January 22, 2018
By: Jeff Fowler
Decision Software began 2017 like a quarter horse charging out of a starting gate, with two new agencies signing MarketWide licenses; other clients renewing and expanding their contracts, placing WebTrak – our website activity tracking system – into production; and rolling out a major new product upgrade, including 47 significant new features, in the first three months of the year. It was yet another profitable growth year for us, with top line revenue increasing nearly 6% from 2016, and we came in 3.2% above projected revenue. This makes 2017 our second-best year ever!
Having piloted the DSI ship for nearly 30 years, I can’t recall a busier year than 2017. After a frenetic start, we spent the next several months struggling to stay abreast of an increased workload driven by new business, which in turn was driven by new services and product features. The enormous popularity of WebTrak caught us by surprise, as we saw millions of page visits suddenly pouring in at the same time that our email system was writing email sends, opens and clicks. Integrating real-time online data in an offline world is not for the faint-hearted! Further, as is often the case with new clients we had a flurry of product feature requests, and things didn’t begin to slow down until nearly November. Thankfully, one of our accomplishments included moving to an online knowledge base and ticketing system, which greatly helped us stay on top of all the excitement. Finally, as icing on our 2017 cake: towards the end of the year we added Facebook support in our TouchPoint campaign manager, allowing our clients to include targeted Facebook ads as part of their marketing arsenal.
As promised a year ago, we invested the majority of our technical resources in all things digital. Consequently, our next release of MarketWide is the first one that will require a web server on the MarketWide host. (Note for clients with security concerns, which basically means all clients: this web server can run without being available on the Internet.) MarketWide’s administrative functions have all been moved into a browser interface we refer to as MarketWide Online (MWO), as have its email and website activity reports.
One of the downsides with software development is the whopping amount of time you waste just to keep stuff working! This hefty maintenance price tag is often overlooked by companies that decide to “build” instead of “buy.” What with changes Microsoft makes to Windows, changes in APIs and third-party components, new versions of SQL Server or Oracle, and new Internet browsers: easily 25% of our programming hours are spent changing code that already works so it keeps working. To illustrate this point, we spent a year designing email enhancements that became obsolete seemingly seconds after our release, due to new features Amazon announced in their “Amazon SES” cloud-based email platform. A crystal ball would have saved us a lot of time! This said, here are a few of our technology goals on deck for 2018:
- In keeping with the “it ain’t broke yet, but fix it before it is” theme, we’re rewriting MarketWide’s communication system, as our good friends at Microsoft no longer support the one we currently use (which of course works perfectly well).
- On a more pleasant note, we’ll roll out a powerful “winner/challenger” feature in the first quarter of 2018. This feature lets marketers submit different versions of subject lines, preheaders, and HTML within a single email campaign; and MarketWide will automatically choose the best combination based on actual response.
- As mentioned above, we’re testing changes to our email system that take advantage of Amazon’s new optimization features. These changes offer terrific performance improvements, as well as support for dedicated IP addresses.
- One of our more ambitious goals is to allow marketers to “publish” custom BI reports as interactive web pages, complete with tables and charts. This leads the way to eventual support for user-created BI dashboards.
In conclusion, 2018 is largely shaping up to be a rebuilding year for DSI. I expect much time to be spent re-architecting existing – and working – technology to either take advantage of new features or simply avoid becoming obsolete. But we will continue boldly forging ahead on our digital trail, moving more features to MWO, enhancing our email system, increasing social media support, and improving our website activity tracking system. As always, to our clients and partners: please accept my sincere thanks and appreciation both for your business and your friendship. We look forward to another year of working with you.