Three Key Lessons We Learned From Building A New SaaS Product

In 2017, we did a lot of listening. We heard from our customers that their marketing teams were being asked to do more with less, that they were frustrated with the hurdles involved in collaborating with other departments within their organization and that they were looking for tools that not only helped them manage their workflows, but did so with a UX that mimics the ease and fluidity of their favorite apps.

And, as we listened, we began to think–why isn’t there a marketing project management solution that focuses on making collaboration as seamless as possible? Why don’t existing solutions focus on simplifying the process of requesting and executing work? Why shouldn’t using a project management platform be as engaging and easy as sharing pictures of brunch at your favorite spot or tweeting about college sports?

That thinking led us to building. We decided to build the solution our customers and potential customers were clamoring for.

That process is nearing completion. In October, we’ll be unveiling our new SaaS product to the world and we couldn’t be more excited about how it will make marketers’ lives simpler, smarter and more streamlined, while also delivering an engaging UX that is miles away from the dull, uninspiring enterprise applications of old. As we put the finishing touches on things pre-launch, we’re also able to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned in getting here, not only the insights we’ve gained about our customers and their needs, but what we’ve come to understand about ourselves as a company and how our processes needed to evolve and adapt to deliver on the ambitious product vision we had set for ourselves. If we could boil down the past year and a half of listening, thinking, building and learning into three key lessons, here’s what they would be:

 

LESSON 1: A commitment to cross-functionality

If we were going to develop a solution that improved collaboration, we needed to do it collaboratively. It seems like an obvious statement, but it’s a concept that some companies are challenged to put into practice. We assembled a cross-functional team of project and product managers, engineers, designers, marketers and salespeople to be the driving force behind imagining this new product. We got to see firsthand what goes into effective collaboration across teams and departments and how teams can easily get sidetracked or bogged down by minutiae when they aren’t speaking a common language, working within common tools and striving to meet common, clearly-defined goals. We strove to make sure every voice was heard and that we weren’t simply defaulting to letting only those with subject matter expertise dictate what features mattered and how they would operate. Ultimately, we found that it was the people who were willing to step outside their comfort zones who brought the perspectives and incisive questions that helped us overcome roadblocks and untangle ideological knots.

 

LESSON 2: Getting outside the building

Just like we knew we couldn’t develop our new solution without collaboration, we knew we couldn’t develop it in a vacuum, relying only on our gut instinct about what our future customers would want in a smart project management solution. We needed to talk to the people we envisioned actually using our product in order to validate our key assumptions. So we did. We interviewed CMOs and technology buyers. We talked to potential end users. We demoed our work in progress and collected feedback. We spoke with leading industry analysts to pick their brains. Our product evolved based on the insights we received and hearing directly from the people who would be buying or using it helped us get critical clarity on what features we needed to focus on to create something that would solve their most urgent pain points.

 

LESSON 3: Continuous iterating and interrogating

There is a oft-quoted inspirational saying that claims if you want to go fast, you should go alone, but if you want to go far, you should go together. We chose the latter path. Instead of forging ahead with development single-mindedly, we built cycles of iteration into the process. We weren’t afraid to backtrack and revisit previous assumptions if someone pointed out a use case or a point on the customer journey that hadn’t come up before or if we realized that there was a better way to build a key functionality. We developed with the different types of end user in mind and asked ourselves questions about what they would want or expect at each stage of their engagement with our product. If something seemed too complicated or unintuitive, we went back to the drawing board and iterated until we got it right. We want this product to go far and that meant we needed everyone’s voice, expertise and smart questions on that journey. This not only applies to what we launch, but how our comprehensive release schedule will unfold in the future.

 

Ending on a high note

We’re almost at the finish line of what has been a marathon and not a sprint (although we do work in those!). Our product will be launching in October at Adobe MAX and we’re incredibly excited for it to be out in the wild and in the hands of marketers and creative teams everywhere. Beyond just a new product and brand, though, we’re also excited to build on the lessons we learned while bringing it to fruition. We have seen the power of cross-functional collaboration, of bringing key stakeholders into the development process and of continually asking the questions that help us to better align what we’re doing with what they need to be successful in their work. This is the way forward and we’re on the move.

We’re launching a product to make marketers’ lives simpler, smarter and more streamlined. Be among the first to hear about it when we go live.

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