Living the Experiences of Our Customers

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Joining Tasktop as a business analyst in September 2013, I was tasked to learn about the intricacies of the software delivery process while doing my part to help the company work toward its goal of improving that very process. While at first this seemed like an overwhelming undertaking, it turns out that Tasktop has been a great place to do so. Our Vice President of Product Management, Nicole Bryan, often states that building software takes a village.

As a business analyst, I regularly interact with the many members of this village and have seen how the contributions of each combine to create our own software solutions. This interaction has revealed not only the importance of each unit, but has also underscored the principal reasons for Tasktop’s existence. When I first pursued a career opportunity at Tasktop and learned about its technology, I thought to myself “If the disconnect between teams using different tools is so pronounced, why wouldn’t someone focus on building a single piece of software that could be used by everyone involved in software development and delivery?” If such a tool existed, the need for integration would cease. (And the company that built it would make a lot of money.) Tasktop seemed to be doing well, though, and the position seemed interesting, so I happily joined when I was extended an offer, eager to learn about the world of software development. And oh, how much I have learned. I now realize how naïve a notion that the development and large-scale adoption of this theoretical all-inclusive tool was.

While I knew there was a disconnect between teams, I didn’t realize just how many teams were involved in software development and delivery, the high volume of which would make developing an comprehensive tool extremely difficult. I now see that software development and delivery involves more than Engineering and QA. Product, Business Development, IT, Management, Sales, Solutions, and Marketing, among others, are also at its core. While developing any all-encompassing tool would be difficult, developing a high quality one that satisfied every team seems like it would be next to impossible. Before starting at Tasktop, I not only underestimated the number of teams involved in software delivery, but also did not fully grasp the fact that different types of teams (Product, QA, Engineering, etc.) have not only drastically different needs, but also different desires in terms of the functionality and mental model of a product.

As I’ve seen at Tasktop, people with different inclinations and talents tend to have distinct preferences and to work in particular ways—and this is at a company that is small in size compared to many of its customers. Satisfying all of these predilections in a single tool would be quite the feat to accomplish. Finally, I failed to discern just how engrained people could become in using a certain tool. The tools we use to do our job define our basic workflows and fundamentally affect our day-to-day activities. And if a given tool is serving your team well, why would you move to something else? Working is the software industry is demanding enough without having to learn a new tool simply to do your job. The bottom line is that change is hard. This is true not only at the team level, but also at the organizational level. Migrating any team to a new tool would be an expensive and exhausting effort and would significantly disrupt work; migrating all teams to this tool I originally envisioned would be all the more difficult.

As it turns out, developing such an all-encompassing tool would not only be a challenging endeavor, but would also be less than ideal. The need for integration will always exist. But this is not a bad thing. With solutions like Tasktop Sync, our partners can build tools that focus on solving problems for a particular set of individuals, rather than tools that fruitlessly try and help everybody. Though varied, the resulting tool landscape offers a strong set of options for practitioners involved in all parts of the process. The beauty of Tasktop Sync is that it allows each team the freedom to use the tool they choose from this landscape, a valuable affordance that I only now understand, having lived the experiences of our customers first hand.

The insight I’ve gained while working at Tasktop has given me an appreciation for the fundamental need for a software lifecycle integration strategy that defines processes and connects disparate tools and teams. It has also led me to empathize with the multitude of other knowledge workers involved in software delivery across the globe, an empathy that drives the work of myself of my colleagues everyday. So, go ahead and keep working in your preferred tool–We’ll worry about the cross-team integration, and you won’t even know we’re doing it.