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Our team has been building an analytics and data storytelling platform called Symphony for 7 years through client work. We've learned a lot but also faced limitations working "backstage" on consulting projects. Now we want to build Symphony in public to share our startup journey transparently and accelerate learning.

Our goals are to:

  • Hold ourselves accountable and ship something valuable
  • Raise awareness of a common but rarely discussed workplace problem - wasted time creating static exports of live dashboards/analytics
  • Learn from and inspire other product teams
  • Share our blueprint and insights with clients

By documenting our progress, challenges, and wins, we hope to validate Symphony's value, bring light to this workplace productivity problem, and help others building new products or tackling problems.

Credit: Claude AI by Anthropic

“If you build it, they will come”:

Field of Dreams couldn’t be more wrong! At BRG, our Global Applied Technology team has been building and evolving Symphony Analytics for 7 years. In that time we have had 1000s of users, global customers, and a multitude of projects. We have learned a lot about what customers need (or don’t) and what we need to build (or avoid at the peril of losing focus).

But working on consulting projects and clients can sometimes feel like working backstage, or “in stealth”. There’s a lot of work that has to be customized to the consulting project, and often you can’t share names or specific experiences due to client confidentiality. So, we have continued learning from these experiences and we think we know where we can build something special that helps these clients and can grow to thousands of other customers. It’s time to share that learning and that journey as early and as often as we can for all the right reasons.

To us, moving to a “building in public” format is really about learning in public. We hope this serves a few distinct audiences, in no particular order:

  • Ourselves: We’re fortunate in so many ways, but we’ve got a bit of a chip on our shoulder. The journey has been anything but easy, and we’ve got to prove to ourselves that we can do this or learn a ton failing big. Building in public is the best way I’ve seen to document the blueprint and direction of travel through the pain, failure and success.

Of course, the accountability is great too. I find our team incredibly motivated and disciplined, but we want to add some “pressure in the system” to force acceleration in all directions.

  • The broad base of our target audience: This story won’t tell itself. And if we aren’t our own billboard for the problem we are addressing it will likely stay buried in people’s existing busy lives at work. Sharing our journey will inherently share the why of what we’re doing.

  • Other product teams: At a midpoint in our last 7 years I took a pause to evaluate how we were doing what we are doing. My team is probably so tired of hearing “I heard something” or “I read that…”. But the strongest way I’ve learn to execute is to consume every single thing I can from people that have seen success in whatever it is that I want to achieve. Yes, you learn from failures but success will inform your template. But we will have to carve out our own journey and playbook…so that’s exactly what we’re going to share.

  • Our existing client and partner ecosystem: Listed last, but far from least. Nearly everything we are already doing for these clients has provided us with feedback and insight of how to proceed. And the work we’re going to do will certainly continue to offer them value. The least we could do is offer some learning and inspiration back to this group!

For all groups here’s the core reason building in public is going to be worth it and value-add:

there’s a real problem that we are fixated on, I’m sure of it! Our product mentions a lot about data storytelling and that is a big part of the goal. But the problem is even more basic and annoying:

Everyday, millions of people are trying to share data-driven insights to improve business sales, marketing, operations, and strategy. And everyday, live dashboards and analytics are now used to power those insights (wasn’t true a decade ago). But more and more hours are spent generating millions of Powerpoints and emails as the de facto medium for this work. With static snippets of the interactive tools and an overwhelming amount of “inbox content”, it creates a boneyard of content that may raise more questions than answers and an inability to answer those questions without…more time.

Chronically or on a project basis, this likely affects you or people you know in the workplace. Yet, it rarely gets talked about or addressed. Building in public allows us to share what we’re hearing. By sharing how we’re thinking about this problem it amplifies it, and sheds light on related issues.

For each audience the takeaway is slightly different, but there are a few distinct areas where I think it will be a lot of fun and learning for anyone watching:

Go to Market: How to say it 🤔…going to market is freaking tough. Especially if your team or company is mostly bootstrapped. More specifically, building software as “intrapraneurs” from within a services business is its own VERY different challenge, one we are facing. It is one that has a profound payoff IF pulled off. On any given day there are a dozen options related to your marketing spend and your very limited time spend. Do you build a new campaign or let the existing one ride? Do you ignore campaigns and spend time prospecting and selling? Do you outsource to an agency to level-up, or is it a 0% ROI endeavor and a waste of your funds?

It's a grind, but a fun one. I’ll bet when you see me working through these decisions and their impacts in a glass room, you’ll enjoy the show.

Technical Development: One thing I have utmost confidence in is our crew of technologists are incredibly smart. We might have a real…special… way of progressing, communicating and working through problems but these folks are brilliant. If you enjoy solving hard technical/software problems you’ll enjoy this part. Something I love about our team and I find unique to our team is that we have to find a way to develop nimbly and quickly like a startup but b/c of our customer base we also have to ensure enterprise-grade software. It’s hard but we do it and that’s what I think makes this crew special. Also, we don’t take a singular approach to “build your own” versus open-source selection. I think we really do appropriately cobble and curate which might offer some inspiration and learning to anyone watching.

Design: There can be so much nuance here. We built a pretty technical product, but our end-users are not super technical. Our design has to make things simpler, not more complex. As 37Signals suggests, “do less”. We are trying to supercharge that lesson in our design.

Then there’s marketing/messaging design that overlaps with all of this. Plenty of fun to be had here because everyone has an opinion 😅!

This is going to be fun. Whenever I revisit this post, I hope I’m revisiting it with a great deal more success and happy customer stories than we have today. In any case I can assure you of this: I’ll have a few more lines on my face, there will be more content about our journey, and I will have learned more than I know today. Now LFG.