When I left my first job in consulting (and gave up the commute to Boston) to join a small software company in Bedford, New Hampshire, I thought I was stepping out of the fast lane. Little did I know how vibrant and challenging it is to work at a startup, where everyone invests personally in each customer relationship and operates like a family.
When it became clear that the startup’s small team needed more help clarifying requirements and prioritizing business opportunities to build the roadmap, I changed my role from software developer to product manager. Since then, that startup went through two acquisitions — and I’ve now been delivering SaaS solutions at both small and large companies for over 20 years. Now I’ll continue that journey at York IE.
It’s a breath of fresh air to engage directly with the passionate client entrepreneurs that York IE serves with its creative and technical expertise. I look forward to offering my technical and product road mapping experience as a senior product strategist, listening for priorities and guiding our work to build the next most important thing along the journey.
The opportunity to build Software as a Service is not just about the technical solution, or even the subscription revenue model. Providing a SaaS solution transforms the mindset of the entire business to deliver and demonstrate value to users continuously in order for the service to sustain and grow. I look forward to bringing my experience to our clients as they become SaaS providers that serve their customer base and online communities.
I have learned that focusing on customer outcomes, observing usage and adoption and responding to customer feedback are critical habits that drive successful companies.
Because SaaS solutions change over time, we don’t just aim to build a fixed set of features and tasks. Instead, a SaaS provider focuses on the desired outcomes for the end user or customer. They make sure that as business needs change and new technology brings new opportunities, the solution can evolve to meet the same outcomes in innovative ways.
Building an application with a SaaS platform gives the software provider better tools for observing how users are engaging (or not) with an application. This drives improvement in several ways.
First, the product team gains insight into whether delivered features are actually used as expected to succeed at the expected outcomes. In response, the application can evolve to provide more in-app help or change the user experience to be more intuitive.
Second, the SaaS provider can use adoption information to know their customer base better: spotting the high-usage customers that make good champions and learning from their experience to drive better adoption for customers that are struggling.
Third, a SaaS provider can stay close to customer ideas and needs by prioritizing ways for users to provide feedback easily and making it a priority to listen and aggregate the feedback. The provider can then respond iteratively with the most useful improvements, moving the entire customer base forward.
Just like it’s important to live with intention, building a good product strategy sets the path to constructing a growing solution with early demonstrable results. Sometimes getting to the right next step involves choosing experiments that succeed or fail. This process always includes learning something new to drive the right technical and business decisions over time.
Once you embrace a habit of constant prioritization in product management, it kind of takes over your life. Ultimately, it matters why we do what we do. When there’s so much that can be accomplished in a limited lifetime, no one wants to find out that their time, resources, or efforts have been wasted on aimless work — for a year or even a day.
Coming alongside the right partners, employers and team members who are committed to focusing on a meaningful common purpose is very important to me. This is why I’m so grateful that Evan York answered my call and paved the path for me to join York IE. After three years of working remotely, I was eager to make a change that would connect me more with my local community – especially in a dynamic office space with such a rich history in the mill buildings.
After just two weeks on weekly feedback calls with clients, I am already impressed with the agility and speed with which our Product Strategy and Development team iterates and provides enhancements. There is a great, infectious energy that comes from working with such a productive, empowered and motivated development team.