Over the past 12+ months, I’ve been working on a web application called BoxBoss with a handful of outsourced help. The goal of the project was to develop first-hand experience with out-sourced development, cloud computing platforms such as AWS, platforms-as-a-service PaaS such as Heroku, software-as-a-service business models, disruptive distribution concepts, social networking integration, and mobile application strategies as a component of a larger system… and all wrapped into a lean / agile software process. This post is the first step of documenting that project, the process, all the learnings, and the associated data (cost, time, distribution reach, etc.). It’s a sweeping project and one that continues to this day.
The goal of the BoxBoss application is to automate event and ticketing logistics: to solve the logistical & communication challenges associated with management of premium seating – such as a suite or “box” in sports and entertainment venues. This is basically closed-loop evite for finite resources and a well-understood supply chain that includes the venue, the seat owner, and the guests. I’m a “customer” and I can tell you it works pretty darn well – please check it out yourself at www.boxboss.com – sign up, create an event, add some contacts, and invite them… and give me some feedback.
In the premium seating market, corporations are the primary customers and they sign expensive multi-year leases for suites that have 10-20 seats each for the purpose of entertaining customers and employees. Maximizing suite utilization is paramount to delivering a measurable return on investment based on customer development and rewarding employees and partners. Managing the guest list over email, SMS, phone, and other messaging systems is a logistical nightmare and one of the problems that BoxBoss solves. Reporting on that utilization goes hand-in-hand with the management. There’s a bunch more to the value proposition…but we’ll get to that over time.
This is the first post in a series of posts that describes the learnings and details from this project. The project itself is being done in an outsourced model; the technology is Ruby on Rails; and the infrastructure (which I’ll call the “cloud stack”) is completely outsourced as well. The overall product/development process aims at being agile and highly iterative where the core focus is evolving a Minimum Viable Product in the presence of customer and user feedback. Staying focused and true to that mission is harder than I would have thought and those challenges are also going to be covered in future posts.
Some of the questions that I’ve aimed at asking and answering during the course of this project include:
- can an entire web application be out sourced from start to (more or less) finish? What are best practices for product definition, prioritization and management during the lifecycle of the project? does agile work?
- Understanding the Cloud Stack: What are the best tools and infrastructure to use for such a project? Can everything be hosted & outsourced? What works well together? Where does the cloud start and PaaS (platforms as a service) start? how much do they cost?
- How well does the iterative, minimum viable product concept work in practice? Do the same concepts apply to mobile extensions of the product? Again, what are the best practices? what remains the same and what differs as a mobile strategy creeps into the equation?
- What’s the best SaaS business model for this sort of service? Who pays for it? How much should the components of this project cost?
Answering the above questions and giving a highly detailed description of the various aspects of the BoxBoss project will be the follow-up posts on this topic. Stay tuned…it’s a start-up in a box.