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Listen to Episode 124

Josh is joined by three product experts at Dude Solutions: Kyle Adamo, Braden Witt and Sarmad Sarsam to share more around the processes for innovating on software products and how we use client feedback along the way. 

Show Script:

Josh Peach  
Welcome to the Operate Intelligently Podcast, the podcast for all things operations.

Hello, Operate Intelligently listeners. This is Joshua Peach, your host here today and I am really honored and excited to share with you a couple of actual Dude team members. We're going to talk about a number of things here, really focused around innovation and most importantly, the importance of our clients not just for the solutions that we provide, but for the influence that they give in making a difference for all of our clients with helping us build and grow. So I've got Kyle, Braden and Sarmud with me and I'm going to ask as the tile goes like The Brady Bunch here. I'm going to start with Kyle, and welcome you Kyle, first and foremost to the Operate Intelligently Podcast.

Kyle Adamo  
Thanks for having us, Josh. I can give you some background on me if that's helpful?

Josh Peach  
Yeah. I mean, I'm gonna give you my mic and just let you take it as a go right ahead. Yeah, absolutely.

Kyle Adamo  
I've been with the Dude for five years, over five years. I've been in the industry in the healthcare space, I'm the Director of Product Management for healthcare. And I've been in the healthcare space for 20 years. I was part of a different firm that the Dude acquired back in 2015 as part of their first acquisition in the healthcare space, and that's where I work with Sarmud and Braden.

Josh Peach  
And that's TheWorxHub and you're up in Canada. So we are fully international. We started five years ago with this acquisition and an amazing team and glad to have you here and sticking with the Dude. And this is your first podcast, correct? 

Kyle Adamo  
Correct.

Josh Peach  
I love this. So, welcome my friend you've got an interesting story of how you got here so please share a little bit and I feel like you're right down the street I should have just come over and had coffee.

Braden Witt  
Yeah, it would have been great, I'm always up for for company. My name is Braden Witt. I've been with the Dude almost a year which seems super crazy to even think about. I was a client before coming to join the Dude. So I've actually been on to the new product so starting out on Facility Dude, then transitioning over to TheWorxHub, I was a WorxHub client for a couple years. Last year at Dude U, I got to know Kyle more and then I found myself working here one day. So making that transition from being a facilities professional out in the world of healthcare to now product managing here on TheWorxHub. And now I'm here on this fine podcast, so it's nice to be on this kind of a podcast, not a murder mystery podcast. I guess I'm doing something right with life.

Josh Peach  
You are. And you know, one of the interesting things, Braden is, you know, I often tell people in the facility profession, don't make yourself an island, because typically you're in that facility, and you don't really get outside of that. And you don't get to network a lot. And that's where our solutions really, because they're cloud based, allows people to get together with each other and benchmark and compare but you literally were on an island when you were a client. Right?

Braden Witt  
I literally was working on Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. So literally on an island.

Josh Peach  
So you were the one I couldn't give that analogy to so, and I gotta tell you, the happiest guy in the bunch here, Sarmud, welcome to the podcast.

Sarmad Sarsam  
Hey, guys. Thanks for having me. Yeah, so I started working at the Dude three years ago, around three years ago. Before that, I was working as a software engineer. I come from an engineering background, I did engineering in school. So I was more on the technical side of things. Yeah, I was working that area for around two years. And then I switched over to product management. And it's been awesome. It's been cool working with Kyle and Baden on TheWorxHub, and I really enjoy it every day and it's a great experience.

Josh Peach  
Well, welcome. I expect a lot of laughs from you my friend. 

Sarmad Sarsam  
No problem, I got you.

Josh Peach  
You got my back with the last. Let's really dumb this down for me. Maybe a listener? I don't know. But definitely for me. What is product management? Like what is what is that entail? What do you guys cover? What's a typical day look like for you as a product manager?

Kyle Adamo  
Oh geez, what a question.

Braden Witt  
It's like being a firefighter and EMT, a police officer and the mayor of the town. Yeah, it's a lot of everything all at once every day.

Kyle Adamo  
Yeah, you're interacting with every department. I've seen some people call it the CEO of a product just without all the authority. So you're definitely segwaying between support, marketing, finance, engineering, you name it you're touching it, so it's one of those roles where you get to work with everybody.

Josh Peach  
Yeah. Very cool. So one of the things that I've always found interesting with Dude. I'm in year 16 and you know, we stopped when we started we were you know, a work order system and we always made a point to do enhancements every month. They were it was it was meant to get away from versions right a lot. A lot of folks you guys are too young for this but you know, when we started...

Kyle Adamo  
 I don't know Josh.

Josh Peach  
When we started, we started with DOS and Windows 95, put a disc in and version two dot-o came out in 2.0-3.0, you know, it really flipped the script on our users, right? So then when we got into the SAS world and started Dude, it was like, this is really cool, we can build something and then build off of it. We don't have to reinvent the wheel or retool something completely and confuse our clients. And we really built a model that we did a lot of study and research and, and reaching out to our clients, and then internally managing, what do we want to do? What do we want it to look like? And what's interesting is, I think as the company's grown, the scope of what we can do and how we can do it, and the people that are involved has grown. But I think a lot of that foundation of what, how and why we do it is stayed intact, which is really cool. And prior to us starting here, you shared something with me that I knew nothing about. And I purposely didn't ask, not nothing. I knew a little bit. I purposely didn't ask much about it because I want it to learn it as if it's the listener hearing about it for the first time. You talked about winning moves. What is that? How does it work? Walk me through that.

Kyle Adamo  
I can start and give you some background. So historically, we've called it winning moves. It's not always called that, it's part of a overall sort of portfolio planning exercise that we go through where we look at the market in a really holistic fashion. But the winning moves portion are all of those we usually start in Q2, looking for the next year and beyond, what are the big things that we should be working on that will have a market impact? And we do a basic what we call t-shirt sizing, so t-shirt sizing is like estimating without much granularity. It's like is it extra small, small, large, extra large. That's the sort of and those come with like, timing estimates in is an idea of scope. And then we do some rough back of the napkin like revenue estimates, just to figure out what'sa really disruptive winning move. What's a safe bet? What's a losing move? All those sorts of things. It's a great exercise. It's rigorous takes a lot of time.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, I was going to say, how long does that whole exercise go for? Like, how long does it take?

Kyle Adamo  
I don't know, guys, how long we've been working on that?

Yeah, it never really ends. Yeah, if if an idea is really good, it gets traction right away, and then suddenly, you're working on it. And you didn't expect it, you know, it was a word on a PowerPoint deck. And then it becomes a thing and you're interviewing clients and talking to people. So you can move pretty fast with some of those. And some things just take a lot more R&D, right, where we're a reasonably sized company. We have a ton of users. Really disruptive moves are hard without a lot of discipline. You know, if you can't just flip the script on on your client based kind of like what you said, right is you need to gradually implement new ideas. You can't just be like tada, everything's a chat bot with no more work. Request forums, I'll do like, it'd be great to be able to do that, but you kind of start to inch your way there.

Braden Witt  
Another key part of that is, when you're a product manager, and those kinds of events give us this great idea comes the force of brutal prioritization. When you really have to, like prioritize things, and you find yourself putting money, like a great idea you've had, you know, to work and having to prioritize the team. And everyone is kind of looking at that. And when you have this, like great idea, and then the other person on the team's like, no, it's not worth the rake. And I think product management is you have to try not to get too emotionally invested into an idea because you know, it's gonna go to the other two guys, and they're gonna knock you back down and be like, that's number 37 on the list now.

Josh Peach  
That's a great question. You know, one, how do you not get emotionally attached to your great idea? And how do you handle like, you guys all get along great, right? Well you seemed like you do I don't know, maybe you don't but you seem like you get along really well and you have great synergy, like how does that work with being like yeah, you know what, that's a great idea we're not gonna do it. How do you manage that? Because I can't see myself not getting emotional like if I you know, in my history of seeing things and being like wow, that's lights out gonna make a huge difference. I know it is. I think anyway, how do you guys handle that?

Braden Witt  
I think we all kind of play like a key role like we each bring such a different skill that we have that trust in each other to know that like the other person's opinion is extra valuable always. So it's always giving each other that space to represent the idea in our own unique ways. And giving each person kind of that space to be always right or always wrong and not really trying to get too volatile towards each other and always respecting that the opinion the other brings, which we think is what makes especially with us all three being remote and we haven't all seen each other since what February? So it's a lot of trusting the decision, I think that's a big part of what makes our work is that ability to let each other play the right role in that moment. And step forward when needed for that leadership role, or the supporting position, or the cheerleader on the side and giving each other that space to really represent those roles.

Sarmad Sarsam  
And I also think you gotta be a bit open minded, and like you said, since we're all comfortable with each other, we can take like, we can take opinions from each other, we value our opinions, really understand each other. And, for example, if I bring if I come up with an idea, and that tells me like, this might not work because of this as this, then I understand that from his 20 years of experience, in his experience, and this idea might not work well might not be as valuable as other ideas. So I really respect like Braden said, respect each other's opinions and they understand each other, give each other space.

Kyle Adamo  
Yeah, and believe me, there's like thousands of ideas that don't move forward. And they're this, they're this massive weight, where you're just like, I can't get this out of my head. And the nice thing about that is like, if you can't, if it's such a good idea you can't get out of your head. It'll be like this forever thinking exercise where you'll think it through and you'll cover through all the angles, and you'll come up with an optimized version of it, or you're next conversation with a customer, you'll float the idea, you'll bounce it around with them, you'll settle on something that might be simpler to accomplish the same goal. So ideas that don't make it, it doesn't mean that they'll never make it. You might squeeze them in in a different way or tack them on to a different project. You just got to keep those things in mind. And sometimes it means keeping a big list of things. So we have So Matt and Raven can speak to this, we have this idea portal, right? Where every idea that comes in from customer interactions or from staff, support teams, marketing, team sales teams, they put these ideas in a portal. Everyone can see them inside the company, we can vote on them. Anytime we hear it again, we vote up voted, and things naturally popped to the top of the list over time. And then you you tend to realize what are the most important things out there by leveraging the broader team that's interacting with customers all throughout the day. But in that portal, I don't know, Sarmud, about how many are in there?

Sarmad Sarsam  
It's like 500 ideas over five hundred good ideas. And we've shipped over 150 of those ideas, I think, far as I remember. But we usually look at these ideas, try and review them a bit, trying to see what they're all about. Maybe dig into them a bit just to see the scope of it, sometimes involve engineering. And then if it's a really good idea, and if it's something that we want to do, we might involve our clients talk or talk to our clients see if it's something that's valuable to them. If we're doing the right thing, asking the right questions, but it's really, these ideas are really for customers so it's important to keep them involved. It's not for us, it's to improve their workflows. So it's these ideas when they get boarded and reviewed, we try to make the best thing that works for our customers, make them easy to understand, simple and that's pretty much it.

Josh Peach  
I think it was 2006 or 2007, we used to have a listserv that had all sorts of stuff, it had vendor rater, and all this stuff on it. And when we launched solution suggestions and people could submit submit a suggestion, it was publicly visible by our clients, and then they could vote on it so they could determine, you know, the more votes it got the higher up it got for possibility. And we got inundated. And then people would, you know, clients would actually call me and they'd be like, you know, why hasn't my suggestion happened? And, you know, I kind of said, Look, here's the technology has provided us to two very interesting challenges, unlimited suggestions and limited resources. You know, we can think of just about anything, we can be Walt Disney when it comes to building our solutions, but the reality is, we will never have the time, the money and the manpower to complete all of them. So that's the biggest challenge that I see that you guys have is like, how do we balance and measure and figure in 500 and putting 150 outs phenomenal I'm not sure what other people are doing. So that's one thing that the thing that we did last week, that kind of springboard this idea of this podcast is something that I think is really cool, which is called the Hackathon. And you know, share how that goes. We had one we had, what, two weeks ago, big success, I saw some good results on that. So share with the audience that what that's all about.

Kyle Adamo  
I can, let me start on this. So we have at Dude, there's a team called the Innovation team. So it's like a nominated group of people who are going to work on strategies to, I guess, enhance innovation at the Dude. And one of the things that that we put together was the Hackathon. And this is more of like a moment in time of innovation and thought, an ethos about innovation, but it's one thing to sort of jumpstart things and get the juices flowing. So the Hackathon is essentially this, anybody within the company can pitch an idea, they put together their pitch they presented in like five minutes, and after all the pitches are done, engineering and product, can choose to work on that product, they sponsor basically say, I'm going to work on this. Then they go to work for a couple days. So, day job is canceled. Work on the Hackathon for a couple days. And at the end of that it's a presentation. And everyone shows their results, and we vote on it, and you choose winners. And just because you didn't win doesn't mean your idea doesn't keep moving forward. It really allows you to jumpstart projects, to think through problems that might be difficult and find an easier solution without the constraints of roadmap pressure and budgets, and you know, I really need this resource, but he works over on that team. He's not part of my team, you can just all collaborate on something. It's a really cool way to get stuff done and jumpstart things.

Josh Peach  
How many Hackathons have we had? I know I've seen a couple of them, I have actually not made it to know like I think it made it to one. But no, we've had a couple of them, right? 

Kyle Adamo  
Yeah, this was the first one that I participated in. But I know there's been a couple before and they all take different shapes, we're still learning how to execute on these. And I think the plan is to try and do them a couple times a year, if not quarterly, just to make it more of a regular thing that we get to push some ideas for. Because out of it came with a ton of new concepts, changes to applications that will have huge impacts for users as far as like productivity and things like that. It's a great way for different squads to intermingle, and work on different projects when you might not together because there's a lot of like engineers and product will work on one product line but not another. It's a good chance for people to sort of cross pollinate and get those ideas flowing.

Josh Peach  
Very cool. One of the things I think the last thing I'd like to talk about, and I have to apologize a bit for not knowing your world, your vertical. But one of the things that just keeps coming up in this conversation is clients, clients, clients, and it's not just clients as a transaction, its clients as interaction. And its clients as action, right? They're providing us with with things we need to do to take action to continue to grow. And this is kind of an interesting factoid, which this is why I'm I'm going to apologize last week, I got to talk to our sales organization that covers education and local government and local government, our first client signed on August 31, 2002 andthey're still with us. And they're getting their 19th renewal invoice this year. The next factoid that's interesting is SchoolDude, which was the start of all of this incredible journey that we're on. They added their first client in Rhode Island is July 1, 2001. And from July 1, 2001 to December 31, 2001, our first year of selling our work order maintenance, we added 44 logos to that school in Rhode Island. So at 44-45 clients total in the year 2001 that started us. All of them are still with us today, they are all receiving their 20th renewal anniversary with us, and sharing that story with you is powerful to me. But what it tells me is we're doing something right, because the loyalty that you get from clients 20 years in, in technology to anything. I haven't had the same landscape company help me out for 20 years like nothing like there's nothing I could think of. Like the cars I buy 2007 I started buying them from Borns Auto, free plug right there, 13 years they do a great job. But there's nothing ,my car insurance that's what I've had since I was 16. That's it. But I can't think of anything that I've had for 20 years. And I would guess and you have the history with TheWorxHub. But I know the Dude doesn't invest in companies that don't have incredible retention and renewal rates. And I bet if you pulled it, I bet a lot of your first clients we still have today.

Kyle Adamo  
We do, even before TheWorxHub. We had clients on client server systems, and we built migration tools to migrate them. So some clients that are 20 plus years with us, like just following along. And it's because that we're listening, you know, and we're trying to innovate around their ideas. And now we have more capabilities now, to do that, to listen in different ways and to watch how people behave. One thing we were talking about before getting on hereis sort of one way that we can observe clients and figure out how they're working is we have a tool called Pendo. And there's another plug for you. So Pendo is, think of it like a user engagement app. It's one of the things inside TheWorxHub or other products that we use, where you can pop up guides and contextual help to say, Okay, here's something new, here's a new feature, here's how to use it. But it also tracks what people are clicking on, what pages they're visiting, all sorts of stuff like that. And we sort of will marry that data to something that we call the common paradigm in software world called the happy path. So it's the path that you expect users to take through software. And if you're an engineer, you never diverge from that because you don't want to know what lies beyond the happy path. So it's like if you're Amazon, it's search for product, click a product scroll through photos, click buy, checkout, that's the happy path. Anything that goes beyond that happy path, especially if it's done frequently, usually to us means a user's innovating. So they're using your product in a way that we didn't anticipate. And usually it's how they like it. I'm taking these steps because this solves a problem that wasn't baked into this solution to begin with. And we've done some some looking at, you know, when you get into an area that you want to refactor or change, or enhance in your system, and you look at how people are using it, then you look at all this crazy data saying, How are these people? What are they doing? Like you're not on the happy path, you're deep into the sad path over here. So let's talk to them and figure out what's going on. And Sarmad and Braden have been on some calls like that recently, where we're looking at things and maybe you can talk a bit about that experience, you guys.

Braden Witt  
Yeah, it's funny when you start you know, when you really start trying to figure out what clients are doing. I mean Sarmad and I, we had a client actually send us a video that we told over like how is this problem getting there? And come to find out, like you hear in the background like this faint double click, there it is, there is the moment. But it's that relentless goal of driving towards wanting to find a solution of wanting to know, like, what is that I am really trying to do, and where are they diverting? And so it's like finding that double click. And it's one of those things we could have just glossed over and kind of ignored, but we kind of like, it kind of became an obsession for us to figure out what this client was doing and how they were getting so many so many mouse clicks and it was a great aha moment of like hearing the double click in the background going, there it is, why does everyone double click?

Kyle Adamo  
And it's easy because they're trying to do something that they didn't designed for. Sorry, go ahead Sarmad.

Sarmad Sarsam  
Yeah, I was going to say really, the reason why they're diverting from the happy path is because it's something that they need, and something that they want and something that they want to see. And there is no way to do it other than going into the nitty gritty of the app. So it's something we could have missed on the product team that we need to do. Or something that we didn't think about when we designed that feature or that product. So it's really an amazing experience to listen to how these clients do their work every day. And it's a better experience trying to solve this problem for them and make their lives easier overall, make their work life simpler. So then they can focus on other stuff rather than how to get around the software and divert from the software to other stuff. But that's really the idea here. It's because they divert it because they need it. And they need it because it's not available on the app and it's something that we missed, and we need to look at it and dig into it.

Kyle Adamo  
There's a ton of opportunity once you give someone tools, they'll have at it and  they'll show you what what you need to do next.

Josh Peach  
Yeah, I love the fact that you guys are leveraging tools but you're also tying that human aspect into it. I love seeing you know, Braden, your client, you know, here with us the first podcast host, the puppet Dude, Bob Bittner. He was our first client that came on as a as a team member after he retired from the school district he worked at and that's happened a number of times over the course of our career, and that's one of those great, that's one of those great highs that you just like our clients that we serve that have been helping us grow and providing us with the income to do the things that we do are so passionate about what we do that they leave their career that they have for an opportunity to expand and help the world and get off their island right, Braden, get off that island. You're not on the island now. So I can now say it. But that's really cool.

Braden Witt  
Well, that's one of the really interesting things about serving a highly regulated healthcare market is there is some really common problems to solve. And it's interesting when you start digging into these hospitals like just how deep TheWorxHub goes into into clinical operations and keeping people safe and managing air, water and electricity and operating rooms and ICUs. And it's really cool to see the way that some of these hospitals are doing some absolutely incredible work and to be to work with clients as they go through that process of from implementation to their go live and getting to see those ticket times getting reduced, getting to see those incredible PM completion rates and really getting to see the software out in the wild making, you know the patient experience better, safer, faster, more efficient, it's really cool. It's a great challenge. Somedays when we we get the idea from clients like, what do you mean? And then you hear that from another client, you're like, all right, there you go. Now, we are now being manipulated by clients. They know we're listening and telling you that idea portal it's fun to like, we've a couple ideas together to be like, Oh, this is what they're trying to do because you want a problem that everyone shares around, you know, compliance or water or air or kind of these common things. So it's always fun to weed those client disconnected clients together into a common solution.

Josh Peach  
Well, I gotta tell you guys, first podcast, first time I've done it with multiple people on here, and you guys knock it out of the park, you guys are all naturals. I'd love to have you back again because I think we could do a couple of different episodes on the things that you do, see and work on and also give some insight on the company and the things that we do every day. So any closing words anything that I missed? I think I tried to cover all the bases on things we talked about and thought about.

Kyle Adamo  
Josh, the way you took that island analogy and drove it all the way back to Martha's Vineyard, you're a pro.

Josh Peach  
I don't know where that one came from, but Sarmad was laughing so I knew I crushed it as long as he is laughing, you know that was a good one. No appreciate all your hard work guys. Honestly the the connection that you put like you said in the beginning, having to work with basically every department to to move the bar forward for us and continue to to grow and expand and to get our clients to sign their 20th and 21st and 22nd renewal. Big, big props to you guys because you do a ton of work behind the scenes day in and day out. So we appreciate you for all that you're doing and forgive me your time today to to share with the world kind of what your day looks like.

Kyle Adamo  
Thanks, Josh.

Josh Peach  
Thank you guys. And that will do it for this episode of Operate Intelligently. It has been a long and crazy 2020. I can't say how amazing our clients have been through the course of all of 2020. And I hope that at this time, lots of our clients are getting ready to go back to school at some capacity. Our healthcare systems have just been inundated and busy with nonstop efforts being made or local government has had to retool, revise and implement all sorts of new new programs and processes. Our manufacturing clients have had to try to keep those supply chains going and try to get caught up after having to be closed. You guys have done a phenomenal job. I hope that you take a moment at some point here in the near future and celebrate your success and you've done an amazing job and you are truly our unsung heroes. And if you think about March 16, and having to make all of the pivots and shifts you've had to do and to be where you are today. Not all successes, but the sure as heck aren't any fails in there because you've tried and you've worked and you've stayed resilient. So keep doing what you're doing. We're going to keep bringing these episodes to you. We appreciate you and the Dude's beside you, so make it a great day. Thanks for listening to the Operate Intelligently Podcast produced by Dude Solutions. You can reach us by emailing dspodcast@dud solutions.com or check us out on the web at dudesolutions.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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