I went to The City today to check out the MORE Summit, put on by HelpShift. It was a bright, sunny day and it made me miss city life!

My favorite talk had to be the opener, “The State of Mobile” by Kevin Henrikson. He was co-founder at Acompli, which was eventually acquired by Outlook. He manages Outlook for iOS and Android– that is, they are striving to create something people on love on “non-Microsoft” mobile devices.

In the mobile world, you have complete control over what apps you download and use. With the desktop, your IT department might force you to use the Microsoft Suite, but that’s not the case when it comes to apps. The consumer has a choice, so it’s up to the team to create a product experience that sticks. Kevin shared one of the original Acompli tenants…. I didn’t take a photo or write it down verbatim, so I may be butchering it a bit!…

“Create a product that users love and IT departments trust”

While the IT department may pay the bills, he emphasized the importance of the general consumer side of things. Their happiness is key because if you can nail that side, the IT part is easy-peasy. The business requirements are given to you on a list:

  • Add XYZ requirement
  • Add other corporate feature here
  • We need to meet ABC security protocol

While these things may take time and effort, you know exactly what you need to build. It’s not so for the general consumer side; if we all knew how to build killer experiences, we’d have an app store full of glowing 5-star ratings 🙂

Despite the Mobile Outlook team being a small organization inside of a giant corporation, they operate much like a startup:

  • Goal is a 5-start app rating in the app store, on both iOS and Android
  • Ship on a tight 7-day release cycle. Sometimes they ship more!

    Outlook Mobile (iOS and Android team) weekly sprints
    Outlook Mobile (iOS and Android team) weekly sprints
  • Tag all support tickets by issue type for  better reporting.
  • Provide a constant feedback loop. Normalize trends by usage.

    OutlookFeedbackLoop
    The feedback loop. How all sorts of user feedback makes it into the product planning.
  • Tier 1, 2, and 3 support manage customer support tickets but they have engineers (what you might think of as a Tier 4 agents) answer tickets too. The volume at this level is tiny (maybe a few a week) but it allows engineering to directly feel the pain of the customer. They are also the same people that can get it fixed!
  • Take in customer ideas/ feature requests via a dedicated channel. It looks like they are using UserVoice for this and it makes customers feel like a part of the development process. It also deflects support tickets– win, win!
  • Offer a mobile support experience with a tool like Help Shift (who put on this event) or Intercom. Make it super easy for customers to start a conversation in-app. Also, provide in-app self-service content. Not only does it reduce friction but it keeps them in the app. If your content is good, they may not even have to create a ticket.

I loved seeing an actual model of what product development looks like in another organization. Getting support a “seat at the table” when it comes to the product development cycle is always a challenge and I never pass up an opportunity to learn about how others make it work.