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AMA Series with Sarah Ratcliffe-Q&A Recap

Q. With Avenu’s new product suite, how are we differentiating ourselves from the competition, who perhaps provide a more mature cloud-product offering?
A. What a great question! Avenu’s products are at all different stages of maturity. Some, like the new Avenu | Records, are just launching but with an MVP feature set, while others, like Jury, are mature in their ability to provide a solution for nearly any court just as they are today. It’s important to recognize though, that no company ever wins the feature war, and the completeness of features doesn’t always relate to sales wins! There are lots of slim-featured products that do great in the market thanks to a great consultative sales approach and smart decisions on what features to deliver.

Avenu’s (near future) differentiator is providing a flexible solution that can meet an organization where they are without having to build custom and by offering additional capabilities (shared from the GovInsights platform) that can connect the jurisdiction or agency to other parts of the government. We will also focus on how enriching data to provide more insights will benefit our customers and their customers. Finally, our cloud-first solution will provide regular enhancements, leading-edge technology utilization, and a consistent look and feel, especially focused on accessibility and equity to ensure that everyone can interact with their local government. That may seem obvious, but these items provide a unique advantage for many types of software in the govtech market.

All of this is subject to change, but directionally these are the areas of focus we have today!

Q. Do we have plans to create these common software services accessible as REST services for all Business Units software?
A. Yes! We would love to “dog food” the integrations we build as shared services so that all our vertical solutions that are able can consume them, and so that we can provide those APIs for any other provider that our customers like. Avenu desires to be “open” and “easy to work with.” We shouldn’t assume we’re going to be the best at everything. In fact, there are key areas where we don’t want to be the best, so creating easy APIs for integration enables us to build a marketplace of providers to support our customers where we don’t have to, and it gives us the flexibility to enhance all our offerings by making those integrations available internally. If we have a solution that needs document indexing and we just build a cool shared service capability for that purpose, everyone should benefit. It will take us a while to get there – but we are very much on the way!

Q. Do you plan to shift Unclaimed property into the new delivery matrix?
A. All of our former business units can take advantage of the business shift to delivery. Further, all software products that we have in Avenu will move, at the right time, to a more product-led framework and take advantage of our support, growth, and maintenance team structure.

Q. Is merging our multiple governmental services systems (e.g., RDS net and Discovery recovery) on the roadmap? If so, what’s the timeframe?
A. Yes, it’s on the roadmap, but we need to dig in to figure out exactly what it will look like. We need to balance capacity (our most precious and talented engineers) and market needs (identifying which items customers are willing to pay for). What you’re referring to is more of an overhaul of how we store data, how we display data, and how we deliver value to the customer; a project like this will require a bigger investment than the points allotted, which means we will need to put a business case together that will prove to the business that it’ll be worth the effort. Additionally, we’ll need to figure out if our suggestion is an enhancement to the service or if it’s actually a new product that we’re launching. We will need to do research to find out which is the right way, the direction that the road map is headed, then go back and answer your question in more detail.

Q. If you could require any three products, companies, or functionalities, what would those be?
A. I would love to see us drive into utility and property tax payments because I think those are really interesting and a great opportunity for us! I am very interested in delivering world class tax administration solutions that leverage AI and data analytics, and finally I want us to be able to create the best, most engaging way to connect with an end user for a government.

Q. How frequently will you hold this meeting?
A. I’m aiming for once every month or six weeks. The next one will focus on the new short-term rental product. Today’s meeting is a little bit more general because we’re just getting started. In the future, I’ll share specific content first, and I’ll always leave a chunk of time at the end so everyone can ask questions.

Q. How will being a product-led organization change the way we build products?
A. I think the best thing about being a product-led organization is that we can be collaborative. We can start really small, conduct user research, then figure out what works BEFORE we spend a bunch of money over a bunch of years. User Experience and agile methodologies change how we build things. Let me give you an example:

Someone says they want a car. Let’s look at how we might have built it “back then” and how we can build it in the future. Back then, we’d take a bunch of requirements and then go build a car. Maybe we’d show up with a wheel to show progress. A wheel isn’t valuable, but it at least shows progress. In the new way, we might sketch up and give them a skateboard. Here, they can get on it and try it, they can go somewhere and tell us what they like or don’t like about their skateboard. In the new way, we’ve done minimal work and then wait to see what they say.

In the “back then” way, they nod and say, “looks like you’re building something.” In the new way, they give feedback: “I’m falling off the thing. I need a handlebar!” And then, they can add on as we keep going: “OK, it’s fine, but I’m not going fast enough.” So, then we give them a bicycle.

You can see how the path changes over time. The reality is that, in some cases, your folks might just need a bicycle, so you might be fine stopping there.
When I apply this concept to Avenu, we need to figure out one question that we could answer. While different jurisdictions might have different values, is there one thing I could give our customer that would provide some value?

A process of testing and experimenting and moving faster can deliver innovation. I’m excited to see what Avenu can innovate and deliver in the next few years.