Running Tight Product & Engineering Processes: RAIN Case Study

RAIN is an agency that specializes in voice and conversational UI. With offices in New York City, Lehi, UT, and Seattle, Washington, they’re helping clients push the limits of what can be done with voice technologies. They've worked with some of the most beloved Fortune 100 companies, from Amazon to BlackRock, as well as fast-growing upstarts like Headspace. 

As the VP of Products, (and former VP of Engineering,) Jason Herndon sits at the forefront of innovation. He joined the team about three years ago and has helped the agency navigate many exciting changes as they’ve honed in on the voice and conversation space. He’s currently focused on building up smart, efficient processes that will enable future innovation and growth.

The Need

The team at RAIN has a tough job: designing for emerging conversational interfaces, powering experiences with complex APIs, and solving client business challenges through voice. Whether RAIN is working for Nike to launch a sneaker through voice or helping Unilever build its conversational presence in the kitchen, RAIN's work requires a high degree of cross-departmental collaboration and an iterative, often non-linear process.

Roughly 20 product and engineering team members collaborate on a range of major projects, all focused on implementing voice and conversational AI strategies. These high-impact projects require high-performance teams. They require a clear, systematic approach to work. Jason points out that effective processes are critical to their success. As he puts it:

“The process makes the product. If you’re ok with a sloppy product, you can have sloppy process. If you want a tight, well-defined product, you need tight, well-defined processes.”

Jason needed a set of tools that would help - not hinder - the development of tight processes, as well as the team’s ability to follow these processes.

The Pain Points

In the past, the RAIN team was often subject to using the tools that their clients preferred. Jason is currently focused on re-tooling for the team, so that they have the best solutions for the jobs to be done. A big part of this is making sure that they have the right tools to facilitate good product and engineering processes.

A lot of problems that arise on product and engineering teams can be credited to a lack of clarity around process. Jason cites the importance of making sure everyone is on the same page in their approach to product requirement docs, sprints, and other scrum processes.

He started exploring different knowledge management systems to document the team’s processes and workflows. Though he’s used Atlassian’s knowledge management product, Confluence, in the past, he found that the tooling got in the way of the work to be done.

“It’s nice that you can do 28,000 things, but what I’d prefer is a solution that does a few things really well.”

Jason knew that the team would be growing, and he anticipated that people could flounder without clarity on their roles and focus areas. At the same time, he knew that an overly-complex tool would only slow the team down.

The Solution

Jason discovered Tettra and quickly found it to be intuitive and easy to use. We found out about Jason's use case after he shared an interesting perspective on Twitter:

He quickly built up a repository of important information, processes, and team rituals. Jason created a number of Tettra folders around what he calls “playbooks”: engineering playbooks, product playbooks, and operations playbooks, for example. He also developed templates to speed up some of their most commonly-used processes and tasks.

As the team grows, Tettra will serve as the guiding light for how they get things done. Jason sees Tettra as an “outsourced brain”, letting him scale himself more efficiently. It will maximize efficiency and minimize repetitive questions and explanations.

“It’s going to save us a lot of time with onboarding. We need to move fast, so this documentation will help people understand their role and what they need to do.”

For a team like Jason’s, operating at the forefront of exciting new technologies, speed is critical. They can’t be hampered by messy processes and inefficiency. With Tettra as the hub for their product and engineering processes, they can focus on what matters most: innovation and doing great work for their clients.