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Perspective from an Experienced Software Product Manager - Interview with Bob Dias

Jan 7, 2015 | By Seth David | 0 Comments

Topics: Firm Operations

Bob Dias comes to BQE Software from CCH where he was the Vice President of Tax Product Management. Now he’s with us at BQE Software and we’re excited to have him.

Bob had a long and tenured career with CCH. He joined them while he was still in college. While there Bob moved up the ranks to make it to his last position. During his tenure he has gotten to know many of the same people as I have had the honor to know. The people who have been on our previous interviews; Doug Sleeter & Greg LaFollette to name two.

Working with Tax Software – many accounting professionals are faced with the decision about which to use. As a product manager the task is a tedious and mundane process. The challenge is to try to reduce pain points.

Working with a company like BQE there is a tremendous opportunity to help with the efficiency of the entire firm, not just the tax area.

On finding those pain points:

First you have to put tremendous focus on the quality of the software. It amounts to spending time and gaining that experience as you work with customers to find where they are experiencing pain and then coming up with solutions to solve those problems. One of the big points today is how you take the data that is in the software and make it actionable. How do you build intelligence into the software so that the data is actually solving problems for the business owners and putting insight and action right in front of the users of the product?

The challenge is to stay 3 steps ahead of what people are going to need and what their role is. You have to anticipate what they are going to need before they even realize they need it. Different people want to look at different things. You have to stay ahead of the curve. You have to understand your customer, your user, and you marketplace.

The future of software is software that has the kind of intelligence where it can analyze how the user interacts with the software. Then it can customize that users experience with that software based on what is apparently important to that user.

The Cloud is what makes this opportunity even greater. As a vendor you can have more of a real time perspective on what the users are doing.

In the past the pain was all around entering the data. This has changed and it continues to change. Now it’s about scanning data and scraping it from the scanned documents to get it into the software you are using. Now we have zero or near zero data entry. Now the people who used to be responsible for data entry will assume a more analytical role. They’ll baby sit the data to be sure it moved accurately from one place to another, but now they’ll have more time. That time can be spent on analytics.

Do you like working on a mobile device or are there certain tasks that just aren’t well served with a mobile device?

Bob made the point that there are already things we would have sworn in the past we would not do on a mobile device that we are now doing.

What about the next 12 months?

Mobile devices will continue to gain relevance. You will be able to achieve what you need to from a mobile device, which means you can do it from anywhere. This opens up a whole change in how we do business. The cloud is here. We’ve already been saying that for years and it’s true now more than ever. The cloud is definitely going to take over.

Security

Vendors can provide much better security in the cloud compared with what users can provide themselves.

The idea that you will move to the point of a zero data entry world like depositing checks by taking a snapshot with your phone.

What about balance?

With all of this technology evolution what will we do with the free time? Some will work more, some will balance better. Question is which camp are you in? Or you can take your work to the beach!

BQE is focused on the quality of their products and the experience they bring to their users but they also have a lot of fun. This is the balance we all want to achieve.

What is most exciting about the future for you (Bob)?

In the accounting and tax specific area Bob was “..on one branch.” Now he sees the whole tree. The entire accounting workflow. What are the real vital signs? Looking at the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) to evaluate big picture performance. How to evaluate employees’ performance. Evaluating project or engagement performance. How does this compare with other similar firms? How to optimize the cost of staff and billing processes.

Where is the greatest opportunity for the future of BQE Software?

There are new products as well as add-ons that are always going to be discussed. The area where a software developer has to be careful is keeping in mind what verticals you will pursue. It means picking the right ones and not over extending yourself. The most important thing is the quality of the product and the quality of the service.

When deciding on new features, what is the process?

Mostly testing and testing to be sure it is really ready before it is rolled out. Understanding the scope of the feature and then doing it “right” before you roll it out. Understanding your user, customer, and market and not biting off more than you can chew.

Will there ever be a point when all of the pain points will be solved?

No. There will always be evolution.

How do you educate the consumer about the intricacies of design and development so that they can better understand that what they’re asking is not as easy as they think?

Bob says we don’t go that route. We listen to the problem and go to work to find the solution. You don’t get into explaining about software development to the end user. The key is doing the due diligence up front and understand the pain point. Then coming up with an ideal solution.

When this process fails the user then you have to step back and come up with a better way.

Using the example of reports. How do you explain to a customer why they have to pay for a custom report?

You deal with this question head on. First, we offer so many (over 150) reports. This satisfies a vast majority of customer needs. Then the quality of the custom report you build has to be, “..Lights out.” Dashboards wills start to replace reports.

How do developers deal with feedback/criticism?

This is the product manager’s role. This person is the liaison between what the market needs, including customers, and prospects and identifying what the product road map is. This is based on the needs and opportunities that exist in the market. The product manager takes this back to the developers and now they have to build it. Developers have their hands full with development.

Often time’s improvements do come from complaints. Many times the solution to one thing solves others as well.

With robust software – how to you properly balance all of the features with making it easy to use and learn?

The key is making it comprehensive and customizable. Training is also critically important. The customers that get the most efficiency from the software are the ones that are trained the best. The more you invest in training your customers, the more you will have great customers who love your product.

Every firm should invest some time in learning how to use the software to get more out of it.

 

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