The multi-billion dollar industry of business management software is fast-paced and highly competitive. In a market saturated by project management solutions providers, software development companies are constantly faced with the problem of how to stand out in the crowd. In addition, the rise of the high-tech industry in general has made hiring human resources a significant issue for the sector.
Chris Wilson, CEO and President of Function Point Productivity Software Inc., addresses these challenges in three ways: by developing a product for a niche in the project management software industry; creating a balanced workplace culture to attract and retain staff; and consistently returning to the Function Point core values for guidance.
“You can try and be everything to everybody, but it’s really important to be unique in your offering,” says Wilson. Since the company was founded in 1997, Function Point has developed a SaaS product specifically for creative service providers, which includes ad agencies, design studios and internal marketing departments. Function Point’s workflow management software combines project management, time tracking, CRM, financial, and business reporting tools in one cloud-based system.
While targeting a niche industry reduces the numbers of possible customers, it also narrows the competition. To this end, Function Point has stayed rigorously focused on their clients’ needs, and has made developing an all-in-one project management solution a priority. One of the reasons clients switch to using Function Point is to streamline their project planning and financial processes. Using one integrated system reduces inefficiencies associated with employing multiple software programs, and the risk of error that can occur through data transfer from one software system to another.
Within the creative services industry niche, Function Point further differentiates its product by filling a gap that exists in services available to the market. In order to identify potential areas of need, Function Point’s user experience staff conducted months of face-to-face research with clients to determine their most problematic workflow and financial reporting issues.The research indicated clients wanted greater financial visibility at every stage, from estimating to workflow to invoicing.
For companies to fulfill a product vision, they need to have the right human resources and processes in place
To address this, Function Point made a pivot in its product vision and is now using a “finance first” approach in the software’s development. This strategy of filling a gap in the marketplace—by connecting creative agencies’ financial components to project management—ensures the company’s product is relevant to clients, and remains in demand.
For companies to fulfill a product vision, they need to have the right human resources and processes in place. Wilson notes, “Finding the right people is the challenge of every business, and critical to the success of any organization. And in our situation, finding engineers has been more difficult because the tech industry is growing at such a rapid pace.” Wilson emphasis that organizations can do a great deal to attract and retain staff, by creating and supporting values that appeal to a diverse group of employees. For instance, Wilson says, “We’re looking for people who are happy, hungry and humble, who want to come to work, and also want to have a life outside work. From an employment perspective, Function Point positions itself as a place where you can create a work life balance. It’s not about burning someone out.”
Wilson recognise every staff member as a brain trust, and valuable to the company. “We help people to grow personally, because their growth is our growth.” Function Point supports this company core value by providing every employee with a $2000 a year education fund to pursue their own learning. For example, one employee is working on her MBA, another is enrolling in courses at the British Colombia Institute of Technology, and others are attending conferences in Florida providing education on how agencies are run. Function Point supports all staff by employing a business coach who works with different teams once a month, on the areas of communication, managing change, learning how to understand more about each other, and how to work together.
Wilson believes that creating a balanced workplace culture lays the groundwork for upholding the company mission—to help creative thinkers around the world be more productive, more profitable, and through this, help them achieve their own personal goals. He adds, “That’s why creating a relationship, not just with staff but with everyone we work with—our vendors and our customers—completes the circle in the Function Point way. By helping staff to learn and make a wage that’s sustainable for themselves and the company, we can provide the tools that help our customers be more profitable, and in doing so, pursue their life goals.”
Industry transformations means new challenges will be continually cropping up for businesses. Wilson tackles these by returning to the four Function Point core values for guidance: Focus, Respect, Growth and Balance. Much like a lighthouse, the values provide direction when the way forward may seem unclear, or obscured.
One of the current business issues Function Point is experiencing is the learning and adjustments that come with expansion into worldwide markets. In Columbia, for example, there are cultural and language differences. To beat the challenge, Function Point has implemented a translator in the system that converts English into Spanish, and the user experience team works closely with clients to understand their specific needs.
This year, Function Point celebrates 19 years in business, a considerable achievement in the tech industry. Wilson’s vision for the future is to continue to align the Function Point team towards a common goal drawn from the company’s four core values. Through this approach, he expects the staff and company to thrive throughout developments to come in the project management software industry.