MODERNIZING WITH PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT
TO BUILD A SAAS PRODUCT
Herff Jones is a nationally recognized marketer and manufacturer of student achievement products, including yearbooks, class rings, graduation accessories, and more. All meaningful items that create memorable experiences for young people. Over the last century, Herff Jones has successfully built a sprawling network of manufacturing facilities, sales representatives, and school partnerships. However, aging legacy technologies and applications jeopardized operations and revenue. They needed to take immediate and profound action.
CleanSlate worked with Herff Jones to transform its business to have a SaaS Product Mindset, rather than an Application Development Mindset, to allow their team to accelerate time to market, improve the quality of service, and bring more operational efficiency to their teams. Their limited ability to innovate & the system’s underlying aging technology would not be able to support future demands.
Long History of Application Development Mindset
The clients’ mindset was always to produce a yearbook, and the application had to function in certain ways to produce yearbooks only. They wanted to adjust and gain market share in their industry by thinking differently about building experiences for schools that can also product yearbooks.
Limited Ability to Innovate
The clients’ feature development was slow and not prioritized, there was essentially no roadmap or combined product vision. They were missing product delivery deadlines, noticing a decline in code quality and deployment success, causing delays and poor customer experience.
System’s Underlying Aging Technology
The clients’ existing system lacked the necessary capabilities to scale and support new features. This meant their ability to innovate was limited. Treating the legacy solution like an application to build yearbooks and having IT drive those roadmaps and updates created a monolithic application that was not able to adapt to future demands.
Created a Product Ownership Organizational Structure
CleanSlate and Herff Jones worked together to build a “SaaS Product Development” mindset and helped to build an organizational structure to transform the organization into a product-focused mindset successfully. Adding true product owners, product architects, customer focus groups, and the organization of the development teams to drive product delivery in an agile way was key.
Building a Customer Success Model with an Experience through a State-of-the-Art User Interface
CleanSlate created the new user interface to help provide a great experience for the various users of the eDesign product. Working with the product owners and customer focus groups, our designers build an experience with a modern look-and-feel to help users better focus on designing and building yearbook experiences vs. learning how to use the software, making the process superior to those of the competitors.
Product Roadmap & MVP Approach
CleanSlate worked with the newly formed product owners to work on a Product Roadmap to help with prioritization and continuous feature development mindset with releases every 3 weeks. CleanSlate & Herff Jones first defined an MVP Approach, which included the minimal viable features for schools to build their yearbooks and coupled that with building a series of Proof of Concepts for the product owners to provide quicker feedback.
SaaS Product DevOps
A key to the technology approach was building a robust DevOps frameworks that would work with the product development approach previously defined – building a fully-automated infrastructure and a robust CI/CD platform allowed for multiple development groups to stand up and begin development on portions of the Product Roadmap. This transformation project had over 150 developers across 10 teams at one point; they were able to build off of the Product Roadmap pert he priority of the product owners in a high-quality way through automation of code quality checks, scaling infrastructure, and scaling development environments.
Leveraging the Power of AWS and SaaS Product Thinking
The product was complex and needed to support 100,000+ simultaneous users all working on different schools’ books and still needed high collaboration with the schools Identity & Access (IAM) systems. The product also needed to be built in a way that would separate tenants and ensure monitoring and automated triggers to auto-scale during busier times. Due to the high graphical nature of the site, performance and latency were of primary concern during implementation.
Reduction in Infrastructure
48 hours to 1 hour
Improvement in provision cycle times
Herff Jones went through a major organizational re-design to transform their business into a SaaS Product Mindset to produce yearbooks vs. an organization that produced yearbooks with an application. This organizational shift now allows Herff Jones to leverage the Product Roadmap to think about other experiences for their clients through their product.
Once the organizational design and product development approach was adopted, the use of AWS technology and working on this as a SaaS product solution allowed the team to accelerate time to market, improve the quality of service, and overall bring more operational efficiency to the product teams.
A focus on the SaaS DevOps with Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) practices were introduced to incorporate unit and integration testing coverage. This improved code quality and reduced delivery cycle times by approximately 20%. As a result of a successful release, CleanSlate has been engaged in multiple follow-up phases to continue to provide value-added features. Additional results include:
- A well-defined and simplified technology footprint that allows for improved supportability
- Accelerated ability to release features due to the microservice architecture
- Notable performance improvements throughout the application
- Operational improvements including scalability & reliability
Overall, Herff Jones has been able to grow their client base by over 30% and sustain strategic clients that were at risk in the previous application development mindset.
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