Over the last 30 years, agile development has become the dominant method for building software. There are a plethora of tools to support the process. Countless resources are available to learn it. The problem is agile development is about how to build. It doesn't help you decide what to build. Deciding what to build is still commonly powered by informal, undocumented processes. Most software companies have a sprawl of documents that takes tribal knowledge to navigate. And, backlogs often become the place where ideas go to die as they are heaped on top of a constantly growing pile. We're on a mission to give software companies the missing half of their agile workflow: priority decision making.
It's common knowledge that talking with customers is a great way to discover ideas about what to build. When a customer or coworker gives you feedback, where do you put it? If you're like most product managers, you stick it in the backlog. Sales or customer support might put it in your CRM or help desk software. Maybe you even made a custom form to capture feature requests. Wherever you put it, chances are, it's a place that's only meant for storage. To make that feedback actionable, you need to be able to process that feedback and decide what to do with it.
In Upfocus, you can capture feedback from customers and coworkers without having to decide what it is or where it goes first. When you're ready, you can then distill feedback into themes that are easier for everyone to understand. It's fast to do using our tagging workflow. You can avoid building up a backlog by regularly using our workflow to decide the next step for the feedback. Plus, everyone will appreciate knowing where their feedback is at.
We overstuff our backlogs because we don't want to ignore feedback or lose something we captured previously.
There's a step in between discovering interesting problems to solve, and diving into detailed product specs. The folks at Basecamp call it shaping (we highly recommend reading about it in Shape Up). Amazon requires their teams to write a 6 page memo. When we interviewed product managers, most of the time what we found them using was something like an Asana project or customized spreadsheet. Details were often light. If they did estimate value and effort, it was typically an aribtrary scale from 1 to 5.
We get it. Not all project managers get to work at a company like Amazon that affords them the support to write a 6 page memo. And, Basecamp pulls off their shaping process because a separate team does them. We built Dev Ideas for the rest of us. It's a scalable method for making a one sheet version of the Amazon 6 page memo. For example, you can build a business case by attaching feedback in a few clicks. Since you can produce them consistently, your team can evaluate ideas apples to apples.
Project management software is designed to help you finish everything you put in. But, it doesn't help you decide not to work on somethings. That's why it feels wrong when you have to mark something as done or delete it when you decide not to work on a project.
Project management software will let you enter estimates or priority, but it won't help you figure out what to enter.
For most product managers, estimating the potential value and effort of a project is the worst. Estimating is especially painful early in a project's lifecycle when the details are still high level. We can't escape making estimates because they are invaluable to planning. How often has leadership tried to make a decision between projects based on which one will deliver more value and take less time?
Upfocus takes the pain out of estimating by giving you a few, simple questions to answer. The questions are based on revenue impact and alignment to company goals. Because your team can understand how you arrived at your estimates, they will trust them more. And, you won't end up debating whether something is a "3" or a "4" in value.
There's nothing wrong with a rough estimate. But, they still need to be clearly understandable. What's the difference between Extremely Impactful and Very Impactful— or Slightly and Barely? If your team can't understand your estimate, it won't effectively drive decision making.
For most growing teams, it’s not until they have to bring someone new up to speed that they reflect on the state of their product process. It may have started off neat and clean. Over time, it can evolve in ways that aren't written down anywhere. Important documents and notes aren't often centrally stored and well organized. Big backlogs can be difficult or impossible to make sense of them. Informal processes require mental overhead to stay productive. And, they can stunt growth by being difficult to onboard new team members onto them.
Upfocus is a workflow infused with proven product methods. It reduces your cognitive load to stay organized and on track. You can even teach new team members how to follow a lightweight framework for turning feedback from you, customers, and coworkers into dev ideas. They can follow the framework in an app that guides them.
Sometimes product managers turn to feature voting. But, votes lack context. If an idea mentions multiple things, to what parts do the votes apply? If there are lots of votes, does this mean you have to build it? Are all customers really going to look through pages of suggestions to vote objectively?
When feedback is stored in multiple apps, it's not easy to find. And, it can be hard to connect back to feedback throughout the development process. So, when customers or coworkers follow up on their feedback, it can turn into a painful search that feels like it's taking more effort than it should.
Keeping track of feedback from beginning to end is a key reason why we know you'll love using Upfocus. We've designed the workflow with a mental model in mind to help you with conversations. For example, inbound feedback is intentionally called Suggestions because at the time it comes in, it's unclear whether we'll solve it or how. Then, if it's selected to solve, it becomes a Dev Idea. That helps the organization be clear that Suggestions don't have the same detail as Dev Ideas. Also, Dev Ideas themselves are still at the idea stage. And, draft Dev Ideas are visually below a line in the list. The part of the list of Dev Ideas that are below the line is literally a gray area. This all helps infuse language in your updates to help customers and coworkers understand the path from Suggestions to shipped features.
A key reason that we track the status of feedback throughout its lifecycle is so you can easily answer where it's at. And, the workflow is designed to drive toward decisions, not storage.