Justin E. Lake is an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member in Dallas and the CEO of Venado Technologies, which provides digital solutions for the mobile workforce anchored in business strategy and user experience to drive maximum adoption. We asked Justin how his company and its services evolved due to marketplace demand. Here's what he shared:

Entrepreneurs are problem-solvers. But depending on which problem we aim to solve, we sometimes miss the mark by creating solutions to problems that customers aren't ready or willing to solve. Here's how I learned that lesson.

The "Golden Age" of digital transformation

In the late 2000s and early teens, enterprise leaders were tripping over themselves to build apps for their mobile workforces. Driven by FOMO--the fear of missing out--leaders couldn't always explain the exact value they expected from their digital solutions but didn't want to be the only company without technology in the hands of its workforce. Digital Transformation was the buzz word encouraging companies to rethink how they leveraged technology. So-called "Digital Transformation Maturity Assessments" led to a handful of great ideas, some of which were implemented.

It was a period of incredibly inefficient execution to design, build and deploy mobile technology. In our company, we define mobile technology as the solutions that enable mobile workers to perform better, faster and safer in the field. We witnessed situations where multiple teams within a single organization were building solutions with similar functionality--but independently of one another and without coordinating to streamline the technology stack they used. This resulted in fewer opportunities to standardize skills and integration points, which ultimately increased the cost and complexity of building and supporting these tech solutions.

Solving a growing problem

When I joined Venado Technologies in 2015 as a partner, we established our mission: To solve this growing problem and offer enterprises a way to achieve the technology capabilities they sought, but in a far more effective way. Our tagline back then was, "We build mobile applications smarter, faster, easier." (I'll admit that marketing wasn't our strongest competency.)

To achieve our mission, we developed processes that streamlined discovery and helped clients prioritize tech investments. We focused on improving the economic impact of relatively small tech investments by encouraging customers to tackle innovation in bite-sized chunks. In other words, we helped identify the low-hanging fruit so customers could experience success early, thus paving the path for an ongoing culture of innovation.

Solution design with the user in mind

I've always advocated for a field-based approach to discovery when considering new technology solutions for the mobile workforce. Often, program sponsors believe they have a solid grasp on field operations--yet spend little, if any, time in the field.

Unfortunately, you can't design a good mobile solution from a conference room. It's imperative to get firsthand exposure to the workers to understand a day in their lives, learn about the tools they use to do their jobs, and experience the environment in which they'll use the proposed technology. We must start our solution design with the user in mind. As obvious as that sounds, it's often overlooked in the enterprise technology space.

For several years, we designed, developed and deployed mobile technology for clients who demanded a customized, high-quality technology solution for their workforce. As our process evolved, we asked more questions about user engagement, especially if we hadn't been involved in creating the solutions.

What we found was frustrating: Universally, enterprises were struggling to get user adoption and engagement to acceptable levels. With low adoption rates, companies were investing millions of dollars in field technology but not realizing the "R" in ROI.

Focusing on user engagement

In 2018, we realized our mission was about to take a slightly different path.

We've always focused on the men and women on the front lines of business--I think of them as the invisible workforce all around us:

  • Delivery professionals who make sure grocery store shelves are stocked
  • Field technicians who install everything from elevators to aircraft engines
  • Utility company techs who make sure our electricity works when we flip the switch

Without them, the world as we know it would come to a grinding halt within 24 hours.

As critical as these professionals are, employers under-deliver to them when it comes to digital transformation. It's not that companies don't provide them with technology tools--they most certainly do. Where they fail is in teaching the competencies needed to use those tools effectively. Field technologies advance every year, yet companies still use training methods from 20 years ago: Classroom training with slide presentations and a couple of quick start guides.

The more we asked about user engagement on mobile apps, the more interest we saw from potential customers. Companies that had been tough to engage started returning our calls quickly and even calling us proactively. Fortune 1000 companies were carving out several-hour slots with their key executives to learn how we could solve their mobile engagement problem.

We knew we were on to something big.

Evolving our business model to meet market demand

Rather than limit the value we provide to only building new apps, we realized what the market needed most was a better way to improve engagement with its existing apps.

We were uniquely positioned to take on this challenge:

  • We knew how to design and build mobile technology.
  • We knew how to work in large, complex organizations.
  • Most importantly, we knew--perhaps better than anyone else--the needs of mobile workers.

So, we built a platform to solve the challenge. Our solution brings mobile application training directly to the devices that desk-less users already use. Whether a company is deploying a new solution or trying to improve engagement with its existing apps, we can deploy our training simulation platform directly to them. It's hands-on training for hands-on workers.

Though we started out trying to solve a problem that a lot of customers weren't ready to solve, we listened as market demand guided our path. Through our evolution, we realized that our skills and experience uniquely positioned us to solve a problem that was ready for a solution. Once we embraced that, we've seen some of the largest companies in the world lining up to learn more and jump on board.