Software developers can’t keep from messing with a product.

The idea is to get 80% of a mobile solution built, and then literally put it in the hands of users to guide its refinement, says Robb Gaynor, founder and chief product officer of Austin, Texas-based Malauzai Software.

But that standard practice in the software industry clashes hard against banking culture, he says, where executives fear that a wonky app could mean customer attrition.

Developers of personal financial management apps need to find that right partner in banking willing to get through beta testing an app -– or as Gaynor describes it, executives “crazy enough” to take a leap of faith, and then patient enough to see it through.

"Our method is to get things out there quickly and then iterate based in feedback in the analytics," Gaynor says. 

"We try to push this kind of mantra, because it's how new products are developed, whether it's software, manufacturing; this is how things get tested in a production environment. There's no better way to harden a product than when somebody has it in their hands. The tradeoff of getting it to them quickly and then iterating quickly is that it creates better sense of goodwill than making somebody wait months to get something, and then they get it six months from now, and it's still broken."

Having been on both sides of the development fence -- he was previously general manager of Consumer Products at Digital Insight/Intuit and held roles with Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo Bank -- Gaynor tries his best to keep executives aware of the process.

"A lot of times the banks doing the testing with us haven't posted the app to the app store, maybe they've got 50 employees banging on the thing," he says.

"So they're doing internal testing, or limited released. The reality is, even those who tell us, 'We want a beta, we know it's going to be broken, we get it, this is going to be great,' [and then] they still yell at you. You get the app to them, and there are bugs, and they say, 'Hey wait a minute, there's bugs.' Well, we told you there'd be bugs. You accepted this. So that's banking. "

To smooth over what can be a constant source of friction, Gaynor says developers should examine their client lists and go with the firms that are ready to experiment first.

"In our market of community banks and credit unions and there's a good chunk of them that have the appetite to absorb that level of innovation, and we don't need a lot. We have 340 clients, and many of them are not that innovative. They don't want to be part of beta testing. They want 100 other banks to roll something out, and then they'll go. They get to go at their own pace, but my value proposition is one of innovation. I just need a few crazy banks every release, 12 times a year, to beta test one or two things.

"So we're going to do an app for the Apple watch. And we want three people ready the day it goes live. Out of my 300 clients, I can find three crazy bankers. That's what makes our job so much fun. We've got the appetite for innovation, we've got great community bankers, and we can help them innovate in the mobile channel."

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