Zealot n. A person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their ideals
I’m a phase two zealot. What is a phase two you ask? Well, it’s a company that’s reached viability and is ready to take it to the next level. Starting a company is one of the hardest and most fulfilling endeavors on the planet, but I’ve found that preparing it to meet its full potential can be equally challenging and exhilarating. Phase two means just that, readying a company for its next phase of glorious evolution. Before I joined Zen Planner, the company already had the elements of the greats: mission, culture and product—the perfect clay for creating a truly enduring company, a match made in heaven.
When I joined the team, the company already had a solid product offering with huge potential. The product provided a rich and powerful set of business tools that users found invaluable. But, like many companies, Zen Planner had a technology platform perfectly built for its early stages, but not adequately scalable or responsive for future needs. We had a challenge ahead of us to put the pieces in place for the next phase of growth. As with all endeavors, people make the difference. Luckily, we had a great set of technology warriors who were up for the adventure. Next, we needed to make sure we had the right technology culture for the journey, namely a culture of service, quality and innovation.
A Life Lived for Others
Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” At the heart of every enduring company is a mantra of service. With a customer support team in place that was already beyond compare, it was important that we introduce a level of technical support to match. In addition to team members who naturally live by the Golden Rule, we have three standing challenges. Every day we strive to:
- Learn something new or do something beyond our capabilities.
- Do something for someone else that we normally wouldn’t do.
- Show gratitude.
This is the simple, self-perpetuating engine for a culture of service. It is a recipe that drives urgency, empathy and self-improvement. The result has been a team that is both bold and responsive, a team that runs directly into difficult tasks and a team that continuously learns from both failures and successes. Like the bounciest of bouncy balls, this team is both powerful and resilient.
Quality is Queen
With such a dynamic environment, we want to make sure we keep quality considerations to the front, embracing the scientific method in everything we do. To this end, we have focused on quality assurance processes and increasing the developer and test automation to ensure continuous quality of the product. I’m happy to say that the team has put in place build, deploy and test automation more mature than companies many times our size. This allowed us to do more than 40 releases this year so far. In addition, the team is always revisiting the core capabilities of the system to ensure they are doing exactly what our customers and partners expect and need. With the broad capabilities of the platform, this is a disciplined journey, not a destination.
Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon gave a simple definition of “design” as the transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones. Based upon this premise, the Zen Planner team is always pushing forward toward an improved future. We embrace what’s referred to as design thinking, a creative process that is built upon the ‘building up’ of ideas. What’s cool about this paradigm is that there is no one person or group responsible for creativity. Rather, it fosters an environment where wild ideas are welcomed and encouraged from every corner. This makes everyone a designer, most especially, our customers.
We are adamant about cross-functional teams that force us outside the status quo, following a rapid process of: define, research, ideate, prototype, choose, implement and learn. This is a process that constantly innovates and iterates to produce the most useful and usable solutions quickly. This makes us relish each new team member and every new customer as a rich source of wild ideas to help shape an incredible future.
With these foundations, the team was also able to take on the large technology focus areas that set the stage to scale the Zen Planner platform.
A Brave New World
Of equal importance to technology culture is the technology platform itself, the canvas upon which future product capabilities are painted. Not to be overshadowed, we will have a series of future blogs that outline the advancements we’ve made in:
- High-availability infrastructure that provides full redundancy.
- A single-page application architecture that provides modern application usability and performance.
- A hybrid application framework that allows us to write and maintain a single codebase for multiple device platforms.
- And several other interesting subjects to give insights into brave new capabilities.
With these foundations in place, we’re allowed to dream well beyond current circumstances, beyond what is expected. We have been able to conceive of a product that, with the help of our customers, will literally change the world, a future state of the Zen Planner platform where the success of our customers is inevitable.
We are ready. And I am so grateful.