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How to Get Service and Software Teams on the Same Agenda

If your software and service teams vibe, your company will thrive.

60% of employees don’t know their company’s mission statement, according to an Achievers survey of the North American workforce. That’s alarming, considering the success of any company depends on the ability of its workers to work towards a common goal.

Now, think about your business. When a big problem arises, is every team or department on the same page? Do they know the mission of the project? Chances are the interests of one or more teams are misaligned with what the company aims to do. This is most likely the result of not adequately defining project goals and poor communication overall.

Since companies depend on building products that actually solve the needs of their users, getting service and software teams on the same agenda is essential. In fact, it could eliminate mistakes and efficiencies—and deliver lasting success. Here’s how you can get these two vital teams on the same page:

Leadership must develop a culture of accountability and transparency

This necessitates executives and managers clearly articulate expectations and priorities for various projects. There are many ways this can be achieved. Whatever method you employ, you must communicate effectively so that your service and software teams know the direction and how to work together properly.

For example, Michael Pryor, CEO of Trello, says leaders should update everyone in the company once a week on the goals and progress of projects, as well as any new issues and positive developments. This enables a transparent flow of information and ensures customer service and software engineers understand not just their roles, but also how they are intertwined (you should use workflow tools here as well). Additionally, sending a summary of the meeting to all employees will make certain everyone remains attuned to the direction ahead.

At UE.co, we have quick, daily meetings that allow a different department each day to give updates on the projects they are working on and share any obstacles that are in their way. Many times this has cleared up any confusion or lack of communication that could have cost us time and effort later on.

Igal Hauer, a software entrepreneur, offers some solid advice on this idea as well. He says to involve employees in the planning process. Allow service teams the chance to voice their ideas or concerns to the software department, and vice-versa. By democratizing the process, you can reach better decisions for the road ahead.

Service and software teams must understand each other’s value

It’s easy to think of software engineers as just sitting in a room writing code, never really getting to fully experience the product. This disconnect is something I actively discourage and find ways to avoid at my company, UE.co.

Here’s the thing: Software engineering wouldn’t exist without a customer. And the bridge to the customer is the service team.

Dale Cantwell, a software engineer for Intercom, puts it wisely, “The best software isn’t built in a coding factory. It’s built by engineers who are dialled into the needs of their customers. And that requires empathetic engineers ready to listen to what customers are saying.”

Once your engineers understand that, they’ll see the value of the service team. They’re there to interact with clients and deliver insights to those that build the product—which is them!

As a UC Santa Cruz guide notes, the service team “monitors the health of the service and makes recommendations and decisions for changes and improvements.”

In short, just as we often discuss the importance of sales and marketing working together, so too should service and software teams. Make sure these two are interacting and exchanging information and ideas regularly. Also, take time to recognize when the two departments work together effectively to solve an issue; this will show both teams the value of being on the same page.

Align performance metrics across both teams

Identifying clear metrics is very effective at motivating your service and software teams. Just make sure the KPIs and performance metrics are aligned with the company’s broader strategy.

Let’s look at Microsoft as an example of how you can align performance metrics among your service and software teams. A summary of their mission statement is “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Now, let’s look at how metrics can be used to create key metrics. Anita George, principal test manager in IT engineering at Microsoft, writes that the big idea is really, “Quality First, Customer First.” That means both service and software teams should have their performance measured in KPIs like:

  • MTTD/MTTR (mean time to detect an issue/mean time to resolve issues)

  • Customer satisfaction level with how an issue was handled by both teams

  • Customer churn/retention levels due to poor customer service and/or product quality

Coming up with performance metrics that work for your service and software team can be tough. Stacey Barr, a performance measure specialist, recommends avoiding vague words like productivity or cost-efficiency. They simply don’t motivate the way concrete numbers do.

As she states, “If people don’t share a single, sharply focused, easily imaginable vision of a result they want to create, any effort to measure that result will waste time.” What you need are true measures, which is “data that we have analysed to give us some evidence of the degree to which a particular result is occurring.”

When service and software teams have shared metrics that they can grasp and see clearly, then they’ll be more motivated to get on the same agenda. Because they’ll both have a clear vision of where they’re going.

Service and software teams working together: They key to success

By defining goals and expectations to everyone, making responsibilities clear, and encouraging transparency, you can enhance communication and collaboration between your service and software teams. To get the most out of that collaboration, make sure they understand each other’s value and implement shared performance metrics that align with the company’s strategy.

If you can achieve this, then you’ll have your service and software departments truly on the same agenda. When that happens, it will lead to a higher quality product and more satisfied customers. That’s what you need to achieve long-term success. 

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