What Working Remotely Can Teach Us About Insights into Software Users’ Needs

Among the sea of remote work-related articles populating my LinkedIn feed these days, a recent Forbes article caught my eye. Most employees working remotely want their employers to have greater visibility into workdays, the author wrote referencing a recent survey, and are open to having software in place that measures their productivity.

Feeling somewhat invisible, they are “frustrated by their efforts to be recognized,” the author wrote, and willing to let employers in because it could help them better do their jobs and show what they do to contribute. (Prodoscore, a company that makes software that helps measure employee productivity, commissioned the survey conducted by a third-party).

It made me think. Many of us will be working remotely with our customers for the foreseeable future. With no in-person trade shows, conferences or even small meetings at the office on the horizon, an important source of feedback that drives our product development decisions is gone. Just as businesses need the right tools to amplify the voices of employees who may feel invisible, software product teams need the right tools to amplify the voices of users who want their product needs to be heard.

Product managers can leverage usage analytics to gain visibility into the work of their end users. We can start by gathering information on users’ work environments, move onto using that data to make product enhancements that help our end users better accomplish their jobs and ultimately use the data and insights to anticipate and recognize their needs.

In its initial implementation, the tools can almost immediately show us valuable insights about computing environments at scale – including memory capacity, resolution, operating systems and more – data that can have major impacts on how we develop, design, test and release functionality. Say we find out, (as Solibri did in just six weeks), that customers have much more powerful hardware than originally thought. We could (as the Building Information Modeling (BIM) software vendor did) make roadmap adjustments and deliver more valuable processing-intensive functions sooner.

When you have the lay of the user’s land, you can gain more visibility into how users interact with the product. CNC, which makes Mastercam CAD/CAM software used in manufacturing industries, used software analytics data to group functions by their actual use in planning a major redesign of its user interface. These insights enabled CNC to cut its planned redesign time in half by 18 months and accelerate the time to value.

With a lay of the land and a better map, usage data can be leveraged to more deeply engage users and actually inform decisions on future functionality. TechSmith, which makes the popular Snagit screen capture software, followed the usage paths of customers to find out that a video capture technology the company didn’t plan on devoting a lot of resources and development time to was actually pretty widely used. As a result, it added webcam support in Snagit 13 and even more robust video features that users want since then.

Dan Barrett, Analytics Solution Consultant and I offer some more guidance on how to implement this “crawl, walk, run” approach to usage analytics in approach to usage analytics in our recent webinar, “Take the Guesswork Out of Product Management.” Learn how to help your remote workers work better by giving them the tools you need to gain greater visibility into their work. No time for a webinar? We also have some insights into getting started with software usage analytics to help you jumpstart a program and quickly see the benefits.

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