Andrew Keogh shares how himself and his team built a new product virtually in the midst of the pandemic.
October 2020, Moodtracker® was named an HR Product of the Year by HR Executive Magazine. This was an amazing achievement, especially considering that we built the application in just four months in the middle of a global pandemic. Here’s how we did it.
Let’s start at the very beginning….
In late 2019, Workhuman® made the momentous decision to get into the survey business.
At the time, people leaders and HR departments who wanted to survey their teams faced two painful choices:
- Struggle with free, online platforms to put together a survey – unsure which questions to ask in order to attain the desired results or
- Pay potentially large sums of money to data companies to run surveys on their behalf or give them a template they could use to analyse their organisation, which may or may not tell them what they need to know.
This could be particularly painful for companies with 1,000 employees or fewer, who struggled for the time or budget to be able to take either choice.
We decided to create a solution to this problem so many companies faced and planned to launch at Workhuman Live® in San Antonio, Texas, in May 2020.
Our product, Moodtracker, would solve these problems by offering a set of pre-configured surveys, designed by Workhuman’s data scientists. The application would automatically ensure companies asked the right questions at the right time, for free. Forever. Companies could choose to send single surveys or recurring questionnaires that would automatically generate so they could get a continuous sense of how their employees were feeling.
Moodtracker would include automatically generated recommendations and insights to help customers understand how they could improve their organisational culture.
Workhuman decided to diversify its existing infrastructure by taking a Cloud-native and mobile-first approach to the application. Moodtracker would be the first AWS-hosted Workhuman Cloud application.
Getting up and running
We got to work immediately and began to hire a dedicated team (including yours truly) to build the application. Our Workhuman Live event represented the finish line for a rapid deployment. The product team worked together closely and focused on the art of the possible.
To support the launch, our team along with our stakeholders throughout the wider technology team agreed to a minimal feature set:
One survey instrument with multiple-choice questions, scored using the Likert scale (Strongly Agree, Agree, Not Sure, Disagree, Strongly Disagree).
The team wanted to deliver a global solution, so supporting multiple languages and accessibility were musts. These have always been of utmost importance to us with every product we design and create. We currently have users in over 180 countries and support more than 30 languages on our platform.
Lean and meaningful
Given the need to move quickly, the team prioritised learning over perfection and created a series of prototypes. This allowed us to iterate quickly based on stakeholder feedback.
We wanted our surveys to be fun and engaging so we experimented with different question types and styles: from sliders, buttons, and text boxes. We worked with our product designers and experimented to learn what would be most effective for our users.
We spent the first six weeks iterating the functionality and were able to deploy our first survey. The application now supported three languages and had incorporated open-text questions and answers. We introduced sentiment analysis on the open-text answers. Our workflow was maturing and things were starting to take shape…
…and then the pandemic hit. We suddenly found ourselves working from home and adapting to what would soon be known as ‘the new normal.’ These new times were going to influence employees, so we added a new Resiliency Survey to the application to offer companies the chance to take stock of employee wellbeing at a time of unprecedented stress and workplace turmoil.
Even the launch goes remote
As the impact and range of the pandemic became clear, Workhuman Live was no longer tenable as an in-person event (remember those?) and was moved online. Now that it was no longer venue-dependent, the date became fluid. Our teams explored bringing Workhuman Live forward to mid-April. We figured out what we could deliver in that time and then breathed a sigh of relief when the date for the online event moved back to May 12th.
We finalised the user interface of the application, loaded the surveys, and implemented our localisation functionality, but the challenges weren’t over. We ran out of time to complete automatic testing and we had to push some functionality around managing survey respondents past launch, but we made it!
And so, on May 12th, with much fanfare, we launched. Moodtracker had:
- 4 surveys
- 34 languages
- Global benchmarks
- Sentiment analysis
We were delighted and proud of what we had achieved. It worked perfectly at launch. And then… issues began to arise.
Recurring surveys weren’t being sent. The second and third surveys people expected to receive didn’t arrive. We were distraught. What had gone wrong?
We finally tracked down the cause of our pain. Some test records were causing intermittent failures now that the application was in production. After almost two weeks of bug hunting, we found our fix!
After four months (and a bug fix), we had an application to be proud of. The validation of winning an award at the end of the year felt great and gave us an opportunity to reflect on all of the amazing work that went into a rapidly-created product. It was quite the journey from worrying to award-winning.
By: Andrew Keogh