See how Productboard helped Propeller Heath:
– Cut 8-10 hours of meetings every month for cross-functional teams
Building digitally connected inhalers that generate an array of app-based reports is no easy task — technically or operationally. But, Propeller Health is unfazed by obstacles; the digital first-company is determined to help people take control of their health.
FDA-cleared and doctor-recommended, Propeller’s platform tracks where and how often a person uses their asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) medication. So far, Propeller has empowered more than 100,000 patients to better understand their symptoms and flare-ups through in-app reports, fostering more effective communication with their providers.
Naturally, solving problems for a diverse set of stakeholders (patients, caregivers, pediatricians, pharmaceutical companies, and others) requires more than good intentions. Propeller Health VP of Product Ted Burns says he learned quickly: static roadmaps and an engineering ticket management system weren’t the right tech stack to serve the needs of a complex healthcare audience.
Here’s why Propeller turned to Productboard — and how integrating the purpose-built product management platform with JIRA has helped teams de-risk product bets and improve the speed and visibility of product development.
Before adopting an integrated product management platform, Propeller’s teams maintained what Ted describes as a “traditional” approach to digital product management:
1. Struggled to identify the most pressing end user and client needs
“We were challenged with a not uncommon problem in healthcare,” Ted says, “lots of ideas coming in from across the organization and from very distinct business groups.”
Like others in digital health, Propeller acts on feedback from both the pharmaceutical industry and from health systems, with external stakeholders spanning payers, patients, and more.
Over time, it became more and more clear that Propeller needed an integrated system that could capture feedback from a range of stakeholders and help teams identify emerging trends by segment. Without this kind of platform, Propeller lacked certainty that product managers were prioritizing the solutions users needed most — a concern for both customer retention and the revenue hinging on Product’s success.
2. Put product viability at risk
Ted’s team often lost the chance to de-risk product bets early on (before features reached development), putting revenue at risk. Sometimes out of the loop on the latest features in motion, program managers across Propeller’s healthcare businesses missed opportunities to run new ideas by target users and share critical feedback that could help Product pivot.
“Even though we had bi-weekly prioritization and roadmapping meetings, there was a perception that things weren’t transparent,” Ted says. “Many people didn’t feel they had a clear understanding of what was being prioritized and how [without a central place to see the process].”
3. Limited speed of development
Unfortunately, Ted says transparency proved to be a liability on the delivery side, too. Roadmaps presented in slide decks had no direct influence over Propeller’s sea of JIRA tickets underway. As a result, the speed of product development suffered — and Propeller also couldn’t maximize the effectiveness of its developer resources.
“Engineers lived in JIRA, but their process was disconnected from the roadmap. So, it was a struggle to know what developers were working on, even though Product would put timeframes on features in the roadmap. Ultimately, it started to become a culture problem because it didn’t seem the broader product development team was living up to the company’s mission to be transparent.”
Yet, Ted felt sure Propeller was confronting a systems problem — not a people problem. On a mission to bridge information gaps spanning user discovery through product delivery, he searched for an integrated product management platform. Enter: Productboard.
From the outset, Ted says the technical and operational complexities of building healthcare products required a platform with a comprehensive, but easy-to-use interface that showed how user feedback shaped each feature in flight.
Charged with driving outcomes for a diverse set of healthcare stakeholders, Ted says success in his industry hinges on being able to identify the most pressing problems for customer segments with varying needs.
From there, he stresses that it’s critical Product can visually communicate solutions to an equally diverse mix of internal stakeholders — account execs and program managers to leadership and engineers.
After an extensive review of multiple product management platforms, Ted says Productboard’s Insights capabilities ultimately won him over. He was thrilled with the potential to not only aggregate feedback from an array of healthcare stakeholders but also to have a centralized platform that could help Product identify and act on trends by segment, seizing opportunities that might have previously gone unnoticed.
“We get lots of feedback from physicians and other stakeholders about how they want to track information in our app, etc, and some of it was getting incorporated into JIRA or customer service tickets, but it was also coming in soft feedback channels and going under the radar, so we were struck by Productboard’s Insights capability. That was the biggest driver for us — being able to manage feedback from the many types of customers we have.”
From Insights to roadmaps, Ted was excited to share what a single product management platform has made possible for Propeller. He breaks down the three biggest benefits teams have seen so far.
First, Ted says Product has been able to more effectively identify core customer needs across a complex user base — a make-or-break in the healthcare sector.
1. Identifying customer needs faster
Adopting Productboard afforded Propeller teams not only the right framework for future releases, but also the chance to merge the past with the present —ensuring Product had a holistic view of user requests over time.
“One of the first things we did when we onboarded Productboard was import all of our customer service tickets and past feedback from Slack. Then, we created a few new slack channels for clinician feedback, patient feedback, and program manager feedback, and pushed information from each channel to Productboard to prioritize with everything in one place.”
Suddenly, the team could more strategically prioritize features by understanding the full scope of persistent problems — plus high-revenue requests that had gone unnoticed coming in across disconnected channels.
Putting it into practice:
After adopting Productboard, product managers observed nearly 40 user requests for an clinician-application notification that would show when a patient had first synced their Propeller inhaler sensor with their phone. “Seeing almost 40 Insight notes attached to a feature idea makes it really easy to point to as the thing to build next because you’ve had so many inbounds come in,” Ted says.
2. Improving operational efficiency
Productboard’s accessible feature boards and intuitive roadmaps improved operational efficiency by paving the way for faster leadership buy-in and customer-facing responses.
Thanks to the cross-functional visibility Productboard provides, Propeller has been able to cancel bi-weekly prioritization and meeting preparation calls, cutting 8-10 hours of meetings every month for multiple teams. Ted says there’s no doubt the accuracy of roadmap information has improved, too, as product managers are reviewing it on a daily and weekly basis in Productboard instead of monthly through slide deck updates.
Once Product pushed feedback from various stakeholders into Productboard Insights, product managers ensured requests were categorized into specific “product levels, to make sure everything was broken out into the right healthcare vertical,” Ted says.
The improvements to their organizational scheme shaped Product’s new approach to cross-functional reporting. With Productboard’s feature board in tow, Propeller suddenly benefitted from what Ted described as: “a Spotify sort of model, where we have things split into guilds, with the status of each thing clearly labeled as active or in-discovery.”
He’s thrilled to see Propeller already reaping benefits with major clients, including two of the top five pharmaceutical companies with a respiratory focus. Using Productboard, Propeller has been able to “ensure our planning and delivery cycle was in line with their product releases.” Ted calls that a significant win, stressing it’s essential to build trust among your partners in the close-knit digital health industry.
In addition, a more strategic feature prioritization approach was Propeller’s bridge to creating a now/next/later roadmap in Productboard that Ted confirms was clutch for cross-functional alignment.
“Our Productboard roadmap has been useful because the executive team can quickly take a look and establish how everything is going. Now, management also has the appropriate expectation that our ‘later’ category really does mean ‘much later.’ So, Productboard has really taken away any ‘why are you working on this’ type questions.”
Ted says customer-facing teams have also been able to close external feedback loops more effectively with Productboard. When account execs or program managers can review intuitive roadmaps and quickly report back to users asking questions, it strengthens loyalty to Propeller, as internal teams now have “transparency into the features underway — where ideas from users get applied to the roadmap and where they don’t.”
With Productboard, Propeller has already been able to execute two major Electronic Health Record integrations — no easy feat operationally or technically — delivering ahead of the schedule established with its partners.
3. Strengthening Product-Engineering collaboration
Productboard has also helped put Propeller on a path to speedier product delivery by adding visibility to Product-Engineering workflows.
Ted says Productboard’s integration with JIRA is a source of optimism across Propeller’s teams. By establishing a now/next/later roadmap linked to JIRA tickets, Ted says his Product org is on its way to establishing stronger communication with developers for every feature underway.
Already, product managers are providing links to relevant usability tests, competitive research, and user personas through Productboard — offering Engineering the required context on the “what” and “why” behind a feature’s importance.
While this culture shift is in its early days, Ted is happy to now have a direct and real-time link between roadmap priorities and Engineering’s workflows. Already, he’s seen features like the sensor sync notifications and new remote therapy monitoring code capabilities showcase the power of Productboard to help his team turn Insights into features built on deadline by developers.
In a twist, Ted even has firsthand experience appreciating the benefits of Propeller and Productboard, working together.
“I’ve had asthma since I was seven years old, and when I started using Propeller’s sensor with my inhaler, I actively followed my email reports from the app, and they inspired me to use my inhaler more regularly. Over time, I could see the difference in my breathing because at night I wasn’t waking up during my sleep anymore — and it was really exciting to see that outcome!”
Productboard is thrilled to help Propeller improve health outcomes. For others in healthcare who are curious to learn more about building with Productboard, feel free to check out our in-depth guide.
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