Why do we do this?

It is 9 PM local time here in Atlanta Georgia and I just threw my suitcase on the bed of the downtown Hyatt, pulled out my laptop, and started writing my first Blog entry as a diversion from going over the web site marketing one more time.

Sixteen floors below me there is an active bar scene filled with many Project Management Institute (PMI) and Information Systems Specific Interest Group (ISSIG) members celebrating their arrival to PMI’s Global Congress 2007.

Beyond the hotel are many of my closest friends that attended Georgia Tech and were members of Theta Chi fraternity with me. None of them even know I am here.

As I login to the new web site as an administrator and go over our new demos and marketing information I am haunted over and over by the same question: “why am I doing this?” Many of my competitors have sales people here who are enjoying their evenings. Why am I holed up into this hotel room working for the 90th hour of the week?

To answer that question I need to take you back to the year 1995 when this whole crazy thing started. In 1995 I was working as an Ernst & Young (E&Y) senior consultant to SBC Communications (now AT&T). My mission was to bring project management best practices and methodology to an overworked and under appreciated organization known as Communication Services. I worked with a fantastic team of professional project managers and although we made tremendous process improvements we all knew we needed tools to better collaborate and report to succeed. In a move that can only be described as irresponsible, I downloaded a beta copy of Microsoft FrontPage and used Microsoft Access as a database back-end to begin building the world’s first Virtual Project Management Intranet (WorkOtter) for web-based project management.

After about 6 months of day and night development I rolled it out to the team and they were blown away. It was a simple, sensible, and supportable way to manage projects, collaborate, and report their status. It was quickly adopted in to the organization thanks to our salesmanship and by the time we informed IT we wanted to deploy beta software, we had enough momentum to get past their shock and anger and we were up and running. The pleasure of seeing teams of people reaching their full potential through web-based project and portfolio management was a major dopamine rush and I was immediately addicted. The feeling of service to others and enabling teams to be their best drove me forward and completely consumed me.

Over the next 3 years we improved the system and the accolades and exposure continued. We began to draw interest from other E&Y consultants on the power of web-based project management. As an “intra-preneur” I setup meetings and invited executive management in hopes they would support and invest in this vision. All of the partners declined and the only person truly interested in hearing about the WorkOtter was a persistent individual named Jeff Pupillo. Jeff sat in the front row and dominated the presentation and questions. Privately Jeff made it quite clear to me that there was a narrow window to productize WorkOtter and that a consulting company wasn’t interested or equipped to build and market software. We met on and off for nearly a year building a business plan that started on a cocktail napkin (that we still have today).

Adding to the stress of starting a new business (with no product and no funding) was the fact that my wife was very pregnant with our first child and we would basically have no income and little savings to start. I consulted with my father who encouraged me to quit and even supplied some upfront investment to live off of. So in August of 1998, I arrived back to work with pictures of my baby boy and my letter of resignation to start WorkOtter with my partner and co-founder Jeff Pupillo. We quickly added several other E&Y consultants who “got it” and still “get it” to this day.

Fast forward nine years. We are still selling the only product we have ever developed – the WorkOtter. WorkOtter now does business on every continent and has customers from 1 to thousands.

In the end it still isn’t about the money, fame, or glory. There have been difficult business conditions and many competitors have been purchased or have gone bankrupt. Why have we survived where so many failed? I believe that our original and sustained passion around project and portfolio management have made a difference and allow us to compete against all odds with the likes of Microsoft Enterprise Project Management (EPM) Server, Primavera, ChangePoint, Planview, eProject, and Computer Associates (CA).

While many of their employees and sales people cycle in and out of our industry and celebrate their $1 million dollar sales we will continue to only celebrate the successful implementation and the ROI benefits to our faithful customers. Our love of what we do and our desire to see our customers succeed is still the ultimate feature of our software that most will never understand and fewer can duplicate.

Well – enough blogging for me. I have to find an improved way to communicate what makes our company so different from our competitors so you will trust us enough to give us a shot instead of blindly turning to Basecamp, Microsoft EPM, or eProject for your web-based project and portfolio management needs.

Virtually yours,
Nick Matteucci, MBA

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