Discover how an in-house team made two apps reach over 4 million installs

There are many stories that involve a one-off run away success. These are mostly saccharin-like sweet novelties such as Flappy Bird, Carl Douglas pop hit Kung Fu Fighting and Mark Hamill’s acting career.

Cloud Technology Solutions could have joined that pile and still been seen as successful. Yet, they’ve managed to put one success behind them and accomplish another. Rather than being a novelty game or song, they’ve opted to help businesses with their problem-solving tools. Both of their apps have had a combined 4m downloads to date.

The Apps

CloudManager and CloudMigrator solve different business issues surrounding IT management.

CloudManager is a Google Apps for Work user lifecycle management that helps senior IT professionals manage the demands of their colleagues by giving them superior control of crucial features such as single sign-on, password recovery and contact sharing in one easy-to-use app.

CloudMigrator helps organizations move over their email system and files to Google Apps for Work. Not only do they get better email in the cloud than most enterprise email solutions, you also get access to all your important documents in the same place.

The numbers

CloudManager has been downloaded from the Google MarketPlace over 1.4m times right now and is rising.

CloudMigrator has been installed 2.8m times and migrated 750TB of data since 2009.

The Market

Paul Lees, CTO explains the market that Cloud Technology Solutions appeal to “The people that are in our target market and are likely to make a decision to use our products are senior IT professionals. These include IT Managers, Head of IT and IT Directors. In smaller businesses, there might be a crossover with other senior management roles including managing directors.

All our customers are experiencing a pain point. That could be that they need to find a better solution for managing their email signatures or need single sign-on. CloudManager is found and it takes care of it and more. Or it could be that they need to migrate 15GB of files and 1000 email accounts over to Google Apps for Work. CloudMigrator is the cure for that problem.”

Paul’s focus is to take those real life problems for businesses and propose a solution that takes care of it and provide more value too.

“You make people huge fans of you when you solve a problem and give them even more features than they needed at the time.”

The Secrets

This part is what you have been waiting for. What are the secrets that have got Cloud Technology Solutions to the point of having 2 separate apps with over one million downloads?

Ideas: Don’t ration them

“Ideas come from anywhere. They really do. Don’t think that you have to have one innovation guy running the show. We all have relevant experience, I want to hear about it and let it flow into something bigger.”

James Doggart, CEO of Cloud Technology Solutions viewpoint is frank and all about the bigger picture.

“We have the opportunity to build cool stuff that people really want to use”

Give ideas time to develop

James discussed developing ideas, “You have also got to allow time for these ideas to flourish. Yes, we have a big vision but you can’t expect to sit down in one meeting and to have everything resolved in one hit.

Giving yourself time is the key. Without question.”

Adopt Agile Development

The team at Cloud Technology Solutions found that agile development suited them best.

By resisting the temptation to build a roadmap too quickly, you also avoid making the process too rigid as well. That means development should move smoothly and with maximum creativity being injected into it.

Focus on a few pilot customers

All of the apps started with an internal assumption. These naturally placed the ideal customer at the heart of it. The only way to get accurate feedback from the people that matter (the customers) is to involve them as part of the process.
Now, asking for feedback from your potential audience is nothing new at all. What benefited the development team was having access to a chosen few pilot customers.

By limiting the pilot to select customers, this meant that focus could be given to them and that the feedback quality didn’t suffer when it was delivered back to the team.

Be ruthless about what has mass appeal

“This is so, so important.” Paul Lees enthused, “At many points during the development of CloudManager, we could have gone down a rabbit-hole or two which would have halted what we wanted to achieve.

Sure, we would have satisfied a few customers who wanted a certain feature and patted ourselves on the back, but when this happened, I kept us focused on the original reason we wanted to build CloudManager. It becomes much easier to get the team to realign back to what matters then.”

This challenge came up more than once for Cloud Technology Solutions. When you care about your customers and want to solve their problems, you will find yourself looking at solutions that may only satisfy a few customers. When that happens, it is crucial to look at how it helps you achieve your main goal of mass appeal.

Make sure everyone is bought in to the vision of the product

James Doggart has a lot to say about team buy-in “You get up, you present the idea to everyone. Hopefully, you’ve got everyone looking back at you sat like coiled-springs wanting to get into action.

That’s the perfect scenario and it’s achievable. You’ve got to have everyone bought in and ready to make your vision a reality.

There are many bumps in the road and it is times like that when it’s easy to forget why you are working on this anyway. If everyone is bought in, you can de-risk these occasions more effectively.

You have got to select team members who are invested. No doubts on that one”

Building apps is tough work for all involved. If you have people that aren’t exactly bought in to your long term goals, it’s going to make things tougher than you need it to be.

Executive Summary

The common threads when talking to both James and Paul are that you need to be focused on the big picture. That’s no big surprise as they are both C-level executives that can’t be too bogged down in detail.

The way that the big picture was useful for the team was that they always had one key focus to reflect back on when a key event like whether they should work on a new feature came along.

Another crucial factor for James and Paul is that they see the project as bigger than anyone person or in fact the company. That attitude gives the team implicit trust to do what they do best.

Getting to 1m downloads and beyond takes mass appeal, you will get feedback from a small section of customers that will ask for certain fixes or features. You just have to be ruthless sometimes with what you spend time on, otherwise you will not make your goal.

Paul Lees sums this up well in one sentence “If I had satisfied every customer fix, we wouldn’t have over 1.4m downloads of CloudManager”

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