When Nick and Dave started Easy Agile almost 5 years ago, we were the customer.
As a product manager and developer, they combined their experiences, knowledge and frustrations of running physical user story mapping sessions, and built a tool that would have helped them run more effective and distributed story mapping sessions.
We were a small, cross-functional agile team building software for small, cross-functional agile teams.
Fast forward 2 years and we found ourselves in a very different situation. Our customers were scaling their agile transformations, looking to frameworks like the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to help them get there and needed us to deliver a solution that would enable their planning and visibility.
We were no longer our customer.
So how did we live our value of be the customer when we weren’t the customer anymore?
It all starts with perspective
At the end of the day, being the customer comes down to empathy. You can’t have empathy without perspective first though.
When we first started to explore the scaled agile problem space, we dedicated 6 months to perspective building. We sought the perspective of our customers facing problems of agility at scale within their organisations and the perspective from agile coaches and thought leaders guiding businesses through these transformations.
What that meant for us:
- leveraging industry data and trends through resources like the Annual State of Agile Report
- close to 50 customer interviews conducted
- attending the Regional European SAFe Summit in Germany, the Global SAFe Summit and Agile2018 events in North America to learn via osmosis and broaden our network in the community
- SAFe SPC training and certifications for 4 of our team members so that we had subject matter experts who could speak the same language as our customers
- working with our community of Solution Partners to get rapid feedback on early paper prototype designs
7 week MVP
We wrote the first line of code for what would become Easy Agile Programs 6 months after our investigation into the problem space began.
7 weeks later and we took the MVP to the 2018 Atlassian Summit in Barcelona to put it in front of people for feedback. We had the whole team with us so that we could each see and hear the feedback first hand.
Sure, there were a few niggles. But the initial response was overwhelmingly positive which gave us the confidence to kick the product into another gear.
As soon as we were back in Australia, we launched the MVP in beta onto the Atlassian Marketplace. Almost 2 years on, we’re privileged to have the likes of Boeing, Disney and Bosch leveraging Easy Agile Programs.
2 years on…. how we continue to be the customer
We truly believe the success of Easy Agile Programs came from the importance we placed on seeking perspective first.
That perspective eventually grew into empathy. Empathy for the challenges being faced by our customers. As a team we were holistically invested in, not the success of our product, but the success of our customers.
What this means for us as a team?
We don’t have a support team. 📞
The entire Easy Agile team (including Nick and Dave our co-CEOs), are responsible for handling all customer support. We all contribute to delivering our solutions to our customers so we should all share in hearing their successes and struggles.
Support is our daily reminder and reality check that we could always be doing better for our customers.
We don’t have a QA team. ⭐️
Much like support, QA is the responsibility of the entire team. Each of us bring a different perspective to testing from our marketing, or UX or development backgrounds which helps us deliver higher quality experiences for our customers.
Dog fooding. 🐶
We use our own tools. Daily.
As we ourselves have scaled over the last 2 years, we have found Programs also works for our need to provide visibility across multiple teams.
It’s this incredibly humbling experience when a customer flags an issue they encountered in your product, and then running into it first hand yourself.
There’s nothing that elicits empathy more than shared experiences.
User testing. 🧪
Over the past 6 months we have made incorporating consistent user testing for all of our products a core part of our process. We cycle through each of the products and share learnings in our company wide demos.
For a company on the opposite side of the world to 95% of our customers, it is so powerful for everyone in our team to see the faces, hear the voices and witness first hand the wins and struggles of our customers.
So what does ‘Be the customer’ mean to me ?
You don’t have to literally be the customer to be the customer’s champion.
Being the customer to me is about always seeking perspective and understanding first. Empathy comes as a result of that.
I do not believe that having empathy for the customer is the sole responsibility of Product, or Marketing or any role for that matter. It is the responsibility of the entire organisation. But that doesn’t happen overnight as I hope this blog has showed you. It requires presenting everyone in the organisation the same opportunities to be exposed to your customer’s perspective. Continuously.
A good way to gauge this is to ask yourself: when was the last time I spoke to one of our customers?
If it’s been more than a week, pick up the phone. Send an email. Jump on a zoom call. Just touch base. That is a good place to start.