Five ideas to get your teams excited about product development

Five ideas to get your teams excited about product development

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Want your company to be more innovative? Then get everyone involved, not just the technology team. That advice comes from Sumeet Bhatia, CTO of TigerText, which provides secure, real-time mobile messaging for the enterprise, allowing companies that handle sensitive information to replace less-secure messaging applications.

TigerText lives and dies by the continuing innovation of its app, and Bhatia says that getting the whole company involved has been a key part of building that innovation culture. Here is how his company does it:
  1. Let new hires test your product. When you work with a product every day, it can become hard to see what is easy or difficult about it. New entrants to your company can be a valuable resource. We have a motto: 'If you can't get up and running on the TigerText app in 30 seconds, then we've failed.' When we hire new employees, we immediately set them up a TigerText username and see how easy and intuitive the app is for them. If they hit an obstacle, we review and adjust.
  2. Put a bounty on bugs. Giving your employees a chance to play with a new product or feature and an incentive for seeking out problems can save a lot of headaches later on. When we create a new feature, we have the entire company beta-test it before releasing it to the general public. We have employees track bugs through TestFlight. We even offer incentives for employees who track the most bugs. Currently, there is a $100 prize for this week's #1 bug catcher.
  3. Bring tech and non-tech together often to exchange information. TigerText does this by holding a monthly Lunch and Learn session, where the product and engineering teams tell the entire company what products are and features are in the works. And the information flow goes both ways. We also hold weekly all-hands meetings where the entire company shares updates from every department: Marketing, Product, Client Success, Business Development, Sales, and Engineering.
  4. Hold a hackathon. Hackathons work well to create more innovation in many companies, and TigerText is no exception. We once held an internal hackathon for our engineers with the goal to have fun and hack away. We never expected it to lead to a new feature, but it did. A few team members ended up creating a cool hack which we later named TigerPage and integrated into the product. It's a unique pager number associated with your TigerText account that lets one leave a voice memo for a TigerText user. TigerPage turned out to be one of TigerText's most valued features. And the company is now holding both internal and external hackathons more frequently.
  5. Open the door to Shadow IT. Many tech leaders fret when employees adopt solutions that haven't been vetted and approved by IT. Bhatia takes the contrary approach. We actively encourage employees to seek out and use the tools they feel with help make them, or our overall organization, more effective and successful. We're very open to using third-party solutions to help us make our app better and make our employees more productive. We like to use tech to build better tech.

Read this interview with John Michelsen, CTO of CA Technologies about how CIOs can formalize the practice of generating ideas that bear fruit.

Sumeet Bhatia is the chief technology officer at TigerText, a provider of secure, real-time mobile messaging for the enterprise. Sumeet has over 17 years of experience building and deploying large scale web and mobile applications covering a broad spectrum of fields including healthcare, media, real estate and automotive. Most recently, Sumeet served as VP of Product for Slingshot Labs where he was responsible for social media and mobile app development. Sumeet also spent four years managing a SaaS healthcare platform for Specialty Laboratories (now part of Quest Diagnostics). Sumeet received his BS, Computer Science and Engineering from UCLA.

Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and columnist for Inc.com. She is co-author of "The Geek Gap: Why Business and Technology Professionals Don't Understand Each Other and Why They Need Each Other to Survive," as well as several other books. She lives in Snohomish, Washington.

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