Software Entrepreneurship for Companies and Employees

The MSc Software Entrepreneurship programme offers a number of benefits to companies. It can help train staff, and also help provide space to try new ideas. In either case the results will help the participating firm by developing the potential of staff, who can bring new ideas and skills into the firm.  Staff bringing back what they learn for themselves and others in the organisation helps develop the firm’s capabilities.

By releasing staff to take part in classes during the two days classes usually meet enables the staff to gain new skills, which can be applied to projects at work immediately as the materials are usually based around practical work. The person can work either on their own, or collaborate with others on a common project. If two members from a firm worked together, then they would be able to build upon their understanding of the skills and processes learned in the programme more quickly. The person or pair could work on a company project while working from the office and bring parts of this into the classroom as needed. As everything discussed in the classroom will need to be handled under an NDA agreement  in order to enable full discussion about ideas and projects, and not discussed with others outside the class, there is no need to fear lack of confidentiality for what is being developed here. In principle, the staff members never need reveal who they are working for to their fellow students. They can just say the work ‘for a local company’, and maybe even spot for talent to recruit if more staff are needed. Let’s explore this in more detail.

Cost to the firm

First, we’ll work out the cost of attendance, and the fees for the staff to see whether this makes economic sense for the firm.  Two staff attend classes twice a week for the whole day. This means they are not doing other work during this time. If they are paid £100/day on a £35k salary, this will cost the firm £150/day after the company’s contribution for pension and taxes are included too. This is £600 for two staff members to attend classes twice a week. We assume that the other three days they are taking what they learn in classes and applying it to their daily work on a project. On top of this we need to add the £150/week course fees for the pair, assuming they are about £3400 for the year. So we’re at £750/week in total for two staff members to attend the programme.

Working on the task board

The ‘classes’ are mainly seminar and workshop format, which means that as staff work through the materials they can quickly learn how the programme’s ideas and concepts can be applied to their own projects. As this is a ‘learning by doing’ programme, all of their coursework will be directed back towards an application of the ideas to their own project. They will be introduced to a concept, given an example, and then asked to apply it to their own work so that they can start reaping its benefits as soon as possible in order to grow their project. For example, one of the topics, which will be covered is the use of business model canvases, and in particular the ‘Happy Startup Canvas’, which helps anyone clarify ‘why’ they are doing what they do, as well as to explore the organisational values and how the firm explains its ‘story’ of what they do to others. This is something many organisations and projects in general struggle to do, and once it is clear, then ideas and concepts flow more easily. This applies as much as it does to startups as it does to established organisations, who sometimes lose sight of ‘why’ they are doing what they do and in how they explain this to others. Other topics discussed can be found in the course details on the StartupsExplained website.

Benefits for the firm

Second, we need to work out the benefits for the firm. Using the same example, we could assume that the clarity of gaining a better perspective on the ‘why’ and the values of the firm would need to translate into more than £750 of added value that week to cover the cost of attendance by the two staff. This would be done in the other three days of the week, and could include revised and amended publicity materials, which become more tightly focused on specific customer segments as derived from working out who is interested in the values of the firm and its ‘why’ statement.

In later weeks the £750/week is covered by improved understating of which problems the firm is solving for who by refining the customer more tightly, and by improvements in the software development process so that the firm builds what is needed as it is needed in a sustainable manner. Each of these weeks will both refine what is done by the firm, as well as help it to improve the throughput of what it does so that  its cash-flow increases by the end of the term.

Each week something brought back from the classroom by these two student staff members would reduce costs, improve cash-flow, or help move an idea to launch sooner. We want to help the firm raise income sooner than otherwise would be expected in development where costs are incurred before an income is derived from the project. We aim to make sure your project digs less deep and thus rises sooner so that your overall cash-flow is improved.

Any and all of the ideas, tools and processes learned here can also be used in other projects too, so the two trained members could roll out what they learn to the rest of the firm. This would eventually raise the whole organisation to higher levels of productivity. This expansion of the skills beyond the original staff would be the multiplier effect of this investment as your organisation eventually can all benefit from the initial investment of two staff members for the year.

The skunkworks option

This training could also be used to create a space under the programme umbrella  knowing that your ideas belong to you, and within which new ideas can be safely explored and developed in a confidential space with mentors and staff able to help you. This becomes a space for a skunkworks, which is off-site and full of the support a company needs to develop innovative services.  As with the two staff members outlined above, this programme could provide a worthwhile return for a reasonable cost. This space in the programme  enables ideas to be floated, modified and pivoted until they are ready for a wider launch. As noted above, staff don’t need to reveal their employer, so this becomes a skunkworks hiding in plain sight as ‘students’ on the programme. Here a team can explore ideas, work out their viability and launch them as well as spread the skills and ideas back into the company as well.

We provided a half-way house version of this approach once already. Under the umbrella of the Aberdeen Software Factory we helped Equibuddy explore a horse profiling application for their work in the Riding for the Disabled Association as part of our MSc IT summer group projects. When this proved viable it was pushed further by several students using an innovation voucher, and then funded towards a production ready application with a grant from Rank Foundation. The resulting application, Equibuddy Exchange,  now provides a healthy new income stream for the organisation.

We can help your organisation to leverage your staff to develop suitable applications to help your business grow. Get in touch to discuss how this might work specifically for your firm through our contact details, or email the programme director  to arrange a meeting to discuss any questions you may have.