As we shut down our computers for the day at sumHR, someone somewhere has already emailed us asking to add another ‘XYZ’ feature in our ‘standard’ payroll and attendance management system. And it happens, say about 2-3 times a day that we get such requests and about 30-40 times a month without fail. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cribbing about these requests. In fact, we dig all the love and attention that we get from our customers; we love the suggestions that come our way. This just shows our customers love us, trust us and our core product.
However, as much as we try to, we cannot accommodate every feature request. Today, I take it upon myself to clarify this in a little detail through this post.
A little background on 'product' and 'service' companies
There are two types of HR software companies out there – service companies and product companies. Service companies build a different product for each customer, separately charging for those products at very high/premium prices. A good example of a service company would be an Infosys or a Wipro. They understand a client’s requirement, develop a product catering to that specific requirement and charge the client for that project. No two products will be the same in this case, for the simple reason that every client’s requirement is different.
On the other hand, product companies build one product and offer the same to all the customers, with constant improvements (free or chargeable) to keep evolving/innovating the product so that it can reach a larger audience. Ideal examples, in this case, would be, Google or Zoho. They make standard products, observe user patterns, receive feedback about what can be improved and make a change in that standard product, for everyone. These changes are like product upgrades or improvements and are a part of the main, standardised product.
A bit about the sumHR product
sumHR is a standardized product which cannot be customized per customer, individually. Everything we build is available to all customers, from the day it's launched. So whatever you see on your screen is the exact same thing visible to all other customers too. All the features we showcase to a customer during our demo and trial are standard fittings which can be configured as a 'setting' for extensive (but limited) flexibility, according to the company's policies.
Why feedback on the product is important
A product's success is directly proportionate to its usefulness for the user - how much value the customer derives out of using it. This is precisely why sumHR encourages feedback/ideas/suggestions/requests because that is the only way to build a user-friendly product which gives value to our customers - otherwise we will perish.
We are what we are because of ideas that came from customers and we merely executed them. Hence, we can never discount the criticality of new ideas and suggestions.
But wait…what exactly is the feedback that any product company seeks
“Can you add a button here, so that I can do this?”
“I want to show a large welcome image on the first page, please add that”
Now, there’s nothing wrong with sharing feedback (like we have already established) but what a product company looks for is not a demand for addition of features as feedback. Instead, we look for problems, pain points, difficulties in doing a task, etc. Once we identify these accurately and completely, we try to figure out ways to solve these problems, relieve these pain points and make life easy for the user/customer.
Mind you, this doesn’t mean we will solve all problems you express. If it is something that merits our attention and will ultimately help a significant majority of our users, we would definitely take it up and work on it.
So, feedbacks should not be a demand but ideally, it should be a ‘problem’ which we can find a solution for. Simple, isn’t it?
Why it is difficult to accommodate every feature request?
On any given day, we get about 2-3 different feature requests from different customers (about 30-40 per month). While we value the feedback and interest our customers show, it's practically impossible to build everything everyone wants, that too on 'priority'. Also, it wouldn't be wise to accept all requests without considering them from all aspects like business, product road map, relevance, usability, etc.
More features don’t always make a product better, but it often makes it complicated. And, that’s definitely not our vision.
When a standardised product like ours keeps adding every other feature basis the requests, it runs the risk of losing its simplicity and the very vision of its existence. When we started-up, one of our core product principles was to make HR simple and take the hassle out of HR processes which get entangled in spreadsheets and paperwork.
In fact, our customers love sumHR for its simplicity and if like those old-school software companies we too start adding feature after feature, we would lose you, our customer.
Our vision is to keep sumHR lead and mean - and we’d like to stay focused on this vision. I strongly believe that’s the only way we can provide you with a memorable experience and rid you of HR management troubles.
Finally, how we decide which features to build now, build later or not build at all
Whenever we face a decision dilemma or a feature request from our customers, the only way we can choose whether to pursue that feature is by answering the below 2 questions. If we get a YES to the criterion below, it helps us decide whether to build or not to build a request/idea:
(1) is it a common requirement from a significant number of customers?
(2) is it an uncommon request but directly relevant to the HR & Payroll departments?
Sometimes, a request meets criteria (1) and not (2) or vice versa. In such cases, we make a decision on a case-to-case basis about shortlisting the feature or not, and when to build it.
Some requests get immediate attention, some are worked upon later and some don’t make the cut.
Often, customers request for something that is neither common nor relevant. In such cases, depending on the type of requirement and our relationship with the customer, we offer one of the following options:
(1) Sorry, we can't build this feature at any cost because it's not within our vision of sumHR. However, here's a workaround (if possible).
(2) Sure, we will build this feature, but it will cost you extra - because none of our customers need it, so it's specially being built for you. Call it customization if you may.
However, if we do accept any request and add it to our pipeline, we build it FREE of cost - which is probably rare amongst most product companies.
At sumHR, we strive to provide you with an HR software that takes away all the pain associated with HR, payroll and attendance management. We’re constantly innovating, continuously upgrading and regularly learning from your feedback. Our expertise is built upon your experience, so that we can evolve with changing times to meet your needs, as an organization, as you grow.
Before I conclude, let me add that this outpouring of thoughts is not meant to deter your urge to share feedback but, in fact, aimed at helping you help us improve.
So, shoot across your routine HR problems, your primary concerns, your real pain-points to firstname.lastname@example.org - I promise to personally look into them myself and do my best to meet your expectations. I read all support queries! :)