Through its groundbreaking platform for smart buildings and infrastructure, Willow deploys “digital twins” for the built world to collect, organize, and analyze data that improves the performance of buildings, and the experience of those who reside in them.
When Simon Hilton joined Willow as Head of Product in the fall of 2019, he set out to scale the early successes of this fast-growing startup with a global customer base. At Willow, the product organization serves as a bridge between business and technical stakeholders. Since these stakeholders are increasingly distributed across the globe, it has been vital for Simon to standardize product processes in a single source of truth that any colleague could access anywhere, at any time.
“This is the story of Willow going from being a startup into a more focused, organized, product-led organization that will scale and grow. A key part of that is going to be Productboard.”
Before Productboard, Willow’s product roadmaps were captured in PowerPoint decks and development work was managed in Jira and Microsoft Azure DevOps. But there was a disconnect between these systems that led to miscommunications and misunderstandings.
What drew Simon to Productboard is it helped him abstract a level higher from the “how” of software delivery to focus on the “what” and the “when” of product prioritization, planning, and roadmapping. And unlike PowerPoints that always immediately fell out-of-date, Productboard created shared understanding across business, product, and delivery teams around what features were being planned and considered.
“Now everyone feels included. They know they can go to Productboard at any time to see exactly where a feature is and what status it’s in. Productboard has enabled a new collaborative approach to planning that has eliminated communication gaps. It has defined frameworks and processes that free me up to focus on more strategic concerns.”
Now that the product team can carry out high-level planning in Productboard, the planning horizon has extended much further beyond what delivery teams are currently working on. This has created more stability for developers, who can now focus on creating quality software. They’re buffered from some of the decision-making taking place within the product team in Productboard and can rest assured the features they’re working on have been thoroughly validated before arriving in their backlog. There are fewer switching costs from pivoting between different priorities, and there’s less burnout, even as delivery efficiency has increased.
Business stakeholders are happy too. They finally have a place where they can always see an up-to-date forecast of the product. They feel at home in Productboard, where many healthy discussions have taken place around prioritization, delivery timelines, scope, and customer expectations.
“We value the contribution that Productboard and clear product processes have made to our business. Every day people are saying: ‘what you’ve done to create clarity, inclusion, and transparency is amazing. It helps us move faster and grow faster.’”
Looking ahead, Simon is eager to continue advancing from the “what” and the “when” of various feature ideas towards the “why”. Their product organization already captures user insights from emails and Zendesk support tickets among other sources. Increasingly they’re using customer interviewing tools to automatically transcribe and analyze customer calls.
Simon envisions a better way to make these insights more accessible for stakeholders. “Imagine being able to click on a link in Productboard and be able to jump to that part of the interview and be able to hear the customer’s own voice,” he mused.
With Productboard’s Notes API and ever-increasing number of integrations, there are more opportunities than ever to understand – and empathize with – the needs of end users. As Willow has found in adopting a product management system, improved collaboration and roadmapping are just the beginning.
Simon Hilton, Willow’s Head of Product, has published a 15-minute Productboard overview on his YouTube channel. He provides clear explanations of many of the features that have provided most value for Simon and the product teams at Willow.
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