Life as a meshi: Working in Customer Result Teams

In the previous post we introduced what a customer result is. In this post we want to show you how The meshcloud way of work forms cross-functional teams that own the customer results they work on.

Most customer results are scoped to a timeframe between 4 and 12 weeks worth of team work. This means that during this time the customer result team forms, establishes a firm grip on the problem space, delivers a result and validates the desired outcome was achieved.

Forming Customer Result Teams

Our Customer Results board is the central operational planning mechanism for the company. We believe that teams work best when everyone is committed to the same goal. We therefore empower meshis to choose customer results they work on on their own.

How does that work in practice? As a meshi specializing in a specific function (e.g. you're a Marketing Manager or Software Engineer) you look through the next highest prioritized customer results. Do you see yourself in the dream team and think you can make an outstanding contribution to this result? Great, you assign yourself to the team.

Kicking it off

As soon as the team is fully assembled, you meet with the team to kick off your mission. In this first meeting you disseminate the customer result together and explore the problem space. Together with your team you form an understanding of the challenge ahead and start making a plan on how you will tackle it. This may involve building a backlog of user stories, arranging customer interviews or any other activity and method that you find suitable to achieve the goal. While there's an established set of best practices and tooling available, we trust teams to know best what works form them.

Every customer result has an assigned supporter who's role is to support and mentor the team in these activities. Supporters are experienced senior meshis whose job is to make sure the team stays on the path to success. The first thing the supporter will guide the team towards is how to make a solid plan and condense it to a form where you can present it at our weekly company all-hands.

Flock and Customer Result Work

As a meshi working in a customer result team, you work on the mission and act like a "liaison officer" to your flock (what this is will be covered in the next blog post). Let's illustrate this with an example. Suppose you're a software engineer working in a customer result and your team has determined that the best way to achieve the desired outcome is to add a new product feature. The product implementation and its development process are owned by your flock, you follow them when working on the feature implementation. Acting as the team's liaison officer to the product, you coordinate any necessary product architecture and implementation decisions with your flock and help the customer result team understand how the feature can be rolled out to production.

Syncing with your Customer Result Team

We believe that meshis are best positioned to manage the operational work they are doing. That's why meshis are responsible for managing their own time to work on customer results and working on flock duties. Customer result teams therefore arrange their own work schedule when they will be working together on the project and how they will meet and coordinate the ongoing work. In practice, most teams use a weekly sync meeting and have virtual collaboration spaces (e.g. in our gather.town office, ClickUp lists, channel on slack etc.)

Wrapping it Up

As your customer result nears completion, the team and its supporter focus on evaluating the outcome by collecting customer feedback and metrics. It's important to plan this phase well ahead of time, as collecting feedback from the real world takes time and patience. Nonetheless, it's really important to conduct this rigorously to put the customer result to a definitive end. Definitive end means that you share at an all-hands which outcomes we can celebrate, and from which we can learn and improve.

During the evaluation phase of a customer result, your team may have already identified other valuable customer results to explore. You feed those back in the process and already look for the next customer results to join. Do You Want to Empower Humans to Build a Better Future? Then we'd love to meet you! Do You Want to Empower Humans to Build a Better Future? Do it! Find our jobs here.


Life as a meshi: What is a Customer Result

Since Customer Results are such a central concept to our way of work, this post will explain what they are, why we use them and how we organize our work around them.

Customer Results Focus on the Outcome

Outcomes Graphic

As the name gives away, customer results are about just two things: customers, and results.

This means that when describing customer results, we focus on the outcome for our current and future customers. Anything else like "how can we achieve this?" or "what does this mean for our product?" are not relevant at this stage yet.

We love customer results because they provide...

  1. focus: To any problem out there, there are thousands of solutions. Especially when you work in a great team. That's why it's important to focus on the challenge first. What is our biggest challenge at the moment that keeps us from succeeding? What is the most valuable thing we can do right now? All those things are easier to determine when you start at the outcome that you want to achieve instead of all of the solutions to all problems we could solve.
  2. flexibility: Customer results are being worked on by self-organizing teams who have the freedom and flexibility to decide on the best way to achieve a certain result. That also means that we do not narrow down the solution before the team starts working on it.
  3. empathy: We describe challenges faced by our customers using real people and real stories instead of idealized personas. And a customer result describes what the outcome will mean to them.

Focus Graphic

Since customer results are about achieving tangible and meaningful outcomes, they are typically no small feats. Most of our customer results span between 4 to 12 weeks worth of dedicated team work.

How we Write a Customer Result

Our inspiration for customer results comes from our daily interactions with customers. For example, we collect insights from customer success meetings and collect feedback from all users via our public feedback portal. No matter from which interaction inspiration comes from – anyone at meshcloud can propose a customer result.

Titles, Titles, Titles

The first step to a good customer result is to pick a good title. We like catchy phrases that transport empathy. Let's take a real example from our backlog right now:

Landig Zone Management like a boss
What's great about this title? Suppose you're on the team working on this customer result, what is your mission? To make the people using meshStack to manage their landing zones feel like a boss!

A traditional scrum backlog would have had a couple of user stories like "as a platform operator, I want a button to ... so I can ...". Not so our customer result. This is about making someone feel like a boss! That's a clear cut mission statement: the team owns the entirety of discovering, deciding and delivering on the solution. What matters is that the team is able to demonstrate that the goal has been achieved. Working directly with customers makes this easy too – in this case just ask your customers if they feel like a boss using your solution!

Working backward

While a title sets the general direction, we do of course describe the challenge and outcome in more detail. That's why this description starts in the spirit of working backwards with a fictional press release or story that describes the outcome. In those statements, we often use fictional things that we hope real people we work with might say about the outcome like "Peter goes to twitter to rave about his newfound landing zone power: just deployed a new AWS Config rule to all our 500 AWS accounts with meshStack Landing Zones, was a breeze!"

This is a success when...

While empathy and qualitative results are important, we always explore options to quantify and validate results. Like acceptance criteria in traditional user stories, this section of a customer result describes the success criteria we hope to meet. This can leverage metrics and other sources of feedback as well.

It's all in the team

Who do we need to succeed in delivering this customer result? This is where a description of the customer result dream team comes in.

When working on a result that affects a particular type of customer situation, the core of the dream team is to bring in meshis with first-hand expertise of these situations. In our "Landing Zone Management Like a Boss" example above, we would want to bring in colleagues from the solutions team that help customers build and configure landing zones first hand. We also bring in someone from the engineering team that knows a lot about how meshStack handles and orchestrates landing zones, as well as a meshi from the growth flock that is responsible for the communication of these newly achieved capabilities to the outside.

Priorization with RICE

There are so many good ideas to work on at any moment that it's hard to pick the next thing. To help us guide these decisions, we use the RICE framework. Simply put, we describe the dimensions

  • Reach: Who is this result affecting?
  • Impact: What "magnitude" of impact does this result have?
  • Confidence: How confident are we in our assessment of reach, impact and effort?
  • Effort: How much effort do we estimate this is for a team working full time on it?

One positive effect of applying RICE to all customer results is that we ensure that all dimensions have been thought of and described against an established frame of reference. Of course, the simplicity of the scoring Score = Reach * Impact * Confidence / Effort model is misleading. It's not as easy as picking the results with the highest scores. We also consider alignment with strategic goals and other criteria. Nonetheless we find the method provides good comparability of customer results and it has proven its worth as a basis for making difficult priorization decisions.

Product Managers guide the Process

Remember earlier we said that every meshi can propose a new customer result? As a meshi proposing a customer result, our product managers are here to help and guide you through the customer result process. They provide constructive feedback on customer results and help refine them to a state where they become plannable/priorizable.

They also maintain a global board of Customer Results visible to everybody in the company. This allows us to see exactly what everyone is working on at any time and why. We also regularly publish a high-level roadmap externally, to provide transparency of what we work on to our customers and externals.

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The meshcloud Way of Work

At meshcloud we empower humans to build a better future. When you hear this vision for the first time, you may think it sounds incredibly ambitious and completely intangible at the same time. Yet, we mean and live this in everything that we do. In this post I want to describe how our way of work connects this ambitious vision to our everyday routines. You will learn why we work on cloud foundations, how we go about this and how our work empowers our meshis and our customers to build a better future every day.

Why

We believe that computing is an essential means of production in the 21st century and that cloud computing is the best way to deliver it. meshcloud builds a Cloud Foundation Platform that enables organizations to build on the endless possibilities of the cloud while protecting their digital freedom. Cloud Foundations help organizations deliver cloud environments of any provider and any technology to thousands of teams while staying in control of their infrastructure and reducing complexity. Our platform provides essential cloud foundation capabilities: cloud-native technology access, with cross-platform Identity and Access Management, Tenant Management, Compliance & Security and Cost Management covered.

The challenges that Cloud Foundations solve become most apparent in organizations that are fully committed on cloud transformation and embrace multi-cloud at scale. Consequently, our customers are among the largest organizations in the world and recognized as cloud transformation leaders in their industry.

Building Cloud Foundations is an exciting new challenge. Customer needs are rapidly evolving while organizations discover the challenges imposed by leveraging multi-cloud at scale. In fact, we believe that almost every larger organization will have to discover and solve these challenges within the next 5 years as multi-cloud adoption becomes more ubiquitous. And when that happens, we want them to think of meshcloud to solve them. This insight informs how we work at meshcloud and embrace every customer relationship as an opportunity to learn something new about the best way to build solid Cloud Foundations.

Customer Empathy

If there's one super-power that we look for in every meshi working in our team it\'s customer empathy.

Customer empathy is understanding the underlying needs and feelings of customers. It goes beyond recognizing and addressing their tactical requirements and puts things into further context by viewing things from their perspective. [...] Customer empathy sees users as real people and not just individuals trying to do something. It rounds out customers into whole people, provides a larger context for how products and solutions fit into the much broader ecosystem of their lives, their jobs, and their environment.
https://www.productplan.com/glossary/customer-empathy/

For a startup looking to solve an entirely new category of problems, empathy for current and prospect customers is a real super-power. Customer empathy empowers every meshi to

  • iterate faster by collaborating and communicating on customer challenges with more context and deeper understanding
  • drive initiatives more successfully and with higher quality by making better decisions that anticipate customers’ perspectives

This is why we have ingrained customer empathy into our own implementation of an agile way of working.

The meshcloud model: Empowering meshis to build a better future

We embrace people and interactions over tools and processes (Agile Manifesto). That\'s why our way of working is handsomely agile, yet does not fit to any popular method like scrum. Our way of work rests on three pillars

  • We prioritize work using Customer Results: a description of a challenge and desired outcomes that we want to achieve for our customers
  • Customer Result Teams: Cross-functional teams empowered to make all decisions necessary to achieve this outcome
  • Flocks own a functional area of responsibility and its routines – championing cohesion and professional excellence

Customer

Working cross-functional by default in teams centered on delivering customer outcomes empowers every meshi to build a close connection and deep understanding of our customers. Of course, building customer empathy requires communication. Whereas purely functional organizations attempt to funnel customer touchpoints through specialized functions like support and customer success, our way of work enables high band-width communication for all functions. Championing customer empathy in this way helps us understand what building a better future means to our customers – and deliver on that mission.

We'll be sharing more on our way of work in the future and we would love to see you here again.

Learn More On The Way We Work