Customer-centric approach to building software: How our team built the new Work Hour Allocation feature to Fondion

Recently, our product and tech team has been diligently working on a specific new feature, Work Hour Allocation, now in its pilot phase undergoing rounds of iterations. Throughout the development process, our team members Peeter Kiis (Product Owner), Pourya Delnavaz (Senior Software Engineer), and Ohto Pihlajamäki (Product Specialist) have played significant roles in bringing this feature to life!

Recently, our product and tech team has been diligently working on a specific new feature, Work Hour Allocation, now in its pilot phase undergoing rounds of iterations. Throughout the development process, our team members Peeter Kiis (Product Owner), Pourya Delnavaz (Senior Software Engineer), and Ohto Pihlajamäki (Product Specialist) have played significant roles in bringing this feature to life!

Why did the team build this new feature?

Well, picture this: you go shopping with a budget of 100 euros in your hand. You start putting products in the shopping cart. The catch? There are no visible price tags! You must guess, and it’s impossible to predict if your budget is enough. You won't even know the final price at the checkout, but only after you've eaten your purchase!

The construction industry has long been marked by an inability to predict the final cost of the construction projects in advance. Many construction companies assess project profitability only post-completion.

As one example, they are uncertain about the true allocation of costs across different work steps and tasks that the construction workers perform. When there are many different construction projects going on, and many workers working in different projects, this is a real threat to the overall profitability of the business.

Fondion develooment team having fun

Ohto, Pourya and Peeter have played significant roles in bringing the new Work Hour Allocation feature to life.

Work hour allocation complements the core functionality of Fondion: cost monitoring

"It's crucial to note that while work hour allocation isn't a core functionality of Fondion, the core functionality lies in cost monitoring, and maintaining awareness of the company's costs and revenue”, says Peeter, Product Owner.

Fondion's primary function is to provide real-time insights into project numbers, ensuring proactive decision-making. Now the core function is complemented by the new feature that specifically focuses on work entry allocation, allowing workers in the construction industry to track their hours and tasks across different projects.

“Consider this feature the cherry on top, enhancing the overall value our clients receive.”

“While there are standalone products in the market offering similar features, our solution stands out by incorporating these crucial features into a cohesive ERP system, specifically tailored for cost monitoring in the construction business. Consider the Work Hour Allocation the cherry on top, enhancing the overall value our clients receive," Peeter says.

The need for such a feature has been recognized in the industry for a long time.

“By differentiating tasks and assessing costs and profitability in real-time, this feature provides valuable insights to construction companies, enabling them to make informed decisions and avoid costly mistakes in workload allocation,” Ohto, Product Specialist says.

Fondion employees laughing

How did our team identify the customer's needs and pain points?

The founders of Fondion, with their firsthand experiences in the industry, contribute to identifying customer needs based on their own lived experiences.

The team was also able to identify the need through interactions with customers. The Fondion team collaborates closely with customers to truly understand their needs and challenges. This collaboration involves various channels of communication, such as interactions between the customer and the product team.

“The need for the new feature consistently emerged as a topic in customer meetings, and its relevance persists as we continue to roll out the feature.”

The experience and sales teams play a crucial role in identifying customer needs, with Peeter noting that sometimes customers express more subtle needs that require further exploration.

“It is important for the product team to dig deeper and understand not only what the customer wants but also why they need it and what their end goal is,” Peeter says.

One of the key realizations is that while customers initially expressed a need for cost monitoring, it is apparent that budgets are meaningless unless businesses have accurate insights into their expenses.

“The initial need was evident, and the ongoing articulation of this need primarily comes from the sales team. During sales meetings, customers express their needs honestly. The need for the new feature consistently emerged as a topic, and its relevance persists as we continue to roll out the feature”, Ohto says.

Throughout the process, the expertise of the product team helps address edge cases and understand how customers use the product in unique ways. By actively engaging with customers and leveraging the insights gained, our team ensures that Fondion’s product effectively meets customer needs and provides tangible value.

Collaboration within Fondion’s product and tech team

Fondion's internal collaboration process ensures smooth coordination and effective teamwork among the tech and product teams. The implementation of seemingly straightforward functionality on the user side often involves complex backend processes with numerous dependencies and exceptions.

To overcome these challenges, Pourya's technical insights as the Senior Software Engineer were invaluable, allowing Peeter and the product team to understand the codebase and collaborate effectively.

“Communication between the tech team and the product team, involves receiving new tickets or bug reports from the epic. Sometimes, the product team may not fully grasp why certain issues occurred. As developers, we have the advantage of seeing the code and understanding the logic behind it. This allows us to collaborate with the product team, explaining the code, discussing necessary changes, and addressing current logic. It's a collaborative effort to identify and address any edge cases that may arise”, Pourya explains.

“The collaboration between the product team and the development team is exceptionally close due to the frequent changes and fixes occurring daily. We maintain daily communication, and in instances like the example of the work hour allocation feature, having a single point of contact from the development team, such as Pourya, proves beneficial”, Peeter says.

Daily sync-ups and code reviews fostered regular communication within the tech team and ensured that everyone was aligned on the tasks at hand. A total of 4 people from the tech team worked on the new feature on a daily basis.

“Task division was based on expertise and preference, with each team member assigned to an epic and working on specific technical tasks. Weekly refinement meetings provided an opportunity for the team to discuss the logic and requirements of the features, clarifying any uncertainties,” Pourya says.

This type of collaboration is typical for more extensive initiatives termed "epics," which are essentially comprehensive packages comprising various tasks.

Daily touchpoints and synchronous communication methods, like live meetings, facilitate efficient collaboration. While remote work is preferred by some developers for its convenience, many still choose to come to the office to foster open communication and find better solutions collectively.

“Sometimes, just working through the issue face to face for five minutes can save hours of typing tickets, and asking questions back and forth,” Peeter says.

This combination of documentation, information exchange, and live discussions ensures that tasks are well-coordinated.

Facing challenges and refactoring the codebase for a better developer experience

“During the project, we encountered several challenges related to data integration and modifying the time tracking system. The primary challenge was seamlessly integrating work hours into different categories of the product, which required careful modifications to our existing system”, Pourya says.

Data integrity and performance were paramount considerations as Pourya and his team made these changes, ensuring that the modifications would not compromise the overall functionality of the system or impact existing integrations, particularly with financial accounting systems. Additionally, our integration with steering and piloting systems added another layer of complexity that demanded attention.

“A positive in-house experience translates directly to improved customer satisfaction.”

“While code refactoring was not a necessity for adding the new feature, we saw this project as an opportunity to improve the overall user experience and optimize our existing codebase,” Pourya says.

By refactoring the code, the team aimed to make future modifications and enhancements easier and faster, benefiting both developers and end users in the long run. Different developers brought their unique strengths to the table, and by sharing tasks and knowledge, we created a more robust and scalable system.

Pourya consistently raised flags when needed, brought fresh ideas to the table, and challenged the product team's ideas to ensure the best possible outcome.

The focus on developer experience and fulfillment was an essential aspect of the project.  At Fondion, we want our team to enjoy working on the tasks and see the value they are delivering to customers.

“A positive in-house experience translates directly to improved customer satisfaction. Conversely, any misunderstandings or issues that arise internally can have a significant impact on the customer experience. Therefore, ensuring a smooth collaboration and addressing any concerns along the way is a crucial part of our overall customer success efforts”, Peeter says.

Measurable outcomes and anticipated impact of the new feature

Determining measurable outcomes for the new feature is challenging at this stage due to being still in the piloting phase. Currently, the impact of the feature is evaluated based on qualitative feedback from customers.

As Fondion continues to pilot and iterate, the feedback received becomes more and more positive, indicating the potential positive impact on customer satisfaction and business metrics. The ultimate goal is to roll out the feature to as many companies as possible, with the aim of delivering a positive impact on their businesses and improving margins.

“In the construction industry, which has high ROI expectations, Fondion's product provides significant value. Even in more difficult economic times, customers want to invest in Fondion's product”; Peeter says.

By offering visibility into the utilization of resources and worker time during construction projects, expensive mistakes can be identified and prevented.

“This capability has the potential to deliver substantial value to clients, enabling them to optimize resource allocation and avoid overutilization for simpler tasks”, Ohto says.

Overall, our product is in demand, and its impact on businesses is tangible, contributing to a healthier and more efficient construction industry.

Internal collaboration and knowledge sharing are the key

Internal collaboration and knowledge sharing between the product and development teams play a crucial role in shaping Fondion's success. The connection between effective internal communication and customer success cannot be overstated.

“Understanding the business context is crucial for the developers working at Fondion, too. It allows developers to make informed decisions and implement features in a way that aligns with the broader goals of the project. For example, Pourya’s exceptional quality as a developer lies in his ability to empathize with end-users, combining their way of thinking with insights from the tech team”, says Peeter.

Our commitment to transparent, open dialogue helps build trust with our customers, enhancing their experience and satisfaction with Fondion's products.

“As we move into Q1 / 2024, we’re excited about the many new things we are working on. While the core functionality of our product is already comprehensive, we are focused on honing the user experience and making our ERP system seamless to use”, Peeter says.

We acknowledge that ERP systems are inherently complicated, but our goal is to defy this notion and make ours easy to use. Our low churn rate and high customer satisfaction are testament to our success so far.

Interested in Fondion as a workplace? We would love to hear from you! Check out our career page>>

Read Peeter's newcomer story at Fondion!

Read more about why Fondion was founded>>

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