Learn the art of managing stakeholders & influencing without authority.
In 2012, NordVPN was a small virtual private network founded by a group of friends. Today, the company has blossomed into Nord Security, a global brand providing not only top-rated VPN services but also a host of other security-related solutions: password management (NordPass), cloud storage (NordLocker), a VPN with enterprise capabilities (NordVPN Teams), and a super high-speed VPN connection (NordLynx).
As the company grew to become the well-known industry player that it is today, the Nord Security team was using GitLab to track its product development. However, they found that the platform was really meant as a development tool rather than a product management tool.
“Every time we needed to show something on a timeline or show an aggregated view of what’s happening with multiple teams, it was always a struggle,” said product owner Eduardas Lavrinovicius.
With a quickly growing team and a quest to attain the highest levels of user-centered design, Lavrinovicius determined that it was time for Nord Security to find a tool specifically designed to set up and maintain clear roadmaps. That’s when he found Productboard.
In addition to its roadmaps, Lavrinovicius was drawn to Productboard’s user interface and design, noting that it’s easier to convince employees to adopt new tools when they look good and prioritize user experience.
Over the next six months, they started using Productboard to capture feedback. They also began using it for stakeholder meetings, since Productboard’s roadmapping tools allowed all of the different teams to present their projects in a consistent format.
To capture and keep track of customer insights, Nord Security’s product team currently pushes notes containing end-user feedback and stakeholder comments from Slack into Productboard. They also have plans to take advantage of Productboard’s integration with Zendesk in the future to further these efforts.
“In a few weeks, we saw some pain points that were otherwise invisible. Instantly pushing those to Productboard and linking them directly to related features revealed which features were the key ones that users mentioned a lot.”
In addition to linking stakeholder notes to in-demand features, Nord Security uses Productboard to make sure that those features are all organized and well-defined. Then, by putting them all onto a roadmap, the team can get a feel for the full scope of what they need to work on and strategically prioritize which features to tackle first.
When making those decisions on prioritization, they’ll take into consideration user impact scores as well as business value to make sure they’re both addressing what users want as well as taking stakeholders’ business objectives into considerations. They’ll also use insights to support their decisions.
In addition to prioritizing requests, using Productboard also helps the team get an accurate picture of what they can actually accomplish in a given timeframe.
“Before using Productboard, we had all of the requests or ideas for features somewhere in GitLab or in Slack or just in our heads. When we started putting them in Productboard, we could see the full scope of how much we need to do.”
That visibility makes it easier for the team to understand how time and resource constraints could affect the deployment of new features. As a result, they have more clear expectations around what they can deliver and when. Sharing those expectations with the development team has played an important role in improving cooperation between the two teams.
“It gives some clarity to development teams because they can see the longer, wider picture,” Lavrinovicius said.
Lavrinovicius’s team uses the objective view of the Productboard roadmap as a top-level strategic look at what’s happening quarter by quarter. Additionally, they use the features timeline view to monitor progress toward meeting delivery deadlines.
The clear roadmap has also made it easier for the team to communicate with company executives. Product owners, for example, use Productboard to communicate projects and its progress among teams as well as the leadership.
From a management perspective, Lavrinovicius also noted that keeping up with the roadmap helps ensure that his team is taking a comprehensive and deliberate approach to product management. Instead of starting from scratch when thinking about best practices, the Productboard templates and tutorials lead them there and give them a strong foundation moving forward.
Productboard’s features have also served to inspire many conversations about the best ways to align their work with the company’s objectives over the long term.
Lavrinovicius’s team works mainly on features related to customer acquisition and retention. While his own team already depends heavily on Productboard, other teams such as the apps team are starting to onboard Productboard.
Getting more of the company’s employees onto Productboard has the potential to support the company’s recent push to use objectives and key results (OKRs), the popular goal-setting strategy popularized by Google.
Expanding their use of Productboard can help Nord Security further align their work, follow the OKR framework, and have even better visibility into their product capabilities.
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