Startup Radius interviewed Attracti, the developer of Solid Cube – project management tool for software and game developers. Discover how they work with more than 5 client types, how they differ from TeamGantt, Jira and Trello, and how they prefer “travelling” to classic marketing activities. Enjoy!
Can you tell us about what you are working on? What is Solid Cube?
We are working on the cardinal improvement of the efficiency within project management, in the development of software and games. Moving faster in the right direction is the only successful way today. But how do we plan the direction and how do we move faster?
You know this frequent scenario – guys are collecting a large amount on Kickstarter to create an ambitious game in one year, participants with experience in the gaming industry. It takes two years, and there is no game and not even an understanding of how much is left before it is completed. The direction is correct, but there is no speed and no control.
We think there is only one company that can move within the time limit as much as is necessary and answer “It will be done when it will be done”, this is Blizzard. And they control the situation absolutely. They don’t manage just the project or it’s quality – they manage expectations. This is the level of skill, they are like a surfer on the wave, moving with ease in a super competitive ocean.
We are working on the creation of the next generation product for forming and automating processes in the development of software and games, which will allow companies of all sizes to manage projects more effectively, and to deliver products with maximum value and quality, in time and on budget.
80% of software development projects fail in terms and / or budgets, and the changes in the requirements for the created product are usually the main reason for it. Companies don’t build long-term plans, as they are not connected to the current reality. They don’t re-design because it takes them a minimum of 3 days to make all the changes to the work plan. So they lose control.
Using our previous experience in Swiss Attracti for Automation ISO 9001, where an important part is the management of changes, we created Solid Cube – a software solution for project management, based on the best world methodologies and practices, using the automation of the maximum possible number of procedures.
Why are you building this? Was there a particular source of inspiration?
Achieving ambitious goals needs effective tools and practices. There are existing fragmented solutions which reduce everything to task lists. It’s no better than a sheet of paper and a pen.
We are talking about large-scale projects with multiple dependencies. It’s about managing complexity but not about abandoning it. That is the aim of projects of leading companies.
Do You know of a system that will rebuild itself, as well as the schedule of all employees for all tasks in all projects, if the priority of just one of the requirements has changed, that now requires completely changing the whole schedule of work for all projects?
Or a system that will model “what if?” options, and a system that will rebuild the whole cascade of tasks for different options for expanding the team, or to solve the problem to complete the project on time? A system where the Roadmap is not drawn once for stakeholders, but always reflects the real picture? A system where, as soon as the project has changed the estimate for one of the tasks, you will know how the milestone moved the estimate and whether it is now earlier or later than the planned date?
We are building it, not because we think we can, but because the majority believe that it’s impossible.
The technical solution to any problem shouldn’t be greater than the problem itself. But it must be commensurable, not just smaller. If the project is simple, then a complex tool will make the beginning of the project too long, and management will be redundant. If the project is complex, then primitive tools will help to quickly start it, after which the control will be lost.
About our inspiration. One strong project manager recently asked “what do you need to move faster?”. In the hall came the response “More effort”. Wrong, he answered. You need courage. It inspired us and this phrase became our slogan – Less effort more leadership. The project manager had to give more time to the team but not to the paper work which had to be automated for a long time.
We were inspired by the eastern way of thinking, where “everything is connected”. We decided to build this into the absolute, without stopping on the task dependency graph in the Gantt chart, or on the analysis of influence within the management of changes.
“You don’t need techniques. To win, you have to change with the changes” – this is advice from one of the masters of martial arts. Is this not the secret of success in management? Change – the law of survival in nature. Projects are no different. We are inspired by managers for whom the survival of a project is above their own “survival”.
Time for bragging! How big you are – traffic, users, anything else?
We had a large-scale R&D stage – 2 years, the product was recently launched in alpha, we started the early access phase by an individual invitation.
After the beginning of our world tour for product evangelism, we had early users of all sizes of business in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Sweden, Ukraine.
The first results will be summarized in September.
Who are your main competitors, and how good/bad they are?
The products of competitors are neither good nor bad. Their products are sufficient for some and not enough for others. We work with those who don’t have enough efficiency.
There are problems in the software development management market, which have been known since the 60s. There are advances, but more in methodologies than in tools.
For example, TeamGantt allows you to build Gantt charts for the whole portfolio of projects, but any changes in projects require manual rebuilding of the charts by the manager. This means that the procedure for drawing a Gantt chart is automated, and not the procedure for modelling it. And Solid Cube automatically rebuilds all diagrams under any change in incoming data.
Jira is widely used, there are about 200 plug-ins and integrations to it. It solves the problem of operational management. And Solid Cube solves the problem of strategic management, as well as operational.
Trello allows you to compose any format of board with tasks. This is great for forming a “dream board,” but for a serious process of moving tasks, to create a certain workflow for different types of tasks, project teams, etc., SolidCube will be better.
Strong solutions are very closely integrated. Internet Explorer could not be torn from Windows and it made him a leader for many years. And the whole market fought for making it a separate program, equal in opportunities with everyone.
At first sight Atlassian has been moving in the right direction for many years. It included the requirements management (a separate program on the background of SolidCube loosely related to the management of tasks that implement these requirements), an alternative to github, chat, and so on. Even the most simple chat, loosely connected with Jira as a result, Slack perfectly replaces the “corporate” chat. All of their products – not a single whole. And to make them a single entity, first you must stop taking charge for each user in each of the additional products.
On the way to greatness there is no difficulty more than the need to refuse from the part of the existing financial flow today.
As a result, the market has a lot of tools. And all of them are “good to solve only one problem”. Nobody wants to solve the whole complex of problems entirely, and to be responsible for the metric “does the whole complex help to pass the project on time with expected parameters” All by replacing it with responsibility for automating simple mechanical procedures.
Who uses your services/sites? What is your perfect buyer persona?
Our ideal customers are product oriented companies. Those for whom the product is more important than the process of its creation.
Developers of PC / console games of medium size (20-200 employees). They produce unique game mechanics in a solid visual packaging. They control everything – budget, timing, quality. They focus on creating one game. The most difficult is the management of the “last mile”, it’s a classic situation – “the last 20% of the project is 80% of its time”. The quality management is principal and this is a problem for the majority, which is confirmed by the feedback on Steam and reviews in the press.
Developers of mobile games of medium size (20-200 employees). They produce an effective model of monetization for the game, testing a variety of options for mechanics and variations within each. They control the production of quality, but the time and budget only for the frames dedicated to experiments. They seek to own a portfolio of successful games. To start each new one, at first they create a package of MVP games, test the involvement and potential of monetization, leave the best part of them, repeat the iterations until they get the ideal game to start. They can have up to 50 created prototypes of games. The key problem is the constant change of priorities across the whole product portfolio after each test.
AAA studio (200-3000 employees). They produce huge packages of content under the simplest mechanics and with a minimum of risks. They control the quality of the “picture” and need effective ways of reviewing the created content. They suffer from the stresses of restructuring processes if there are changes of generations of technologies and production processes. They have multimillion-dollar production budgets. Profits are usually high and maximum efficiency isn’t required for survival. They separate the process into pre-production and production. The larger the company, the larger part of the content creation is outsourced and the sub-contracting schemes are more difficult.
Indie game developers. They produce innovative mechanics, sometimes an innovative “picture.” The production process is more similar to R&D search process, prolonged pre-production. They have problems with quality, but don’t suffer from them. The key problem is a constant misunderstanding of the scale of the game or even of its horizon.
Startups. One product, development time is short. Requires maximum efficiency. The problem of development management is often given to the CTO. The biggest risk – care CTO, which is not often, but it happens. Understanding the project and its development plan is usually in one head. In the start-ups of the past wave, the problem was not management, but technology itself. The effective stack gave a bigger breakthrough than a good performance on legacy technologies. For hard tech startups, everything has changed. CTO is now not the only simplified solution to all problems, but just CTO in full understanding of this word.
Software product companies. They have a product portfolio. Part of the product is in production, part is being developed. Easily live on the decisions of competitors, but enjoy the new opportunities for strategic management.
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
It’s still early to talk about ups 🙂
What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?
We have been in the R&D stage for two years – it’s a regular solution of problems.
If you could give a marketing advice to other companies, what could it be based on your experience?
If your goal is big – give the users what they say and what they want. If your goal is great – give them what they really need.
Make sure that your values, and values of your customers or users, are the same.
Our own mission – is to share experience between Eastern & Western management schools, game development & startup industries. Any game company would benefit if taught to present their games the way they do startups. Any startup would benefit if taught to look for an approach to the hearts and aspirations of the people, not only to their pain points.
Which marketing channels you prefer and why?
We have only one channel – direct work with potential users. We explain what problem we solve and how. We learn how we can improve our product. So we made some breakthrough functions, such as modelling a project team, when the system helps to understand the exact time frame and budget when changing the number of executors in each role.This solves the problem of one company with 3,000 employees and it works perfectly for teams of 3 people who decide at the beginning of the project, or during its turn, who needs to be added to make the work on time.
Everyone else went to America, and we went to Asia. For quite an objective reason. But this is a topic for the whole article.
Are you integrated or partnered with other products/tools?
We create an integral tool for managing all key processes in the development cycle, and don’t integrate with products that we are going to replace. Our integrations are with the tools of the development itself, and not with the tools for managing it. Now we are integrating with GitHub, Unity, Unreal Engine.
What are the top 5 products/services you use in your company and why do you like them?
The browser and mobile phone solve all our marketing and business tasks, we are not attached to any specific instrument on a permanent basis.
- For business we use Google Docs and e-mail. The rest is people.
- For development we use Sketch for UX / UI
- Programmers use convenient to each of them IDE
Tell us something interesting!
To do marketing we abandoned the common practices and tools and flew for 40 days to Sweden, Japan, Singapore, South Korea. There were no interlayers from mailings between us and future users, compliments on twitter, landings, application forms and a lot of sensors for measuring the temperature of interest. We talked with everyone personally. And this was our most amazing experience. Real interest, real success.