Chase Harrington | Crain's Utah

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Chase Harrington

Background:  

Chase Harrington joined Lehi-based Entrata in 2009 as a senior accounts representative, moving over from blood plasma firm Bio-Medics. Entrata, formerly known as Property Solutions, offers a web-based platform for rental property management and is expanding into allied areas. Before becoming COO two years ago, Harrington was the firm’s chief strategy officer.

The Mistake:

When we extended our core product’s range of services, I did not fully understand our customers and their unique needs.

We had grown on our portals and payments products for several years and then we decided to make a play in the property management software site – specifically on the accounting side.

As we began to develop this additional piece of the system – the accounting functionality within it – we went from [servicing] property managers to CPAs, CFOs, and senior finance individuals. There's a totally different shift in mentality and expectation of software moving in that direction.

There was just a disconnect between the users and the system.

We had built our software to be completely web-based, where the users were used to an Amazon-like experience and clicking around and moving within it. We didn't take into account that accountants love their 10-key keypad; they want to be able to use the tab key. They don’t want to use a mouse. They were very, very particular about the way that reports came out and the way that they looked.

Everything should be able to be copied and pasted or downloaded into Excel. So there were just a lot of those things of user experience that were very different from end users utilizing a web-based system to do e-commerce to shop for an apartment.

Even though we made the mistake, it was important for us to have the experience to move through it, learn from it and not let it hold us back.

The Lesson:

We had to take a step back and look past it, try to be here and now and know what the issue was and evaluate two things: Where did we want to go? What were the needs of the future of the system?

So we took a couple of different approaches.

We brought in focus groups of accountants, both from our customers and just accountants in general to understand their mindset, their focus, to learn from their feedback to incorporate and adapt the software to meet those expectations.

We've also started hiring specialized employees: those who were either CPAs or consultants that really were involved at a deep layer of the direction of the product development to make sure that we had that accountant-focused product, that level of intellect and kind of mindset at the very base of the product development and to interact with the product users.

I think that directly influenced our our product strategy as a whole and how we moved forward with launching products and reaching our users at the fundamental level.

Even though we made the mistake, it was important for us to have the experience to move through it, learn from it and not let it hold us back.

 

Follow Entrata on Twitter at @EntrataSoftware

​Photo: Chase Harrington | Courtesy of Entrata.

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