Article

7min read

Taking an Outcome-Driven Approach | Ruben de Boer

Ruben de Boer explains what it takes to create a healthy testing environment that paves the way for better experimentation organization-wide

Ruben de Boer is a lead CRO Manager and consultant with over 14 years of experience in data and optimization. At Online Dialogue, Ruben leads the Conversion Managers team, developing team skills and quality as well as setting the team strategy and goals. He spreads his knowledge far both as a teacher with Udemy with over 12,000 students and as a public speaker on topics such as experimentation, change management, CRO and personal growth.

In 2019, Ruben founded his company, Conversion Ideas, where he helps people kick start their career in Conversion Rate Optimization and Experimentation by providing affordable, high-quality online courses and a number of resources.

AB Tasty’s VP Marketing Marylin Montoya spoke with Ruben about exciting trends and evolutions within the world of experimentation, including  the various ways AI can impact the optimization of the experimentation process. Ruben also shares ways to involve cross-functional teams to implement a successful culture of experimentation within the organization and why it’s important to steer these teams towards an outcome- rather than an output-driven mindset.

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation. 

The goal should always be outcome-driven

Based on his experience, Ruben believes that one of the biggest pitfalls companies face when trying to kick start their experimentation journey is they focus more on outputs rather than outcomes.

“When a company is still very much in an output mindset, meaning we have to deliver an X amount of sprint points per sprint and we have to release so many new features this year, then of course experimentation can be seen as something that slows it down, right?  Let’s say as a rule of thumb, 25% of A/B tests or experiments result in a winner and so 75% of what was built will not be released, which means the manager does not get the output goals.”

In this scenario, experimentation becomes an obstacle that slows down these outputs. Whereas, when a company shifts towards an outcome mindset, it makes more sense to run experiments with the goal to create more value for the customer. With an outcome-mindset, teams embrace experimentation with customers at the heart of the process.

When teams are more outcome-oriented, the product is based more on research and experiments instead of a fixed long-term roadmap. According to Ruben, it’s vital that companies adopt such a way of working as it helps create better products and business outcomes, which ultimately helps them maintain their competitive advantage.

Importance of cross-functional teams

Ruben argues that experimentation is maturing in that it’s becoming more embedded within product teams.

He notes there’s a rising trend of different teams working together, which Ruben believes is essential for knowledge sharing when it comes to learning new things about the customer journey and the product itself. For Ruben, this helps create an ideal, healthy experimentation environment for teams to experiment better and get the results they want. 

Ideally, there would be experts in experimentation coming in from different teams sharing knowledge, ideas and insights on a regular basis which helps drive inspiration and innovation when it comes to future test ideas. 

The recipe behind the success of these experimentation teams varies and depends on the maturity of the experimentation program and the skills of these teams.  

This could start with a look into the culture of the organization by sending questionnaires to various teams to understand their work process and how autonomous they are. This analysis would also help teams to understand what their current state of experimentation is like such as how accepting they are of experimentation. This helps to devise a strategy and roadmap to successfully implement a culture of experimentation throughout the whole organization.  

This culture scan also helps determine the maturity of an experimentation program.

“Process, data, team, scope, alignment, and company culture: that’s what I generally look at when I assess the maturity of an organization. Is there a CRO specialist throughout the different product teams? How’s decision-making being done by leadership? Is it based on the HIPPO decisions or fully based on experimentation? Then there’s the outcome versus output mindset, the scope and alignment of experimentation as well as the structure of the team- is it just a single CRO specialist or a multidisciplinary team? What does the process look like? Is it just a single CRO process or is it a process embedded in a project team?” Ruben says.

A world of possibilities with AI

With the advent of AI technology, Ruben believes there’s a lot of possibilities with what can be done with it, particularly in the experimentation process. 

While he admits it’s still too early to speculate and that there are also the many privacy concerns that come with such technology, he believes AI can bring a lot of exciting things in the future.

“It would be so nice to have an AI go over experiments on the product detail page with all the results and all the learnings, and just ask the AI, what did I actually learn and what would be good follow up experiments on that? And that would be enormously interesting to have an AI run through all the experiments in the database,” Ruben says.

Therefore, Ruben admits there are a number of possibilities of what teams can do when it comes to designing experiments and saving time and steps in the experimentation process. 

“And just think about maybe three or four years from now, everyone will just have an AI app on their phone and say, I need to buy this and I will buy it for you. And maybe a website with only AI apps on it to purchase stuff, who knows? And then optimization becomes very different all of a sudden.” 

There’s also significant potential with AI when it comes to changing the way people work as well as provide inspiration and ultimately optimize and bring innovation to the experimentation process.

“Maybe based on all the input we give from chat logs, social media channels, reviews, surveys, we can make the AI behave like a user at some point in the future somewhere, which you then don’t have to run user tests anymore because you just let AI see your website.”

What else can you learn from our conversation with Ruben de Boer?

  • Evolving trends in experimentation 
  • His take on change management to help organizations adopt experimentation
  • His own experiences with building cross-functional teams
  • How to tackle resistance when it comes to experimentation   
About Ruben de Boer

With over 14 years of experience as a lead CRO manager and consultant in data and optimization, Ruben is a two-time winner in the Experimentation Elite Awards 2023 and a best-selling instructor on Udemy with over 12,000 students. He is also a public speaker on topics such as experimentation culture, change management, conversion rate optimization, and personal growth. Today, Ruben is the Lead Conversion Manager responsible for leading the Conversion Managers team, developing team skills and quality, setting the team strategy and goals, and business development.

About 1,000 Experiments Club

The 1,000 Experiments Club is an AB Tasty-produced podcast hosted by Marylin Montoya, VP of Marketing at AB Tasty. Join Marylin and the Marketing team as they sit down with the most knowledgeable experts in the world of experimentation to uncover their insights on what it takes to build and run successful experimentation programs.

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Article

10min read

Software Development Team Best Practices

Software development isn’t just developers writing code. It also includes less technical processes that precede the actual development process such as the planning and the testing stages as well as post-development when the software is released and feedback is gathered from end-users.

What this means is that many teams beyond development are involved in the software development life cycle, such as product, design, testing, sales and marketing teams. These teams are all involved in achieving common objectives and ensuring a high-quality product.

Software development teams

To understand why it’s so important for teams to work cross-functionally, it helps to take a look at the different types of teams involved in software development. This will uncover the best practices to get these teams on the road for enhanced collaboration.

When we visualize a software development team, it’s easy to imagine a group of developers writing and releasing code but the reality is that it’s much more than that.

A software development team brings together a wide range of expertise from different teams within an organization to ensure the success of a project. This means that most teams are not solely made up of developers because while they’re responsible for creating the product, there also needs to be people dedicated to building the vision of the product, managing its life cycle, testing the product and marketing it and so on.

A software development team typically consists of the following roles:

With various teams from different departments coming together, there’s a great advantage in having expertise across multiple disciplines, which can bring innovative solutions to problems and insights which otherwise would be overlooked if these teams were to work in silos. Therefore, each of these roles is key to the effective development of your product.

Many factors will influence the structure of your development team such as project complexity, budget and size as well as the needs and expectations of stakeholders.

Ultimately, the team you put together will determine your project’s likelihood of success or failure and their collaboration will be key to achieving desired outcomes.

Why is cross-functional collaboration important?

It’s inevitable for different teams to clash during projects. For example, developers and product teams tend to approach projects from vastly different perspectives and their metrics for success will also differ.

Product managers are often focused on achieving outcomes and overall business objectives. They’re looking to quickly validate their ideas and just as quickly release features that will bring in more revenue for the business. Developers, for their part, aim to build the best possible product by focusing on the deliverables that come with building this product. 

The same applies to other teams within the organization with the different types of mindset, skills and goals coming into play during a project.

It’s vital for cross-functional teams to communicate and collaborate effectively around a shared goal in order to successfully achieve it.

Effective collaboration results in better products. Less conflict between the different teams translates to more time dedicated to building and releasing high-quality products. In other words, when teams are on the same page, it allows them to focus on what really matters, which is creating value for the customer through quality software.

Furthermore, cross-functional collaboration is a key driver for creativity and innovation. Collaboration often results in new ideas that can help companies gain competitive advantages as different people come together to work on a project as they encourage each other to consider things from different angles.

Software development team best practices

To enhance productivity and to continue to deliver value to customers, software development teams should stick to some best practices to put them on the path to improved collaboration and success.

Define clear goals

While each team has their own set of internal goals, they still need to make sure that those goals align with the overall business objectives of the company (and product). It’s essential that all teams have a shared understanding of business goals and how to achieve them.

This means keeping all teams coordinated and aligned around the product vision throughout the software development life cycle. It also involves determining the project scope and requirements that will best achieve these objectives.

Once shared goals are established, teams can work with each other instead of against each other even as they perform their own distinct tasks while pushing ahead in the same direction. 

The responsibilities of everyone involved in the software development process need to be clearly defined to avoid clashes and create a sense of accountability. The clearer the roles, the less chance of confusion as teams go deeper into the project.

This is a time when having the right leadership can make all the difference. Leaders must clearly define roles and responsibilities and ensure that all teams understand how their work creates value for the organization and its customers. 

Choose the appropriate project management methodology

Depending on the size and complexity of your project and teams, it’s important to choose a methodology that works well with the organization’s culture and values. 

From Waterfall to Agile methodologies, there are many approaches you can choose. For large projects with a clearly defined start and end-point, the Waterfall approach would work best. However, for projects that are adaptable and divided to smaller sprints, an Agile approach is better suited.

This will serve as the foundation on how you begin to structure your teams and the type of tools they should implement in their daily workflows.  

Invest in DevOps

Many software development companies organize themselves in a way that often leads to functional silos so that all the different teams tend to work in isolation while focused on their own goals.

As we’ve discussed, a project also consists of many moving parts and effective communication throughout the different stages of the project becomes complicated as there’s less visibility during these stages.

The DevOps methodology mainly grew out of frustration of the silos between teams, primarily development and operations teams. However, the term has evolved in modern software development to encompass a set of practices and tools that increase an organization’s ability to quickly deliver new software by promoting enhanced collaboration and communication between different teams.

DevOps goes beyond adopting the right tools to achieve high performance and better quality. It also involves undergoing a cultural transformation and teams adopting a shared culture and mindset that allows them to focus on quality of software and speed of delivery.

Choose the right tools

There are a number of collaborative tools your teams can adopt to establish efficient communication practices. The tools you choose will serve as the foundation to help teams work together towards common goals.

Among those are ones that can help you plan your projects from the bigger picture to the little details, which is especially useful for large organizations with multiple teams and team members collaborating. This also enables teams to have greater visibility over each member’s progress in the project and empowers teams to share input and encourage fast feedback loops in order to build a culture of DevOps and open communication.

Different teams will use their own tools to track work and progress throughout a project. For example, product teams will typically use roadmapping tools to plan, prioritize and track features while development teams will use development tools such as version control systems.

Therefore, there are many tools to choose from depending on the needs of the organization and teams from collaboration to project management tools as well as automation tools to streamline processes.

For example, teams adopting DevOps practices into their workflows will also need to choose the right stack of tools according to their unique business needs in order to implement DevOps successfully.

Communicate constantly and efficiently

From the onset of a project, all teams and other stakeholders will need to be involved in the decision-making process to keep issues down to a minimum and avoid miscommunication further down the road.

For example, many product teams often take the lead on setting the product vision and requirements without reviewing them with the development and engineering teams. In this scenario, it’s essential to understand that developers are the ones who will be writing for the product in question and so they must be consulted early on to give them the necessary context to build and prioritize the right features.  

In this scenario, product managers and owners will need to effectively communicate the strategic direction and vision of a product with the help of a dedicated product roadmap. This will enable developers to understand why they’re building the product, its value and how it’s linked to overall business objectives.

A project often consists of many moving parts which means it might not be possible for teams to have full visibility over them. However, Many important decisions are collaborative in nature and require input from multiple sides. It’s imperative that everyone on the team is encouraged to actively provide feedback and share information about the progress of development. This also helps teams identify any potential roadblocks and take quick action to address them.

Set KPIs and metrics to track performance

Depending on the business objectives set at the beginning, teams will need to establish metrics to track and measure performance throughout the development process and beyond. 

These metrics will be essential in the short and long term to make data-driven decisions to optimize products and improve team performance.

Teams can set any kind of metrics that will allow them to assess their efficiency. These could include productivity metrics such as velocity and cycle time, customer metrics such as customer satisfaction and net promoter scores and and more DevOps specific metrics such as DORA metrics.

Software development is a team effort 

To produce high-quality software that meets your customers’ expectations and needs, different teams have to come together within a collaborative environment to solve complex problems.

If organizations work on fostering collaboration across the entire software development life cycle, software development teams can overcome challenges, maximize productivity and software quality as well as deliver better value to customers. It’s a win-win situation.

At the end of the day, all teams within an organization are looking to accomplish the same end-goals and outcomes, mainly to keep the business running smoothly and bring in profit as well as create top-notch products that customers will love.