In this blog, I summarize the year 2021 from my own perspective and explain you how we have involved our customers and users in the product development.
Dialogues with customers
I work as a product marketing manager in our KeyDuct team, meaning that I translate needs and messages between users and the developers of KeyAqua, KeyDH and KeyGas products. In our Product Strategy, we have defined the direction of our products for the next three years. Dialogues with our customers played an important role when defining the direction. The project clarified which new features our customers need the most. Equally important, however, were the findings related to the improvement of our existing tools. On the other hand, it is important for us to develop the product forward, but it is equally important to invest in the usability and user experience of existing functions. For this reason, I have spent a significant portion of my working hours this year engaging in dialogue with our software users. We have wanted to involve our customers very actively so that the everyday perspective can be heard and taken into account. In general, this means that usability and UX is also highlighted in our product strategy and we take it into account in our projects.
Joint development team
In practical level, user orientation is implemented for example in our joint development team with our customers. This means that we regularly organize brainstorming meetings and involve our users in the product development process to define where we should develop the products. In addition, we are investing more in the preparation of use case descriptions when we are in the feature planning phase. We’ve also started a usability testing policy, and that’s a big help to us in improving the usability of the software. Usability testing has been of direct benefit to the development of our SMS service, fault map and pipeline forms. Some of the improvements have already been implemented, some will be implemented during the spring of 2022. In addition, usability testing and dialogues help us better understand customer and user needs, which is reflected in the long-term perspective and understanding the customer needs.
Image: joint development team meeting in Turku 2021
Meeting our users in the field
In addition to user involvement in the ideation and the product development, it is important that we also meet concretely users in the field. Online meeting software Teams is a really handy tool that allows you to easily go through a wide variety of topics with many stakeholders at the same time. However, it does not completely replace face-to-face meeting and field visits: in the user’s own environment and meeting users with different use cases is really important. Fortunately, the opportunity for this was early in the year when Olli and I got to visit and learn about the maintenance operations in streetlight networks. In addition, I was able to visit several different customers in December, and we discussed, for example, the needs of surveyors and mobile users, the needs for service and maintenance, and the needs for data transfer between different software solutions.
Image: meeting users in the field is important (and a nice variation for your own work!)
The December 2021 customer meeting trip I will definitely remember for a long time. Actually my long-term dream came true as I travelled through Finland with a van. I am outdoor-minded person and I have been planning to rent a van for a long time, but have not found a suitable time. Now I compared prices of hotels and train trips, suggested this new way of travelling to my employer, and got permission to make my dream come true. Thank you Keypro for your flexible attitude! I am certain that this method of implementation was of great benefit to the company and customers: I was able to move more flexibly between locations, and I am sure that a different environment also brought to mind ideas that would not have come up in a routine office environment. This brings together two things that I think customer-oriented product development needs: 1) brainstorming together and 2) an environment that helps to ideate.
Image: Creative ideas require creative working environment
Deepening partnerships has also been topic for 2021. For example we have gained new technology partners within the Smart Water project. Furthermore, during the year we have also implemented and planned joint projects with water sector consultant companies. With new partnerships, we want to help our customers in their every-day routines as much as possible. In addition, it is important for us to move data efficiently from one software solution to another and to enable data analyses and processing, and for this we certainly need productized data transfer methods (such as the new KeyDuct Rest API) but especially our partners.
Summary of the year 2021
The year reminds me of a year when we got a lot of things to either the finish line or the top that I used to miss when I used to be a KeyAqua user in water utility. For example, the KeyDuct Rest API, the pipe classification tool, and the renovation planning tool are high on the list. In addition, we are now on the right track in terms of usability and service and maintenance functions, of course there is still work to be done. In 2022, I believe these will move a lot forward. The renovation planning tool is my own favorite for next year’s topic, in addition to the new mobile interface. In addition, we want to develop even more how we communicate about planned and new activities.
These actions mentioned in this blog are examples of how important water, district heating, and gas customers are to us, and efforts have been made to develop software and improve our service. Of course, user-oriented product development requires a lot from us, but we also want to thank our customers and users: you have been actively and committedly involved. Thank you for your help and trust in 2021, and we will continue with the same good mood together in 2022!
Wishing you all a wonderful year 2022,