One of the roles I have at Stoas is the role of Product manager for Questionmark Perception. I have that role since I started working for Stoas, three years ago. John Kleeman started Questionmark some 20 years ago, building the first version at his kitchen table. John by the way is one of the most special people I know and someone I greatly admire. Over the past twenty years Perception grew out into the world leading software for assessments. I don’t know the exact numbers but they are quite impressive. Stoas is representing Questionmark in the Netherlands for more than 10 years and we have over a 100 customers using Perception intensively. It is our most important product, both in number of customers, sold services and overall revenues.
Questionmark is a ‘standard’ software company building proprietary software. We had version 4.2 in 2007, 4.3 in 2008 and version 5 in 2010. The software is improving with each version. Version 5 for example is a complete rebuild of the delivery part of the software (their crown jewel) but …. it took them three years. I understand that, you have all kind of legacy systems, installed bases, tons of software code to rewrite et cetera. But it is the old kind of software development. Let’s say it isn’t an agile approach. But Questionmark is learning and changing. An example of that is their new service for Subject Matter Experts (SME). It is called Questionmark Live! and it’s a light webbased tool to develop questions, aiming at subject matter experts and I became a fan instantly.
QMlive authoring process
Why is it so special?
Questionmark appointed a new guy (Jim Farrel) and made him responsible for QMlive and gave him a small team of developers. They created rapidly the first version of a simple authoring tool and put it live in April 2009 as a service for all Questionmark customers. Unlimited and for free! As a good cheap Dutchman that’s the first thing I like. If you have a support contract on the Perception software, you can use it. Even if you just have 5 licences for authors, you still have access for an unlimited number of QMlive authors.
It’s great software. Jim and his team are building beautiful software. The facilities they have created for versioning and sharing are excellent, exactly what I wanted them to be, and maybe even more important it has a really great and intuitive interface. Anybody can create and share question with no training at all!
It’s fast and agile. Jim and his team are constantly updating and expanding the software. On average there is an update every two weeks. They can do that because all the software is on Questionmark servers. Not only are they adding new features but they are listening very closely to the user demands and giving them what they ask for.
It’s multilingual. They created a facility to translate the tool online. I am the volunteer for the Dutch translation. If they put a new version live on Friday, I will translate that on Saturday and it will be instantly available in Dutch. Of course sometimes I mistype a word or make an other mistake. But then I will get an email from a customer and I can change it on the fly. I like this way of working.
It’s very successful. Our customers like it. We started in April 2009 with no users at all, in September we had 560 unique Dutch visitors creating 5000 questions. In January we had over 1500 unique Dutch visitors, creating over 13.000 questions. This is an average of 15 users per customer! Incredible numbers and great fun that you can monitor the success in this way. By the way, this makes the Netherlands the second largest user of this service worldwide, only the preceded by the United States. That makes me proud as a Dutch fan.
It is the future. Software like this and the way it is created and offered will be the future. I complement Eric Shepherd and his team for having and following this vision. It will ensure that Stoas will still be a proud Questionmark partner in ten years time.
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