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This article was published on March 25, 2020

Your startup’s culture should revolve around quality-focused product development

Here's how you grow the right culture for your team

Your startup’s culture should revolve around quality-focused product development
Dmitriy Nortenko
Story by

Dmitriy Nortenko

Founder & CEO, QA Madness

Dmitriy is an experienced entrepreneur, business development specialist with a 15-year-experience in sales team management & strategic p Dmitriy is an experienced entrepreneur, business development specialist with a 15-year-experience in sales team management & strategic planning. Dmitry is an independent tech business consultant working with start-up enthusiasts and seasoned players globally.

Launching a high-quality product that clients would love has never been more important. When it comes to quality assurance, tech companies can no longer rely solely on QA teams to simply cover the maximum percentage of scenarios. 

Previously, quality was thought of something that QA engineers would take care of. Quality and user focus didn’t used to be a shared responsibility. Now, what experience shows is that this model can be one of the key reasons for cross-department conflicts leading to a product that fails user experience. 

Today, companies that rely on this old mantra are likely to find themselves lagging behind the new approaches businesses apply to stay ahead. Under the “new approaches” I mean transforming your whole product development process into quality-focused. And that’s what brings firms a competitive advantage. 

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I know not everyone is a Silicon Valley company ready to adopt intricate models. But my point isn’t about big strategy, I’m talking about the changes in mindset. While there is no clear strategic guideline for tech businesses, it is possible to change the way such businesses grow, provide customer care, and deliver positive experience be it product or service.

The major point is that the changes in mindset are meant  to drive your tech team to a more business-oriented thought. Meaning the whole process of quality-focused development builds tech processes in line with business goals and customer experience level. 

But mindset starts with people, so people come first

Upon the start and as long as your business grows, always find the people who care about the idea. In this case, every teammate isn’t just doing their job. Their gut-feel attitude will wake up that natural empathy to the product and the details I mentioned above. By choosing those who share the same value, you care about your business. (Spoiler: it is not about work experience). 

I choose the person who imbues inner motivation. I don’t really believe in “motivational” stuff that invades big business events. But I do believe in people who can clearly communicate personal career growth expectations.

In this case, you need to define two things: a) whether you can offer them opportunities for that growth and b) whether the egoistic expectations match your vision of business development.

The last is especially important: If a person is willing to grow to a Project Manager, extrapolate the goal to the way it contributes to a company’s development plan. From my experience, this is the most effective win-win scenario: Employees become company ambassadors and drive business through personal achievements. 

Since technology directly influences company’s growth, people have to think business

I don’t have a particular guideline here. All you need is to make sure your IT people learn the cause-and-effect link between technology and business. In other words, they have to understand the way tech solutions would impact revenue, customer experience, image, company growth. The approach will change the attitude: Your IT team evaluates the strategy (design, code quality, website logic) and prognoses the impact on the user, for instance. 

This won’t be easy. Chances are development will have their own thoughts about what quality product means to them, while the UX team will fight for the user. A “quality-in-action” approach hasn’t been the fastest but so far the most effective for the businesses I’ve worked with. 

Going forward with the “right” people on board, you get active backup from your executives and team leaders. The idea-driven engineering leadership is 50% of success. Since the executives are the first to champion business, they transmit the value of a quality development to the team.  

Assign mentors among more experienced employees or executives (or you as a CEO might take the role at the early stage) to point out the valuable parts where the fusion of tech and business meet. The daily approach will help to naturally collect practical experience you’ll need from your IT department later. Under the mentorship, the team makes asking questions a habit. Meaning their job will sound like “If I do feature A, how would that impact user?” In such a way, you develop that analytical cause-and-effect thinking.

Conduct brainstorming sessions to determine the reasons why specific solutions will or will not benefit business goals in the long run. Mentorship isn’t a magic bullet, your team needs practice. Although IT department knows every project detail, they have to think a bit out of tech. As the product is in progress, brief the team on the aspects they have to pay attention to. Whatever you call it — daily round-ups, Scrum meetings — just keep the process focused on the company goals.

For example: “We’re on our way to work on block X. Please, make sure the response time between the features A and B is not more than 0.01 seconds. Otherwise, it impacts UX and sales negatively, as a result.”

Work together on hypothesis testing instead of MVP. Experience shows that MVP isn’t always what people need. Testing hypothesis often involves focus group interaction with the product. And this is an effective way to teach IT department think “How do the solutions A, B, C help user and shape business model?” Addressing user needs in terms of both tech and CX at the early stage is what makes a healthy business model in future. 

Successful customer experience today isn’t just about meeting the expectations teach your team to think over the ways to exceed them.

This isn’t about doing things for free. Just do some extra job. Your task is not only to meet the needs but to surprise with care. For that, your tech team dives into client’s needs, balances technical skillset to take a user focus. Those able to equally emphasize both contribute much by providing the information they get after interacting and exploring the software.

In this case, Quality Engineers will add value. They consult the development team on how to mimic user-experience, what kind of code data is required to meet users’ needs.

Make honesty a part of your culture. If you can’t provide the client with what they want for whatever reason — don’t take this responsibility. Instead, ask the IT team for feedback, take extra time to analyze the situation, provide with the fair answer on what is going on and the reasons you can’t help for now. 

Bottom line 

Today the businesses have to realize that the product is at the core of customer experience — from the first touch throughout the whole lifecycle. And while some may follow the “3-seconds-rule” to engage people (yeah, real human beings!), only 30% of customers believe brands care about positive CX vs 75% of the companies certain they do. The year 2019 demonstrated the shift to filling the empathy gap.

That’s why I’m glad the businesses prepare themselves with a profound early-stage quality assurance and analysis to translate the real value. From front to back — it is a product that makes experience count. 

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