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The story.

A large publisher of scientific journals had problems. The IT people were scattered across the world and doing different processes. No one shared and all were in “silos.” 

They hired a consultant to fix this. The end result was a global standard. But a new problem arose. Once the standards were stored on the server, the employees forgot they existed. Many staff members continued to reinvent the wheel, worked through a barrage of issues, and ended up disengaged from their projects. 

That consultant was me, Paul Dandurand, founder of PieMatrix. My experience with this consulting gig showed me how important it is not only to have standards, but also to make them available at your fingertips, make them scale, and make them organic so they have a life of their own. Having these critical factors will also get team members more engaged with their projects.

If I were to list the key challenges organizations face, I would say they:

  1. don’t have good standards and flexible frameworks

  2. have standards, but are either too ridged or hard to implement and reuse

  3. are unable to scale and improve from lessons learned

  4. can’t keep people engaged and motivated

  5. don't have transparency in what's going on in real time

The world has changed. Today, more and more people are being assigned to projects, working in teams for the first time, and dealing with people they’ve never met in person. No wonder lots of people are checked out. A Gallup study found that 63% of people are “not engaged” with their jobs. According to a study from Aon Hewitt, one of the top reasons for this disengagement is a lack of recognition. And for on-site consultants, travel pressures add to the issues. How can we get people engaged?

There’s got to be a better way to engage people to produce extraordinary project results. After my consulting project with the publisher, I searched the market for a technology solution that would encourage people to think of new ways to get work done and give them a place to capture and share knowledge. It had to be easy for everyone to chime in, making processes better over time. And it has to be an experience that’s captivating and as intuitive as possible.

Although, there were some popular project management tools, such as Microsoft Project, I didn’t like what I saw and used. So, I went on to build something new.

My product is called "Pie". The first product was launched in 2009. Luckily, I was able to kick-start the company and product development with my proceeds from a sale of a previous start-up I co-founded and successfully sold.

With my experience in process I learned from Ernst & Young and my visual passion with photography and the visual arts, I designed Pie's user interface to resemble how many people draw processes on white boards. I made the Pie design for people like me who learn faster from visuals rather than a list of text like in all other project management tools. I also wanted something for repeatable type projects, since that’s what most of us do.

The first product found a niche in the market of people who saw value the way I did. We signed up many different types of organizations, but found an affinity with the consulting industry and the new product development (NPD) sector. Both relied heavily on repeatability and successful results for their end-clients. This became our sweet spot.

Overtime we got by-passed by volume hungry startups like Asana and Smarsheet who managed to raise tens to hundreds of millions of dollars from VCs. They spent a ton on marketing and, in my honest opinion, not so much on product design.

So, times got challenging with all the new noise. However, I persevered since I believe in the vision and my manifesto.

The other unforeseen problem was the technology I chose back in 2006. We decided on Adobe Flex for the front end and Java for the backend and at the time it was the best option. Little did I know that Steve Jobs would decide to lead the market into killing Flash Player, which is what Flex is built on. As you know, all major companies like Microsoft, Apple, and others re-write their architecture from the ground up every 5-10 years. My time was due.

That left me with a decision to do two major shifts. One is to start over with a new technology. Two is to redesign a new Pie that will be even more friendly than the first. Therefore, in 2016 I started to redesign the application. At the end of 2017, we started a new secret and separate project, called “New Pie”. As I write this, it’s nearing the end of 2018 and I’m extremely happy with the design direction and the incredible progress of my new development team. (Yes, I had to rebuild my team too. Ugh.) The new technology chosen is React for the front end and Elixir with the Phoenix framework for the backend. Wow! What a combo punch! In the old days we would spend 80% of our time fixing bugs and 20% building new features. Today, it’s more like 90% new features and 10% bug fixing. This is because of both the technology and my great team!

My strategy with the New Pie is similar to the Legacy Pie as it still has the same “pie” model. However, a big difference, aside from the efficient and cool underlining technology, is the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) which really rocks! As I quietly kicked it off with a few people in my network, they have been referring others and the base is starting to grow without any marketing yet. This is telling. The feedback I get is that people with no project or project tool experience are saying no training is required. I plan for Pie to be easily used by BOTH the simple small project freelancer or tiny startup teams to the big-ass corporate enterprise cast of thousands with capital project budgets. Because at the end of the day, those enterprise folks are just like you and me — humans.

I hope you sing up for the New Pie and send me your feedback.

- Paul Dandurand, Founder and CEO



Paul Dandurand has a background in starting and growing companies. Prior to PieMatrix, he was co-founder of FocusFrame.

Paul helped position FocusFrame as the market leader with process methodology differentiation. FocusFrame was sold to Hexaware in 2006. Previously, he was a management consulting manager at Ernst & Young (now Capgemini) in San Francisco and Siebel Systems (now Oracle) in Amsterdam. Paul enjoys photography, cello, skiing, and going to off-beat places. He earned a B.A. degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley.