How it’s made: Product pros at 5 Chicago tech companies share how they bring ideas to life

by Michael Hines
November 28, 2018

An awesome product doesn’t just come together on its own. It always starts with a great idea, sure, but the process of taking that idea and turning it into something useful is far more important than the idea itself.

And while teams may use similar methodologies and strategies, no two companies approach product development the same way. So we asked five Chicago-based teams about their insights on how to develop everything from smart hygiene devices for hospitals to digital permitting and payment solutions for local governments.

 

CityBase product team jobs
PHOTO VIA CHRIS MURPHY

CityBase’s platform is designed to make it easier for people to interact with city governments and utility providers. The company offers solutions designed to digitize everything from paying bills to filing permit applications and registering to vote. Given that CityBase’s products are designed for entire cities, it’s no surprise that Director of Product Management Jason Maeder said one of his team’s biggest focuses is gathering user feedback.

 

Can you describe CityBase’s product development process?

We embrace the opportunity to serve not a segment of the population, but the entire population of a city, state or service provider. This responsibility is reflected in the breadth of research we conduct to understand our user base from top to bottom. Our product and UX teams get in the field and seek feedback from actual users throughout the product development process to challenge our assumptions and ensure we’re building a solution users will love. Our development teams follow a two-week Scrum practice, iterating through their backlogs and releasing weekly updates to customers.

Our product and UX teams get in the field and seek feedback from actual users throughout the product development process.

 

What new product, enhancement or feature has your team recently finished work on?

We recently launched a payment and permitting solution for the city and county of San Francisco. Citizens and businesses can pay for permits, make donations, renew a business license and much more, all online. Citizens no longer have to find time in their workdays to visit a city office during business hours. CityBase solutions are poised to exceed $1 billion in payments by the end of year with plans to rapidly expand in 2019.

 

Devbridge Group product jobs

Devbridge Group is a software design and development company whose clients include Relativity, Byline Bank and The Art Institute of Chicago. According to Senior Product Manager Brandon Hollembeak, the company’s approach to product development is continually evolving based upon what was learned from previous deliveries.

 

Can you describe Devbridge Group’s product development process?

We treat our product development process as our product. We start with a pre-workshop discussion, digging into what problems our client partners are facing and making sure we’re tackling the right ones to overcome their challenges. We then host a lean requirements workshop, where we articulate the problem, vision and success metrics, as well as the risks, users and experience goals. We end with a story map, and encourage user research and prototyping where appropriate.

We then plan out the resources, tech stack and strategy to take on the initiative, with the goal of delivering fast and often, usually within four to six weeks or as quickly as possible. The faster we get the initial product or prototype into the hands of users, the more we learn and validate our direction. Delivery, transparency and measuring outcomes is key to ensuring we’re delivering maximum value.

We treat our product development process as our product.

 

What new product, enhancement or feature has your team recently finished work on?

One of our best clients is one of the top event technology companies in the world. One of our major products has been their business-critical app that runs the sales, operations and logistics processes across their nationwide network of hotels. We’re finishing the roll-out of the app to all participating hotels in Las Vegas, the largest market for hotel conference events in the country. This is app single-handedly getting the right equipment and labor to set up and run events, from small company meetings to some of the largest, multi-venue conferences in Vegas. We’ll soon set our sights on rolling this app out to the rest of their global hotel network.

 

Kenna Security product team jobs

Kenna Security’s big data platform uses predictive analytics to help companies identify and safeguard the most vulnerable aspects of their businesses from cyber threats. The platform combines a company’s internal data on threats and vulnerabilities with external data on available exploits and threats to help companies prioritize and manage risk. Senior Product Manager Emily Patterson said feedback from teams across the company is crucial to the product development process.

 

Can you describe Kenna Security’s product development process?

The projects we focus on originate from a variety of sources. We have customer support and success teams that relay feature requests and pain points. Our sales team lets us know about hot features that would help close deals. We also have a customer advisory board where we talk about more strategic future platform needs from our most active customers. Our product management team works with all of these groups to synthesize and prioritize feedback. 

We follow a very iterative and flexible process to refine the requirements. The development, quality, operations and product teams work closely together to specify requirements and acceptance criteria, and all teams stay involved with the projects throughout their development. When things are completed, tested and accepted, we follow a continuous delivery approach to get new functionality to our customers as quickly as possible.

We’ve always taken pride in our attention to user experience, which is sorely lacking in many information security software products.

 

What new product, enhancement or feature has your team recently finished work on?

One of the most exciting features we recently launched was a brand new customer homepage and dashboard. We’ve always taken pride in our attention to user experience, which is sorely lacking in many information security software products. We put a lot of time and thought into creating a welcoming, visually pleasing homepage for our customers that is rich with a lot of easily digestible and relevant information. We also used this project to start the switchover of our front-end frameworks to React. We try as much as possible to use appropriate projects as a way to make iterative infrastructure changes to our platform.

 

SwipeSense product team jobs

SwipeSense develops technology to help hospitals cut costs and improve safety. Its offerings include a smart hand hygiene dispenser, asset tracking software and an application that provides increased insight into how labor utilization impacts patient outcomes. Senior Product Manager Kabir Gulati said his team conducted over 70 interviews with hospital personnel and academic leaders as part of the development of its newest product.

 

Can you describe SwipeSense’s product development process?

For our existing products, we followed a standard agile process with two-week sprints. Our team has two product managers and a product designer, and we work in concert with engineering to identify, scope, design and plan out our next great feature. We focus on human-centered design, so our users are involved at all levels of the problem-solving process. A significant amount of work is done upfront to assess the true issues and goals our users face through both secondary research as well as getting out of the office and meeting with clinical staff in the hospitals we’re in.

A significant amount of work is done upfront to assess the true issues and goals our users face.

 

What new product, enhancement or feature has your team recently finished work on?

I joined SwipeSense recently to work on identifying the next product we should build, and it has been quite the whirlwind. We’ve interviewed over 70 healthcare leaders, from administrators, clinicians and academic leaders to those who practice at leading healthcare institutions. As a result of the team’s work, we have identified several organizations that hope to pilot a new application of our sensor network and data, which will help improve patient outcomes while controlling costs. As we transition from having an idea to a product, we will use the Google Ventures design sprint framework to bring it to life and answer open questions.

 

FourKites Chicago product team

FourKites’ tracking technology and predictive analytics help companies ensure their shipments get where they’re going on time. According to Director of Product Management Nitin Oberoi, the product team is characterized by autonomy and extreme customer focus.

 

Can you describe FourKites’ product development process?

Our product team spends a lot of time in-market and really takes the time to understand our customers’ individual businesses. Through a combination of one-on-one interactions, and through heavy input from our customer success team, we catalog all customer feedback and use it to hone in on real pain points.

Once we’ve identified the pain point, product owners start building out formal product requirements, working closely with our engineering and design teams. We typically run our designs by a customer panel and iterate a few times until we’ve identified the right experience and the minimum viable product. Our product teams are fairly autonomous and run their respective product lines as mini businesses.

Our product teams are fairly autonomous and run their respective product lines as mini businesses.

 

What new product, enhancement or feature has your team recently finished work on?

One of the many reasons our customers use our product is to understand where their freight is and when it will be delivered. Within our software, we provide ETA predictions around individual freight loads. Most recently, our product team launched a custom ETA model to more accurately predict truck arrival times. This model is personalized to each customer by applying machine learning to terabytes of historical transit data to make higher confidence ETA predictions for live freight loads.

We’re gathering tons of data across the respective shipping lanes and the individual trucking carriers while combining this data with attributes like traffic, weather conditions and seasonality. It’s been a fun project to build due to the exciting technologies and encouraging customer base.

 

Jobs from companies in this blog36 open jobs
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Finance
Data + Analytics
Design + UX
Dev + Engineer
HR
Marketing
Operations
Product
Project Mgmt
Sales
Developer
new
Kenna Security
Chicago
Marketing
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Developer
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Developer
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Operations
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Marketing
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Project Mgmt
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
HR
new
Kenna Security
Chicago
Product
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Product
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Marketing
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Sales
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Marketing
new
SwipeSense
Chicago
Developer
new
Kenna Security
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Operations
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Sales
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Marketing
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Data + Analytics
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Kenna Security
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Operations
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Finance
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Product
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Developer
new
Kenna Security
Chicago
Product
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Sales
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
HR
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Product
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Operations
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Marketing
new
FourKites, Inc.
Chicago
Design + UX
new
Devbridge Group
Chicago
Developer
new
CityBase
Chicago
Sales
new
CityBase
Chicago
Developer
new
CityBase
Chicago

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