While everyone at Raven has been hard at work making the platform better with features like improved link reporting, new content analysis tools and better team management, another big development has been happening mostly behind the scenes.
We recently reorganized and created a brand-new department here at Raven: the product department. Ever wonder who reads your feature requests? That’s them. Or how we schedule the Raven roadmap and decide what to develop next, and how? Yup, them again.
We thought you might like to know a little more about this team and how its members work together to create more Raven awesomeness. So here you go:
Who they are
Jon Henshaw, Chief Product Officer
Jon, seen here with a fake mustache, leads the team and is responsible for the product vision and roadmap. He makes sure each tool and feature gets implemented correctly and generally has some involvement in every step of the process.
Alison Groves, Product Coordinator
Alison, enjoying a snow cone in this photo, is Jon’s right-hand gal. “It’s possible that I might be lost at sea without her,” he admits. She helps balance and manage the project load, and can often be found writing user stories.
She also looks at every feature request we get. Every single one.
“There are a lot of good ideas, but some requests don’t fit what we’re trying to build with Raven or are technically impossible,” she says. “The requests that we get frequently, and that make sense for the platform, go into a spreadsheet for future development.”
Jeff Crump, UI Director
Jeff, mid-Hangout in this pic, is solely responsible for the look and feel of Raven. He created the new user interface we call “Unity” in April 2011.
“Since then, he has been progressively making the new UI even better,” Jon says. Some of the best improvements can be seen now with the CRM and the completely refreshed Link Manager.
“The biggest (and best) change has been having more eyeballs seeing projects, both in the planning and execution phases,” Jeff says of the new product team. “The product is massive, and seems to get even bigger every few weeks, so it’s a huge help to have a few other people catching issues.”
Sarah Musselman, UI/UX Designer
With the growth of our platform and the number of projects we’re working on, it’s impossible for Jeff to be the sole designer for the product.
“Fortunately, we found another amazing talent with Sarah Musselman,” Jon says. “She helps us design and also prototype our future tools and features.”
Greg Jones, Developer
Moving over from the development team after an intense year, Greg uses his giant developer brain to help the product team with technical research, as well as build out fully functional prototypes and make smaller tweaks to the product.
“Awesome” comes up a lot when describing what he adds to the team.
“Having a full-fledged dev who traffics in making things actually work is very, very helpful,” Jeff said. “We now have someone who can provide give quick answers for the little stuff, like feature feasibility, and then go and build working prototypes. To say he’s awesome to have around is the understatement of the year.”
Greg describes his role as a mix of holistic development and product planning.
“I like understanding our industry in depth. Many developers don’t know why people use our tools,” he said. “It’s different when you have to use the tool to accomplish a goal in the real world, instead of just testing it to see if it has errors and meets spec.”
How the product team works
“We created the product team because product needed to grow up, fast,” Jon says. “We are a tight-knit team that works closely together. We spend the majority of our time preparing amazing ideas so they can become reality.”
Before a new Raven project goes into development, the team has a sit-down meeting with the development team to talk scope and make sure nothing is missing.
Once the project is in development, everyone involved charts progress with a daily standup meeting – and impromptu chats when needed.
The product team reviews the project once it is ready to be delivered, makes any last-minute changes, then showcases it for the rest of the company to launch.
“And while a project is going through development, we’re working on the next thing,” Alison says. “So we’ll have several things going on at once in different stages. It’s my job to coordinate all of the things.”
Why a new department?
A big catalyst for creating the product team was Raven’s new software development approach – a more structured, agile development process called Scrum.
“Scrum is amazing and works well for us, but it demands a lot more work from product,” Jon says. “When you combine the Scrum process with our ambitious development goals, it makes it impossible to do without the new product team we have in place now.”
Not to mention that the Raven platform has grown up and out – meaning it needs strong controls to continue to thrive.
“As we’ve continued to build out the platform and increase our developer resources, the requirements for new features started to become looser. As in, not fully baked or designed at handoff time to the development team,” Jon said. “In the past, we were able to get away with it because our development team was a lot smaller and the platform wasn’t as complex, but now there are a lot of moving parts and many projects running parallel to each other.”
What does all this mean for you?
The end goal of creating the product team was to keep Raven evolving for you – our customers.
“The new product team means we have more resources and time to do prototyping and testing with our customer representatives,” Jon says. “This gets me excited, because it means our customers will have an even better and more productive experience using Raven.”
And as we add more features, partners and integrations, this team will work hard to make Raven simple to use while also containing everything Internet marketers need.
“My goal is the same as that of a lot of products that have a high level of professional and knowledgeable users: to make a gigantic product easier to use and understand for new users while giving deep options for power users,” Jeff says. “It is a tough problem to solve, but tough problems have the highest payoff when you figure them out. Coming up with a simple and straightforward way to deal with the massive amount of data we pull in daily has implications not just for Raven but for the entire industry.”
Oh, and they also have a Tumblr
Lest you think this group is all work and no play, they also have a irreverent and frequently updated Tumblr of weirdness where they post images like this one. We cannot guarantee that it is safe for your workplace, but it is entertaining.
So say hello to our product team in the comments, or tell us what you think of our process, our Tumblr or Jon’s fake mustache. As always, we’re listening.
Featured photo by Ryan J. Lane licensed by iStockphoto.