Founder Vision is a one-on-one podcast that digs into deep conversations with business leaders from emerging markets as they get vulnerable about their experience in the early- to median-stage moments of their founding journey.
Edify is an 18-month-old startup building knowledge engagement programs for engineering teams. So far they’ve launched a software onboarding application, a chatbot named Eddy, that helps engineering teams onboard their new hires (and get newbies up to speed quickly). Eddy guides new hires via a thirty-day guided pathway that introduces them to different types of knowledge, gives them tasks every day to keep them on track and helps engage the rest of the team in supporting that knowledge.
Eddy is the product of many, many hours spent talking to engineering leaders — with the goal of deeply understanding the challenges of knowledge engagement faced by engineering teams, which lead to expensive problems like the dreaded churn. Eddy was born from the need to face those problems in a progressive, human format.
Brett spoke to Edify’s Director of Product (and employee-number-one) Jayme Rabenberg. Jayme brings to Edify her previous product management and customer success expertise (Smarsh, LyfLynks and NGP VAN) alongside extensive experience in political campaign management and communications to architect Edify’s product strategy. Jayme “nerds out about roadmaps and ideation processes and is passionate about building tools to make work better” — and she’s a hecka fun person, besides, as you’ll soon hear.
Define Good Friction From Bad
It’s a truism that creating friction for clients is a surefire product-killer to be avoided at all costs. Not so for a product like Edify, which is designed to front-load friction in order to clear the path completely down the line — like a super-concentrated drain cleaner for the onboarding pipeline. Jayme and her team embrace that — and their customers do, too.
“Many managers come back to us and say, ‘there’s a little bit of friction at the beginning of your product because they have to go build that onboarding plan.’ Our response is to ask if it’s good friction or bad friction — and, overwhelmingly, the response is this is’ very good friction; I’ve never had a guide to building this before.’
What we are finding is that just through the process of populating these onboarding plans, engineering teams are already getting a better onboarding experience because it is helping them to prioritize updating and creating knowledge in their knowledge repositories.”
Share, Don’t Hoard
In some industries, subject matter expertise is a hoarded commodity. Jayme champions a shift to what subject matter ownership and stewardship instead, which changes the dynamic entirely. Good steward/owners of knowledge share what they know with the rest of the team — to keep documentation updated, and to really be making sure that as owners, they are responsible for the company itself knowing what they know.
Live the Verification Culture
Don’t dismiss the fact that a document is out of date — because it was out of date for you and it’s never changed, it will never be useful again. Instead, we have to take responsibility for updating that so that it is verifiably up-to-date for the next person that comes down the pipeline, and it makes that next person’s transition that much faster. Taking those reins uplifts and accelerates the whole team — and the whole organization at large.
Don’t Fear the Straw Man
Edify did a lot of straw-man development — putting raw draft prototypes (often in Slack, SurveyMonkey and PowerPoint formats) out in front of shareholders to iterate as quickly as possible with as little as possible asked of the engineering team. Inspired by the work of Annie Dunham, Edify prioritized connection and agility over perfection, which allowed them to get product out, better, faster.
“[In her book, Impact, Annie Dunham] reflected on the fact that as product managers, we should expect to be wrong more than half of the time. That’s fully been our approach. We are going to design the wrong thing, but we are going to design it quickly. We are going to put it in front of people so they can help us get to the right thing.
I’ve been talking about it with my team: not as not ‘failing fast,’ but as actually finding places where we haven’t quite maximized our opportunity. We need to go in and actually figure out how we retool that feature or that little piece of the application to maximize our opportunity to meet the challenge our customers are facing and provide value.”
Annie Dunham, Product Plan: https://www.productplan.com/author/anniedunham/
Art of Accomplishment podcast: Connection over Perfection: https://open.spotify.com/episode/11pn85cCZOMOXskkfQJJlU