Product & technology leaders across the Serent portfolio gathered virtually to share pragmatic insights and strategies that help their companies innovate.
“Don’t declare success when you release new software. Declare success when you’ve solved a problem and people are using the product to solve that problem.”
Each year Serent Capital hosts the Product and Technology (P&T) Summit to convene portfolio company leaders to help each other improve processes, drive efficiency and deliver customer success. Product & Tech leaders of all stripes shared best practices and lessons-learned with their peers in themed group presentations and break-out groups. This year several themes emerged:
- Cloud cost savings and automated testing can radically improve efficiency and product quality
- Customer success & satisfaction: how product bundling, customer-centric UX and other strategies can lift customer NPS scores
Insights on Product Challenges and Solutions
This year’s P&T Summit featured break-out sessions that discussed the most pressing issues fast-growing companies face as they scale and how they are solving them.
Best Practices for Platform Mergers
In October, USATestprep, a provider of curriculum resources and test prep for grades 3-12 acquired Education Galaxy, an online and mobile assessment and intervention platform. USATestprep’s COO shared their best practices when merging platforms and resolving the needs of two very different customer bases. Their advice involved three steps:
- Establish a long-term strategy for your platform so you don’t have to re-platform later
- Focus on your core customers’ needs early in light of this long-term platform strategy
- Budget for customer attrition based on lost features
Managing Dispersed Product Teams
Actionstep, a cloud-based legal practice management system, has teams in both Nashville and New Zealand. Actionstep’s VP of Product Marketing discussed how they navigate change management with their very geographically dispersed teams. Cross-functional committees and daily standups promote a team mindset and keep everyone synced.
Automated testing had several adherents at this year’s Summit, with many product leaders acknowledging the difficulties of layering unit and automated testing onto legacy platforms. Real Green Systems, a software & marketing services provider for the green industry, requires every new major feature to have automated testing and unit tests as part of acceptance criteria. They advised pitching the business value of such testing for its power to increase customer satisfaction. “Putting testing in place will make you slow at first, but allow you to innovate much faster in the future. It’s worth the pause,” noted Real Green’s VP of Engineering.
The CIO of Kore Software, a leading provider of business management software for the sports and entertainment industries, offered arguably the most actionable analysis of this year’s summit on improving cost efficiency in cloud computing. Kore reduced its cloud spend by 27% over nine months employing these tactics:
- Leveraged the Serent portfolio pricing program
- Enable cost & usage reporting and consolidated billing
- Analyzed monthly bills to understand each line item, question why dev teams use certain resources, then optimize
- Implemented a tagging strategy to make it easier to analyze usage
- Committed to savings plans and reserved instances to reduce costs
- Reviewed storage classes and retention as key cost drivers
Serent P&T Chair Dave Ellenberger also walked portfolio companies through templates to help them standardize their budgeting process and focus on key questions and metrics.
Customer Success via Product
The P&T Summit also explored the bottom-line test of product success: whether or not customers love it.
The CTO of FranConnect, a franchise management software, walked the group through its product bundling strategy, which helps FranConnect keep selling its myriad products while simplifying buyer choice and product experience. He advised making “foundational” products core to each bundle and aiming each bundle at a specific buyer’s needs.”
The VP of Product Management at Real Green Systems explained how they systematically improved customer NPS as part of a migration from an on-prem product to a cloud-based SaaS version. Many customers enjoyed low annual support costs with on-prem, so they found themselves paying more with the SaaS migration – while getting used to an unfamiliar product. Real Green segmented its low-NPS customers based on three feedback types: on 1) product, 2) performance, and 3) support. This approach enabled solutions to pinpoint negative-sentiment drivers, like delivering “parity” features and launching major features with in-app communications and videos.
The Chief Product Officer at ArbiterSports, a sports officiating software, offered arguably the best quote from this year’s P&T Summit: “Don’t declare success when you release new software. Declare success when you’ve solved a problem and people are using the product to solve that problem.”
In her presentation on customer UX, she advised adopting a customer-centric approach, not a persona-focused approach – a subtle but key distinction. Her team brings cross-functional groups together to think through problems, assumptions and opportunities collaboratively. They learn first-hand from customers how they do their jobs and how ArbiterSports’ software fits into those tasks. This approach extends to inviting customers into a transparent UX process: gathering customer feedback to prioritize features, sharing initial prototypes to test concepts, then refining to usability testing with late-stage products. When key customers help you co-create your product, their needs and your UX stay in sync – with lasting success as a result.