How an Idea Becomes Software Reality
04/03/18 | 9:00AM | Posted by Kelly Belinsky, Product Manager
Where do good technology ideas come from? Author and speaker Steven Berlin Johnson has boiled the answer down to this: technology advances are driven from the need to connect. Even if all you have is a vague idea, being more connected helps you find people with similar ideas. When combined, those ideas can make a great concept.
At TEAM, our Product Management group does the same thing as they manage our product roadmap. The group gathers ideas from different sources and then we find correlations and develop a concept for an enhancement or a solution that will help our customers operate more efficiently and effectively. At a high level, the whole process involves four key steps:
- Idea Gathering
- Establishing Feedback Loops
Ideas flow in from multiple channels, like our customer Idea Portal, Client Advisory Board meetings, industry events, TEAM Client Conference, trade shows, hot topics reported from TEAM client-facing departments, and industry and market trends. Product managers have their ears and noses to the ground and are constantly listening and researching to make sense of it all. Our goal is to keep a pulse on what’s happening in the industries we serve and what challenges our customers are facing, like compliance and other regulatory requirements.
The vetting stage identifies similar ideas and which ones have the most impact. The key to this stage is ensuring we’re investing in the right solution before we develop it. So, we examine ideas from all angles. One of the ways we do that is through affinity grouping. Imagine a room filled with sticky notes – that’s the idea behind affinity grouping. The goal is to identify all the opportunities and place them on sticky notes. Then, as a team, we group similar ideas together.
Once all the ideas have been sorted into groups, we assess the overall customer impact, using a rating system and series of questions, including:
- How much money will our customers make (or save) with this new solution?
- Is the idea compliance related?
- What is the development effort and timeline?
This step sometimes involves passionate conversations among the group, where ideas are debated and rearranged to get them in the right order on the roadmap (we may have even used a competitive arm wrestling match or two to help us prioritize). All that work leads to the big question: Will the ideas solve the problems our customers need us to solve? And, the only way we truly know the answer to that question is to go ask them.
The next step involves storyboarding the problem we’re trying to solve and plotting out the solution. We outline the minimum viable solution, so we can begin testing and adjust as needed based on feedback.
And, the last step is the most important — feedback loops. As the product is developed, we ask customers to share feedback, and we adjust the solution to meet the end goal, which is to solve our customer’s problem through an effective software solution. In short, we make an idea into a software reality.
Now, that all sounds good on paper, but we know our actions speak louder than words. The Messaging Service that was launched in December 2017 is a prime example of this process at work. We knew our customers needed a better way to communicate with their field-based employees. So, the group gathered all ideas related to this concept, and we put it through the process. Once the minimum viable product was identified, created and tested, we released it. But, that’s not the end of the story — the initial release was the minimum viable product, and we’re currently evaluating feedback and more ideas so we can continue to enhance the solution and incorporate additional functionality.
Technology never stops, and neither do we. TEAM is constantly looking ways to solve our customers’ challenges and finding new, more efficient ways to do things. It all ties back to our commitment to our customers — delivering unparalleled value to our customers through our solutions and services. And, our product roadmap helps us define what’s next.