Cloudmanic Labs is a small company—we can’t do it all. In fact, some tasks get set aside, and I am ashamed to admit that great customer support was sidelined by Cloudmanic Labs in 2013. We did not respond to customers as quickly as we should have and oftentimes our responses were generic and impersonal. As a company we have lots of goals for 2014, but we have only one resolution: to get back on track with great customer support—by which we mean timely and personal responses to all of our customers’ emails.
In addition to reorganizing our company to make sure support requests always receive top priority, we intend to greatly enhance the self-service support we offer. That is, giving our customers the information you need to know in the first place so you will not have to ask. We do love to chat with our customers so if you want to connect, send us an email. However, when you are in need of support we really want you to get the pertinent information as fast as possible. So today I am announcing our new support center, a place where customers can instantly obtain answers to (most of) their burning questions.
The new Cloudmanic Labs support center is located at http://cloudmanic.com/support. (Horn toot!)
At Cloudmanic Labs we have built a variety of software applications; some for customers and others for internal use, some that are bleeding-edge-brand-new and others that are more mature. In the past decade scaling our applications was never much of an issue. Our growth pattern was pretty linear, and we always ran our applications on the same collection of servers. To manage growth we simply added another server or upgraded the specs of our existing servers.
But over time, collocating newer and older applications on the same servers created a major problem. Before running new libraries (such as upgrading Node.js or PHP to the latest versions) we needed to make sure that our older software was compatible. Meaning we could not release new software as fast as we wanted to due to the risk of causing issues with our older products.
About 2 months ago we set out to solve this problem. Before making any changes we profiled our applications. In the past they were similar in terms of memory, CPU, disk I/O, and network usage: serve up some HTML, make some calls to the database, and support some Ajax calls. No more. Our new world is very real-time and mobile, and these factors stress our systems in different ways. Profiling helped us realize that each application has unique requirements and each needs to be on its own collection of servers. We see managing multiple server configurations as a small price to pay as we mature as a company.
Does offering phone support make a difference? It does—but not in the way you might think. At Cloudmanic offering amazing customer support is a top priority. If you want us to do backflips we intend to try. Why, then, do we not offer phone support? The bottom line is that phone support costs a lot of money. Many of our peers do offer phone support—and their prices are at least double ours. It really comes down to this simple fact: because 98% of our customers never require support we don’t feel that it makes sense to raise our prices for the 2% who occasionally do.
In the very beginning we had to make the tough decision to provide support only via email (and sometimes Twitter or Facebook). We stand by this decision. We understand that email is not some users’ preferred way of receiving support, but we have not yet encountered an issue that we could not resolve with a customer via email.
Over the last year many of our customers and partners have reached out to us and asked, “What gives?” We’ve heard over and over again that our rate of innovation has slowed. We have not released any new or revised features in almost a year. Everyone wants to know, where the heck is this new Heapless and Evermanic product they’ve been hearing about? Well, today we are going to confess.
About a year ago we realized a few things:
- We are not just a single-application company. Cloudmanic is more than just Skyclerk. Our mission is to better the lives of small businesses via innovative software. While accounting and bookkeeping is important, there is so much more we can do.
- If we wanted to do more, we needed a better infrastructure. We did not want to "reinvent the wheel" for every new product or service we offered. Core infrastructure, such as user accounts, billing, and hosting, all needed to be united.
- We needed to unite our brand. Cloudmanic is about holistically helping small businesses. Moving between our products and services should be a fluid experience. The best way to do that is under a shared umbrella.
What Has Changed?
I am pleased to announce the first release of our new infrastructure today. This has been more than a year in the making, and we are just getting started. Here are the changes you will see with your Skyclerk account:
If you’re a fan of communication, this is a great time to be alive. Between Twitter and Facebook and texting and email and blogs and old-fashioned phone calls, it’s nearly impossible not to be in touch with others.
We love all that stuff, sometimes it can be too much of a good thing. Cliché? Maybe, but also true. We’ve decided to consolidate our feeds, so from now on, here’s where you can find us:
In the near future, you’ll also be able to stay in touch with us via our redesigned website.
Why the change? Mainly, to make things easier – for us and for you.
As we were putting some of the finishing touches on our newest product, we realized we’re trying to communicate on too many channels. We had different accounts for different products, and it was starting to take up a lot of our time to keep up. More importantly, we thought our customers probably had a hard time figuring out the best way to interact with us, too.
When it came to communication feeds, we weren’t being simple or efficient. Which is to say, we weren’t being true to ourselves.
Things feel better now. So please, drop us a line/post/tweet. We may have fewer accounts, but we’re still easy to find, and ready to listen – no matter how you chose to get in touch.
I am writing this post after making the decision to kill months of hard work around adding invoicing to Skyclerk. We have decided to scrap everything and start over as the road we were driving down showed not to be the right path. We almost made the decision to finish up what we were working on, launch it, and then make it better over time. Iterative software development is a notion we grasp onto and practice, but then again, our first release should be something we are at least proud of.
The problem is we made a big mistake. We have been telling customers for months invoicing was coming soon. By opening our big mouths and not delivering we are letting our customers down. For that we are sorry!
Keep Our Big Mouth Shut
Last year we made some big mistakes. We exposed our product roadmap with timeframes of when we thought we were going to have things done. This included our mobile apps, invoicing in Skyclerk, and more. Then we were stuck between delivering on our commitments to our customers and building the best darn product we could. I am afraid the product suffered because of the added stress of hitting targets we announced. If we just kept our mouth shut we would have had the freedom to take the time it needs to release when we knew we were ready, not when we felt we had to get something out of the door.
We like to be a transparent company. We like to talk to customers about what we are doing and where we are heading, but more importantly we like to build impressive products and features. We feel we can serve our customers better by delivering something that is “freaking amazing” than giving them an outlook into where we are heading.
I am afraid as of today we will no longer publicly give insights into where we are heading. We will have to keep our product roadmap private. Please disregard any timeframes or roadmap announcements we have made in the past.
Please don’t be afraid to send us your thoughts and comments. While we may no longer respond with “great idea we will start working on it”, we do listen to all our customers, and use as much feedback as we can when building our products and features.
And rest assured, because we do not brag about working on what is important for you, it does not mean we are not doing exactly that.
Exciting news: We just launched Grapeshare, new social network that lets you share the wine you love with friends.
At Cloudmanic, we like wine. For years, the team has talked about wine, discovering new wine, keeping track of wines we have enjoyed, and how there needed to be a better way to share wine with friends. We looked at different wine apps, but there was no elegant tool for what they wanted. We wanted something easier and beautiful. And something that we could use to not only track wines, but discover new ones. Discover people who are like us and like the grapes we like.
So naturally, we decided to take matters into their own hands. The result is Grapeshare, a new social network for oenophiles that lets you share the wine you love with friends. You can record and rate wines, upload label photos, make connections and get recommendations.
If this venture seems a bit different from our other work, it is – and it isn’t. See, Cloudmanic Labs believes in the power of creativity. Every week, we take a little time off from our regular projects to work on other things—or to just brainstorm about what the world needs. At the very least, we have stimulating conversations. Grapeshare is one of those “other” projects. Like all of the things we do, Grapeshare was sparked by passion, and it continues to be fueled by hard work.
It’s great to be able to share that passion with the rest of the world. To get started with Grapeshare, go to the website and sign up with your Twitter, Facebook, or Google account. You can also follow us on Twitter (@grapeshare) and like us on Facebook. Check out our blog for wine tips and stories, and to keep updated on new features.
It’s been busy around here lately. We’ve been neck-deep in work, building products and improving features. As a result, Skyclerk is looking pretty good (see for yourself). But another result is this blog has been a little quiet.
That’s about to change, though, in a big-time way. Here’s a question: Do you like fun stuff? Good! We’re fans of fun stuff ourselves. We’d like to have some fun right here on this very blog. As of, oh, rightnow, we’re moving our product-centric blog away from this space. In its place, we want to bring you fun stuff. Cool stuff (like that photo below). Stuff that catches our eye and makes us want to tell the nearest person, “Have you seen this?” Stuff that we do and think.
We’re going to let our team loose to blog about the things that interest them. Given that we’re a bunch of interesting, interested people (at least we like to think so), the new posts should reflect that. It’s inevitable that at least some of the posts will be related business, accounting, web, etc. After all, that’s what we know, what we live and breathe. But part of spending so much time online means we consume a lot of information. Being human, we think about the information. Being humans with the ability to easily, instantly communicate with other humans, we often want to share that information with you – whether it’s silly or newsworthy, geeky or awe-inspiring.
Why are we doing this? Easy: Because after all, you’re interesting, interested people, and we want to give you things you like – the things outside of business, money and efficiency. We’re hoping you’ll share the stuff you like with us, too.
So stay tuned. Check back. Add us to your RSS feed and follow us on Twitter. Then get ready for the fun.
We have moved away from Wordpress for our blog and have started to use ExpressionEngine as our content management system for the entire site (including the blog).
Our new blog is located at http://cloudmanic.com/blog
We made the decision not to port over our old blog because we have new plans for this blog. Take a look at: http://cloudmanic.dev/blog/33/blog-shaking-news