Software Executive Magazine

August/September 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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automated personalized phone calls to her clients. That software worked well enough to license to other small businesses. As demand for the application built, she recognized that it was time to pivot. Kelly launched Simply Health Systems, the commercial iteration of the application she built for her wellness business, and focused on its development full-time. She successfully sold that application to small businesses where ap- pointment schedules were mission-critical, like salons, health clubs, and wellness centers like the one she had previously operated. But 2006 served up another inflection point for Kel- ly. It wasn't something she sought; it was something that happened. During a telephone exchange with a bank she had been patronizing for years, the finan- cial institution completely muffed the interaction. "This bank had a ton of data about me that should have made the exchange pleasant and efficient, but it wasn't applying that data in the context of our telephone exchange," she explains. As her frustra- tion mounted, she blurted out that the phone soft- ware application she sold at the time, which she had grown to integrate personalized newsletters and billing, "does better for dog groomers." She hung up abruptly, eyes wide open at the jarring realization of what she had said. There was a blatant need for tech- nology that would facilitate personalized, contextu- al phone interactions at the enterprise level. That's where she set her sights. ost nine-year-old girls spend their free time play- ing with dolls and talking to their imaginary friends. Nine-year-old Tara Kelly spent hers play- ing with code and building imaginary friends. Kelly's dad was a programmer. Kelly loved to spend time with her dad, so she learned to write in COBOL. "Had my dad been a mechanic," she quips, "I might have taken a different career path." Her first program asked simple questions such as, how old are you and what col- or is your hair, questions that built upon one another and created a profile through ongoing dialogue. "Learn- ing how simple it was to turn code into something that created a rich, interactive experience was weird and ex- citing to me," she says. "It was like building something with Legos, only better." Oh, the foreshadowing. Her career path, however, resembles anything but a straight line. Abashedly, she admits that she dismissed the idea of following in her father's footsteps. "Coding was for geeks," she says, "And it certainly wasn't for girls." Kelly went to college — university, as they say up North — where she studied commerce at the Universi- ty of Calgary. In 1997 she earned a perfect score on her final project, a business plan for a holistic wellness cen- ter and retail health food store. Some friends dared her to try it in the real world. Reluctantly—entrepreneur- ship wasn't part of her future plans—she submitted the idea to the Royal Bank of Canada. In short order, she was awarded a quarter of a million dollars, fertilizer for a disinclined entrepreneur. Kelly operated the Kelly Center of Wellness until 2001, during which time she got back to her roots when she realized a need for a customer-facing reminder system for her wellness store customers. "I was really irritat- ed by how much work I had to do to remind custom- ers about their appointments in a personalized way. The laziness alone drove me to be more efficient," she jokingly recalls. So, Kelly built a piece of software that How did a home-baked appointment program for mom-and-pop businesses blossom into a tier-one application for international enterprises? Sales savvy and a relentless focus on user experience. M Coding was for geeks, and it certainly wasn't for girls. EXCLUSIVE FEATURE Executive By M. Pillar HIGH-TECH SOFTWARE, HIGH-TOUCH SERVICE SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2017 16

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