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Off-label Use of Software Inspires ProForma

by Jenny Choban on April 17, 2017

Is necessity or possibility the real mother of invention?


When people find a tool they like, they find imaginative ways to use it that may go far beyond what the creators originally intended. Off-label use is the technical term, but you could also say creative application or repurposing of a proven tool.

That’s how ProForma came to be.  The founders of ThinkTilt had worked together before building SmartyGrants, an online system for managing grants. The idea was that governments, research and philanthropic organizations could use SmartyGrants to receive grant applications and then manage the grants they awarded.  Obviously, such a system would need a sophisticated, yet easy to use form builder. So the team created one with the intention that it would be used to build grant application, assessment and acquittal forms.

But then something happened. SmartyGrants users started using the system in ways that the team had not foreseen.  They used it for booking venues and managing event registration, for collecting budget bids and making internal checklists.

What was going on? It turns out that when you give a team a secure, reliable, easy to use tool, they find a lot of uses for it.  SmartyGrants users felt empowered by the ability to create their own electronic forms without having to wait for their IT departments. They had more problems to solve than the SmartyGrants team realized. (The reality is that every team has challenges that only they are aware of). Once they were given the means, they took off running.

Having overseen the successful growth of SmartyGrants, the founders of ThinkTilt saw the opportunity of giving all teams within an organisation the power to solve their own problems. If a purpose-built grants management system could be expanded into so many uses, then what might business teams do with a tool that was designed to give them flexibility to manage all of their processes online?

Witnessing the creative and “off label” ways people use their favorite software systems became the inspiration for ProForma. We wanted to empower any team with a simple platform to solve their own problems. The flexibility of JIRA Service Desk makes it the perfect starting point. Our library of form templates give any team a jump start on converting their traditional systems. But we know we haven’t thought of everything. Creative people will come up with ways to use ProForma that we haven’t even imagined. Come share your ideas with us at