Sharing Our Lessons Learned

When we were asked by the DocGovern team to write an article for The Hub, we were absolutely thrilled! Should we write about new features we just released, our “whiz-bang” technology, the amazing results we’ve been able to deliver to clients? No, we decided it would be much more interesting to Hub readers to share key lessons we have learned along our journey to build DX, take it to market, find our product-market fit, and grow.

DX (a.k.a. Docxpresso) was founded in 2015 in Madrid. Like most of our peers in this community, we were founded on the dual beliefs that (i) there was a better way to manage document and contract processes – we viewed the current processes as irrational given what was possible with tech, and (ii) we could build and deliver a great solution which would save time, money, and headaches.

Along the way we’ve made mistakes, sometimes been surprised at what did not work, pivoted (twice), sometimes been surprised at what did work, and have always kept close with our customers – the value of their input and feedback cannot be overstated. As we reflect on our journey, 3 key lessons come to mind – which we share below.

We are openly sharing because we believe Document Automation and Digital Transformation are not zero-sum games. We believe the better our community does in bringing these solutions to the market, the better we all do. While every member of our community is different, our hope is that sharing our lessons learned could provide some interesting food for thought that might help another company on their journey. If you agree, and especially if you disagree, we’d love to hear your thoughts.

Lesson 1: There is value in allowing for incremental Digital Transformation. Deliver value quickly

The term “Digital Transformation” gets thrown around a lot. We personally find this term exciting – we love thinking about the possibilities, but we also need to recognise that it can be an intimidating term to some. A recent poll showed that while 65% of respondents viewed this term favourably, 10% viewed it with some skepticism, and 25% felt it was an overused buzzword.

We’ve learned through talking with customers that while most companies understand the value Digital Transformation can deliver to their operations, how to get there can be unclear:

  • Does this mean a multi-million multi-year project before they see any benefits?
  • Have they seen prior Digital Transformation projects overpromise only to underdeliver, after significant time and money have already been spent?
  • Does this mean all their current processes will be ripped apart and changed?

We need to keep in mind that whether or not a client or potential client directly raises these questions or concerns, they may still exist and are totally legitimate fears.

Here is how we have learned to address these concerns (hint: deliver value quickly):

  • Take one existing process, workflow, or even document (preferably the one with the most pain points) and digitize that process as quickly as possible.
  • Prove the value your solution can deliver to the client, don’t just talk about it.

By being able to prove how even incremental Digital Transformation can deliver value, we have found that it allows us to effectively address a client’s concerns and also provides them data to support the business case for further incremental Digital Transformation. It de-risks the business proposition and creates a win-win situation for all parties.

We pride ourselves on delivering proof of value quickly and believe this is critical in our space. Would you commit your own time to something that promises to be transformational without hard proof?

Lesson 2: There is value in highly flexible solutions

There are some really amazing, specialised tools out there. Tools to manage HR, sales, legal, receiving, form, application…document and contract workflows. There are even versions of these tools specialised for specific industries.

While these solutions can be fantastic, their narrow focus can also create additional pain points:

  • Leadership teams who are now managing a tech stack of 20-50+ applications and solutions to handle all their enterprise’s document and contract processes.
  • Operational teams who must learn a multitude of disparate applications and solutions to handle their workflows and processes.

A highly flexible solution that can handle a wide breadth of document and contract workflows can mitigate these issues for clients.

From a solution provider’s perspective, it also provides a benefit tied to Lesson 1 above – supporting incremental Digital Transformation. It is not uncommon for us to have helped digitise the document and contracts processes for one part of a client’s business, only to later be asked if we can help out with a completely different pain point they are having – we love it when this happens.

Recently, a client, who we helped digitise their HR contract workflows for, asked if we could solve a pain point in a completely different area – inventory damage documentation to support tax deductions. We were able to provide a proof of concept within a week – like I mentioned, we love when clients make these requests and love responding with proof of a solution even more. I can’t think of a better way to expand and deepen the relationship with a client.

Lesson 3: Support in Digital Transformation is critical

This last lesson was the most painful for us. After initial success in the market and proving the value of our solution, we decided to try marketing DX as a self-serve SaaS product to the broader market via a freemium model. We had a lot of customers sign up and start using DX, however we noticed that most never expanded their use cases or volumes – and the majority failed to convert into paying customers. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this effort and the failure was painful.

As we dug into what happened and why, the biggest question we wanted to answer was why we didn’t see a similar explosion of use and propagation in these new customers’ organisations that we had witnessed in our enterprise client organisations.

The answer we found was support. We provide strong implementation, setup, and training support for our enterprise clients which allows the use of our tool to explode and propagate within these organisations. We could not justify providing this level of support to our self-serve SaaS clients, and without it the true value proposition became challenging for them to see.

Our failure to recognise this was the other side of the Dunning-Kruger coin – we understood the value and possibilities of our solution so well, that we failed to understand that this may not be immediately clear to others. Needless to say, we are now focused on enterprise customers, who we feel we can deliver the most value to. Our industry is not a “build it and they will come” scenario – we need to be there to support our clients in seeing and extracting the most value out of what any of us offer.

In summary, the 3 key lessons we have learned along our journey are:

  1. There is value in allowing for incremental Digital Transformation. Deliver value quickly.
  2. There is value in highly flexible solutions.
  3. Support in Digital Transformation is critical.

We’d love to know what you think. Feel free to reach out to us here.

Eduardo Ramos is the CEO of Docxpresso.

Docxpresso (DX) is an innovative tool that helps businesses to convert their Office documents into web apps.

DX is an online smart contract and document management solution trusted by small and large organisations.