March 11th was the last day I went into the office. Our team shifted to a work from home policy, as concerns with COVID-19 were starting to grow. Other companies were leading the charge on collective efforts to shift as much personnel to a work from home set up and were imploring other businesses to do the same. Kudos to Ibotta & Guild Education (I know there are several others, but these were the companies that caught my attention) in Denver for being change agents and acting quickly even with nascent and hard to find information.
Shortly thereafter, the governor’s shelter in place policy forced most companies to shift to a remote workforce, giving rise to a virtual contactless workplace dynamic. From dogs barking, to children interrupting, from the UPS driver ringing the doorbell, to the spouse unclear whether you are on mute on a call -- the work from home lifestyle has brought its own quirks.
For Giraffe specifically, March 12th we started working from home and continued to work on critical path items surrounding product development. We did our best to keep motivation and connectivity high with daily digital stand-ups and virtual happy hours, but with the future uncertain in terms of how the B2B SaaS landscape might shift, much of our efforts were tough to validate and test in the market. In light of this, we took stock of what was in and out of our control and consciously decided to shift focus on what we could control: pushing out our MVP to our 1st/2nd degree networks and getting virtual customer feedback in an effort to improve our core behavioral trait’s assessment -- The Giraffe Assessment.
Some background on The Giraffe Assessment -- it’s an assessment that we created to establish each respondent’s behavioral traits and skills. Respondents are presented with a series of hypothetical statements and for each statement there are two possible responses. From start to finish, it takes about 10 minutes vs comparable workplace assessments that take upwards of 60-90 minutes. We’ve vetted our assessment statements, responses and in-scope behavioral traits through continuous collaboration with Occupational and NeuroPsych PhD candidates, ensuring that we are asking unbiased bi-directional statements and randomizing how responses are presented. Upon completion of The Giraffe Assessment, respondents receive their output summary which includes how they scored on the various traits being measured, relative to others who took the assessment that work in similar departments.
With nearly every company employing a remote workforce and employee engagement fragmented, we figured we would be able to capitalize on the fact that several individuals had a few extra minutes to spare and help us out -- all from the comfort of their new home office set up. After adequate testing and process finalization, we pushed the MVP out to our 1st/2nd degree network connections on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Slack channels, email and text. We incentivized participants to take our assessment by entering each respondent that completed The Giraffe Assessment and scheduled a feedback call into a raffle for a $100 gift card + $100 small business donation related to COVID-19.
To build and deliver this initial offering, the team pieced together several 3rd party tools. We leveraged Typeform to write in our assessment statements and responses in a user friendly format and embedded that within our site. The data was transformed and visualized with Google Data Studio and respondents were emailed with their individual results via ActiveCampaign. We scheduled feedback meetings through x.ai. There were bits of manual intervention required, but it felt manageable. Ultimately we were pleased with the initial traction, with several hundred respondents completing The Giraffe Assessment.
ActiveCampaign notifications started to pour in in waves, fairly consistent with postings on social channels, and x.ai meetings were being scheduled with respondents to provide feedback on the assessment. Over the course of the next several days, the volume surpassed the 100 mark, then 200, but did start to plateau, partly due (we think) to us not posting on social or marketing the MVP since we received adequate feedback to improve the product while simultaneously building a good sample size of early adopter customers.
With the feedback being tracked, we noticed 4 primary themes:
- Respondents consistently felt their results from The Giraffe Assessment were accurate.
- There were statements that were hard to respond to within the assessment because the responses both seemed applicable *The format for each response selection was a binary selection vs the ability to select any response in the middle.
- Respondents were asking, What actions can I take with my results? What takeaways can I bring back to my team/company?
- The assessment was clear to follow, and the ability to see progress/know the length (5-10 minutes) up front helped each person see the finish line vs. other assessment tools that can take hours to complete.
This feedback was super valuable and interesting for our team to consider. In the MVP’s current state - we certainly felt the customer feedback was valid and worth exploring ways we could improve the experience.
Separate from the MVP deployment, the team’s primary activity up until this point was building our fully functional application that would offer dedicated team pages, data aggregation, dynamic visualizations, and insights for team members to act upon their results. Natively building this solution had us on a trajectory to release this offering within a couple of months.
We obviously couldn’t afford the time gap between MVP and the fully functional application without an in-between middle ground solution, so we determined our near term activity would be building a solution that was more interactive and team focused vs individual results -- incorporating the MVP feedback.
A day or so into ideation we landed on what that near term solution would be. We would build our next release with customer feedback in mind, and be able to release a solution that would ultimately be dynamic, team focused, with actionable insights baked into the results. To achieve this we leveraged a cloud-first, serverless architecture with AWS Amplify at the center to help expedite our time to deploy.
In under 2 weeks, our team was able to release a production-ready and rapidly scalable application to meet the growing customer demand. Our ability to pull this off was driven by two important factors: the expertise and dedication of our engineering team and the comprehensiveness of the AWS platform - specifically Amplify. The entire Giraffe team was very happy with the architecture of the release and its ability to serve as a strong foundation for scaling our product offering and business on - so much so that we’ll be writing a detailed post on the stack as well as some sample repos to help educate the community. Be on the lookout for that post, coming soon.
With this new solution being able to aggregate team data and dynamically update -- we re-engaged with the contacts who took our MVP to see if this new solution would be a product they would use for their teams. So far so good in terms of customer feedback. Showing these same customers the new product was good on two fronts:
- The product is production ready and incorporates the feedback from the MVP offering a much more responsive and team focused application that can scale alongside teams. Read: Better Product
- The product demo showed these same customers the amount of progress made over the course of 1-2 weeks. This progress helps to showcase that we are responsive to incorporate their specific feedback, a major benefit of having a startup with the freedom to create and iterate quickly. Read: Responsive Lean Team
We also added a supplemental COVID-19 specific questionnaire into the new product to give customers the ability to centralize and gather responses from their team members. True to one of our value propositions, we want to bring people data online -- we know that right now there are offline sound bites that aren’t being captured with how individuals are navigating this new working climate. Responses from this questionnaire are only shared with designated admin users who can roll up the responses and share these insights as they see fit. Questions include:
- How would you rate the timeliness and effectiveness of corporate communications related to COVID-19?
- Are there any additional tools or resources that would help you work better remotely?
- Are there any functions or responsibilities that you are concerned about being able to fulfill remotely?
- Do you have any suggestions or ideas to promote digital connectivity during this time?
- Are there any philanthropic organizations that we can help support during this time?
- Are there any L&D opportunities you are hoping to pursue while working remotely?
- What Employer values, benefits, and/or programs are most important to you in light of COVID-19?
- What can we do better as a company during this time?
This is a strange, uncertain and unprecedented working climate. Ultimately the circumstances helped push our team to act. Sometimes all you need is an impetus to act and go along for the ride. With a solid sample size of customer feedback and potential early adopters, we will keep moving forward and iterating. The metaphorical switch has been turned on, and this is the new normal.
We are super excited to be working with several companies already on this current product and look forward to incorporating new functionalities moving forward. Having a continuous feedback loop with our customers should prove to be invaluable. This is where we are right now at the time of writing this piece.