Balancing Release Cycles and Real-time Feedback
John Milne – 05/18/2023
Recently, over a coffee with a few colleagues, we discussed how at times, our job is to live in the “gray.” As product managers, we make decisions based on constantly changing, imperfect information. However, the one thing that remains constant is the strong relationships we have with clients of SS&C’s Black Diamond® Wealth Platform. Our client-centric service approach ensures the product team receives feedback and input, which empowers us to make the best decisions possible.
If you read about development ideologies, the evolution from “waterfall” to “agile” processes has played a critical role in the impact we can deliver as a product development organization. The legacy “waterfall” methodology is much more rigid, and development schedules are solidified months, if not years, in advance. As a result, implementing changes tends to be a long, slow, and drawn-out process.
However, by leveraging an agile methodology, our teams can stay focused on the most impactful roadmap items. In fact, we have tailored our processes to allow the various product teams to constantly evaluate what they are working on and make changes as necessary. For example, the team schedules eight enhancement releases throughout the year; this cadence allows us to package together new functionality with the supporting documentation and communication required. In addition, we are conscious of the effort it takes our clients to implement and adopt new features. Therefore, two releases per quarter enables us to deliver new capabilities quickly without overwhelming our audience. Plus, if we need to take a release cycle to solidify tooling or improve performance based on client feedback, our development teams have room to make those decisions.
It is also important to note we release code to production daily. These platform updates may be visible to the user (i.e., a bug fix), whereas other times, the update may go completely unnoticed. This flexibility allows product teams to incrementally release code to our production environment as it becomes ready, which can mitigate the need for a bigger release in the future. Additionally, in specific scenarios, this may allow us to get functionality out to advisory firms faster, as we can also activate certain features on a firm-by-firm basis.
With frequent releases throughout the year, our clients can provide real-time feedback, and, in turn, we can incorporate that back into the product. This iterative process is critical to our work to move the platform forward while ensuring we solve the problem we set out to fix. And problem-solving is indeed the crux of our job.