This article provides a case study of TANDA. We review what their software is and how they achieved their initial product market fit for their MVP. Also, we'll find out what they learnt on their journey and what they would do differently given the chance again. I recently interviewed Phil Johnson, Tanda's, Australian Sales Director to learn more about their journey. Please see the video below to learn what we found out or, read on for a detailed summary.
Who is TANDA
TANDA is an acronym for Time and Attendance. The software is an online workforce success platform that helps businesses manage rostering, timesheets, payroll, and employee onboarding. They made accurate time and attendance available to small to medium businesses. Previously this required a large investment into hardware instead of delivery via software as a service and mobile apps.
Starting from Brisbane, Australia. Tanda has grown organically through treating their customers as investors. Steve Baxter from Shark Tank is a big fan and has previously joked whilst talking at Tanda's annual conference about how they won't let him invest.
In recent years, Tanda has expanded to the UK and US. Last year they purchased workforce.com to create a huge market entry in the US. So, how has Tanda gone from nothing to one of Australia's key software exporters?
Product Market Fit
To answer this question, Phil shared with us how Tanda started. The original need for TANDA came from an internal business problem. The founders were at the time running a services business and wanted to solve the problem for themselves. To achieve this they built the time and attendance solution to operate internally and non-commercially. However, once it was solved, people loved it and recommended they should commercialise it.
Instead of continuing to build, the team took their 1-dimensional Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and validated if the market would require it. To do this, the founders called 10 thousand businesses in 12 months. They didn't stop at 1 or 2 thousand and called all 10 thousand. The feedback was clear, that there was a need. However, on top of validating the problem it also had a bonus effect.
- They asked these businesses if they would pay for it and took orders - Presales and cashflow up front!
- This gave them the cash to invest in building the commercial product.
- They learnt how to sell it. After 10 thousand calls, I think you'd be pretty good at selling your service or product!
This meant they built the product knowing exactly what problems and pains where beyond the first 1-dimensional problem.
Where are they now?
It's clear that TANDA has some big aspirations beyond logging time and attendance. They have evolved the product as they have grown their market share. In moving into the medium to enterprise space, TANDA has rearchitected their platform from a procedural and prescriptive process to a highly customisable workforce solution. This has been achieved by developing new user groups and permissions that enable them to customise the platform to their internal language and process. For example, if you're a mining company with FIFO workers on a specific EBA, you can now customise payment and planning to your own ruleset. This is especially pertinent given the focus on ensuring award wages are properly paid.
What would they have done differently?
As with all organisations, it's not always been smooth sailing. There are always false starts, wrong paths and unexpected turns that have led to TANDA's customisable solution. Phil was kind enough to share 2 of their learnings.
- Technical Debt: As the TANDA platform built out and they moved to larger customers, they began to customise the platform for individual clients or use cases. The issue with this was that what pleases one client may not please the wider market. This is always a difficult architectural problem to solve. Do you keep 1 universal platform or release multiple sites with customisations? Given TANDA's business model, they decided to run with 1 platform but made it highly editable at runtime in the target application. The other scenario to this would be to use a parent child-site system with individual customisations. This is a great solution in some cases and WorkingMouse frequently does this for white-label configuration. See our article on Gevity here. The trade off in doing so is the maintenance in new parent features fitting within the customisation of the child sites and their maintenance. Again, it all comes down to the use case.
- Drop it early or build it out: The second learning that Phil shared on their journey was dropping features early or building them out. This was due to several features ending up in a half -finished state. Google is famous for culling their product or features. It's an interesting one to consider. If you build it, you must maintain it. It sounds as if Tanda's editable runtime platform strategy has likely solved a lot of these issues. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer for this one. However, it does point to 2 things. Firstly, consider the future implications and wider strategy in your day-to-day decisions. Secondly, did the founders lose touch with their customers? It sounds as if it came down to technical leadership and a move towards larger enterprise customers.
Key recommendations and advice
Lastly, Phil shared with us some key recommendations. If you find yourself with a problem that can be solved through a custom solution, as the Tanda founders did, what should you do?
Phil recommends that the key is market validation. Not assessment, validation. "You don't have to have the software to figure out if people will buy it." So, before you build, figure out if the market will buy it. If the market says yes and will pay now, great! You have yourself a presale to fund the build!
If you see yourself in a situation like Tanda's founders but don't know where to start, WorkingMouse's process is to always start with a problem. Once the 1-dimensional problem is identified clearly, we scope the first version of the solution that includes a prototype of it. This enables you to demonstrate the solution to your market and turn the market into runway for the future of your business as Tanda did.