Continuous Product Discovery for the evolution of SupportAbility

Continuous Product Discovery is a process designed to help SupportAbility better understand our customers' operations, challenges and requirements. We use the information and feedback gathered in this process to ensure the development completed for the SupportAbility product has the most positive impact on providers.

This article discussed what Product Discovery is, how SupportAbility has traditionally approached this, and what Continuous Product Discovery is. 

Audience: Authorised Representatives, Executive Management, Operations Management, IT Specialist


The following list summarises the content within this article. Click on the links below to take you to the relevant sections:

What is Product Discovery?

At SupportAbility, we invest heavily in product development; whether it's building new technology or enhancing existing functionality and workflows.

We go to great lengths to ensure that the work we do benefits as many of our subscribing providers as possible. We work in full appreciation of the fact that SupportAbility is a software company, and our subscribing providers are the experts in delivering NDIS services. As such, providers will always have a better understanding of NDIS business requirements than we ever will.  

In the software world, the process of transferring that knowledge from end-users of a software product to the engineers that build the software is called ‘discovery’. Discovery is designed to help us understand the real-world business problems that we are trying to solve before we begin the work of designing and building software solutions to solve those problems. In short, Discovery helps us better meet the needs of our subscribers and add more value to your SupportAbility subscription.

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How has SupportAbility traditionally approached Product Discovery? (Project Discovery)

Traditionally, SupportAbility has undertaken the process of discovery using the following methods:

  • Roadmap Surveys: periodic email surveys that we send to our subscribing providers, to help us understand which features they need most urgently.  This form of discovery is used to inform feature prioritisation for our roadmap.
  • Provider Feedback: feature requests or product feedback communicated to us via support tickets or during meetings with our subscribing providers.
  • Discovery Meetings: online meetings held with providers for the express purpose of understanding real-world provider challenges and proposing solutions to ensure that what we plan to build will solve these issues in an appropriate manner. 
    • Generally, we approach specific providers to participate in this process if they have expressed an interest in certain features that we are working on, or if we believe the features are particularly relevant to the way the provider uses SupportAbility in their day-to-day operations.

These discovery methods are best collectively described as 'Project Discovery' and are generally conducted once, at the beginning of a development project. Whilst the Project Discovery methods can feed valuable information into the development process, they do all share some common shortcomings. 

These Project Discovery methods alone all struggle to:

  • Provide answers to important questions in a timely manner
  • Derive information from the most relevant person (end-user) - as they generally represent communications with a provider's nominated Authorised Representatives
  • Provide information and feedback throughout the lifecycle of a development project

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The importance of speed

Unfortunately, the current methods of discovery (i.e. the Project Discovery methods listed above) can be very slow in providing the feedback we need to build great software. Often it can take a month or more to get the answers to simple questions. For example, to conduct Discovery meetings, we have to:

  • Analyse data to choose the most relevant providers to talk to
  • Build an extensive list of questions to ask
  • Set up Zoom meetings - sometimes weeks in advance, and often requiring rescheduling
  • Host those meetings - which require a lot of time from some of the most valuable staff at the provider's organisation
  • Collate and analyse the results

This slows down our ability to get the feedback required to develop and release important features to providers as fast as possible. Furthermore, long meetings to discuss Discovery questions are not an efficient use of provider resources or our own, and we are conscious of working to improve this.

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Accessing the right audience

Discovery is all about understanding the real-world requirements of the end-user. It's not enough that we talk to providers about a new function that we are building, we need to talk to the right person at that provider that will utilise the functionality we are building as part of their daily job role.

SupportAbility is a large, enterprise-grade software system. In recent years, much of our development roadmap has been focused on the finance and administration layers of the product. As a result, we’ve conducted discovery sessions with managerial staff - to whom this functionality is most relevant; nominated Authorised Representatives, system administrators and finance teams.

We are currently dedicating our resources to building the SupportAbility mobile app. A tool designed specifically to streamline the user experience and workflows for front-line support workers working out in the community. The primary end-user of this app will be support workers, not managerial staff. It is important that we are able to talk to Support Workers, to understand:

  • The information they need to access to do their job whilst keeping themselves and the Clients they work with safe
  • Their daily work workflow and responsibilities (travel, evidence and goal progress tracking, timesheets, etc.) and the tools they need to facilitate this
  • What features will benefit them the most to support participants in the field
  • Which user interfaces (UIs) and user experiences (UXs) are most appropriate and intuitive for them to use to reduce friction in their role

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Introducing Continuous Product Discovery

Continuous Product Discovery is a process and agile methodology that aims to address the limitations outlined above by allowing us to conduct small and more frequent discovery initiatives throughout the product development lifecycle. It allows us to obtain timely answers to important questions from the most appropriate audience, in the most efficient manner possible.

Providers have the option to participate in the Product Discovery process, by one of their Authorised Representatives opting into this in System Preferences. When a subscribing provider chooses to participate in Product Discovery, this authorises the SupportAbility Product Team to send the occasional 1-2 multiple choice question targeted email survey to the relevant staff in their organisation to get their thoughts and feedback so that we can better understand their requirements related to specific features. This, in turn, allows us to build better tools to meet the needs of your workforce.

It is our intention to make this as efficient as possible and to do this any communications will be kept to a minimum. To clarify, for each short survey sent, this will only be sent to between 10 - 25 Staff Members across our entire subscriber base (approximately 100 providers) and only to Staff at providers who have opted-in to participate in Product Discovery. Given we use the data in SupportAbility to determine who are the most relevant individuals to contact based on the features that they use and the frequency of their use of these features, the likelihood of Staff receiving even one, or more than one Product Discovery email per year is fairly low.

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How will we identify and communicate with the right audience?

For example, let’s say we are working on a feature of the mobile app that would allow a support worker to navigate to the locations of their various activities on a given day. We would first start by identifying the appropriate audience e.g. support workers that do a lot of travel in their job role, i.e. Staff Members who have recently added Private Kms associated with their Staff shift. 

We would then email a limited number of support workers who meet these criteria from various organisations (maybe 10-25 support workers across our entire subscriber base and only those at providers who have opted-in to participate in Product Discovery) with a quick 1-2 question survey to get their thoughts and feedback regarding this specific area. We anticipate that their response would take 2 minutes or less to complete and that we would receive most of the responses within 48 hours.

Similarly, if we were working on enhancing Bulk Payment Request features, we might send a short survey to SupportAbility users that regularly generate the Bulk Payment Requests in SupportAbility.

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Example short survey question 

An example short survey question that might be sent regarding the upcoming mobile app may be: 

When using a mobile app for SupportAbility, what's the most important thing for you to see on the Home Screen:
  • My shifts for the day
  • Warnings about any Clients that I am working with today
  • Journal Actions assigned to me that are due in the next few days
  • Something else
  • This isn't relevant for me

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Opting to participate in Product Discovery

Each subscribing provider can opt-in to participate in the Product Discovery process by having one for your Authorised Representatives enable this in System Preferences, as participation is not active by default: 

By configuring your SupportAbility installation to 'Participate in Product Discovery', you are authorising the SupportAbility product team to send the occasional short 1-2 question email survey to your staff that use SupportAbility at their Staff Account Email Address registered in SupportAbility.

We recommend before activating this feature, that organisations communicate with their staff to inform them that their organisation has agreed to participate in SupportAbility’s Continuous Product Discovery process and that they may receive the occasional short email survey, in order to assist in the continued evolution of SupportAbility and that their participation is very much appreciated. 

It is important to note that the 'Participate in Product Discovery' System Preferences setting can be deactivated by selecting 'No thanks' and saving this at any time to exclude your organisation from this process and to cease receiving any further email surveys related to this.

Please see the How to participate in Product Discovery article linked below for more information regarding this. 

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Unsubscribe option for Individual Staff

When an organisation chooses to participate in the Continuous Product Discovery process, individual Staff can choose to opt-out of the process at any time via My Staff Account: 

In addition to this, each short email survey sent to Staff will contain an unsubscribe link which will take them to the My Staff Account page within SupportAbility where they can opt-out from receiving any further Continuous Product Discovery emails: 

Staff can return to their My Staff Account page within SupportAbility at any time to resume their personal participation in Product Discovery, provided their organisation has activated 'Participate in Product Discovery' in System Preferences.

Please see the How to opt-out of participating in Product Discovery article linked below for more information. 

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We value your feedback

Product Discovery short email surveys will form an important part of how we design and build software solutions for our subscriber base moving forward.  We encourage all providers to activate this feature in system preferences and inform their staff of the value of participating in this process.

We look forward to collaborating with providers through the Continuous Product Discovery process in an effort to deliver true value with the SupportAbility product.

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