Learning from the past, heading to the future
The Effective Collection and Use of Product Feedback
Gall’s Law predicts that successful complex systems arise from the organic growth of much simpler systems. Our story at Invenias supports that law. We started the journey 15 years ago, deploying a simple method for managing processes entirely inside Outlook. Today we have a solution that supports the requirements of small, medium and large Executive Search Firms with a system of record that can sit at the heart of a business.
What happens when companies flout Gall’s Law? The Technology industry is full of products that nobody remembers because they were over-engineered. The term “bloatware” has been coined over the last few years to describe software that falls into this category. But don’t lose sight of the value that comes from working with a Partner who has been through the experience of leveraging Gall’s Law to their advantage.
How do you tackle complexity that you’ve already added?
At Invenias, we are currently going through a product development cycle with the web-based Essentials product. It’s an opportunity for us to go back to basics, but we’re doing it to solve an adoption challenge that still persists with senior-level, lighter weight users of the platform in some clients. The advantages of modern agile iterative rapid development techniques mean we can produce a minimum viable product (MVP) and iterate on it based on user feedback. Aiming for a gradual evolution from simple functionality is a way to build a growing product that actually reflects users’ needs. We’ve done this once and we’re applying the learnings from that 15-year experiment to attempt to solve a different problem.
Many products deploy a “Basic” version of the product and this is particularly common with “freemium” product offerings. If a simple version of your product is being made available for free then it allows you to persist a simpler version of your product, putting all other “versions” behind higher-level subscriptions. But in many cases, the subscription models or platforms can’t support this approach, as many SaaS businesses try to maintain a single version of their application to reduce the risks around upgrades etc.
The Importance of Customer Feedback
At Invenias we attempt to capture feedback through a number of channels:
- We run a Product Management tool called Aha, which has an Ideas Portal
- Our Account Managers run regular Executive Business Reviews and operate as a conduit for customer feedback and roadmap discussions
- We regularly run Round Tables as a mechanism for gathering feedback on features we’ve built or are thinking about building
- Our Support, Sales and PS teams are regularly discussing Solutions with customers and again provide that feedback to Product Management
I was inspired recently by a fantastic conversation between Kellie Lucas and Anika Zubair and I’d encourage anyone in the CS or Product Management space to give it a listen. My takeaways from that conversation and the thoughts that have been maturing ever since then:
- Ensure that appropriate expectations are set and managed when engaging in the collection of feedback
- Don’t ask for or take feedback from customers unless you are willing and able to do something with it
- Closing the feedback loop doesn’t have to mean “the feature that you requested will be in release X”