We talk to Wayne Daniels, President of C3GROUPS about envisioning and building a new event management platform.
Blake Smith: Accelerate Business Transformation by Apex Process Consultants.
Nick Laughton: This week on the podcast, we're talking about Envisioning again and we'll be hearing from an established company that used Envisioning to launch a new platform. If you're interested in learning more about Envisioning, head over to our new website, envisionapex.com. We hope you enjoy the show.
This is Nick Laughton from Apex Process Consultants. I'm here with David Knapp, president of Apex and we are here talking to Wayne Daniels, who's the president of C3 Groups. Hi, Wayne. Welcome to the podcast.
Wayne Daniels: Thank you. It's good to be here.
Nick Laughton: Wayne, could you just introduce yourself and maybe tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, C3 Groups?
Wayne Daniels: Sure. I'd be happy to. C3 Groups is a third party intermediary. We are in the meetings and convention industry. I've spent my whole career in the meetings and convention industry and from early on in my career, just in the hotel side of things and was very much in the sales end of it. And for the past 20 years plus, in the what's called the third party intermediary between which is really a person that is between a customer and the hotel industry. It's become a very popular way to manage convention meeting RFP sourcing for associations and corporations. They like to rely on one person that is sort of a single source that allows them to get a handle on all of their business needs throughout the year, locations they've been, locations they're going to and locations they're considering. And that person like myself, they would entrust, which does take a little time but once they do trust you, then they know that you know their schedules, what they're looking for, they know that you're really working on their behalf and that's just a powerful tool for them.
Nick Laughton: Okay. Thank you for that. When we first met you way back at the very beginning of this year, you were well into developing some ideas for a new software platform for your event planning business. Can you tell us a little bit about that and what the background to that was?
Wayne Daniels: Having been in this industry a long time and I felt like I was just channeled down one area and that was the area of really sourcing. And sourcing is that RFP management along with my customers. Which is very good and very important however, there's other parts of it that they also utilize. And that would be the area of attendee registration, as well as attendee reservation. And they may use those independently or in conjunction with each other. One of the big gaps that many third party companies, no matter what size have or don't have is the ability to offer RFP sourcing, which is their primary focus. But now we're also able to offer the registration and the reservation process to that mix.
And it's something that planners need. I kind of looked at it like, well, it's a strength of business model, as well as the ability then to sort of bundle things as they need to or not. Basically they could use them individually or in combination with each other or in a complete array. They could use sourcing and then consider once they get closer into the project, they could start the registration process and that would tie into the reservation process as well.
Nick Laughton: Okay. The integration of these different functional areas was the key differentiator that you were going for?
Wayne Daniels: Yes, definitely.
Nick Laughton: Okay. Let's talk a little bit about how you came to talk to Apex. What were you looking for when you found out about Apex? Maybe I should ask, how did you find out about Apex?
Wayne Daniels: Not a straight line. I'd been working on interviewing different groups and I found a group here. I'm in the Houston area and I found a group that's fairly local and was working with them relatively extensively on just my concept ideas and mapping down my thoughts and working with them on that. As they learned more about what it was that I was looking for, they felt that looking at a low code platform was maybe a better solution because it could provide the flexibility that I was really kind of looking for and probably what my clients will be looking for as well. Literally we interviewed, I know several different companies when we talked to your group that you were heads and tails over the others in the way you approached us and sort of how we felt that your direction was going in tune with what we were trying to accomplish.
Nick Laughton: Okay, great. You don't have software developers in your team. That's not something that you have in your organization?
Wayne Daniels: No, that would not be the area of expertise that I consider myself.
Nick Laughton: Right, right. Okay. But you were looking for a low code platform and you felt that the Apex designer platform fit the bill for you were trying to do.
Wayne Daniels: Well, I'll be honest with you, I didn't know what platform I was looking for. There's I think the company I was talking to was more of the traditional type of coding and they were the ones that suggested I look into low code. And then once we did and then learned more about what its capabilities were, it sounded like it was more flexible with what we were trying to accomplish.
Nick Laughton: Don't think you'll be offended if I describe you as a nontechnical founder of your company.
Wayne Daniels: No, that would be accurate.
Nick Laughton: How did that affect your selection process, let's say?
Wayne Daniels: From that angle, I guess, comfort, the ability to articulate what it is that I am trying to get done and your ability to articulate that back to me was important. That kind of helped me have a comfort level and at least initially moving forward.
Nick Laughton: Okay, great. Okay. After we'd had some discussions with your team, Wayne, between us we decided that the best start would be to go with an Envisioning project. Had you heard of Envisioning before?
Wayne Daniels: Not really.
Nick Laughton: Okay. And can you tell us a bit about how the Envisioning project helped you to get confidence in your ideas and sort of solidify your plan?
Wayne Daniels: Sure. It didn't take my long to figure out some of the values of doing an Envisioning project. I'd never obviously done one before but I think it's an opportunity for both myself in this case and my team, as well as you guys, to figure out what it is that I was looking for. I looked at it as a two way street that you were learning what I was needing and I was learning how you may address some of the solutions that I was looking for. Going to that process certainly allowed me to understand further what things may look like down the road.
Nick Laughton: Tell us a bit about the nuts and bolts of the Envisioning project. When did you get to see the first prototypes? And how did the project get started?
Wayne Daniels: Gosh, that seems like so long ago but it really wasn't all that long ago. We started that process in March and within days, we already had something to look at and kind of start walking through with Dave and his team, including yourself. That was pretty exciting. Kind of started off on a pretty good footing and helped us just kind of continue down that path.
Nick Laughton: How was it helpful to be able to see the app running right from the beginning? Did it affect your decisions? Or did it help you to prioritize different features?
Wayne Daniels: In looking at it, it's obviously just a prototype and I always wanted more. Because at that point you're hungry for more. But the idea was that you kind of get a general idea of the flow and how things were going to be categorized. And you kind of get an idea of how the database may work, some of the features that the user experience would get on that end. And plus, our administrative side of it was important. It was kind of gives you a well rounded view of the process.
Nick Laughton: Very good. Were there any wow moments where you made different decisions perhaps than you would've done otherwise or maybe learned about some capabilities that you weren't sure if you'd be able to deliver? Anything like that?
Wayne Daniels: I thought actually from the start, I really felt whatever I asked you could probably manage, which I found that to be a good thing. Anytime what I felt might be challenging or problematic, there always was a relatively smooth and easy solution to it. Not always a straight line because that's part of the building and the communication is to understand really what the end product I really needed to have. And in some cases I knew what I needed to have, in some cases maybe I didn't. And that's where that kind of that teamwork helps a little bit too.
Nick Laughton: Okay. Very good. Let's talk a little bit about what happened after the Envisioning project. Basically at the completion of that phase, you decided to go ahead with some more development. Build out the initial release one of your platform, is that right?
Wayne Daniels: That's correct. We went head first into it.
Nick Laughton: You had a customer or a small group of customers in mind for that initial release, is that right?
Wayne Daniels: Yeah. My idea was to at least get one to two users on it and get the beta project started. Back then it was quite early in it and I was just hoping that that would happen and it actually did. That was very helpful.
Nick Laughton: Excellent. And we're big fans of agile development at Apex. Was this your first experience of an agile development project? Or were you familiar with that already?
Wayne Daniels: Only from a peripheral standpoint. I had a very prude type of reservation system I was using before and it was woefully underfunded but it worked and it gave me a better sense of what it was from a reservation point of view that I wanted to have something to achieve as to make a better product out of it. I did bring in a registration expert, person in the industry I've known for 20 years, Darryl Cook was very instrumental in helping me manage the registration piece of that because I had a good portion of the knowledge but he really had the higher level expertise.
Nick Laughton: And so between you and Darryl, you were able to prioritize the features for the first release to get to that minimum viable product. When did you first get to show that to your target customers?
Wayne Daniels: I guess that would be June was a good timeframe. We had much better handle on the project then. Was able to feel more comfortable about introducing it to some of the customers that I have out there and I was really kind of focused on one of my customers because I knew that they were looking for a way to break into an area that they were kind of managing the whole registration and reservation process pretty manually through a series of apps and things like that to help them. They were a good target for this and we gave a good opportunity and they thankfully said, "Yeah, let's do it."
Nick Laughton: Okay. They're up and running on the platform and using it to organize an event right now.
Wayne Daniels: Yes. Our current events will be taking place in mid February of 2022. It's around 1,200 attendees so it's a significant project. When we first looked at it, we didn't think that the needs that they had were complicated. They actually were a little bit more challenging than maybe I thought and even Darryl but I think that was good. And I think that is good because we were able to meet those needs and those challenges.
Nick Laughton: And what kind of feedback are you getting from them on the new platform?
Wayne Daniels: I think it's good. It really is. Obviously there's always going to be challenges along the way when you're developing something in some cases on the fly with them but you knew that we had the majority of all of the programming there. It was just a matter of tweaking their needs to the platform. There's always a little bit of angst but I think that that's par for the course. But as far as their feedback on the end results, it's been very good.
Nick Laughton: Excellent. Looking ahead then, what comes next? How do you see your platform developing?
Wayne Daniels: I don't know. I stay awake at night thinking about that all the time. I kid about that. Our goal is to continue to develop out new customers out there that are looking for a new platform, one that we feel that is easily used by their administrative people, as well as our ability to help them set it up first go is always probably the bigger challenge is the first time they see something new. And we're trying to make that where it's a very usable, friendly experience to the consumer.
Nick Laughton: If you were talking to somebody that was in a similar position to where you were say a year ago with a great idea but not really the technical team or the technical background to launch it, what advice would you have for them?
Wayne Daniels: Just understand what it is that you really want and it helps. I think I didn't understand what I wanted. I think probably you never know what you're going to need until you get into something and how deep you want to get into it. And in order to round out a project, it usually takes more than you think, I would say that. And more in terms of everything. Your own knowledge, what it ends up being at the end, it's a better product overall because of that. And that's really ultimately what I was looking for.
Nick Laughton: Okay, great. Is there anything else about the whole experience of working with Apex you want to tell us about? Or anything else at all you want to tell us about for that matter?
Wayne Daniels: No. For me, it's been fun and it's something I've dreamt about doing for many years. COVID provided different opportunities. Our business side of it, the meetings and convention business has been truly devastated by it. Literally no business for two years, almost. As a result of that, I really had more downtime than I normally would have and I spent a lot of time with Dave and actually prior to all that, just with some friends that are in area of developing software and just kind of hammering down my ideas before I ever even reached Dave's phone and it was great to be able to do that and spend that time. And then it just continued on and that's how we ended up on your guys' doorstep, I guess.
Nick Laughton: Yeah. Okay, great. Well, thank you very much for talking with us today. Wayne. Dave, do you have anything else you want to add?
David Knapp: No, I think Wayne did a great job of covering it all and it certainly has been a lot of fun for us as well, Wayne. Lot of challenges of course but we've really, really enjoyed it and look forward to working with you long into the future.
Wayne Daniels: Thank you.
Nick Laughton: Yeah. Wishing you all the best for the future, Wayne. Every success on your new platform.
Wayne Daniels: Appreciate that. We're looking forward to it.
Nick Laughton: All right. Well, I didn't write a script for the ending of the podcast. I guess that's the end.
We hope you enjoyed this discussion. If you're interested in learning more about Envisioning, head to our website, envisionapex.com.
Blake Smith: Thanks for listening to Accelerate Business Transformation by Apex Process Consultants.