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How do you go from a feature factory to a user experience driven company?

In the past years Stratsys has grown from a sales focused organization to a product focused company with a vision. Today we have clear user driven goals shared by all, top to bottom from sales to support. To meet these new goals, we have to change. To become a truly user experienced driven company we have to work differently.


Changing 10 years of Jira Issues 

In the past 10 years or so a portion of the development process consisted of a steady flow of Jira Issues that was fed to the teams. The product owner held meetings with our consultants (who help our clients’ setup their system) and where they had input on functionality that would be beneficial for a specific customer. These requests then got a time estimate by someone from the development teams and was bounced back to the consultants.

Now, if the estimation was high they knew that the request would never be prioritized since there were so many. So, as a result the consultants selected those features that had a low estimate even though these features might not have the highest business value.

In summary, we developed things that did not have the highest business value. What we saw as newly appointed managers was that some parts of the agile process did not work properly.


12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory 

A few months back we had a meeting with consultant firm ITEAM to whom we described our situation and where we wanted to go. The day after Mattias Johansson, who participated in the meeting, sent me John Cutler’s article 12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory.

It was spot on, we had all the signs.


The cure

Given a go ahead from our CTO me and my colleague Anton Sjöberg started drawing from scratch. How do you turn a heavy ship in the middle of a journey and reconstruct it at the same time?
To start with we created new teams that would own their domain and the responsibilities inherited. But what are they taking ownership of? In what direction should the domain be steered? We came up with three important things that we wanted to start with:

  • Platform Vision
    We have a northern star in form of a company mission/vision hybrid. In our minds, what we as developers really need is a commonly defined platform vision that would enlighten our true north, focusing our decisions and efforts to be able to reach our destination, happy users all over the world. Read more about our vision work here.
  • Department 2-year Mission To enhance our ambition we need to make a faster and more enjoyable “ship”. In other words, we needed a department and team culture that makes a difference. We need processes that galvanize our daily work. Read more about our culture work here.
  • Project Ernst
    We also needed to find a way for the new teams to explore and define their domain, to take ownership and control, map and plan the existing code base making it their own instead of someone else’s. Read more about project Ernst work here.


The results so far

After two months, we felt the cultural change. The department feels less divided and we are aligning towards a common vision. We collaborate more and there’s a feeling of things falling into place. We are addressing bugs, features and improvements in the context of whether they are adding business value or not? The teams are challenged with initiatives instead of specified Jira Issues. We are defining KPIs to measure the impact of our proposed solutions and starting to iterate until these goals are met.

Our minds and processes are now far from a feature factory. It’s surprising to see the impact our efforts have had in such a short time.

Key takeaway
It’s necessary to once in a while raise your head and reflect about the processes in your company. Asking yourself Inquisitional questions to decipher whether a process is still valid, that it still galvanizes your efforts or if the process has become rogue and needs to be rebooted. Visions and mission statements may be abstract but I promise you that you will find all your answers within your department. As manager or agile coach, if your true north is vague it’s up to you to make it visible


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