“What are we building next?”

Steve Hazelton
December 2, 2022
2 Min Read
Software

Since starting Sturdy, we have learned that about 50% of support tickets and 15% of emails contain a roadmap-informing data point.

I have worked on the product side of software for about 20 years, and the most common question from management is, “What are we building next?”. It is a question that I ask myself almost every day.

Answering “what to build next?” isn’t always easy, but explaining “why we are building this next?” never is. 

(Inevitably, engineering will want one thing, support another, and sales yet a third. But I digress.)

We were not venture-funded at Newton Software, so building the wrong feature could have killed us. We took these decisions very seriously.

We had 3 weekly meetings to inform our “why build it?” decisions. Our Support Team leaders were in charge of mining tickets for the most common bugs, “how do I do this?” items and feature requests. Our Customer Success leadership was responsible for capturing similar data, mainly found in email. And finally, there was a third meeting with Sales leadership, where they informed us of the features they need to close more deals. 

In other words, we manually harvested data from multiple data silos and teams to inform product development decisions. This data was in support tickets, emails, chats, and phone calls. Someone would need to manually record data in something like JIRA or Salesforce to even have it. If they didn’t record it, we didn’t get it.

Effectively capturing data to inform product roadmaps is probably the most important thing a software company can do. As product planners, we rely almost entirely on other teams to manually source, process, and organize this data. The teams have other jobs though…

After Newton was purchased and we were in a larger organization, it became apparent that manually converting conversations into data was too time-consuming and expensive. It didn’t happen. As a result, we had almost no data informing our product decisions. 

That’s why (after exiting Newton) our “What do we build next?” question was answered with, “Let’s build something that turns all of our customer feedback, tickets, conversations, and emails into some real data!”

Every time a customer contacts your company, they want you to listen. You want to listen. Take this simple challenge: count the number of new support tickets you got last month and cross reference JIRA. Did 50% of those tickets turn into data? Now try the same thing with email. We know it’s not easy.

By turning all of this feedback and information into data, product planners can access and employ the voice of the customer to make informed product decisions. If making more informed product decisions is essential to you, give Sturdy a look. 

Don’t hesitate to contact me at steve@sturdy.ai if you have any questions or comments.

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