Eye-opening insights from 700+ product managers & leaders.
“The best software products are surprisingly simple — they provide a venue for people to do the real work they’re trying to accomplish.” That’s Claire Milligan, Co-CPO of Certify Inc./Chrome River, a private equity-owned company with a portfolio of travel, expense, and invoice management brands. Over the last eight years, Claire has played an integral role in the company’s growth from launch to 12,000+ customers today, overseeing product strategy during its many mergers and acquisitions.
Together, Certify Inc./Chrome River is comprised of eight expense management platforms — Abacus, Captio, Certify, Chrome River, ExpenseWatch, Nexonia, SpringAhead, and Tallie — plus additional travel booking, invoice, and procurement platforms that can be integrated with many of those brands. Each platform was intentionally acquired to serve the diverse needs of various customer segments, industries, and regions.
“One size does not fit all. That’s our motto. So instead of trying to force an individual platform to address all needs, we bring together multiple platforms. This way we solve the problems of specific sizes and niches, and as a result, everyone’s.
While the company’s competitors struggle to deliver a seamless customer experience internationally and across industries, Claire and her team are able to offer more to customers, and faster.
Claire and her team deliver annual roadmaps to stakeholders within the company. To explain the how and why behind proposed products and features, engineering resources are taken into account along with the following data points:
“With this approach to the roadmap, we can look at a feature and say ‘wow, that matches our strategy. No one asked for it, but it would pay for itself in less than a month.’ Or, ‘Wow, that feature is requested by so many people, but given how long it would take to build, its cost won’t be covered for three years.'”
For Claire, it helps to be so certain of product decisions. “At large organizations, you bring a lot more realism to the table. But this helps you make visionary bets with confidence.”
In the book Scaling Up, author Verne Harnish argues that you’ll accelerate your business much faster if you focus on doing one thing right rather than focusing on everything. A parable about selling commercial dishwashers is used to illustrate his point. When an organization began to focus solely on selling to hospitals and not just anyone, costs went down and profits went up. Major business transformation happened as a result of the organization restricting their lens of focus.
The lens of focus can be restricted in each of Certify Inc./Chrome River’s brands to stimulate rapid growth. It falls into Claire’s hands to identify the specific specialty and market niche of each brand.
“You’ll accelerate your business much faster if you focus on doing one thing right rather than focusing on everything.”
“We look into the customer base of each brand against the bigger context of all our brands and zero in on ideal customers who buy super-fast. What makes them unique and different, and which of our brands makes the most sense for their needs?”
Claire also studies the detractors of each brand. “One brand’s detractors could be another brand’s best customers. If we are bold enough to transfer our customers off one platform and into a more fitting one, the cost to support them goes down, their satisfaction goes up, our revenue goes up, and everyone is happy.”
This process is repeated each time Certify Inc./Chrome River integrates with a partner to account for new skills and assets.
Claire and her team’s product strategy and one-size-does-not-fit-all philosophy are carefully crafted to solve the real problems of their customers.
“The job of expense report software is to transform spending activity into data that a finance team can evaluate and make business decisions off of. Success for us and them is when users spend money and all of a sudden our system knows how much and why,” says Claire.
Because at the end of the day, the ultimate goal of Certify Inc./Chrome River is to equip customers with the tools they need to easily accomplish finance-related tasks.
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