Transforming Product Culture at an 18-Year Old Company
Three layers of visibility have turned ClickTime into a highly effective product company
When Barbara started working at ClickTime, the timesheet management software company had been around for nearly two decades and had years worth of documentation stuffed into Google Drive and paper notebooks. It was impossible to find anything.
“We had this weird combo of huge features and ‘fix these typos’ all smushed together in a Google doc,” she says. “But when you clicked further, it would say ‘Don’t reference this doc anymore because it’s all been moved to JIRA. Then you’d go to JIRA and it would say, ‘Don’t look at this epic anymore because it’s been split into two features.’”
It was difficult to find basic, common sense details about upcoming features, even for those intimately involved with product or engineering. And if you were in customer support or sales? Forget about it.
“If you were just trying to find an answer to, ‘Does this feature work for this type of customer customer?’ Or if you wanted to let a customer know that something they asked for is already in development, they would never be able to find that,” she says.
Bringing in ProdPad helped Barbara change that.
With ProdPad, she has introduced three layers of visibility that have helped transform ClickTime into a user-centric company.
Besides making years of hidden product knowledge accessible to the entire company, she has brought customer feedback to the center of the company’s internal communications.
Now, ClickTime is able to move faster than ever on new opportunities.
Organize old documents: Pull past research and specs into the product backlog
The first layer of visibility Barbara brought to ClickTime was to make piles of legacy documents accessible again.
She went through old files and resources built up by ClickTime employees over time and linked them back to one place: the company’s product backlog in ProdPad.
Having access to valuable product context such as past user research, abandoned product specs and wikis that explain how an old version of something worked, was incredibly useful for her colleagues.
“The Files section has been really valuable for that. The ability to link to files means we can refer back to all the obscure things that have existed in the history of ClickTime as we develop current product ideas,” says Barbara.
With easy access to this context, teams at ClickTime can pull up insights and research that has already been completed instead of doing that background work again.
The results are clear. Her colleagues aren’t turning to her with information requests anymore because they can find it faster on their own within the product idea they’re working on.
“They realized they could now find what they’re looking for in ProdPad without having to go through me,” she says.
Roadmap transparency: Open up new opportunities across the company
The second layer of visibility Barbara brought to ClickTime was to open up all company roadmaps to all teams.
Barbara introduced two main roadmaps at Clicktime – one for each moving part of the business:
Core product – their SaaS product
Professional services – provides custom solutions and reports for ClickTime customers.
(They have a third technical roadmap too, which includes upkeep such as bugs and fixes.)
Barbara sits on the Core Product team, but always keeps an eye on the Professional Services roadmap. Their work is fundamentally different, but sometimes overlaps.
The visibility she has into both product roadmaps helps her flag up potential product conflicts and duplicate work. But she also uses that visibility to look out for opportunities to combine resources.
“Sometimes requests come in from customers and we think: ‘This could actually work in our core product’ and we will flag that with the professional services team,” says Barbara.
“We’ve been able to put together creative solutions that work for both our core product, that would have otherwise been a really custom project for one customer,” she adds.
The Professional Services roadmap is also a valuable source of customer insights for the Core Product team: Barbara gets to see exactly what types of custom work Clicktime customers require.
“It’s a secondary lens to see our customers through – and we all end up having a lot more visibility into what customers want out of our tool.”
Instant feedback: Create a hub for customer feedback in Slack
The third layer of visibility Barbara brought to ClickTime was to pull all incoming customer feedback into Slack, where it could be viewed and discussed across the company
Before Barbara started piping it all into Slack, customer feedback rarely came up in daily discussions at the company. But that has changed since customer feedback started popping up in the company’s Slack channels.
“We saw a big uptick in comments when we set up the Slack integration.” she says. “You log a customer dealbreaker in Salesforce and all of a sudden somebody’s talking about it in Slack saying, ‘Hey this is a really good idea! Then the executive team jumps in and all of a sudden, everyone’s pitching in.”
Bringing customer feedback to where her colleagues spend most of their time talking to each other, has turned Slack into an active center for product discussions.
Her colleagues are also becoming more proactive about advocating for feedback they find interesting. For example, they go into ProdPad and promote that item of feedback into a new product idea. Then they’ll boost its business case by linking similar feedback from other customers to prove that it deserves a closer look.
It’s a significant cultural shift, and members of the product and engineering teams are now quick to respond to their colleagues in customer-facing roles.
“It’s nice to have someone from the product team explain to you really clearly: ‘We hear your request and this is actively on our roadmap’ vs. ‘I don’t know if we’re ever going to do that.’”
ClickTime has moved effortlessly towards a product focused culture in part because it hasn’t required anyone to change their existing tools or habits.
Although she and the product team spend a lot of time in ProdPad, the rest of the company gets involved with product discussions in Slack. The product discussions, votes and emojis that take place with each idea get piped right back into ProdPad.
“If you’re not using a piece of software that often, you forget about it. This is where they’re comfortable and you don’t want to change that.”
What’s important to Barbara is that the internal transparency she has brought to ClickTime is here to stay.
“It’s nice to have someone from the product team explain to you really clearly: ‘We hear your request and this is actively on our roadmap’ vs. ‘I don’t know if we’re ever going to do that.”