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Known for protecting the global internet with digital certificate technologies to make online communications more secure, digital security company DigiCert has made multiple acquisitions over the past four years — and ended up acquiring dozens of different platforms as a result.
Those acquisitions set off an internal transformation as the company began to consolidate people, processes, and products. Stepping into the role of Senior Vice President for Product, Brian Trzupek relied on Productboard to modernize and optimize the company’s approach to product management.
Acquiring multiple competitors also meant acquiring team members who were used to working according to management processes from the companies where they came from, which had the potential to create frustration and confusion. Trzupek realized that Productboard could play an important role in taking a strategic, unifying approach to establishing clear product management processes.
Chuck Blevins, who works for Trzupek as Director of Product Management for DigiCert’s Trust Solutions Group, weighed in on his boss’s approach: “We had a staff with varying levels of experience from different companies, with different processes. So [Trzupek’s] idea really was to lay it down, be very clear on our value streams, and make sure products were actually coming from a customer focus.”
Using Productboard was a way to successfully walk the line between preserving the flexibility of the company’s startup-style culture while also ensuring that people have the tools they need to get the right outcomes. It’s a thoughtful mix of introducing a standard approach to product operations — the “thankless bureaucracy,” aspect of his job, Blevins joked — while making sure that the standards are actually leading to better outcomes, not just box-checking.
“We’re trying to organically work with our team, talk about the outcomes, and then cycle back. For the new folks who just got in and got my intro to Productboard, we’re going to check back in a couple of months and ask: What’s working for you? What are the frictions? What’s difficult? And then we’ll adjust from there.”
It wasn’t just the product team at DigiCert that was settling on a new way of doing things. The engineering and IT teams were also undergoing a conscious shift away from infrequent software deployments and toward a continuous improvement/continuous development (CI/CD) model.
“We had this big shift toward CI/CD development processes, allowing people and engineers to push code and get it into staging, and allowing the CI/CD pipeline and appropriate approvals to allow production software to get pushed out.”
The move was ambitious, especially because they needed to be flawless when it came to preserving security.
“Security is our number one value — we are selling security and compliance and we need to retain security and compliance. There was a huge shift for us to make CI/CD processes work in a very secure, highly compliant world.”
As they were working to implement the new CI/CD approach, Productboard’s roadmaps played a critical role in mapping all of the steps for engineering leads, offering them the clarity they needed in order to be successful.
“We're really using Productboard for our strategic planning and visioning discovery of the products, and for basic prioritization — how we decide what to build.”
One of the reasons that Productboard works so well for DigiCert is the built-in integration with Jira. Blevins noted that the two work well in tandem, offering the analogy of devising a flight plan and then steering the plane.
“We use Productboard really for the flight planning — where we’re going, what sort of jet do we need, what sort of pieces. And Jira is more about being on the runway... When is this thing taking off? How are we going to make this thing fly?”
Product Managers would come to planning meetings with engineers and talk through Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), map them down to the Epic level in Productboard, and create the full stories in a way that’s engineering ready, acceptance criteria and all.
“That Epic level from Productboard is what we ultimately push into Jira — we’ve pushed it in and we’ve got it linked with all the documentation for that Epic or that story. Then you’re having the conversations with engineering where they’re actually hanging the stories off that Epic, from those conversations. It’s very collaborative,” Trzupek said.
Engineers’ initial concerns about using a new tool evaporated when they realized that not only does Productboard answer higher-order questions that Jira doesn’t, but that the Jira integration meant that they didn’t need to make changes on their end.
“We're not creating a new system of record with Productboard, but we're extending the functionality of the assets we already have. With that approach, Engineering really embraced it.”
Shoring up the company’s processes was just one of many post-acquisition tasks. To keep their engineering resources focused, DigiCert also made a Herculean effort to integrate somewhere around 40 platforms — including lots of legacy code and older design patterns — to just three. Additionally, the consolidation process offered an opportunity to optimize its systems for the cloud.
Throughout that process, Trzupek used Productboard to keep all stakeholders, including the company’s management team, apprised of their progress and up-to-date on important context.
“Productboard helped us describe our journey through a critical transformation of our product portfolio, as we integrated a series of product acquisitions, in a way that provides a view for all stakeholders, from business, to product, to engineering, and executives.”
Today, DigiCert is managing more than 20 product lines in Productboard, and the tool continues to play an important role in briefing the company’s senior leadership. Essentially, Productboard allows the product team to be well-prepared to answer questions, defend product processes, and offer concrete data to C-suite leaders without having to spend all day doing administrative tailoring.
At any given time, PMs can easily go in and pull up a roadmap — along with corresponding OKRs, key features, and key projects — in Productboard for every product, across all of their platforms. They can even build out customized roadmaps of varying complexity and level of detail depending on who they’re speaking with, which helps to facilitate discussion and improve internal alignment.
“It’s been a lot easier to have those conversations with people several steps above you on the food chain because you’ve given them data. And they can deal with data,” Blevins said.
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