Segmenting Users for Better UX

Andrew talks with Pete Bernardo about his path into UX, using intercom for segmentation, and utilizing slack bots to add value to your team.

Presented by
Andrew Verboncouer
Partner & CEO
Pete Bernardo
Head of Product

Andrew Verboncouer:  You're listening to the Seaworthy Podcast, Episode 7, Segmenting Users for Better UX. Seaworthy is a podcast about building successful software. Today we're talking about using segmentation to design better experiences and using slack bots to serve your teams with Pete Bernardo of 352. 

Hello and welcome to the show. I'm excited to have a special guest on today. Welcome Pete Bernardo, Head of Product at 352 and entrepreneur as co founder of Frank - a rapid and open anonymous communication tool for your organization. Pete, thanks for joining us today.

Pete Bernardo:  Oh, thanks for having me. I'm excited to talk to you.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. And you you're out you're in Atlanta now right?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I'm in Atlanta -  I'm home today so I didn't have to brave the traffi. Took me a little over two hours yesterday to get to work and back home so I said not today. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Not today - is that a is that pretty common for Atlanta traffic

Pete Bernardo:  No, yesterday was running a bit and there's like a couple big accidents. So it just sucked the life out of me by the time I got to work. So I was like, I'll just work from home for today.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, I can imagine that's a it's a pretty big momentum kill to your to the start of your day. Yeah. So can you give us a little background on who you are, and how you really got into the design and business space?

Pete Bernardo:  Sure. I'm actually originally from Miami, like you said, I'm now in Atlanta. And I actually went to engineering school in Miami, but kind of all through my life, and kind of, especially all through college, I always gravitated towards building things and, and designing things. I think I can remember if, if anyone ever said to me during college, and does anyone know how to do a website or build a website, I kind of always raised my hand because I just loved it. I love the idea of creating. And then, you know, towards the end of college, kind of a kind of a critical moment for me was I did an internship with this company in Miami, they're actually called small company. And they had built a number of products, they had been essentially like a consultant in a couple different industries over the years, building digital products. But typically, this was before the web and kind of the single single page apps existed. So they were doing a lot of like, desktop style applications, specifically for people that were on the Mac. Interesting enough. And they go, who founded small companies, this guy named Albert harem, Alvarez and Albert had always through the years been giving workshops on UX and thinking through product strategy. And kind of thinking through the experience that the end users have with whatever you build. And so I kind of like just got lucky with his internship and Albert have the slant with whatever he had me do, where it was very much put myself in the shoes of the end user, and really think through the flow of whatever we were building. And at the time, they were rebuilding kind of their their flagship product that they have, which was focused like on PR agencies. And so it was very much thinking through how a person in a PR role and kind of some some other different roles would use their application that was being built from the ground up and, and giving that feedback to him and the development teams as they build. And so you know, those that combination of always wanting to create and design in conjunction with learning, learning from him, kind of always put this itch in me to kind of, to think through the products we build and kind of, you know, to think through product and always be thinking about that angle.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's great. Can you tell us a little bit more about that time period? And when that was?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, it was, this is right around probably early 2000s, I worked with them. And right around, you know, at the time, Macromedia had flash out for a while. And I had been doing a bunch of flash stuff, but then they started pushing flex, which was these rich internet applications, which is, you know, early, what react and angular now, or pushing hard on, but it's an interesting time, because it's posts like HTML, and, you know, standards thinking coming out, but it's pre, you know, they only went so far, because when, when, when Apple Watch the iPhone, all that stuff died.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's true. I remember, you know, so much of what I used to do. And as I was, you know, starting I think I started designing in, like, 2003, you know, was flash based, you know, this didn't really know a lot about action script, but could piece things together from that side.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I mean, I often like, look back at that time thinking that some of that some of the stuff you're able to pull off today, which is so much easier back then. But, you know, we didn't have the environment like it is today, where there's so many different devices. And back then you were just thinking about, how is this thing gonna look got a 15 inch monitor that someone's getting to your website with on a gateway 2000.

Andrew Verboncouer:  From, I guess, from where, like, I came up, I started more on the visual design side, you know, you starting on the UX, and really, you know, the product focus side, the, the user side - can you tell us a little bit more about maybe how, you know, how your roots played played a big role in in where you are now? And maybe more about about 352 and your role there?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, sure. You know I think most not most designers, but I think there's always a propensity to think like, you have to go through design school, and you have to have that, that formal education. And I know a lot of great obviously, a lot of great designers that are self taught. But, but for me, having the angle of engineering and thinking through, like, having the ability to think through structurally what the what the business logic, anything we built, you know, did, I thought it was always really powerful for me, because focusing on the UX and the experience of things, I could always bridge that gap between working with kind of a, a pure visual designer, and then kind of someone who was, was positioned to build the back end of things, which is, it's, it's interesting that you ask about 352, and kind of me talking in in that frame. That's kind of what 352 has been built on. Over the years, we, we, I think, have this interesting model of, we put together six person teams that are balanced between design and back end. And they're dedicated teams. So think of them, like little boutique web design agencies, web development agencies, but they're all within one organization. Because they stick together, these teams stick together. And what ends up happening is a client will come to us and say, you know, we want to build this product, but we either don't have the internal resources to do it, or we don't like how we've done it in the past. And so what they end up doing is they, they, they contract with one of our teams, and that team is fully dedicated to that client. So that team only works with that client for weeks on end, they take a very iterative approach using agile and kind of just lean and, you know, lean from a development perspective, but lean from also a UX and design perspective. And, and we build these products from the ground up and typically were paired with like, a subject matter expert that's on the brand side - and, they work with the teams.  For me at 352, and kind of what my role is there. Now, as I I eventually went from being a designer there, to, I got into what we call it at the time information architecture, which, which honestly, is, is what we should have called, or what would what we would now call kind of interaction design or kind of UX, where we're thinking about the flow of something, and the reasons why we're approaching it as opposed to, like, the pixels orthe visuals on it,

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right, more on the strategy.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, and, and then I eventually ran the design and UX teams. So for context 352, we're right around 70 people. And because of that structure I talked about where there's a healthy balance between design and development, you know, there's 20 ish, 30 ish designers, you know, front end developers typically get looped under design for us. And so now my role at 352 after having led the design and UX team now, I'm actually tasked with building out our own products. So we went for a long time building out products just for clients. And we always had this aspiration, maybe maybe falsely, but we always had this aspiration like, let's do it for ourselves. And so a few years ago, we said, You know what, let's do it for ourselves. But let's do it in a in a, in a way that mitigates the risk. And so we started, we laid out a strategy. And a few years later, that strategy included having a dedicated product team, which is what now I lead at 352, building our own internal products.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's exciting. So is that is that a team of six, then? 

Pete Bernardo:  Actually, we're taking a really lean approach. So the way we're approaching products, you know, it evolved. So the strategy early was, we started doing these internal hackathons. And the hackathon started very loosely, like build whatever you want to eventually, they have we did the manually to, they eventually evolved into having themes and those teams involved, you know, building product. And so that was kind of the initial strategy is like, let's leverage our teams where we're going to give them a week to build kind of a loose prototype, we'll see what, you know what comes out of it. And if something has a little bit of traction, or seems to work, we'll, we'll build a product around it. And it was interesting, we had a couple that like, kind of took off, just there were, there were little ideas, we did this thing called hex invaders that got picked up by designer news. And probably at hundreds of thousands of people looking at it, we did this thing called dungeons and developers. So we did these like loose ideas in the early hackathons that just gained a lot of traction. And then eventually, we started building things that were more focused on actual real products that we could monetize. And now that some of those that success, I have a dedicated team that's made up of marketing and development and design, it's a smaller team, it's right around four people. And we just take a lean approach to maintaining and then building new products to market.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's exciting. And what have you know, one of the big products that you guys work on and we use it here at at headway we've used it with other other teams and product teams that we work with is planning poker. Can you maybe tell us a little bit about planning poker, what it is and what its for? For those that aren't familiar?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, if you're not familiar with it, I often get like, actually had a guy reach out to me this week that told me, he played hold 'em, and he spoke Spanish, I wanted to translate our site to Spanish, and you hear poker and you immediately think it's a game, or it's a poker game. But no, planning poker is actually this technique that that was created by this gentleman named Mike Cone, who's big in the agile and Scrum community. And it's, it's actually a, a physical game that you play with your software team where you if you've ever done agile, and Scrum, it's this whole principle of you need to relatively estimate out the size or the effort of the individual stories or tasks, if you will, that you need to accomplish in a two week sprint. And so the way to do that is they typically use they do this planning poker session where they'll, they'll take a what's called a Fibonacci sequence. And it's all about relative sizing. And you basically say, if you let's think about it, in terms of T shirts, the story is extra large. And the story over here is a small and based on his history, the team's history, you're able to understand how many stories you can handle different sizes. And so what we ended up doing is we got in touch with Mike and we, we had built we had built an online version of his physical game. And so Mike gave us the trademark trademark to planning poker. And now we run planning poker.com, and it's it's our product that's on the market. To me, it's terribly interesting, because software is pervasive in our across so many different corporations that you wouldn't think have software teams. So plenty poker is right now to us about it's used on average by about 6000 Scrum masters a month in a scrum master in Scrum is what if you're not familiar with Scrum, what you would potentially call project manager though their values and their mentality is very different than a typical project manager. And it's, it's used at companies like john deere, to an obvious one, Microsoft. So it's just really neat, where you see all these companies using this tool for their software teams that honestly, it's just you would never expect have software teams.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's interesting. So you're focusing on building on building planning poker.com, and you use, you know, you guys use intercom. And I think we've had a couple conversations online about that. But you've recently written an article on medium about how you guys use intercom to segment and communicate with customers on there. Can you talk a little bit more about that? And, and just that keeping that path open to the customers. 

Pete Bernardo:  So one of the reasons for us to pursue our own internal products has always been to have kind of a test bed of process and technology that we can then pull back into the the pure services side of the business, you know, when we work with our clients, and so intercom and some of these other tools we use allow us, you know, they're there, we primarily take stabs at them to understand, would they benefit our clients beyond, how much do they benefit the products views. And intercom. It's just been one that I've been recommending over and over for a while now to our clients. And so I wanted to write a little bit of a piece on how we leverage intercom because I think at first glance, I people see intercom. And I think it's a chat tool, the visuals of it just, it looks like a chat tool. But that's the if you think about it, that's like the medium that you're interfacing with people that the tool itself is so much more. So for me, I wanted to kind of highlight different ways we use it. And for us, obviously, we handle it as you know, support chat, people will tell us this, I don't understand how this works. And we'll handle it, we use intercom to handle those kinds of conversations, which I think are using, there's really like this idea that they're not submitting a contact form with, hey, it's a support ticket, it's you know, it's a real time it tells them I'm typing. And I can get feedback that doesn't require the back and forth of email or someone logging into the system. But then beyond support, I mean, we leverage it to, to segment our audiences based on kind of their interactions with the application.  And to me, that's kind of the root of why intercom and drift and some of these other tools are so special is because I can work with our software team to say, I have a hypothesis that that users who perform this action are more inclined to refer someone or just to upgrade to one of our paid accounts. And then we start and then we start tracking that action. And so for planning poker, think of planning poker, having a model like very similar to go to meeting there's hosts that start a game and then there's people that join that our players or participants in a GoToMeeting or participants in the game for us. And so for us understanding how many times a game is started, how many times people took that action, how full a game got, like, how many participants are there that's like, that's great data. Because we use that inflection point of team size to promote our premium features and our paid plans. And with intercom I'm able to do that. I know how many times someone started a game. And I know how big that game got how many participants there were, I know how many times they ended a game. And so if you think about those three things, I'm able to shoot messages to individual users that have started a game within the last 48 hours. And I'm able to wait till the game has ended. And and I'm able to be very specific about knowing that this user had a game that reached a certain size participants. And so that laser focus on those individual users allow me to have a laser focus in my messaging to say, Hey, I noticed I noticed you've been playing a bunch lately, I noticed your games are getting a little bit bigger, I think you'd really value our premium plans, here's a coupon, give it a try. And if you don't like it, you know, it expires in 30 days kind of thing where he rolls back. And so that that ability to be very targeted and not have like a shotgun approach to discounts or a shotgun approach to coupons has been, like, ultra effective for us. So yeah, I I love intercom, it gets a little bit of pricey if you're doing a freemium model. And I plan to write another post about kind of some tactics we're using where we leverage MailChimp and intercom together because just the pricing difference MailChimp is just better for larger groups of people that maybe aren't as active while intercom is very targeted, like those people that are always taking action within your application that that haven't gone away. And so that combination has worked really well for us.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, yeah, I've seen a few other posts similar to that, you know, utilizing MailChimp on there with the, you know, within our comments, it's so good, like you mentioned and much more effective to reach out to people when it's timely, and something's actually actionable, versus just blasting something out into, you know, into the ether and hoping people respond, you know, understanding your customers, what they're doing, how they're using it, you know, team dynamic, and team size.

Pete Bernardo:  And for me, it's like, it's, it's beautiful, trying to run, you know, trying to build a product and having, you know, my background in terms of thinking through the flow and the strategy of an application. But then, you know, that the beautiful part to me is, is the data to understand how people are using the application and being able to segment them into different groups in my head and saying, well, this is what's really this is what I should be talking to this group about. And this is what I should be talking to this different group about. And it's not just marketing, it could be education on how the application uses, how the application works based on how I'm seeing them use the application so you know, in the past I think we we would just get into this habit of sending let's do a drip education to everyone that signed up in the last seven days and and will on day 14, you get this message and on date, you know, they 17 you get this message but that you know prescriptive approach for everyone just isn't reality like you're going to have people that know how to use the application out of the gate and you're going to have people that have no clue what it is and move at a different pace and so being able to adjust that based on the actions that people take, it's just ultra powerful today.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Intercom is very powerful if you haven't checked it out definitely go and do that the big thing that I like about intercom is really this whole resurgence I guess of their jobs to be done framework that they've used to kind of market and build their product in ways that people are switching to it from you know certain things like Olark, and different chat apps and I think that's where they're really starting to uncover the value is figuring out you know why people are switching you know to certain products and why people use them and what flows along the way you know do they need to be kind of helped along and I think intercom is going to be doing you know a lot bigger things. They have an ebook as well that they released about jobs to be done I don't know if you're familiar with that Pete?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I am - Clay Christensen. You know a few years ago I met John Lacks from Tihana Lacks shortly after Facebook bought them. And John is like a huge, huge, huge believer in jobs to be done. And he had turned me on to it. And we leverage jobs to be done in conjunction with value proposition design when we're thinking about a new product. And so part of value proposition design, if you've never heard of it before, it's this idea that you align kind of the customers jobs to be done their pains and gains with your products, pain relievers and game creators and the actual functionality of the product. And until you align those things until you make sure your pain relievers and your game creators match up with the pains and the gains of the customer. You won't have a fit unless you align those. So yeah, jobs to be done and kind of approaching it from what is the user want to accomplish is just big into our thinking.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, yeah, absolutely, likewise. And so you mentioned Clay Christensen. Yeah, so there's a really cool video of him - one of his lectures or short lectures about, you know, just the milkshake story, you know, and how they did that analysis with a fast food joint. I think it was a McDonald's. It might it might not have been, but um, yeah, thinking about the jobs to be done even for physical products and other things. You know, how do we build a better build a better milkshake?

Pete Bernardo:  

Yeah, the milkshake one is awesome. There's a white paper or kind of a doc out there called marketing malpractice. It highlights kind of this milkshake story, and so I won't get into it. But it's so interesting that you could take something like a milkshake and think about it in terms of like, what job are people hiring this milkshake to do, if you haven't read, if you haven't heard of this before, I encourage you to look it up. It's called marketing malpractice. I think it's a HBR article. And then I haven't seen the video that you referencing, but I'm sure it talks about the same story. But it's a milkshake. And you could apply it to kind of product development and product thinking. It's crazy.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, yeah, I think the, the, the short of it is that, you know, they did an observational study of people buying milkshakes, when they bought them, who they were, with what their car sizes were. And they realized that people were hiring milkshakes to one, fill them up on the way to work and to, you know, something that that's quick that they could hold with one hand, they didn't have to eat, you know, they're usually in the car. And, and clay Christiansen is, you know, the one I think he's the one who wrote that HBR article as well. But he goes through and explains that, and we'll, we'll link that. But yeah, a lot of good, really good thinking and stuff. And that's, that's something that, you know, has been around for a while, but I think is, you know, with intercom and some other big, you know, product companies that are focusing on jobs to be done, not only from a marketing side, but from their product side, in marrying those two together, start to see them gain a lot of traction, because when you align what user wants to do with what you offer, obviously, there's a lot of lot of good that comes from that. 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, for sure.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. So one of the other products that you kind of started on your own is called Frank. Can you tell us a little bit about what Frank is and where the idea came from? 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, sure. You know, I think it's kind of a two part on on why we came up with Frank, you know, Frank is basically it's an open and anonymous tool for employees to get feedback about their, their workplace. And the reason why I came about the kind of the two, the two angles I took on it was, I got to a point where I was managing a lot of people. And I felt like I was losing a pulse on kind of, however, everyone was thinking kind of what they thought about organizational direction, and kind of how I was how I was or wasn't leading them well,and that that idea that I was losing that pulse always really bothered me, you know, I've always taken great pride in listening and trying to really understand the motivations and kind of desires of anyone that was that was reporting to me. And then on the flip side of it, since I was managing so much, I wasn't getting my hands dirty, my strategy was always through the hands of someone else. And while I, I liked that I could effect or impact multiple projects, through others not being the one to do it, I felt I was losing a little bit of an edge. So Frank filled both of those things. For me, it was this opportunity with, with my good friend Larry to build a product that helps both of us manage our teams better helped my employees feel like they had an open way to, to voice their concerns, without fear of repercussions. You know, there's always that stat that, you know, 75 or 85% of people leave bad managers, I did not want to be one of those bad managers, I wanted to set up a system that if the smallest thing bothered someone, they would have a channel to say it before the stacks got too high. And kind of, they felt like they had to leave. And so and so yeah, we built Frank. So Frank is used by a few companies. Now, it's not something that well, it's not something that I'm trying to actively IPO out of, or anything like that, it's just, it's this, it's the sense sandbox for me to do product development myself on my own and keep my, my skills sharp, but then also have this byproduct, which is a better pulse on the organization, and, you know, a better a better relationship with the team through their ability to have open and honest communication.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's huge. Can you tell us how you got started with it, what was...you know, you had this idea, and then what was kind of the first step you mentioned, it's kind of a sandbox project for you. So I'm assuming you might have got started right away. But maybe there was, you know, an MVP, or maybe like paper or some kind of system that may be preceded the actual application? 

Pete Bernardo:  That, you know, I think, to a large degree, Frank has been a great example of, maybe not how to approach a product. And so I think about how we approach products now at 352. And then how I approached frank, I had this, you know, I think, this is the challenge, I had this - this is my baby. Like this is my, this is my idea. And, I have this fear of showing people and, you know, and it's counter to everything you read, you know, it's counter to everything you're supposed to do, which is, you know, get it in the hands of users and, you know, get feedback about it early. And we went through a few iterations of what the product looks like, and how it works before we showed it to anyone. And it's just, and to me, I look back at that. And, I think about it, as you know, that that's the reality of it, sometimes you get into something and, you know, breaking that barrier of showing it to people, it's just really difficult. And so as I approach everything else, I kind of reflect on that and say, you know, how am I going to approach it differently. So, you know, with that being said, we knew there was kind of two core pieces of functionality we wanted Frank to achieve. We wanted an ability for employees to honestly start conversations with a manager and for the manager to respond. So that was the big thing for me, I think there's always been kind of the anonymous suggestion box, but there was never really a way for a manager to respond, and not to respond to, like, criticize, but to respond to better understand the feedback. You know, so, you know, over the years, we often got feedback that was very cryptic, and if we had the ability to ask why they were feeling that way, you know, it would provide us the opportunity to get more information, maybe understand something that's happening, that we don't have visibility to, or separately, educate the employee with a maybe maybe they don't have the perspective we have on something, and maybe they're not understanding why decisions were made. And then, in turn, taking that idea that maybe that a shared misperception and using it to in staff meetings and, and, you know, helping anyone else that has that, that issue.  So, so that was the first thing open two way communication that's anonymous where the employee knows, obviously, what manager they're talking to, the manager has no inclination on which employee they're talking to. And then the second was kind of the opposite, where, as a leader in the organization, or as a manager, if I have a concern that maybe, you know, our meetings are boring, or we're doing too many meetings, or there's a, there's kind of, maybe hesitation on a new strategy we're rolling out with, I can just ask the staff and they can immediately vote. And, and the way Frank works is they get an email and from they don't even have to login from that email, they just automatically vote and it as a leader, it lets you get a sense of, of the direction that people are leaning. So if there's a lot of negativity around the question, or kind of people are very neutral on it, maybe you haven't explained yourself enough, or maybe their hesitation is a barometer that that your strategy is flawed. And so it was that it's, it's those two things that we built initially. And that's, you know, at 352, we've had, I think we've had over 1000 pieces of feedback over the last year or so that we've been using it. And so the, the staff uses it regularly and, and, and likes it. And it's actually from a leadership standpoint, influenced a lot of our decisions. It's helped us over communicate things that maybe weren't understand or understood clearly enough. So it's been great to me, it's been successful in the sense of like, it's helped us run 352 better, and it's helped us have a better relationship with staff.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. And, and that's huge. I mean, if you can't, if you don't know something's wrong, right, you can't fix it, if you can't measure it, and understand, you know, and there's a lot of reasons why people might not come to you directly, you know, some people are more introverted than others, and less outspoken. And, yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. From from the standpoint where you just built it, right. I think, I think that's the, that's the creator's curse, I guess, is just to, like, do something, right. And I think, you know, I think that's good, every now and then for sure, to just do something, and you can learn from that, right, you can learn, okay, well, I didn't do what what I, you know, what we normally do, or what we do for clients. And, and here's the kind of byproduct of it and, you know, just kind of experimenting with, you know, some of those things, there's, there's ways to be lean in, in those ways, and try to collect feedback, and it might be something you're working on at night, that you don't have access to a lot of people or especially, you know, moonlighting, it's I'm sure it would be difficult to do some user interviews and, and that sort of thing.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, if you think about the reasons why I did Frank, that selfish bitch to say, I want to build something. And I think I know what the problem was outweighed kind of everything I've always, you know, been taught, which is, you know, talk to the user first about the problem and understand the pain points and kind of what they're looking to achieve, you know, the, the byproduct of kind of that reflection on that that was the wrong approach has now resulted in when I build products at 352, I have this hard and fast rule that we will not spend any development time building something that we cannot first start building an audience for. And why why we've done that is we've said, If we can't talk to the audience that we're building this product for, if we cannot market it, or position or position something for this audience, they if they don't trust us, we shouldn't spend the dev cycles in the dev resources going down a path that is not going to have traction from day one. And so I think, you know, what I learned from Frank and what I've tried to think about with our internal products is having that gut instinct that there's a problem there, but then having the discipline to seek evidence, or build an audience before you spend the time building the product.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's, it's a really good point. I mean, you don't want to start develop, developing something that you can't build an audience for, you know, the biggest, I think the biggest reason why startups fail is because they build something that they can't sell. I think, you know, sales and building an audience is such a big part of, you know, creating a viable and sustainable business that a lot of people think if they build it, people will just use it. But that's, you know, rarely ever the case.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, definitely, I've definitely fallen into the, "It'll be amazing and, you know, all you have to do is make an amazing product, and everyone will come." And it's just, it's not the reality of it. And it sounds so obvious, but it's, it's really easy to fall into your comfort zone of building over, you know, talking to people and trying to position your product and getting feedback on it.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right. Yeah, it's something, you always have to fight in something, you know, we always have to rein in with our clients is, you know, you just want to get going, right, you just want this product out there. And, you know, if you get it out there, that, that it's gonna be great. But, you know, you really have to just pump the brakes and, and have that discipline for the process and discipline, you know, for building that evidence and experimenting, and trying to learn what you want to learn before you invest all this time and resource into, into building it out for sure. You know, like, you know, I'm sure you have a ton of ideas. And, you know, it's the risk of spending all your time building something is obviously building the wrong thing, and not being able to execute and build that next idea, or something else that is really going to solve a problem for someone. 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, we've, we've started to do a bunch of things with Slack. And we had started them for, for two reasons. For honestly, for like, one big reason is we just saw this traction that slack was getting in the market. And it just, it just felt like for the audience that we're speaking to, the vast majority of them being software teams, and Scrum masters, they were all on Slack, or using or using slack other organisms. And so we started to take some small bets to where we could build something very lean after seeing some pain points that an audience that we were part of was experiencing. And so we we built a couple small little slack bots, just to understand what's what is this like, working with the slack API and kind of the, you know, what's the, what's the amount of risk with building those, and how, you know, what's the best way to approach it anyway, so, so we built a couple, we built this one called praise Lee, and we built this one called lunch box. And crazily it's around this idea that, you know, we want people to feel appreciation in the workplace, we want other people to praise each other. And honestly, the exposure of that praise happening through slack is is very valuable to us. You know, we're you know, I would assume that slack is in the top two of apps that we use per day individually at the organization. It's all the communication happens through they're all our clients are in our slack instances and individual channels. So everything really is happening through slack and I know slacks, big original goals to replace emails. And for us, whether it's base camp or emails, it's become the central source of communication. And so we we want to the praise to happen through there. And we thought, okay, let's we see this pain point our teams are saying there's no good way to do it. So we built praise Lee, which is in the the slack marketplace and somebody could download is completely free if you want to try it on your slack instance.  And then another one we built is this thing called lunch box lunch box was something we built earlier this year where we saw team saying you know, 352 has three offices we have Gainesville where we were originally founded. And then we also have Tampa and Atlanta, where I'm at, and across all three offices in Slack, you could see like, teams were saying, Hey, where we going for lunch today? And they put up a couple choices. And people say, Yeah, that one sounds good. And so we saw this pain point. And so we built lunch box to help, you know, teams organize, going out together and picking  - you vote on where you're going to go eat, and you all go. And what's interesting about lunch is, it's now used by 1000 different slack teams, I think we, I think we're right around 1100, slack teams have installed lunch box. And we're doing a big update of it to leverage some of the newer things in slack. But you know, this ability to see a pain and be part of the audience and then building something small, that helps us understand how slack works, but then also solves this pain point for us has been pretty valuable. So connecting those dots back to our our bigger products, where we want to leverage slack and leverage it for the audience's that that were already part of, and that are using our product has been pretty valuable to us. And kind of just informing on the best way to approach them and make slack part of our thinking. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, that's really interesting. I've always seen the slack platform as, you know, like you said, replacing email, but it does so much more - it augments so many more different processes. And, you know, I think the interesting thing about it for me is, is we're borderline you know, we're going from, like, machine learning AI, where the interface is text. And that's what the slack bot is. So, you know, just kind of reinforcing that, you know, your messaging and what you do, you know, how you communicate with customers is such a big part of the user experience that, you know, slack is essentially just messages. 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I mean, Slack, like, lately, they've been positioning a lot of their messaging to around this idea, that slack as an operating system. And so a lot of the API stuff they've been doing lately is around interface and allowing more complicated interactions to happen all through slack. And so whether you like Slack, or hate Slack, this idea that it can be the central source of interactions, and communications and do more than just text messages, or just text based messages back and forth is really interesting. And, you know, they seem to have figured out something very powerful, the combination of those rich interactions, plus it being a communication system.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, so there's been, you know, kind of some concern and chatter in industry, about the pros and cons of slack, you know, using that for your team, you have any advice for businesses that use it, you know, startups, product teams, yeah, any advice to stay focused and eliminate some of those distractions that might come from it,

Pete Bernardo:  If you think of slack, like an operating system them like they want you to, but if you start to use it, you, I think you'll see it more and more, or if you've been using it for a while, I think you can see as interactions get more rich, it could be an operating system for thought about as an operating system. If you think about it, that way you also have to be cognizant of on an individual level, how you interact with, it has to be adjusted. And so I think the default experience of slack is very much relative to the lowest common denominator with with using it. So if you have someone on there, that's constantly blowing up a channel dropping gifts in like you're and if you're not, like, into that your perception of it could be negative. But I think that that I think that is not necessarily the end all, because you get to tweak the experience, you get to set your own notifications and mute channels, and, and be part of it, not part of different channels, I think you get to control that. And so like you would with your phone where you say, you know what, I want to get notifications from this app verse that app or I want to set up Do Not Disturb from these times, like your own individual preferences, you adjust your phone's OS, I think you need to look at slack that way. And so I think, you know, organizations that are thinking about adopting slack and get the sense that it's just this, you know, fire hose of stuff really needs to take a step back and understand, like, each individual gets to make it their own.  But then on top of that, the interactions that can happen through slack for your organization, the customer interactions, that's really powerful. And so I know, slack has been pushing a lot of like these custom workflows, and getting more in the enterprise. But if you think about it from like, a software development angle, if you want to, like, get a new GitHub repo launched. And like, maybe that's a really basic example. But you have to go to an owner or an admin on the GitHub account and ask them to launch it. But if the owner or admin has confidence that they can build a workflow to where you could do that, you can just run a command in slack to say, you know, GitHub, build new repo and with this name, and it will just go and do it. And so I think at a certain level organizations that think about the interactions and the integrations that you could have a slack will really see through the noise that it could create, and understand that it can be a central source of productivity for your organization, if you customize it to be that way.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, I think one one thing slack may be able to do a little bit better is just those, you know, we talked about notifications or emails and stuff, you know, something that, that the communicate out to people that, hey, you can actually customize these certain things, or did you know, you can do all of this, you know, with Slack, you know, kind of prompting people as they use it so that they know that this isn't just the default and I know they do some of that. But you know, I would like to see more of that, you know, for me personally.

Pete Bernardo:  I've ebbed and flowed through this. Like, at one point I had Do Not Disturb set for basically 24 hours a day. And I'm like, I hate notifications. Like my phone. I have, like, I think two apps that is a lot are allowed to show notifications. And I hate this idea that something can pull me out of what I'm working on, or what I'm trying to focus on. And so I think for a lot of people, that's their experience early with slack is like, this thing's just this, this fountain of information, and just spewing information and spewing, you know, trying to grab my attention. But again, that's just comes down to, you know, breaking through that and setting it up for yourself and getting it to a point where you can do your work and leverage this great, great tool.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, definitely. Sticker Mule put out a really good article about, you know, their guide to slack and how they use it.

Pete Bernardo:  Like the rules? 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, the rules of of kind of, you know, what happens, I think it's easy to have conversations, you know, office slack right in the hallway about, hey, there's a certain to do, or, hey, remind you to do this. But I think they're just good outlines of, you know, how you should, you know, manage projects or things that that come up that need to be added, I think the biggest one that they made is just, you know, having an integration with with your task manager app like travel a Sano assign a Pivotal Tracker, you know, whatever, us and not assigning someone something in slack in a conversation, but just go ahead and creating a card. And that's one of those integrations, like you mentioned before, that you can just create a card right, from Slack, you know, on the trailer board you want that really simplifies some of that. And yeah, it's interesting.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, it's, it's very neat, I'm excited to see where they go, it's just, you know, it's like intercom, like we talked about earlier, you know, on the surface, if you don't dig into it, and put the effort into it, it just going to look like a chat tool. And with Slack, it's just going to look like a source of distraction. But I think organizations that spend the time to really understand intercom or really understand slack can realize that these tools are really powerful when customized for kind of your individual preferences, and also the purposes of the organization.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, one of the other slack slack bots that we use is called Tatsu. And that basically runs our daily stand ups - so every day, every day, like at 8:15, it'll ping you know, the first person and then they can go, you know, if they don't respond, it automatically skips to the next person. I actually have Jamie Wright, who's one of the creators of Tatus, coming on the show in a couple weeks. But are there any other slack bots or slack tools that you guys integrate with, for your product teams or your customers? 

Pete Bernardo:  There's, you know, from a DevOps standpoint, I've found a lot of the powerful bots to be on that side of it. So server status, you know, that kind of stuff, getting information that hits the entire team at once and you and have a conversation about it, you know, it's really interesting, the intercom bought the intercom integration is really interesting. So these are more just funneling those notifications into slack. And then that hitting the right team, I think in years past, you'd get an email, and you wouldn't have a mechanism to have a conversation around it, that now that you know, the support tickets and kind of the server status, all that that hits the right group of people in that group can have a conversation in real time, I found those to be really powerful use cases for Slack, you know, the JIRA integration or the trailer integration, you know, those are great, because, again, you could have a conversation about it and say, okay, we need to add a story about that. And you can just do that all through slack. So, yeah, I mean, there's a, there's, there's a ton of bots that are out there. And understanding what works best for your organization is, is hard, but but I think it's ultra powerful.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Any plans to make Frank a slack bot integration?

Pete Bernardo:  I think so. I think we will. There's a couple people Office Vibs, and a couple other startups that are in a similar space, have their own bots that do something similar, and we've always talked about it, you know, again, I think if it was our full time gig, it would have already happened. But, you know, balancing where we put our effort for Frank is really important, because we just don't have that much time.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah, yeah, that's, that's always tough. As someone who's, you know, you guys have a consultancy, and then you also have a product team that's focused on certain things, and right, and then obviously, Frank, is something you're doing outside of that on your own with Larry, I believe it was. So that's, you know, a lot to focus your attention on.

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. So, as we as we kind of start to finish up here, you know, I think design plays a big role. But what, what, what role do you think design has in business success, you know, on and offline, right, in technology, and out of technology? 

Pete Bernardo:  What I hear nowadays, when I hear design and think about it relative to business, and kind of, when I talk to the designers at 352, or just talk to designers in general, I like for them to look at design, in terms of what is the tightest loop on a piece of functionality, I can design that achieves kind of what the end user wants. So I think, I think often it's really low cost for us to over design, you know, you're just moving things around, and sketch or Photoshop or whatever. And, you know, you want to be creative, and wow, people with the look of something. But when I look at design, I, you know - you talked earlier about jobs to be done. And I think as a designer, learning that early, really thinking about what the end user is trying to accomplish. And designing to that should be your barometer for success on a design. And I worry that right now we have dribble and Instagram and, and be hands where we're all looking to see how many likes it got. And we're all looking to see kind of like, How pretty we can make it. But the reality of it is the end users interaction with it will make or break the, the goal or the business that that is leveraging it. So to me for design, it's, it's really thinking about what does the end user want to accomplish, and then seeking the feedback, to see if it's working, you know, the, the last thing you want to do is launch it, and then, you know, put your head in the sand on whether it works or doesn't work, you know, that to me, is the difference between designers that are early in their career and, and designers that have matured and have become lead and kind of senior designers. The lead for me is not timing the lead to me with getting the title of a lead designer is having the humility to seek feedback and make your design better through the eyes of who who's ever using it.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Right. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's so funny how many times like, you know, we work with corporations, and I'm sure you guys do as well. But you go into something, and you say, you guys have used this for, you know, for 5-10 years - and it looks pretty awful, right? But it's solving that main problem, you know, it's, it's getting the user to that outcome that they want, you know, and, I think users are a lot more open to using products that solve a problem that are ugly, then problems that are pretty that don't do anything for them. And that's where you see a lot of a lot of people, you know, falter and fail. And, you know, hey, looks great, but it doesn't help them out in any way, doesn't provide value.

Pete Bernardo:  I think as a designer, you'll you'll often salivate at that project where it just looks so bad and visually, you know, or aesthetically, you know, that it could be so much better. But, but you get lost in the I can make this look so much better. And you you sort of forget about the - well, is it going to work more effectively for the end user? Or how how am I going to improve that aspect of it, you know  that is something you just cannot lose sight of. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are looking to launch their first business, whether that's in software or physical product? 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I think we talked about a little bit earlier, you know, and you alluded to two jobs to be done. And I talked about like, kind of value proposition design, you know, so maybe three things, you know, I think understanding what your audience is looking to accomplish should be critical to what you build, you know, you yourself experiencing a pain point, believe it or not, might not be what everyone experiences. And so understanding kind of the pains and gains of the audience that you're ultimately trying to reach should be critical to understanding what you build and why you're building your product. And then the third thing would be ultimately seek and build trust with that audience, you don't want to build a product to no one like, you don't want to launch to no one. So putting the effort in early to build an audience and build trust and build trust in the subject that you're looking to pursue is always fruitful. And I think a lot of people get caught up in this idea of, well, I can only start my marketing once the product is launched. And I think that's so short sighted, I think there are pains and gains that the audience you're looking to accomplish experience regardless of whether your product ever hits market. And those are all things that you can start building trust on. And those are all things that you can have that will allow you to have interactions with those audiences to better inform your product. And so for entrepreneurs, you know, don't hold your product so tight to your chest, that you're scared to hear what's going to make it better.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Do you have any...so you mentioned kind of building an audience and, you know, that's one of the things that that you've learned in that, you know, we try to do as well, but is there something that a few key tips on building an audience and building that trust? You know, before you build -  doing that customer development before you actually develop the product.

Pete Bernardo:  Sure. I mean, I, think if you're looking to have like a no BS approach to this, I would read anything from Amy Hoy and Alex Hellman on Unicorn Free and 30 by 500. Their products are typically or their mentality is typically geared towards kind of people, bootstrapping or individuals looking to bootstrap. But I think there's a great relevance to corporations and larger teams trying to build a product. And so their big thing is, you know, before understanding what you need to build, you have to understand what are the needs, wants, and kind of what the audience buys. And then leveraging those things to better understand what small bits of value you could put out to the market. And so if you're looking to do any audience building or understanding how you can speak to your audience, that's where I would start. I would start with unicornfree.com and kind of Amy Hoy and everything she writes. I'm a big believer in her mentality to building product.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Perfect, yeah, thanks. Thanks, Pete. This has been great so far, just to learn more about you learn about, you know, the products and stuff that you're building, how you guys build products. Where can people follow you and learn more about what you do and stay updated?

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, I really enjoyed this, too. If you're interested in learning more about me, I'm pretty much Pete Bernardo: on like, every service and probably the best way is through Twitter. So it's Pete and then it's B-E-R-N-A-R-D-O. And during college football season, I will be talking a lot about the Miami Hurricanes. So deal with it. But overall, I just I'll retweet things that are interesting to me from a product perspective and kind of put some stuff out there that I think are relative to people that are interested in building product and kind of thinking about design and user experience with products.

Andrew Verboncouer:  Sounds great. Thanks again Pete. 

Pete Bernardo:  Yeah, it's been awesome Andrew, I really appreciate it. 

Andrew Verboncouer:  Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for coming on. Thanks for listening to Seaworthy. Connect with us on Twitter @seaworthyfm and make sure to subscribe, ask questions, and leave feedback on the remarks. We'll see you again in two weeks

show notes
  • UX
  • Using Intercom for Segmentation
  • Utilizing Slack Bots to Add Value