My Shopping Cart
Strong companies take time to evolve and DevDesk is no exception. Given our history as distributors, retailers, multi-unit/multi-brand owners, to independent development agents for one of the world's largest fast food franchises, our experiences have all influenced and shaped the direction of our company. We have been fortunate to have a unique insight into virtually all levels of business operations and development from start-up stages through international expansion.
Based on our experiences we set out to bridge the gap between small business and enterprise with the goal of providing technical solutions and services to brands at various stages of their growth. We have been particularly interested in providing collaboration and benchmarking solutions to franchisors, franchisees and multi-unit operators within their respective industry or spanning multiple industries given the rising trend of multi-unit franchising and cross branding.
The Early Days
Although new to the commercial market in 2009, DevDesk's concept and subsequent development commenced 4 years prior as a bespoke application for a regional franchise development office in Seattle, Washington. The original intent was to create an online platform that would enable the development team of Subway Northwest, Inc (SNI) to better manage their franchise sales and real estate development processes while creating a window of transparency into their operations to those they worked with on a regular basis. The product has since evolved into a Multi-Business Management (MBM) tool capable of managing a variety of business types, brands, trades, and services of all sorts and sizes from a single source.
In 2005 SNI's Director of Development, Steve Woolsey, set out to define the initial parameters of a database capable of managing the activities associated with a diverse real estate portfolio which included nearly two hundred active leases, hundreds of leads for new locations, dozens of lease renewals, and several store relocations and closures at any given time covering 6 counties in Washington State. In addition the CRM required communicating with thousands of franchisees, landlords, brokers, employees, suppliers and other contacts they dealt with on a regular basis while both inside the office or out in the field. Spreadsheets had long lost their performance power and MS Access databases had proved inadequate to meet the company's needs.
Steve employed the expertise of his former college roommate Chris Bowman to set out and put his vision into action. The work over the next 3 years resulted in the agile development of an HTML based program capable of fulfilling SNI's initial goals of managing the many people and places that they dealt with: the lines of communication had been opened and the company was able to provide a more transparent view of their development efforts within their growing franchise community.
As SNI continued to grow so did their involvement in other concepts from different industries, all with their own unique requirements but at the core remained the common themes of business: People, Places, and Projects. By focusing on these core elements the system was redesigned to adapt to the greater complexities inherent in a multi-business, multi-trade, or multi-concept environment.
Phase II of the project commenced in July 2008 when SNI sold their interest in the franchise development territory back to the parent corporation. However in keeping control of their intellectual property the team decided to put their knowledge in both business processes and technology development to greater use. With a focus on "development", the initial theme of Development Desktop stuck and soon the brand of DevDesk was born with the establishment of DevDesk, LLC.
Steve and Chris focused their attention on growing the technology full-time and expanding their team in order to bring the tools to market. After an extensive round of interviewing developers, they narrowed down their choice of teams to three qualified groups across the world and provided a series of projects to further assess the candidates' skills. After an examination of the trial results, they were thoroughly impressed with the young team from Mohali, India where they have since continued to expand their development efforts.
DevDesk was happy to bring in the expertise Sapandeep Singh and Amit Kumar Choudhary, founders of Innovaminds, and at their peak had welcomed the addition of 10 other highly qualified full-time developers and system administrators to the DevDesk project.
Research & Development
Comprehensive research was conducted and a course of action was decided upon to enable the system to scale to an unlimited number of companies around the world. The relatively new cloud-computing infrastructure was building momentum and the team quickly realized the advantages of the highly scalable and secure environments that were being created and thus became early adopters and developers on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) backbone. A system-wide revamp was necessary and a full rewrite of the code was initiated incorporating a more powerful database structure (MSSQL) and the latest upgrades from HTML to ASP.NET: a product they now refer to as DevDesk v2.
With goals of international expansion, every effort has been made to build a solid foundation from which to offer the DevDesk program. In the true mobile spirit of the internet, Steve Woolsey relocated to Chelmsford, United Kingdom (near London) to begin laying the foundation for future expansion into the EU region. With development taking place across three time zones the project continued to expand over the course of the next 2 years. By covering more hours across the globe DevDesk experienced first hand both the benefits and challenges of operating across multiple time zones, legal & financial environments, and gained further insight into both cultural and regional disparities. The scope of the product, aimed at resolving such challenges, matured into a multilingual platform which accounted for such first hand experiences as international data sensitivity and cross border security requirements.
Given the complexity of the product, the majority of the initial attention and resources were directed at building the framework: concentrating on functionality over aesthetics. It was determined that to be commercially viable on a mass scale the UI would need some overdue improvements and performance required optimizations. This resulted in a change of direction where they scaled back the functionality to produce a minimal viable product (MVP) based on their multi-business management differentiation over competing products. This scaled back version of DevDesk v2 addressed concerns over navigation, design and performance but it also made the platform more accessible and useful for personal users in addition to business users.
A goal of the new graphical user interface (GUI) was to give their users the flexibility to incorporate other online applications that they were currently using in their day-to-day operations. It was recognized that a collaborative environment for accessing intranets, online CRMs and Salesforce tools, banking and credit card sites, etc. could prove useful and fit within their navigational structure. The end result, with the improvements to the GUI and their tabbed navigation, was the introduction of a free interface where users could consolidate their URLs and online applications and the concept of DevDesk Tabz was introduced.
Where They're At Now
DevDesk Tabz will follow the freemium Software-as-a-Service (or SaaS) model: introducing the platform and limited (yet useful) features to their users for free but also offering modules and additional functionality based on a per-user and/or per-business subscription model. In order to reach that goal improvements are required to the system that will allow them to bring over the functionality from DevDesk v2 into the imrpoved GUI & navigation of DevDesk Tabz. Given the extent of the requirements and working on limited budgets from friends and family eventually momentum of the company had to pivot to identifying and building additional revenue streams and considering outside investments in order to help with the R&D costs of their flagship product.
In order to reach their financial goals they have continued to expand their trusted network of partners along with expanding their sales and service offerings. One such venture led DevDesk to Taiwan where they have been importing Point-of-Sale registers and peripherals. With an opportunity to be an exclusive Western United States distributor for these manufacturers they put their technical resources to the task of creating a distribution network from an existing eCommerce platform. In order to maximize the potential of this platform, in addition to a wholesale wing they have developed a retail site for offering additional technology products from their supply chain. Based on that experience they were able to outsource and manage other eCommerce projects for clients with product lines of 10,000 to more than 30,000 SKUs.
To be successful in eCommerce a variety of considerations need to be taken into account (not unlike their SaaS flagship product) so their experience with handling large amounts of data and setting up business processes and policies has continued to provide their clients with improved methods for handling their affairs. Again these opportunities have led to further relationships in retail related services such as financial software, merchant services, website development, integration services and cloud deployments.
With the foundation laid for these additional revenue streams they are now in a position to expand rapidly on multiple tiers: wholesale, retail, services and further R&D leading to the eventual monetization of their SaaS product. With much of the groundwork laid, and a clear plan and outline on how to proceed, they recognize the benefits of accepting outside investment and feel they are now in a much better position to consider bringing on angels and VCs for a faster path to market. Over the course of the coming months and years more effort will be put into seeking investors who trust in their abilities, who identify with their story and who share in their vision of building a strong and successful company.
With the knowledge they have acquired in business, technology and international expansion the team at DevDesk are focused on helping others help themselves to succeed. Not only do they wish to pass along the benefits of their technology platform to small and large businesses alike, but they are also committed to providing their insight on how to help businesses grow and prosper in an increasingly technology driven world. All the while person-to-person interaction stands at the core of their values as they strive to provide customer service excellence whilst helping their customers build stronger relationships with their peers.