Learning how to deal with the unexpected

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This is the sixth article in a continuing monthly series chronicling the growth path of Screenreach Interactive, a startup based in Newcastle upon Tyne in England’s North East. Screenreach’s flagship product, Screach, is an interactive digital media platform that allows users to create real-time, two-way interactive experiences between a smart device (through the Screach app) and any content, on any screen or just within the mobile device itself. We invite your feedback.

By Francis Moran and Alexandra Reid

When we last checked in with Screenreach, the company was in the midst of tweaking the new version of its Screach application for a March 7 launch. The team was well on track and seemed to have all of its ducks in a row. They had found out what their market needed, solicited feedback from beta testers, sharpened their story, identified qualified customers, worked collaboratively, promoted their product and garnered media attention.

But as can be expected at a startup company, things didn’t go completely as planned. On launch day, the Apple application store informed the team that there was a problem.

In this post, Screenreach CEO Paul Rawlings explains what the team did to push through to launch.

The new product

The new version of the Screach application focuses on the user experience. Now users can personalize, socialize and localize their interactions with content using any device that can download the application. While the original application focused on allowing users to interact with content on a digital screen, the new version allows for the same interactive experiences between smart devices and a smart  device and a location.

Screach.com has also been redesigned. While the site was originally a place for product information and the Screach blog, anyone can now launch their own Screach experience on the site and interact with it through the Screach app on their smartphone. One example of how the experience has been personalized is that it lets users connect to Twitter and Facebook, allowing the system to identify Screach experiences relevant to their location.

The first version of Screach was launched at DEMO in March 2011 and since then, the product and team have evolved and grown. As such, the launch of Screach 2.0 was one of the biggest projects they have worked on together since this time – there were bound to be a number of new obstacles.

One problem equals many individual challenges

One of the main challenges the team faced was balancing every aspect of the launch for it to come together in unison at the end. You need to remain aware of the fact that not everything on the run up to launching a product will remain in your control. You need to account for issues or delays that may arise from external organisations.

The team came across challenges when the approval of their new version of Screach was delayed with Apple. The issue meant that every team member was faced with their own unique challenges.

“Whilst the development team began trying to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, other departments dealt with any knock on effects that a potential delay could create.”

But that doesn’t mean you tackle the problem individually.

“The main thing when a challenge like this occurs is to keep the communication going,” said Rawlings. “You must bring everyone together because you can never foresee how something will affect someone else. You’ve got to identify the challenge, the various solutions, what works for everyone and the problems that can come up in individual departments.”

Always give yourself more time

“We knew the problem could take two days to fix, but then again, it could always take a little longer,” said Rawlings. “Make sure you account for this potential extra time in your schedule. If you don’t need it then great, but if you do, then at least you’ve given yourself everything you need to deal with the situation.”

Debriefs are critical

Startups are almost always on a learning curve, explained Rawlings.

“You’ve got to make a conscious effort to make a note of all the struggles and make a list of strengths and weaknesses. Then you must hold a debrief and go through everything to ensure you make things better next time. That way, you feel so much more prepared for your next project, how you’re going to take it head on and solve the problems. You’re able to see problems before they happen.”

After a few days of tough work, the Screanreach team was able to fix the problem and launch the application. They have since been busy uncovering and developing more ways for users to play with Screach and raising the profile of the application for users. To attract users, and fast, Screenreach is taking a gamification approach and has launched a number of new personalized experiences available online and through the Screach app.

“Getting the application out has been a huge accomplishment,” said Rawlings . “We’ve all gotten through this challenge as a team and we’ll come out a whole lot wiser for the next time.”

In our next installment, we’ll go over Screanreach’s new product developments and how the team is tailoring them to create unique and exciting user experiences.

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