Software Executive Magazine

February/March 2018

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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Page 25 of 43

Asking these questions helped Arryved discover that its customers were using the software for very differ- ent environments, not just the traditional taproom setting of opening tabs to encourage customers to stay longer and drink more. Customers also wanted a simpler, faster version for field environments like fes- tivals, where lines form quickly. This meant emphasiz- ing fewer clicks and less complexity, not adding func- tionality to increase inside service capability. Norman says, "Typically you just try to keep pushing out new features and you accumulate more technical debt. If we had done that in this case, we would have added more screens that we would have had to fix later on, which would have ended up being more costly and cre- ating all sorts of different flows that create new bugs. We're trying to back off on the engineering side and really think about how people are using it before we deploy a solution." In a fast-paced world where the barrier to entry for a new competitor is lower than ever, it's hard to justify customer site visits and a patient development cycle. And sure, sending your founder to have a beer with each of your customers a few times each year isn't scal- able as software companies like Arryved continue to grow. But for now, seeing customer feedback in person is what's dictating development projects. Trigg says, "It does take a lot of time to interface with the customer. But there's no more valuable way to spend that time, because you're going to make the right decision if you do. If you're developing in a void, you can spend a lot of time developing the wrong thing. When you're trying to get going and wanting to develop a lot of things, you can't afford that waste of time." customer satisfaction surveys — and his willingness to slow down and be intentional with his engineering road map. It's also why you won't find Norman reminiscing about his time leading projects at Google. "It was differ- ent at Google, because when you're on products you're so removed from the customers," says Norman. "Now we're so engaged with our customers. We have month- ly meetings with most of them, and we love finding out how they're using our products." DON'T DEVELOP IN A VOID What does it really mean to be engaged with custom- ers? Every company has some version of a line on the "About Us" or "Company Values" page of its website about how customers are the key ingredient to its suc- cess. You'll never see a negative customer testimonial on a website, either. So when Norman and Trigg talk about customers dictating Arryved's product road map, it's easy to write them off as just another compa- ny claiming to care deeply about the people who use its software. For founders like Norman, who have an engi- neering background and a strong preference to write code instead of spending face time with customers, it might be tempting to push out release after release while relying only on the sales and marketing team to relay user feedback. It's also a common shortcut to send out regular net promoter score surveys and run a few reports around help desk tickets and call that be- ing engaged with customers. "It's easy for an engineer to want to be an introvert," says Norman. "Being out in front of customers and talking to customers all the time forces you out of that element. You've got to approach everything with a cer- tain level of humility. I think when we spend so much time engineering problems we forget that side of it. You have to extend yourself beyond just sitting there and wanting to create great products. You've really got to know that you're building the right products." Norman spends face time with customers on a regular basis. Not just emails to check in. Not just quick customer satisfaction surveys. Not just phone calls. Real, live, actual meetings — which often include exactly what the product is designed for — drinking a craft beer. Persuading engi- neers to set aside their tech geek hats and switch to cus- tomer mode is a lot easier when your software's customers can serve up a good brew. Trigg claims Norman doesn't let more than a week go by without seeking out a customer to have a meaningful conversation with. And the regular con- versations with customers don't have to be forced, either. Trigg says, "The questions to ask are, 'How are you utiliz- ing this thing we just did?' and 'Are you using this thing we just did?' It's not just asking, 'What else do you want us to do?' We want to know if customers are using features and how. You can ask these questions 5,000 times." If you're developing in a void, you can spend a lot of time developing the wrong thing. When you're trying to get going and wanting to develop a lot of things, you can't afford that waste of time. N A N C Y T R I G G President, Arryved 26 By A. Sorensen ENGINEERING A NICHE STARTUP SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM FEBRUARY/MARCH 2018 STARTUP SUCCESS exclusive feature

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