell motor-powered gardening tools like lawn mowers and chainsaws. They mostly have 1 to 5 employees and no capacity in any meaning of the word to deploy a professional website and do online marketing for their business. So we offer about 400 of those local dealers a full-service approach including a website, a shop, all relevant products, news updates for the website, product updates incl. current pricing for the shop and marketing and social media advice for about 100 Euros per month each. It's a small but profitable, stable business. Too small to be of interest for any bigger company and even to feed //SEIBERT/MEDIA. Too cool for this niche target group to go away. And that thing was successful, because we had this incredibly smart Gerrit Eicker, who by the way owns half of the Gartentechnik.com company and who really knew the web and the specific ecosystem. His father Dirk had such a dealership in the past.
The Linchpin story is different. A customer of //SEIBERT/MEDIA, B. Braun Melsungen AG asked us, to build a Confluence-based intranet. It was their answer to the highly priced and low performance and bad UX offerings for massive companies like themselves from tech blue chips like IBM, Microsoft, JIVE and so on. They spend a fraction on us adding the needed features to Confluence by custom coding. We had the luxury of being able to bill a project based on time and materials. Then after the project, one of our consultants Eric Klein came to me and other people internally and said: "We can make this idea of a Confluence-Intranet be a product. We have more companies who need this." At this point we were cautious. We had just burned a lot of our money from services business in other stuff. So we told Eric: "Yes, we will make this a product if we can sell it again a couple of times." And there was a significant investment to be made. Some stuff needed to be rebuild. And all customer code was "legally" not ours. So we had to build a completely new base. Eric and his Confluence colleagues delivered to sell other larger intranet projects based on our Linchpin technology we decided to focus on this product at the end of 2014. We wanted to sell 12 more Linchpin projects in 2015. It was a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG) that earned us a lot of smiles internally. Long story short: We actually hit our 12th project order on December 17th. Yay!
I am not going to share our BHAG for 2016 here, but it's a fact, that Linchpin is the first product, that has the potential not only to be successful like Gartentechnik.com but also to change the way //SEIBERT/MEDIA is structured as a company. I am loving our services customers for the incredible trust they have in our work and for the political battles they fight for us internally to let us carry out our agile projects the way we need to, in order to be successful. And we will keep on supporting them.
But we want Linchpin to grow even more in 2016. We want those 15 to 20 intranets powered with our technology to excel and to live up to the promises and aspirations, that we sold. And we want Linchpin to become a common and well established solution, not the niche player it is at this point. The technology is cool and superior already. Atlassian has built a splendid basis and my feeling is, that our solution adds exactly those features needed in massive companies. The sweet spot seems to start between 500 and 1,000 employees. The bigger the better. I have been blessed to see B.Braun adopt some of our newly built Linchpin technology with their 50,000 employees and plan to do so more in the future. We are thrilled to be talking to companies with 150,000 employees and more in final stages.
The big question of this article is, where the product should become more mature. What are the areas, that you want us to enhance Linchpin? There is only a small group of people who can really answer this question profoundly. But no matter if you belong to that group or not, we want you to give us your feedback. I’ve learned from my mistakes, which is why I now reach out to you and ask for advice. We promise to listen closely and offer high value to those who believe in our technology. This is the link you want to follow to give us you ideas about Linchpin in 2016 now.
We do have our own list of ideas. In one of the next posts I will lay out, what your answers were and how they differ from what we thought was useful and how we will go about it.