When you're selling to C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies, information is critical.
You need to know about the business you’re targeting first and foremost, but just as important is the person. Social media can tell you where he or she went to school and offer a rough career trajectory, but that’s not going to help you lock in a deal.
What if, instead, you could walk into your big meeting armed with an in-depth understanding of that executive’s priorities, challenges and personal interests? What if you came to the table knowing what problems needed to be solved, and then offered a solution?
Sharon Gillenwater created Boardroom Insiders to provide that level of business intelligence for C-suite sales, marketing and recruiting. More than a decade later, the company has grown into a rich online database of more than 19,000 executive profiles, as well as a team of editors and researchers across the country.
The business was successful, the market growing. There was just one problem: It was built on a legacy code base that, with each new addition or tweak, was becoming increasingly brittle. There came a point in the evolution of the business when Sharon and Boardroom Insiders’ President Lee Demby realized the technology they started with wasn’t going to carry them into the future.
Dualboot Partners came in with an idea that would.
Boardroom Insiders is a content company, and technology is the fuel that runs it. Technology gets each executive profile into the hands of enterprise-level clients. Technology gives its largely virtual team the opportunity to work from anywhere, at any time. Technology allows Boardroom Insiders to scale.
That said, neither Sharon nor Lee are technical executives. They needed someone to manage the platform so they could continue building a business on top of it.
For a time, they worked with a contractor who managed the back end of their system, but they needed more “horsepower.” They hired an outside agency, but the process was “painful.”
“They would roll stuff out and it hadn’t been tested properly. We spent untold hours testing and making lists of what was wrong and being very specific and detailed so we could go back to the developers and they would understand what needed to happen. Frankly, that’s not where my skill set is. I’m not a good product manager,” Sharon said.
In the end, both the platform and the technology partners they tried to bring in were holding them back.
“The needs of our business were becoming greater and greater and more urgent because we were taking on more customers, bigger customers, higher-profile customers in the tech industry who had a certain expectation when it came to the user experience on our tool,” Sharon said.
The technology had to look good and work well; that was priority #1. But just as critical was a massive upgrade the Boardroom Insiders back end. Sharon and Lee wanted to improve efficiency and productivity; to make it easier to manage, update and curate its 17,000 profiles; and to allow its team to focus on higher-level analysis and research.
Sharon and Lee knew they needed a solid technology partner. They knew they needed a system-wide upgrade. And when they came to Dualboot Partners, we told them we could provide all of that.
And we had a big idea for a better way forward.
Instead of adding to the mountain of brittle code, we proposed replatforming the entire Boardroom Insiders system.
It was a much bigger job but one that would lay a strong foundation to support new features and products. It would allow them to move faster and more efficiently and, most importantly, to scale.
“They could have done what we asked them to do, but I think they gave very good counsel in that, to future-proof the business, we needed to rewrite our language so we could do all the things we wanted to do — not just now but a year or two years or three years from now — much cleaner and faster,” Lee said.
The original code base was written in PHP and hosted on Rackspace, and it was functioning well. So we proposed building a new platform — written in Ruby on Rails and hosted on AWS — in parallel. Boardroom Insiders would continue to function, business as usual, while we created a new home for the entire system.
Then, when the new system was built, we would turn the old one off and the new one on.
The replatforming process took roughly three and a half months. We took the lead and managed the entire process, but we also made sure Sharon and Lee had full access to our team of developers, via a dedicated Slack channel.
Sharon had used an offshore team in the past — to build the original Boardroom Insiders website — and the experience had been frustrating. This time was markedly different.
One of the riskiest parts of replatforming an existing and successful business is the fact that your work will inevitably disrupt a tried-and-true experience for already happy customers.
But when the new platform went live at the end of 2018, there was no uproar, no frustrated emails or canceled contracts. There was, in fact, no feedback at all. As part of the development process, we had intentionally kept much of the design attributes the same. We didn’t want to transform the user experience as much as we wanted to shore up the foundation. And it worked. As Lee puts it, no feedback can be good feedback.
When it comes to the writers and editors, however — the ones using the Boardroom Insiders back end — that’s been a very different story.
“That’s where everything is brand new, and that’s where everything is drastically different. It’s so much less cumbersome. It’s more of a spa-like experience,” Lee said.
As a result of the changes, Sharon and Lee have seen increased engagement from their team and a greater focus on the higher-level analysis their work requires. Now, Boardroom Insiders is working with us to create an editorial dashboard that will allow them to create productivity metrics, track performance and plan for staffing needs moving forward.
That’s exciting, but not as much as what’s coming next.
“Now, we’re creating the first new product we’ve created since we started the business. It’s going to be game-changing, and it’s been hugely advantageous that we replatformed the site because it’s going to get there much faster and cheaper than if we’d built it on top of our old site,” Sharon said.
It was the biggest technology investment the company has made to date, but it is also poised to be the most valuable.