What goes into a major product launch? These tech teams gave us a glimpse behind the screens

June 7, 2018

Bringing a new product to life is what many developers live for, but the path to product success is paved with trials and errors — and a whole lot of hard work. Spending weeks in the trenches developing, testing and iterating in preparation for a big launch can be tasking, but it can also be just the push a team needs to grow their collective skills and bond as a group.

We talked to two local dev teams about their latest product launches, the challenges they faced and how came out stronger and better developers on the other side.

 

Ombud product team latest release Colorado
Photo courtesy of Ombud.

Ombud’s decision management platform leverages machine learning to help teams collaborate, share information, streamline operations and make more informed decisions. We asked the company’s product team to tell us about their most recent launch and what they learned in the process.

 

Tell us about your last big product push.

Our last significant product push was a completely new content editor, written from the ground up using the open-source library Slate. We previously used a few different third-party editors — Redactor and TinyMCE — which allowed us to research the best-in-class architecture and user experience to meet the advanced textual editing requirements of our clients.

This allowed our team to become experts in translating HTML into a nested document structure that can store any combination of unique data elements within a JSON object and then universally translating that nested document back to HTML.

We built upon Slate by creating individual plugins for each unique type of HTML element that is used within Ombud's document editor. The biggest challenge of bringing this to market was understanding which nodes to apply changes to and how those changes play nicely with the rest of the content. This development allowed our team to focus on answering the question “How do you make the text editing experience better?” This resulted in bringing to market a brand new open source project for editing rich content, which allows our users to handle advanced editing, such as image resizing, quick textual lookup and inserting predefined content anywhere in a document.

The key to our process and success  is providing every team member the freedom to explore new strategies and implementations, offer opinions on functionality and design, and allow time to struggle and learn.”

What is your process like for ideating, developing and iterating a new product?

The key to our process and success on any Epic or Story is providing every team member the freedom to explore new strategies and implementations, offer opinions on functionality and design, and allow time to struggle and learn while providing support when needed. We are huge advocates of designing and implementing the user experience in parallel with the core functionality while ensuring appropriate test coverage is in place. This approach allows us to try different iterations while having the freedom to discover what will ultimately work best.

 

How did your team grow throughout the process? What did you learn?

Any major release provides learning lessons and opportunities to grow technically. As a team, this push allowed us to become more confident in our approach for managing HTML, storing and updating nested document data structures, and extending the capabilities within open-source libraries.

With Slate still in beta, this required thought leadership around specific use cases and understanding how to apply workarounds while anticipating future needs. We also contributed several pull requests for improvements to Slate, and we will continue to contribute to the library as we find more. This project required a lot of hard work, but now we can enjoy the satisfaction of developing a hand-crafted text editor. Ultimately, we were able to add new, complex functionality for our clients that would have otherwise been impossible with a third-party component.

 

Envysion dev team product push Colorado
Photo courtesy of Envysion.

Envysion’s surveillance software and video-based analytics help businesses gain deeper insights into their operations. Software development manager Corina Lunn, technical product owner Brittany Michael and software engineer Chris Wirth gave us some insight into their team’s process and how they successfully redesigned the company’s tech stack.

 

Tell us about your last big product push.

Our last big product push was a rewrite of part of our application in a new tech stack. It was a full redesign, including UI/UX, the technology involved and the data layer behind it. The whole team contributed — engineering as well as product and customer service.

We faced a lot of challenges since we were learning as we went, including changes to the UI/UX design following user feedback, changes to the architecture of the app as we implemented new features, as well as the team getting up to speed on the new technology.

 

What is your process like for ideating, developing and iterating a new product?

We like to make decisions as a team, allowing each team member to have input into the process. When we needed to choose our new tech stack for the product, we ran a series of spikes, developing a small app in a variety of technologies. Not only did this give our team members an opportunity to explore new tech; it also gave us a great like-for-like comparison of how well-suited different technologies were to our use case. With all that information, the team quickly reached a decision on the best way to go forward.

The project gave all our team members an introduction to a tech stack they hadn’t worked in before.”

How did your team grow throughout the process? What did you learn?

This was the first Greenfield project for the team in a while, so we had a lot of growing and learning to do. As we iterated through features, we constantly reviewed how we were approaching the architecture. Sometimes we were happy with what we found; a few times it led to a major refactor.

The project gave all our team members an introduction to a tech stack they hadn’t worked in before. Each member did a lot of personal learning during the project to become effective. We also learned how to function better as a team and how to quickly iterate over design choices to reach the goal faster. We also learned a few things not to do, which we are already applying to the next project.

 

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