Finding market fit

Qualifying if you have solved a big enough problem and made the lives of your users that much better is paramount to ensuring you're on the right path to market fit.

When we embarked on this journey to build InOrbit, we had a feeling that solving a problem like "misalignment" will make a big difference in how teams work in their companies. We had a hunch that if we can somehow use an activity like stand-ups and keep that information being shared in a meaningful way, we would be able to build a tool that will help to connect all the dots.

Our hypothesis.

Can we use the information shared at stand-ups to build a tool to help solve issues of team misalignment and can we connect the stand-up items to the mission of the company?

We started to reach out to individuals within our network and asked the following questions:

  1. “How important is the company mission to you and the company?”
  2. "What was your company's mission?"
  3. "What are your departments or teams commitments to hitting the mission?"
  4. "Was it clear how other teams were contributing to the mission?"
  5. "As a team member were you clear about how your contribution mattered?"
  6. "Were you clear about how your teammate's contribution mattered?"
  7. “How did you inform each other about your priorities?”

We discovered some useful trends.

In most cases a company's mission was often hard to remember and not often referred to, additionally, it was hard to find out and to understand how a team or a department's contribution mattered to the company's mission. There often lacked a measure of success and a means to know that you're on track which leads to a big difference in the way a team functioned and reported. Silos and isolation often occurred and made it difficult to gather insights leaving teams lost by the lack of transparency, which leads to team leaders often being left to their methods to get alignment across the company. These fluctuations lead to people relying on an array of tools to manage their priorities. The wealth of tools meant that the source of truth varied from team to team and for teams that ran stand-ups the information shared were often valuable but hard to remember. For those who missed the stand-up session or meetings would mean that they missed out on the information being shared.

We have found several big problems to solve!

It was apparent that we had an opportunity here. So as part of the envisioning, we started to look deeper into the potential of each of the following areas. As a team, we started with using “What if statements”

  1. What if InOrbit was able to go beyond an individual's focus and align teams or a department's effort toward realising the mission of the company?
  2. What if we were able to solve the issues with finding the source of truth on priorities and focus?
  3. What if we were able to reduce the operational complexity of how teams are organised and helped with reporting?
  4. Could we reduce the hours a team member spends on collating and developing reports for updates that were difficult to find?

After writing and rewriting our statements it finally led to InOrbits first manifestation as a Focus tool. This was to be our land strategy. To solve a small problem and to expand into solving the bigger problems for companies and their people.

We built the first iteration of InOrbit and its first features were Focus and Sessions. This was the feature that people use to describe their days Focus and Achievements much like stand-ups. To ease the sharing of the priorities we designed and built Sessions, its purpose is to showcase the priorities of team members. The nice thing about sessions is that it was specifically designed to be shown on a screen and we keep a copy of the completed Session in Session History which allows anyone who has missed the Session to get up to speed quickly. It also has the benefit of being asynchronous and open to anyone interested in what was the achievements and focus of the team.

We were excited and started dogfooding the solution, it helped us with transparency and we were aligned on what we needed to do. This still needed to be validated outside of our team and led us to reach out to Jully Kim who is the Director of Engineering Programs at Zendesk.

Jully liked the value statement of InOrbit and said that the focus on alignment and enablement was what she spends much of her time solving with her investment in culture, leadership, process and methods at Zendesk. To solve the problems Jully used many tools which created a lot of difficulties. This suggested to us that Jully was looking for a tool like InOrbit on her quest to affect company transformation and influence culture. During our feedback session, Jully highlighted a harsh but critical view which was “as the product sits today it didn’t live up to the value statement we had pitched.” This resulted in us re-evaluating our entire offering.

We had missed the most important part of the proposition “Alignment”. Was our land strategy strong enough and did we cover enough of the foundational parts of our product to start solving for “Alignment”?

Our validation effort continued, and this led to our next meeting with Catherine Batacan who was the Design Manager for Indeed. Much the same with Zendesk we proceeded to pitch the value proposition and showcased our solution. Catherine liked our product and value statements, she quickly resonated with InOrbit and saw an opportunity to solve the grey areas between teams and between departments. The issue that Catherine raised was that we weren’t very clear about enabling and guiding her on how to carry out this behavioural change in her immediate team. The main questions raised were “How do I roll this out and who do I need to involve to get this product rolling?” This lack of clarity was obvious and led us to our next realisation.

We haven’t addressed the fundamental onboarding experience.

After many more sessions with people of varied backgrounds like Directors of Agencies, Product Marketers, Product Designers, Engineers, Program Managers, People Managers and Organisational leaders, we felt a little battered and bruised but thankful for the knowledge we had gained along the journey.

The biggest and most important call-out was that we were on the right path, however, the glaring omissions in our product meant that our scope had increased, and we needed to make sure that our expression of what it means to be a company, a department, and a team needed to be stronger. We needed to give an experience that emphasised the alignment of objectives and projects. This resulted in investing more time in getting the foundation right to layer our perspective on how to ladder up contributions, create transparency across the contexts of people, teams, departments and company. We are now starting to solidify our value proposition. In the following months of working on the alignment part of our product, we landed on a few key realisations. Alignment is great but to what purpose and what impact? How do we make sure that the information we are capturing resonated and was ultimately useful?

This was the point where we invested in Mission, Vision and Measures.

With InOrbit the following features meant that with Mission it allowed the company to express its purpose, with Vision it allowed the company to express its short term position and with Measures it allowed companies to express important metrics and ultimately to help gauge the effectiveness of the work being done in each department and team. With these new additions, we felt more confident that we have the right foundation in place to live up to our value proposition.

We reached out to Paul Napper Head of Product and Experience at Lodge Technology and wanted to see if our efforts lived up to our initial pitch. We revised our pitch, updated the demo instance and organised our feedback session with Paul.

Paul was impressed! Our efforts yielded the results we were after. It was clear to him what we were trying to solve for and that the investment in building the core features of our product meant that we were now in a good place to solve the alignment issue. We spoke about each part of our product in detail, however, our initial thought that Focus for teams were higher in importance against everything else didn’t have as much of an impact as the other features we had introduced. The role of Focus was not as important to Paul. The other key take away was that we had not invested enough into our onboarding experience. At Lodge Technology and from Pauls previous experiences in launching and building products, 80% of his time was spent on onboarding, reducing churn and increasing product adoption. Onboarding was a major part of the experience that we under-invested and needed to remedy immediately. In the weeks leading to this blog entry, Valter and Vincent had spent considerable effort into designing and building our onboarding experience and the three of us feel so proud that our journey has yielded a product that we feel will truly make the lives of people in companies more meaningful and that we are solving for the issues caused by misalignment.

InOrbit has reached a state of maturity and polish that lives up to its core purpose of helping teams to achieve their companies mission and to reduce the churn caused by misalignment. We are now at a point where we are helping teams to align and providing a space for teams to feel ownership over their efforts.

Next chapter

Beta and beyond

Previously on this series

Banking on bootstrap