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May 19, 2023
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Insights from a Product Manager: Building an App from Scratch at ServiceRocket

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I’m Wilmer Medina, Product Manager at ServiceRocket. As part of the rapid application development (RAD) squad based out of Santiago, Chile, I work with engineers to manage the development of our Atlassian apps portfolio.

I have been part of this team for about a year, and it has been a fantastic journey so far. We have a diverse app portfolio and continuously work to improve and discover exciting new things.

I’m writing this blog to detail my journey of building an app from scratch at ServiceRocket, and what it takes to move things from idea to execution. In this post, I’ll outline the more general steps for this process so anyone — regardless of their technical background — can understand what goes on behind the scenes at ServiceRocket. So let’s dive in!

The Boulder Problem

As an amateur climber, building a new product is like solving a boulder problem. For those who may not be familiar with the term, a boulder problem is a climbing term that essentially means mapping out a specific route to climb bouldering walls in a gym or outdoors. 

Bouldering and app development relate because there is a goal and multiple ways of solving it for both. The challenge is that you need to figure out the right way to start before jumping in.

An example of a typical bouldering wall. Each color represents a different potential path up the wall.

However, the biggest difference between climbing a wall and building an app is that I have support from an incredibly talented and multicultural team here at ServiceRocket. Having them by my side makes solving problems much easier.

Planning the Route

We start with the discovery stage to ensure we’re building an app that solves a problem and serves our market. This stage is full of interviews, getting in touch with different stakeholders, building personas and understanding the specific problems the app could solve.

Even when I didn’t understand the problem in its entirety, it was just a matter of understanding it well enough to start shaping a solution.

In this stage, we rely heavily on brainstorming, leveraging tools such as Miro or Figma to begin shaping our ideas. And it is our idea because it’s always a team effort. 

What I like to call the Product Trio (User Experience, Engineering and Product) are always there for me, giving me the confidence that my team has my back and we can push through any problem together.

At the end of this stage, we should have an idea. Of course, it will change a lot as we work through the problems that arise, but we have to start somewhere, right?

Navigating the Course

When building an app from scratch, you need to consider two key questions:

1. Is the Idea Scalable?

As a product manager, I focus on four primary fronts:

  • Viability: Will our approach work?
  • Feasibility: How easy or hard is it to do?
  • Usability: How easily will this solve the problem? 
  • Value: What does this provide to users that other options do not?

With those fronts covered, we’re building the conviction that the idea we’re about to build will exceed our customers’ expectations and be scalable enough to ensure the product meets our vision.

2. Does the Idea Help to Solve a Strategic Goal?

Even when all our products align with our vision, building a product will need to answer to a strategic goal. For example, entering a new market, exploring new platforms and making our business stronger and more diverse are just a few strategic goals we may need to align with.

Building a new app brings new opportunities and challenges, including technical, architectural, growth or business challenges. By building something, we ask ourselves the right questions and, hopefully, find the correct answers quickly.

Scaling the Wall

After understanding the problem, coming up with an idea and having enough conviction in what we’re about to do, it’s finally time to start building the app.

To start, we gain expertise by:

  • Reading documentation
  • Understanding the technical components
  • Getting familiar with supported frameworks
  • Setting up our tools

Being patient and understanding was a key learning for me during this stage. There can be a lot of misunderstandings, bad estimations and overall friction between the business and technical side. However, the engineering team will learn the technical implications of building our product idea over time, creating the starting point for our idea to become a reality.

Here at ServiceRocket, I have the opportunity to work with talented software engineers who are willing to share their knowledge. Working with these gifted individuals makes my job more exciting because I see my team's solution take shape. They truly make something out of nothing.

Some of our engineers in Chile working through a problem.

Reaching the Top

Once we build the app, the last step is taking it to market. I explore different options to make our product attractive to our customers and profitable for the business. I have to learn how this new app can contribute to our business model. That means exploring similar apps to understand how they profit from their solutions and thinking of disruptive ways to make our solution more appealing.

This stage is very exciting for me as a product manager because it’s finally time to show the world the work we’ve done to solve a problem. It truly showcases the collaborative efforts of our team and allows me to identify the value of our work.

A Final Thought

Working at ServiceRocket allows me to work with amazing people, giving me the confidence to build products that exceed our customers' expectations and positively impact how they do things. Ultimately, all the learning my team and I gained through these experiences is invaluable.

If any of this sounds like something you’d be interested in doing, I encourage you to check out our Product Manager page for more insight into the team and see the available product roles at ServiceRocket.

ServiceRocket delivers powerful, yet simple-to-use apps with the best customer support in the Atlassian ecosystem. Every day.

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