How did Tanda achieve their ini­tial prod­uct/​mar­ket fit

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 work­ 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.

  1. They asked these busi­nesses if they would pay for it and took or­ders - Presales and cash­flow up front!
  2. This gave them the cash to in­vest in build­ing the com­mer­cial prod­uct.
  3. 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 TANDAs cus­tomis­able so­lu­tion. Phil was kind enough to share 2 of their learn­ings.

  1. 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 TANDAs 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.

  2. 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. Check out our guide to soft­ware pric­ing here.


David Burkett

Growth en­thu­si­ast and res­i­dent pom

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