Which tools a SaaS startup chooses can have a meaningful impact on key success factors like product-market fit and time-to-market. And with every startup looking for an edge in those key areas, it's not surprising that I'm often asked which tools we use at Metisentry and which one our clients favor; so I thought I would share my thoughts on the matter here.
Gathering customer feedback
Qualaroo bills itself as a "customer decision analysis platform" or, put another way, it's a system designed to elicit real-time feedback from users while they're in your application.
I think Qualaroo's real power is in its ability to supplement quantitative data with qualitative insights. That's important because analytics can tell you that things are happening - like your users all exit the application from a particular screen - but it's not as adept at explaining why. Qualaroo helps you ask why - and hopefully get a statistically meaningful response.
Solicited user feedback is an excellent source of qualitative intelligence, but it's not the only one. If you're looking for unfiltered customer insight, look no farther than your customer support and sales teams. Ideally, you have the ability to go beyond simply soliciting information from these frontline players, and hear from your users directly.
That's where customer support software like HelpScout comes in. Not only does it help your team surprise and delight customers with stellar service, it also acts as a structured repository of 'organic' customer feedback that can be mined for common pain points within your product.
Turning feedback into insight
So you've got systems in place to gather feedback. Now it's time to make it actionable - and that takes tools that help you organize, present and share information with the team.
First, you need a place to store information in a shared environment, and pound for pound, it's hard to beat G Suite (fka Google Apps for Business, ffka Google Apps) that category.
Cloud storage, email, calendar, an office suite and more for $5-$25/mo/seat, is a pretty sweet deal, especially considering the fact that tools like this can be used for everything from crunching and sharing analytics data in a spreadsheet, presenting that data in a compelling presentation and deploying a no-code intranet to house it. And it's all easily located via search by anyone who has access to them.
Of course no tool is going to make good decisions for you - at least not yet (AI, anyone?). That requires collaboration, and with many SaaS startups operating virtually, technology that makes it easy to visualize and discuss often complex concepts are a must-have.
My go-to solutions in that category are Slack for chat and Uberconference for conference calls, screen sharing and video chat. Slack is pretty ubiquitous in the SaaS startup world - and rightfully so.
It's easy to write Slack off as just a chat application, and to some extent that's true - but where it really shines is in the quantity and quality of its integrations. In fact, every tool discussed in this post has a Slack integration.
But even then, sometimes there's no substitute for an actual conversation - and when that's the case, Uberconference gets my vote as a reliable, lightweight, simple to use conferencing app that gives you a dedicated conference line and URL for free.
From insight to improvement
The last step in the SaaS product life cycle is acting on the insights you've gathered and refined, aka development.
Most dev teams will pair project management software with a version control system (VCS). If you're not familiar with the latter, its main function is to allow multiple developers to work on the same software project concurrently without stepping on each others' toes.
Launched in 2002, Jira was Atlassian Corporation's first of many products - a list that grew to include their own VCS product, BitBucket; which illustrates the fact that there tends to be a good deal of overlap between PM and VCS solutions.
Case-in-point, beyond the Jira/BitBucket relationship, Assembla has Jira-like project management capabilities, and native Jira integration, making Jira+Assembla, Jira+BitBucket or Assembla by itself options worth exploring.
I chose Jira because it allows users to construct or use built-in workflows. Workflows define the critical path for commonly executed tasks , which is especially useful in a fast-paced, fast-growing SaaS startup where documentation and training can take a backseat to shipping features.
Assembla gets my vote because, as I mentioned above, it goes beyond being a simple code repository/VCS into project management, static code analysis and security, and it also supports Git and Subversion (SVN).
While the products on this list are well-known and commonly used at SaaS startups, which components make up your SaaS management stack is ultimately about matching the available solutions to the unique needs of your organization. If you've got the time to do so, I encourage you to do your research, ask questions and taking advantage of the free trials on offer.
Finally, we would love to hear from you about the products that make up your management stack. In fact, we might even publish your submission, so get in touch and tell us what works for you and why!