Software as a Service July 10, 2020

Problem: I don’t know who my competitors are.

Tyler Johnson @tyler_johnson

There is a serious problem that I’m starting to realize about my product

Do I have any competitors?
Who are my main competitors?

Some might think this is a good problem to have. I don’t.

Couple thoughts:
-It means there might not be a market for a decision making tool.

-Tracking decisions might not be important to others.

I’m hoping IH can let me know what other tools are out there to help with team decisions and tracking decisions.

Who are my competitors for

  1. 3

    I wouldn't focus on figuring out who is your competition. I would focus on:
    (1) understanding who is your user base
    (2) whether what you are going to offer them brings value

    If there are users and they find a value just listen to their feedback and improve your product, and eventually you will compound the learnings and get more users, and more feedback. Iterate.

    Simple as that.

    1. 0

      Thank you, that makes sense. I was thinking that if there isn't competition, is there really a market for a decision making tool?

      1. 2

        Hey Tyler. Totally get where you are coming from. At the same time, I don't think competition is a benchmark for figuring out if there is a market.

        I will give you an example. I am building a podcast player that has an e-commerce platform embedded in the podcast player (i.e. people can buy stuff that the podcasters talk about whilst listening to the podcast). No single podcast player is doing it. That doesn't mean there is no market for my product.

        What am I doing is reaching to listeners and podcasters, and talking to them. If they say, I am interested, that means there is demand:)

        Hope it helps.

  2. 3

    You gotta fix those links for DecisionDonkey :)

    Your surface-level competitors are Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets.

    On a deeper level, decisions don't work like you have modeled them. Group decisions are not democratic, ever. Decisions get made based on stakeholders' power and persuasiveness. They often get made by one person, before any discussion takes place.

    I could be wrong though. If you have a working model, can you apply it to some real-world decisions of the past, to see what the pros and cons look like?

    1. 1

      Thanks for letting me know!

      I don't agree with you on the group decision making not being democratic? I think that is the problem, therefore, the reason why I started to build this.

      To make sound business decisions, you need to "poke holes" at decisions so the decision maker can make an unbiased decision. If the decision maker isn't looking at all perspectives and getting their team's feedback, what is the purpose of a Leadership team?

      Stakeholder's power to make decisions will have a bias. Most likely resulting in poor decisions.

  3. 2

    Your competitors are things like pen & paper, excel, in-person discussions, business case docs / business case review meetings, etc.

  4. 2

    In the abstract: If you have users, you should ask them about how they solved the problem before your tool. Real data from users is way better than any guesses I could make.

    I just read this post about how Adobe's Chief Product Officer identifies the big decisions that need to be made in his organization, which sometimes seem so big that people avoid them.

    He doesn't talk much about tools. There's a brief mention of using Notion to capture the discovered ideas, but it seems to be more about direct communication and clear organization of ideas. My gut feeling is that tools are rarely the limiting factor when it comes to making and documenting decisions.

    By making this post, I think you're fundamentally trying to make a decision about the future of your product. I'd be very interested to see how you might use DecisionDonkey to help make that decision. Even if the software isn't real yet, you could put real data into your wireframes to simulate how it would go.

    1. 0

      Thanks for sharing that link. That actually makes me even more excited about my idea. The fact that the CPO of Adobe is stating that organizations put of hard decisions and don't want to address the elephant in the room helps me validate my idea.

      He likes to get his teams together for tough decisions. They collaborated, they brainstorm, they make a decision by "poking holes". As a team. This helps eliminate bias.

      Yes, he isn't using a tool for this but it helps confirm there might be a need?

      Great idea on showing how I would use Decision Donkey for this! And you are right, I don't have a functioning software yet :) but I will draft some wireframes. Thanks!

  5. 2

    I think your main competitors would be general collaboration tools (Confluence, Trello, Notion, etc). Even if they aren't specifically for keeping track of pros and cons, I'm sure people use them for it.

    1. 2

      Thanks for the response! Trello and Notion were the two that came to my mind but wasn’t really sure.

      I’ll try to niche it down :)

      1. 1

        Yeah since all of those are much broader than your idea, it shouldn't be too hard to differentiate yourself

  6. 1

    On the more general note, for an indie hacker, is gathering competitive intelligence a time well spent? So many projects out there, some will live some will die, the new will sprout, some will be faster than you, other better founded. Shall we worry about them? Isn't it the main point of indie way that you trust in your uniqueness that your total value proposition is special and your selected users need just this?

    1. 1

      Yes, I do agree with most of that. However, don't you want to have competition in your market? Doesn't this help validate an idea and a need for your solution?

      For an indie hacker, I think it is much harder to build a target market from nothing. I think competition is good.

      This is all part of the validation process in my opinion.

  7. 1

    Exciting idea. But. Decision Making as a faculty of the human mind is a big, important thing. I would expect a ton of competition but it is not a bad thing as the area is super fertile and broad and obviously people have issues. I looked briefly at your site and it looks like you want to target both businesses and individuals. That is too much and does not make much sense as the two are totally different. In your case, it makes sense to follow an old well-traveled path of figuring out a small friendly niche of users and growing up from there.

    1. 1

      Thank you for this feedback. I fought with trying to decide who I want to target -- individuals or businesses. I finally decided to follow Notion's Pricing Model.

      Free for individuals and then pay per seat model for teams.

  8. 1

    I’m working on something similar but targeted at making decisions in the construction industry. You may appreciate Ray Dalio’s content on decision making. His book “Principles” is one of my favorite business books.

    There are 2 apps, Principles and Dot Collector that may be competing with your idea in some ways.

    1. 1

      Excellent, thanks for sharing. Yes, I am familiar with Ray Dalio. I'll take a look at those apps, I appreciate your feedback.

      I'd be interested to see what you are working on for the Construction Industry. What's the main problem the construction industry has about decision making?

      1. 1

        The biggest risk for contractors is labor productivity. As an example, I am working on a web applet that forecast the weather and advises the construction manager to send the work crews home and save wages or keep them on site to get some work done.

  9. 1

    What can help you find the competitors is to truly understand the problem you are trying to solve and the competitor is everyone who try to solve the same problem as you are.

    The Problem. 🤔
    This is what I understood from the landing page -> People are not effective in their decision-making process. They don't measure what impact their decisions had in the past. It can be multiplied in the teams.

    I understand your tool as one of the possible how you can solve the problem.

    I found a few solutions to that problem:
    Few techniques - like SWOT analysis can help. PROS/CONS can give me the answer (your solution). Btw: is your solution close to Decision Matrix?. Pareto Analysis. The next step tool, etc.

    All of these techniques you can do in tools like Excel, GDrive, Confluence, Notepad even on paper, or Whiteboard. The key is to understand how to do it. So I need to read a few articles and try it.

    Little design tip
    If you think about competitors it is essential to understand how people try to solve the problem nowadays and how your tool is better than the others. Is it faster, more accurate, does it keep history, easy for sharing, do you have great onboarding to the problem? It is worth watching how people do it nowadays and put your tool into that context.

    My use-case
    In my use-case, I am daily trying to find which design is better than other ones. I daily do the decision making around that. I use Confluence or simple notepad and if I need, I just share the link and use dot voting technique. It is enough. But the problem was not big enough for me to find the tool for that and pay the fee.

    I hope this way of thinking can spark some inspiration and you find your competitors easier. Don't try to find only competitor who does the same solution.

    1. 2

      His competition is how his target customer is solving the problem now. I agree with you it's still at the paper technique level (I count Excel, GDrive, Confluence page, notepad as essentially manual). Opportunity is for memory and look back. Not just facilitating a singe decision, even at a group level, in the moment. But keeping track of decisions, reasons for it, risks identified, triggers for change in direction or review, and dates when impact should be measured. As a group memory function I think you can gain some traction.

      1. 1

        @skmurphy Yes, exactly! The problem is people throw away that piece of paper or never open that excel file ever again once that decision is made.

        We need to review and measure past decision to see:

        • Are we meeting expected results
        • Who is responsible?
        • Why did we come to this decision?
        • What went wrong? What went right?
        • Is there a pattern of bad decisions?
      2. 1

        @skmurphy interesting. I haven't noticed these benefits from the landing page but they sound reasonable 🤔Great tips, I would say!

        At the end of the day, it can be an interesting tool for some niche markets.

        My assumption
        I would say then, that the product needs little bit more work to provide value to users from the niche. Right now it is not solving any big pain in my honest opinion.

        1. 1

          @semy I agree that what @tyler_johnson has today is not enough. But I believe that his focus on improving the quality of decision process and decision outcomes will lead him to develop a useful and profitable set of tools if he perseveres. My perspective is that he is targeting a significant pain but not yet offering a compelling solution. But what he has is extensible and can be made compelling.

    2. 1

      Thank you for this great response and incredible feedback.

      Yes, I do agree with you that my main competitors is Excel, notepad, collab pages, etc. However, what happens once that decision is made? Do you throw that piece of paper away or never open that single excel file every again?

      Do you move directly onto the next decision without reviewing why you came to the decision 6 months ago? Do you measure the results? Do you hold people accountable? Are you getting the results you expected? IF not, what do we need to change?

      The problem is two things:

      • we don't review and track past decisions
      • we aren't "poking holes" at the decisions we make.

      Decision Makers tend to be biased towards their own thoughts which can hurt the organization? The best thing you can do is get ideas and support from team members to contribute thoughts to a decision. They need to see it from every angle/perspective in order to make an unbiased decision.

      Also, I am only going to focus on Pro Con for the MVP release just because most people are familiar with it. Ultimately, I want to have multiple decision making techniques or methods such as SWOT included in the platform.

      1. 1

        I am not telling you that the current solution is the best one :D I am just trying to help you understand who is competitor. You don't need to sell me your solution. I played a bad cop for you to realize a few things from someone outside your product.

        Question is, why don't we track past decisions?

        I honestly think that decision making can be better than just use excel, notepad, confluence, ...

        I am really curious about your product. I think, that there is space! Keep it up!

        P.S.: there is always competitor.

        1. 1

          Thank you! I really do appreciate the feedback. I'll keep plugging away!

  10. 1

    I think you would be better served to attack the retrospective market. Instead of just Pro and Con look at Ackoff's Decision Record Model see and Gary Klein's premortem model I think you have a start on something useful for group level decision planning and decision records. Happy to talk.

    1. 1

      These are great resources, thank you! I appreciate the feedback as I believe there is something useful for group level and team decision making.

      My plan is to start with Pro / Con because it is easy for people to understand. Almost all are familiar with it. Plus, I wanted to launch an MVP to gain more validation.

      The ultimate goal is to have a Decision Making platform that will have multiple decision making models, for example - Ackoff's and Kleins.

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