Raygun sponsored this post.
Zoom, Slack and Atlassian are setting a new standard of what it means to be a customer-first company. Easy user interfaces and hyper-specialization mean there’s no real limit to their growth — but that doesn’t mean they are continually adding more products to their suite. Their strategy is instead product-first, where they laser-focus on making their best-in-class software easy to use and high performing.
Most of us don’t have these tech giant’s resources. So how can we live up to the new bar of software quality? We brought three prolific tech leaders together in front of an audience of 60 software professionals to discuss how software teams can prioritize the user experience in their development workflow so they can deliver world-class software.
Our panelists were:
- Josh Robb, senior vice president product and engineering at Pushpay. Pushpay is a purpose-driven giving and engagement platform serving thousands of customers.
- Simona Turin, executive general manager of product at Xero. Cloud-based accounting software Xero is on “Forbes” “Most Innovative Growth Companies” list with 1.8 million subscribers.
- Cara Fonseca-Ensor, director of product engineering at Vend. Vend retail management was the first point-of-sale software on the iPad and serve 25,000 stores.
Here’s what they had to say about the processes they use to put the customer at the front of mind during development so they can create software that is easy to use and high performing.
Prioritization of Development Time
If you lead a team, then it’s likely one of your most common challenges is prioritizing development time. You’ll need to balance time between building new features, improving what you already have and investing in capabilities that help the team scale and deliver quality.
Robb offered these insights. “For me, it’s a portfolio allocation decision that starts with asking how much time I am willing to spend on quality.” Robb said. “There are two ways of looking at it, one is to capture actuals and the other way is to think about it from a strategy perspective, in terms of what we want to invest in this quarter or this year.”
Turin also echoed the emphasis on the customer at Xero, “I think every company has to start balancing how many features they push,” Turin said. “At Xero, [we look] for a balance of customer focus and performance.”
Strengthen the Relationship Between Customer and Engineering
Becoming a customer-first company means employing strategies to connect the development team and their objectives to the end experience of the users. At Vend, Fonseca-Ensor said an essential part of Vend’s development workflow is to take the time to talk to customers and get their feedback, which is then collected and displayed in Redash.
Bringing the code closer to the customer can also be strengthened by answering support tickets in their first week at the company. An audience member suggested that this tactic gives them so much more context about their jobs, like why they are building the feature. “Keeping in touch with customers is really, really key for engineers,” a member of the audience concluded.
Software Quality Is Part of Company Culture
Throughout the discussion it was apparent software quality is closely aligned with culture — which begins with the hiring process. When looking for hires, our panelists said they seek qualities like caring about the customer experience in a candidate’s first interview.
It’s not all about hiring, either. The main takeaway from an audience of over 60 tech leaders was that there needs to be metrics and goals in place to keep the whole company accountable to the user experience. Empowering engineering teams with the right metrics that focus on software performance and reliability is vital to Pushpay’s success.
OKRs are the tool of choice for our panel. But how do tech leaders measure software quality? We asked the audience and the results are in the graph below:
Monitoring Software Performance, Software Quality and Customer Experience Matters
When we look up to the leaders in the space, the cloud giants have risen to the top by creating product-first companies that focus on delivering excellent user experiences. While software performance continues to be a challenge for tech leaders, there are some strategies product owners can put in place to ensure their software is keeping up with the best of them.