I had the opportunity to interview Taylor Cochrane, Director of Product Development for GWAVA.
Gert: Hi Taylor, great to meet you. Can you introduce yourself? How did you come to where you are?
Taylor: My pleasure Gert, thanks for having me. I had started my education back in the 90's and soon learned that I wasn't cut out to be a programmer. It was a long road to Montreal and now I've been with GWAVA for 7 years this January and in the messaging security space for close to 10 years.
Gert: What are GWAVA's products about, what business or professionals are they aimed at?
Taylor: 100% of our efforts are in building enterprise class collaboration solutions. They are used in every type of industry from government and financial to higher education.
While many of our products are aimed at administrators of these systems, we know that the end user experience is just as important in our success, as well as usage beyond the typical use case which extends to auditors and business professionals alike.
While the majority of product/solution purchasing discussions in the GroupWise world were traditionally held solely by technically savvy administrators, we have seen a paradigm shift in this arena over the past several years.
These days, business professionals are more educated about technology because they use it too, and have an increased role in making purchasing decisions. This is also partially due to the fact that many of the solutions that are foremost on customers minds are products that affect the entire enterprise such as compliance or business continuity solutions.
Now let's start diggin ...
Gert: Can you describe a day in the life of TC? What tasks do you have and what contacts with what people?
Taylor: As GWAVA is truly a global company I spend my days collaborating with my colleagues all around the world as well as customers and partners.
Product management is a unique role in any software company in that you 'touch' every other department. This equates to regular contact with sales, marketing, support, partners and customers. It also involves a lot of travel so I am typically never in the same place for long. Some days you'll catch me from home and others in the office or on the road.
I spend most of my time working with engineering plans and projects while maintaining a close tie to sales/marketing and support around the world, to ensure our product plans are in line with every customer facing department.
Gert: We're talking of product and development. I "state" the following statement: the product is what the customer gets, development is the process of making and improving it. As a director you work with both. Is that a privelige or a challenge?
Taylor: I'd say it's a little bit of both and at the same time it can fun or frustrating. As with any company you have challenges with making deadlines and keeping customers happy. You also have to have internal successes which extend beyond engineering and engineering processes.
What's really cool is that the customer (and the market in general) shapes your product and your future. This is also the most challenging part of my role at GWAVA because it takes a lot of feedback from users/customers and they themselves are usually very busy as well. If you don't listen to your customers and partners then there's no point in having a product!
Gert: How does product development differ from product management?
Taylor: I guess that depends on how you'd define them. If we define development as an engineering process then of course that is strictly relegated to activities directly related to getting software developed.
These activities are determined by the overall company strategy and vision for the future and results in road maps, product/marketing requirements documents, product specifications and delegating tasks/projects and responsibilities to the various ranks of team members. These tasks are then tracked so that release dates can be achieved.
Product management I believe is where you get away from a pure engineering focus and take into account all the other factors that make the solution what it is or will be. This involves more than just me as we require market analysis, strategy, planning, sales and support.
Gert: How is product development embedded in GWAVA as an organization? Who can contact them, like can one meet and greet them at GWAVACon, do customers get a 'personal' contact when development is needed for fixing issues or improving the product cause of customers needs?
Taylor: This is the greatest thing about GWAVA and smaller software companies in general. I can say that I have never seen or worked for a software company that extends it's entire development team to customers. Never have I seen this level of transparency in the software manufacturing industry.
Of course there are periods when our developers have little contact with customers and partners. There are other times (like GWAVCon, BrainShare & other shows) where you can bank on speaking to the product developers. Everyone in our company responds to customers and partners and we always strike a balance between customer facing and internal processes.
Gert: How big is the development team and where is located?
Taylor: We run with 20-25 engineers at any given time and they are located all over the world. That does not include QA which is roughly a dozen resources on that front.
Gert: What requirements does a product need to be developped? Aldo from Omni says: if you buy it, we'll make it. What triggers GWAVA for adding a product?
Taylor: Like many software companies we strike a balance between a sure bet and a chance to be first to market with a unique solution or feature set.
For example, when you follow emerging technologies and you believe in them and all the analysts and trends point to an opportunity then it's relatively safe to say that you can find your niche within that market (I am speaking about this in very general terms). At the same time, even if a market doesn't currently exist and you feel you have an idea or technology that you can bring to market then of course you can make an effort to bridge that gap.
The product requirements in both cases are different and that is what I mean by saying we strike a balance - there is always an element of making an informed decision while there is also an element of taking a chance.
Gert: How does GWAVA chose the user interface, the ease of use, the approach for the user/admin?
Taylor: This typically depends on the target user. We really try to make software that is easy to use. At the same time we know that our software can be quite complex.
With this in mind we look at who the user is (admin/end user/auditor for example) and what their role and responsibility within any given organization is. Feedback from customers and partners is one of the best ways to make these decisions and from there we try to find a compromise between all the different ideas we get and make the right choice for the better of everyone.
Gert: How does BETA testing go? Is Novell part of this? What is your role in this?
Taylor: Finding good, reliable BETA testers is really tough. Our BETA software is now and always has been extended to any customer or partner who is willing to work with us. We know however that our customers and partners are extremely busy with their own responsibilities and running their respective company's.
Because of this challenge we put a lot of effort into our own QA processes. We have an ongoing mix of select customers and partners in both test and production environments who run our BETA software. And of course, we always run our own products on our product systems before they are generally available to our customers.
Gert: Does GWAVA currently have new development that the customer may know about? (Exchange support, new BETA's or versions coming up?
Taylor: Absolutely, in fact our company strategy for the future was recently revealed by our CEO Ken Muir at BrainShare 2011 in Salt Lake City.
2012 will be a big year for GWAVA as we will add multiple integrations to our security and management suite that delivers to our customers the ability to secure and manage many of their collaboration platforms from social messaging to GWAVA cloud services.
Gert: A short list:
- Evening or morning person?
Taylor: I am definitely not a morning person :)
- Tea or coffee?
Taylor: Coffee - lot's of it
- GWAVA green or Novell red?
Taylor: Green all the way
- Tie or a casual friday?
Taylor: I can't remember the last time I had a tie on
- More GWAVA products or more GWAVA customers?
Taylor: Customers 100%
- Music or sports?
- Canada, Europe or the US? or all ...
Taylor: Canada, Europe and Australia
- PDA, iPad or ballpoint?
Taylor: I always appreciate a good writing pen and I love my wife's iPad :)
Gert: Tnx for the interview.
Taylor: My pleasure, thanks again!
© GWCheck.com november 2011
Disclaimer: As with everything else at Cool Solutions, this content is definitely not supported by Novell (so don't even think of calling Support if you try something and it blows up).
It was contributed by a community member and is published "as is." It seems to have worked for at least one person, and might work for you. But please be sure to test, test, test before you do anything drastic with it.