To achieve successful product management, companies working within the fast-moving tech sector need consistent workflows.
With a regular flow of ideas, push requests and UI improvements, it’s easy for tasks to slip between the gaps.
An Interview with Cory Scott, CEO and Founder of LiveBy
We chatted with Cory Scott, Founder of LiveBy (pictured), a real estate technology company, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cory shares with us how the LiveBy team uses MeisterTask, MindMeister and G Suite to keep on top of their product development, during this exciting but busy time for their company.
Thanks for joining us Cory. Could you start by telling us a little about the work you and the team at LiveBy do?
We founded LiveBy in April 2015 and the mission is to remove the stress of moving to a new city. To do this, we provide an online tool that matches house hunters to their ideal neighborhood in any U.S. city.
We provide users with information on each of the local areas in the city they’re considering moving to. This could include information on local schools, estimated commute times and the kinds of houses on offer. Within seconds, the user is provided with a bespoke suitability rating for each city area, based on their personal preferences.
It sounds like a really useful tool. How do you manage the development of a product like this?
Well, we have a clear-cut product management process, from design to implementation. How we manage this development process comes down to both our team and the tools we use to collaborate. These are tools like MeisterTask, Slack, G Suite and MindMeister.
We try to be flexible with where the team can work. They can either work all together in our shared office space or remotely. So team members can work from home or from a coffee shop if that suits them.
We all stay connected via Slack and using the comment features within MeisterTask. As a result, the fact these tools are cloud-based means team members can work wherever suits them best. As a Google Business Company, we also use G Suite which the team can access remotely. We use Google Calendars for combined team calendars and Gmail for our support accounts. We also use Google Drive, for our collaborative documents. The fact that we can use all of these tools in collaboration, makes our product management process work.
“Providing a product to the whole of the United States means we’ve got to be flexible with the tool. We need to strive to develop something which will be as accessible to as many users as possible.”
And how do you use them to improve your tools?
At the moment we provide a product to the whole of the United States and we’re hoping to expand to Europe soon. This means we’ve got to be flexible with the tool, and strive to develop something which will be accessible to as many users as possible.
To collate all of our product management information, we’ve created one incredibly intricate mind map on MindMeister. The map lists every single product feature, for example ‘neighbourhood profiles’, then every sub-feature within each of those features.
It’s a collaborative mind map shared with every team member. Everyone is able to log-in and add their idea for a new feature or sub-feature straight into the map. Team members label ideas with a light bulb emoticon so everyone else can spot the new idea and provide feedback.
The product mind map acts as both a knowledge map, including all product information, and a home for new ideas. These ideas can then be discussed within the mind map and followed up in meetings. Subsequently, we use the map when making our product management decisions, including when deciding which product improvements to implement.
What would the life cycle of one of these experiments look like?
Well, we begin the process with a ‘brainwriting’ session. To make our meetings more efficient, we ask employees to brainstorm their ideas for improvements ahead of the meeting. They do this using MindMeister, attaching design mock-ups to their mind maps. We then meet as a team to thrash out all of our ideas together, creating one collaborative mind map. This allows us to get everyone’s ideas down in one place and decide which ideas to take forward.
Once we’ve decided on an experiment or improvement we take it through our design to implementation process. MeisterTask is the cornerstone of this design and development process for our products. Our backlog of tasks go through the many sections on our project boards, until the changes are successfully implemented.
“We ask employees to brainstorm their ideas for improvements or experiments ahead of the meeting, using MindMeister, attaching design mock-ups to their mind maps. We then meet as a team to thrash out all of our ideas together, creating one collaborative mind map.”
Have you used this process for any growth experiments so far?
We recently discovered that users were finding it difficult to fully utilize the search feature, so we designed a UI experiment to improve it. This experiment, listed as a task card, was put through our product management process on MeisterTask. The task began on the design project board. It moved to development once designed, through to quality assurance once implemented on the test site, and finally made live.
Whenever the task was moved from one phase to the next, the relevant team members would be informed via the Slack integration. This meant that when the test was moved to quality assurance for example, a meeting was organized. This allowed the relevant stakeholders to judge whether the change should be implemented. Then, once the change had been made live, the whole team was notified, so we could go and check that everything looks as expected on our site.
And was the UI experiment a success?
It was – before the UI changes were implemented, website visitors were converting well from content on the site. However they weren’t using the search function effectively, so were dropping off at that point.
“We redesigned the entire search interface and created a new landing page to assist users in how they’re navigating the site. The result was a new and improved search function and an increased user conversion rate.”
As a result of the UI experiment, we redesigned the entire search interface and created a new landing page to assist users in how they’re navigating the site. The result was a new and improved search function and an increased user conversion rate. So yes, I’d definitely say it was a success.
Would you say the tools – G Suite, MindMeister and MeisterTask – are central to this improvement process?
Yes absolutely. MindMeister is the key to our ideation process and product planning meetings.
In terms of product management, the development team was originally using another task management tool. However, they found it to have quite a low fidelity and functionality. They also wanted a tool which could provide the Kanban task card feature and more integrations – this is when they found MeisterTask. At that point, the design team was using Asana. However, in order to create an effective workflow from design through to implementation, the design team decided to jump ship to MeisterTask too.
“The change has been fantastic for us. There’s now just one place for all of our product development tasks and the Slack integration keeps everyone informed.”
There’s now just one place for all of our product management-related tasks so the change has been fantastic for us. With the Slack integration keeping everyone informed, and the ability to attach relevant Google Docs to their respective tasks, all team members know exactly where everyone else is at.
If you could summarize the result, what would you say it’s been for LiveBy?
Ultimately, having tools which we know will store all of our information and tasks in one place means that there’s so much less to keep in everyone’s head. This leaves the team rest-assured that they’ll be notified when the next stage is needed.
Having all of the tools – MindMeister, MeisterTask, Slack and G Suite – integrated, means that our tasks won’t fall through the gaps but will be seen through, from design to implementation.
As always, please do share your questions and comments below!