How Tasktop dramatically improved its Flow Velocity in one day

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In the latest release of Tasktop Integration Hub (19.3), the Product Development team tried out an experiment to deliver even more business value out of our flagship product. In my last blog, I described how Tasktop has made few cultural and process-oriented changes to be more customer-obsessed and ship features faster. Galvanized by the new energy that was instilled across the team, we decided to try something a bit different.

For a very long time, the team only focused on features that provided large amounts of quantifiable business value to our customers, such as time-tracking integration, Test Management integration suite and Twinless update (disaster recovery). This does not necessarily mean that it was the wrong approach; only that it made sense to do so at the time. As Tasktop grew, our customers demanded more and this resulted in a backlog containing a long list of aesthetic features and improvement suggestions by customer-facing folks, as well as the external users of the product.

What do aesthetic features from the perspective of a product design mean? Aesthetics is the manner of the experience with the product that brings meaning and joy to users. These aesthetic features might not have a direct impact on the sales or retention numbers but definitely contribute to a higher Net Promoter Score for end users. 

With an ever-growing pile of requests in the backlog, Product and Engineering teams (who sit under one umbrella Product Development team) needed to modify their execution strategy. We asked ourselves, “Is there any way to ship as many features as possible in the coming days?”

And we said to ourselves, “Let’s try; if we don’t succeed at least we know that something doesn’t work for us.” With this in mind, we all decided to get together and work on this list of minor aesthetic/general requests that would greatly improve the customer experience with the product. We called this experiment “Quick Wins”.

How did the Prod Dev team go about with this?  

The experiment would mark the greatest collaboration I have ever seen among the Product, Engineering and UX teams. It was like Toyota’s assembly-line in production, but with the appropriate ‘ad-hocness’. Product skimmed through the backlog, accumulated the features (incrementally) that they considered were Quick Wins, and discussed these in the spare time of collaboration meetings to determine whether it made the cut or not.

Sometimes, these conversations were one-on-one with engineers as well. This ensured a continuous feedback loop was established without having to go through the usual ‘Discovery, Execution and Rollback’ cycle of product delivery. No additional time was utilized apart from the usual collaboration methods. Once it was verified to be a Quick Win, our UX mastermind jumped in to provide UX wireframes when required.

The continuous feedback loop that was established across the three teams was incredible to witness. And this feedback loop worked only because we all realized that we had one single goal to achieve: to ship requested features faster. 

Finally, we had a verified list of Quick Wins. This experiment did not distract the stakeholders from their usual quarterly release goals as we ensured that just enough attention was given to this experiment.

A spike in Flow Velocity

Instead of the 3-4 big features that we usually release quarterly, we were able to release an additional 13-15 Quick Wins that benefited our entire customer base. Thanks to our adoption of the Flow Framework™ – created by our CEO and founder, Dr. Mik Kersten – we can routinely consult our Flow Metrics to understand the creation of business value.

As you can see the above graph, we saw a dramatic spike in Flow Velocity, a metric that tells us how many work items were completed over a given period of time. One can see how much work was completed week over week or month over month. Tracking the Flow Velocity trend over time provides historical data for teams to see their delivery rates. This can help teams improve estimates or forecasting for how much work they can deliver.

Reaction from our teams

Customer Success

“When I first saw the list of deliverables as a result of our “Quick Wins” initiative, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Firstly, the list of 13 features was an incredible output from one concentrated day. The cross-section of customers that directly benefit from these new features spans multiple industries, sizes and geographies – tangible benefits were realized across all of our customer base. Secondly, having this influx of good news to share with our customers greatly raised the morale of our internal staff as the news of these features acted as tools that enhance the partnership that we have with our customers in a very positive way. I look forward to more “Quick Wins” days in the future.”- Bruce McDonald, VP Customer Success

Sales

“The items delivered haven’t been prioritized in the past because individually they had little impact compared to the larger, more complex features.  However, the small things have a cumulative impact over time. The Quick Wins were a breath of fresh air for the sales engineers because their delivery was unexpected. – Jeff Downs, Sr. Director of Pre-Sales, America

Product

“As the owner of Tasktop’s product documentation and user content, I’m always finding small UX fixes that would improve our user experience.  “Quick Wins” day gives our Engineers a chance to focus on quick user-focused wins without the distraction of their usual higher-priority, higher-complexity features.  It’s been gratifying to see the momentum, employee morale, and customer happiness these Quick Wins have brought! And I’m happy to see us slowly chipping away at my long laundry list of UX requests”  – Rebecca Dobbin, Product Content Manager

“Having a Quick Wins day is a terrific way to have a fun but effective “customer obsession” focus… developers like to feel that they have a short-term goal and that they can absolutely move the needle on making a difference for a customer.  And from a pure product perspective, these small Quick Wins add up to a big overall win!” – Nicole Bryan, VP of Product Development

Engineering

“Quick Wins” day was very satisfying. It felt good to address some minor UI issues which often gets overlooked. This was an effective way to improve the quality and polish our product without stepping away from our usual tasks for too long.” – Logan Rouleau, QA Engineer

“This experiment helped engineers to focus on polishing the product and quality-of-life features.  Such work would normally not make it to the top of our prioritized queue. Looking at each issue separately, it seems like a drop in the water and most engineers will naturally tend to work on the most critical issues from the backlog instead.  “Quick Wins” takes away this concern and helps to focus purely on such quick-win chunks of work. These small accomplishments resulted in a noticeable impact on the product and for the engineers something to be proud of.” – Jordi Bohme, Engineering Team Lead

How to drive customer obsessed Product Development

Learn more about Flow Metrics 

In Enterprise IT, data is scattered across many specialized tools used by the software delivery practitioners to plan, build and deliver software. Through integration, Tasktop enables organizations to generate insight into how fast they’re going and where work is slowing down. Tasktop connects the tools that house the data of your end-to-end value streams, capturing and modeling the digital footprints of the actual work.

Utilizing its Enterprise Data Stream integration style, Tasktop traces flow across all your teams, tools and processes. It relates all the individual bits of work into a measurable stream of activity. The resulting Flow Metrics measure software delivery performance per value stream, in abstracted terms that IT and business leaders can relate to and that can be easily correlated to business outcomes.

Download the below e-book on Flow Metrics to discover:

  • How Value Stream Integration accelerates and optimizes flow of value from software
  • How value acceleration demands true end-to-end reporting
  • How models standardize value for IT and business to bridge the gap
  • Introduction to the four Flow Items, the core type of value pulled by the customer
  • Introduction to Flow Metrics to improve data-driven decision making
  • How to get started with Flow Metrics
  • How Tasktop can help you on your Flow journey
Click front cover to download e-book

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