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    CrowdReason Product Development

    Posted by Lisa English on Aug 30, 2021 8:00:00 AM

    CrowdReason Product Development - Explained

    Our mission at CrowdReason is and has always been to give you, our customers, the digital tools that will help you thrive. In our view, that involves a whole lot more than just selling software.

    The best way we know of to help you succeed is to become your partner, which we do by gaining a thorough understanding of your business needs (yes, literally yours!) and using that information to continuously make our product and service better. This blog series highlights the CrowdReason processes that support that partnership—and the individuals who make our customer experience exceptional.

    Our first post centers on our collaborative product development process. Here, we’ll give you an inside look at how we work together as a team—and with you, our customers—to build software that consistently exceeds expectations.

    At CrowdReason, product development is a team effort.

    Ask anyone on the CrowdReason team who is responsible for product development, and they’ll say Lisa English and Misti Tanzy. That’s because, as product owners, both English and Tanzy play a central role in the process of making meaningful improvements to our software products.

    English’s sole focus is TotalPropertyTax (TPT); for Tanzy, it’s MetaTaskerPT. As product owners, they spend a fair amount of time thinking about potential new features and planning the product roadmap. That means deciding on the new features we’ll be building over the next few months. To help make these decisions, English and Tanzy consider a variety of factors: What new features do our customers want? And are we at a certain point in the tax cycle where adding a particular feature now vs. later would be more useful? While they lead the discussions, the team as a whole contributes to the discussion with their perspectives, and everyone is ultimately responsible for deciding what gets done within any specified time period.

    English and Tanzy also lead the effort to execute the mission. They define the work we need to complete, as well as the schedule. “We outline specific requirements so that developers and quality assurance (QA) team members understand the big picture (what we’re trying to accomplish) and also know exactly what needs to be done.” Their efforts in planning, prioritizing, scheduling, and tracking tasks keep the team focused.

    But our product owners don’t work alone. Each has a team of developers and QA engineers. Developers write the code to make the requirements a reality, and QA engineers test the code against the requirements to ensure everything works as expected. Sometimes, English says, the roles are fluid. “At certain times during the year—like the return season—there is so much development happening that it requires the attention of more of the team. And I sometimes help out with testing. So, we all play different roles when we need to.”

    At CrowdReason, we manage our software development projects using the agile methodology. It allows us to deliver new functionality often—we usually issue software updates every two to four weeks. That makes it possible for us to react to feedback quickly and deliver changes while they are still useful.

    How You—Our Clients—Impact Our Software Development Process

    Most of our team has extensive property tax experience outside of CrowdReason, which means we understand the whole cycle and have firsthand knowledge of what needs to get done. But we also rely on you, our customers, to tell us what you need to do your job better.

    Most items in our backlog (the list of work to complete) come directly from customer input, whether it be from the onboarding of new customers, sales calls, or support tickets. “Whenever we get feedback from clients,” English explains, “I first try to understand the end goal—the need. Then as a team, we take that and try to come up with the most efficient solution to meet that need, hopefully in a way that is also useful to other clients. Sometimes feedback from several different clients sounds similar; in that case, we look for a way to incorporate all of it into one change that will be helpful to a lot of people.”

    “It’s important to understand what the client who has requested a change is trying to accomplish,” says Tanzy. “Because of our property tax backgrounds, we very frequently do understand, but sometimes we don’t. In that case, we might reach out to other customers and ask if they’ve ever run across the same issue and if it’s something they struggle with. If everyone says no because they do it a different way, maybe we can go back to that initial customer and pass on the alternative way of handling it. But if everybody says, ‘Oh yeah, that'd be great!’ then we’ll take a closer look at implementing the change.”

    We also get ideas for product improvements from the sales team. The questions asked by prospective clients signal what the market is looking for; if certain features are missing from our products but are in high demand, it’s an issue we’ll look into further.

    How Our Process Produces Great Software

    “Every day, whether we're in the office or at home on calls, we know that we are all working to, without a doubt, build the best product there is,” says English.

    “Everyone sees every support request that comes in so we can all chime in with suggestions, whether it’s to talk with a customer to show them a different way of doing something or making a change in our software. Our goal is to make sure we're helping—that we’re actually making things easier for people. Because we’re a small, agile team, if we see something we need to build or a feature we need to add, we can just do it. It doesn't take us six months; we don't have to talk to seven or eight other people to make sure it's okay. We all have the power to make the decisions we need to make, to make these products what they need to be.”

    Lisa English

    Meet CrowdReason’s Lisa English

    Lisa joined CrowdReason in 2018, but that wasn’t the first time she’d worked with members of our team. In fact, Lisa and Misti worked together—along with our CEO Carl Hoemke and Chief Solutions Officer James Frazier—at another company previously. “We're back together now, but most of us have worked together longer than any of us have worked apart.”

    She started with us as a business analyst, which meant considering the customer needs we were trying to meet and then devising and documenting what needed to happen for us to satisfy those needs. Now, as a senior program manager, she has evolved into a more managerial role, but interfacing with clients and meeting their needs is still a major component of her job—and something she enjoys.

    Outside of work, Lisa prioritizes spending time with her husband and two-year-old son. She intentionally tries to stay active, specifically by walking. CrowdReason started a step challenge recently, and Lisa is aiming to win!

    Misti Tanzy

    Meet CrowdReason’s Misti Tanzy

    Misti was an original member of CrowdReason, who, after taking some time to pursue her interest in archaeology, rejoined the team in 2020. She has an extensive background in property tax compliance and management, having worked with consulting firms for most of her career. In fact, she helped develop and implement a new property tax system and mail automation solution at a consulting firm before joining CrowdReason.

    When she’s not at work, Misti is busy catching up with her twins (who are off at college), preparing for her middle son to graduate high school, or attending her youngest son’s sporting events. She’ll take any opportunity she can get to travel, but she always enjoys coming home to relax with her pets and a good book.

    Topics: Spotlight Series