It’s not a requirement to have previously worked in the industry for which you’re building software, but it doesn’t hurt to bring domain expertise to your company.
Jordan Singer did just that when she joined Braze, a leading customer engagement platform, as a product manager. Singer’s previous career in marketing enabled her to intuitively identify a need for a new feature in the company’s customer journey tool, Canvas Flow — one whose absence was stifling collaboration and serving as a source of anxiety.
“As a former lifecycle marketer, updating a series of messages that are actively sending to thousands of customers felt like pressing the big red send button,” Singer said. “Until now, users had to launch these changes right away without saving them as a draft first.”
Saving edits to a document isn’t nearly as technically complex as saving edits to a marketing campaign targeting thousands of users in multiple customer segments with specific messaging triggers. Singer needed to solve this technical challenge in collaboration with teams across the company, which is no small feat as Braze has more than 1,500 employees and 10 offices across the world.
“Save as Draft and the process by which it was developed highlight the importance of collaboration at Braze,” Singer said. “You won’t find teamwork like this at every company of our size and stage.”
What role did you play in developing and launching ‘Save as Draft’?
On a given day, I found myself conducting client interviews alongside a UX researcher to identify pain points, mapping out the flow from draft creation to launch with a product designer and updating tickets in Jira to translate these findings into the work engineers pick up. I reviewed quantitative data on how frequently canvases are updated to make my case for the feature:
This turned into partnering closely with a product analyst to measure the feature’s impact throughout our beta. For the launch, I aligned with product marketing on positioning and worked with our technical writers to produce customer-facing documentation.
“Everyone is really passionate about what they do, and you can see it in the way we work together to find new solutions to complex problems and make a tangible impact.”
What obstacles did you encounter along the way and how did you successfully overcome them?
Braze pays particular attention to minimizing user error and doing so means proactively alerting customers before they delete end-user data referenced in a Canvas or discard changes to settings that have never been saved. In developing “Save as Draft”, we encountered the need to balance these guardrails with our product’s speed and performance.
“Save as Draft” created a new “status” of Canvas, both draft and active, that needs to be queried when a user takes the above actions. This decreases page load speed. To address this, we decided to check each draft for references to missing data before it launches instead of querying all drafts to see if any Canvas contains the data or settings a user is attempting to discard.
This not only ensured that page load speed remained stable, but it created an error-handling experience that is arguably more powerful than the original.
What teams did you collaborate with in order to get ‘Save as Draft’ across the finish line?
Saving a Canvas as a draft requires saving all the settings it contains, and these settings are often features owned by other Braze product teams. Communicating in public Slack channels allowed us to loop in our counterparts on each team and iterate quickly as we identified these edge cases.
“Save as Draft” was a prerequisite to a feature one such team was building: “Canvas Approvals”. Without “Save as Draft”, a user who doesn’t have permission to approve Canvases couldn’t save changes to an active Canvas. We coordinated the release of these two features through weekly check-ins between both teams’ product managers, which morphed into a standing meeting in which we coordinated our teams’ roadmaps. In Braze’s meeting-minimizing culture, this speaks to the value of the cross-team partnership we forged.
When you think of other companies in your industry, how does Braze compare when it comes to how you build and launch new products?
We are incredibly well-resourced in product, design and engineering. At the same time, Braze is transparent and nimble enough that I can easily access my peers on other teams. Cross-team collaboration is as simple as tagging another PM in Slack.
My cross-functional partners “take their seat at the table,” using their unique lens to contribute to our product’s success. Each of our teams “seek the truth,” challenging our assumptions and returning to first principles as we unravel the dependencies between features. Ultimately, everyone is really passionate about what they do, and you can see it in the way we work together to find new solutions to complex problems and make a tangible impact.