Q&A with SOLABS’ Product Release Manager
EQMS - 7 December 2016
As part of our monthly SOLABS technology blog series, we’re speaking with our developers and analysts on their reflections on the industry, its development and rapid changes, and how their area of current focus may be pertinent to compliance/regulatory and the future of Enterprise Quality Management System (EQMS) software.
This week, we’re talking with SOLABS’ Product Release Manager, Martha Bailey, who keeps a tight rein on the release schedule, our software developers, and all other aspects of Support and Release cycles.
Gordon Bradley [GB]: So thanks for sitting down with us today. You’ve been at SOLABS for 5 years and in Support for 4 years. I worked in Support a long time ago. Is this something you have experience with, and something you enjoy?
Martha Bailey [MB]: Yeah, I guess you could say it is both something that I think I am good at and something I enjoy.
GB: It intrigues me also that you’re like the ‘nerve center’ of the office; you keep your finger on the pulse. This must be something as a skill that you evolved over time as well.
MB: It’s all about prioritizing, really. You sort of just develop the ability to realize what needs looking after. It’s about making sure that the clients you have now, you’re serving. We have weekly meetings, and we need to find out what’s happening with them, because no matter how ‘plugged in’ I am, I’m not going to know everyone’s business at any given time.
But yeah, the clients will help me see what is valuable or important to their business in that moment, and we’ll work from there—try to figure out how to schedule and manage these various different fixes.
GB: You seem to really enjoy the people aspect of it, touching base, following people, and tracking stories…
MB: I quite like all of our clients, and I like helping them when they have an issue. If they can get it fixed or looked after quickly, it helps them get on with their work, their job, it keeps them productive, and it leaves them with a good impression of SOLABS as well.
"I quite like all of our clients, and I like helping them when they have an issue. If they can get it fixed or looked after quickly, it helps them get on with their work..."
GB: What do you think, in the larger sense, makes a good support desk, or a good support organization?
MB: I would think that some of the important qualities are an understanding, a willingness to listen, the ability to comprehend what it is that is going wrong, and the willingness to take the time to address their issues, and to understand the real importance of any issues they’re having—as well as communicating with the clients so they know what’s going on, the status of different issues.
GB: We have a really astonishingly high renewal rate—what do we attribute this to?
MB: I think it’s a good number of things: our clients know our software is unique, and they can’t really get the same software anywhere else. SOLABS QM is easy to use, they get to know how to use it, to like it, and that drives a lot of the satisfaction. But they also know we take our Support seriously: our clients mean a lot to us, and Support means a lot to us—and we walk that talk. We do spend a lot of our time and efforts at looking at client issues, and communicating with clients about how we’ll fix things—and even if we can’t fix things right away, we’ll find a workaround for them, that is satisfactory.
GB: Okay, so you know people by name, you follow these stories as they happen—there must be some reward as well to following that as it unfurls, as it is resolved…
MB: I quite enjoy the calls I get from our clients! And some of the feedback we get from people, it’s interesting: we get to see the software operate in context. And in the end, it pays for them to be in touch with us: recently we rolled out new reporting enhancements, which was very much client-driven. It makes their lives easier, once the fix is in, and it also provides me a great deal of satisfaction that the client is able to see the true value of the software. The client may have an issue, but of course once that is out of the way, that makes me happy; it enables things to roll smoothly.
GB: As does the Support line, right? That’s a primary contact for emergencies…
MB: Yes, the Support line is critical for our clients. First, I think it really helps, even in the case where it may not be an ‘emergency’ call, to have someone to talk to, as opposed to voice messages or emails. It is immediately calming, and some things can be solved straight away or fairly easily. In the case where they’re calling in and it is a true emergency, I’ll tell the client that we’ll look after it, we’ll get details and I’ll get someone to look into it immediately.
We do encourage people to send an email though, simply because we may need diagnostics, we may need reports they’ll run for us, etc., in order to go away and have a look at something before we can get back to them. A detailed written description of the issue is much easier to dispatch to the team and track as well. There’s a whole suite of things that we need or that can help, like screengrabs or logs, or the series of steps they took that got them to that point.
"I love talking to people; I love it when we fix something that maybe they couldn’t figure out; I like it when I get to develop relationships with clients, and it helps develop that rapport where maybe they want to stick around."
MB: Exactly, and it just allows us to move a little faster throughout the process.
GB: Anything new coming up in SOLABS support that you can tell us about?
MB: We are working on getting some more clear metrics, more about opens and closes for calls per client, some metrics like that, and we’ll use that information to help prioritize issues a little better.
GB: Okay so my closing question is always what do you love so much about SOLABS, and/or is there anything interesting that you love in your job that might surprise people?
MB: You guys looove asking people that question, don’t you? It’s a good opportunity for sarcasm…! I really do get a strange thrill out of closing CREQS [Support tickets] though, and we’re going to close a huge amount with this upcoming release, 10.5–and so I am super excited about that!
But I like all aspects of Support: I love talking to people; I love it when we fix something that maybe they couldn’t figure out; I like it when I get to develop relationships with clients, and it helps develop that rapport where maybe they want to stick around. At SOLABS, I really like the people, the job, and the various responsibilities I get. All over the spectrum, there are things to enjoy about my job!