The Culture Book - Part 5

The 80/20 Rule

Rule #5: 80/20

Prioritize, always.

I’ve been at OutSystems for almost eight years now, and I’ve always been a strong believer in the behaviors outlined in that famous small book. But the 80/20 rule, oh boy, that’s a daily challenge.

Do you know why? Because I have a tendency to say yes. If someone asks: Solange, can you help me with this project? Solange, can join us in this meeting? Solange, do you want some cake? It is likely that Solange will answer yes. You see, managing my time and deciding when I should be the owner of a specific thread or delegate it to a colleague is definitely a skill of mine with some room for improvement. But, hey, I’m working on that.

Making the Right Decisions 

A big part of my career has been dedicated to helping customers achieve their goals and making their lives easier. But a few years after I joined OutSystems, I moved to the Engineering Department where I’m still helping customers; I’m just not focused on a specific one. That’s what we do in engineering. We focus on improving the experience of all our customers, from the developer and IT manager to the app owner and CIO.

Among all of the projects I’ve been involved with since I joined this department, there's one that will always have a special place in my heart. That's the story I'm going to tell you today.

About a year ago, a colleague of mine from Product Management presented me a challenge: how could we help our customers measure the value of their apps so that they could quickly realize if the app they’re developing has a real impact on the business or if they’re just throwing money down the drain?

Now, that’s a big challenge. One of those where you can’t really say no.

Keep that in mind, because that was the moment OutSystems Insights came to life.   

In November 2017, I was assigned to be the Product Owner of this innovative project. I was responsible for pursuing the vision shared by my colleague, understanding the problem, and helping our customers prove the impact of the applications they’re delivering. My tasks included:

  • Defining the minimum viable product (MVP).
  • Deciding what should we start with.
  • Managing the product backlog.
  • Prioritizing user stories so we could better achieve our goals.

Sounds easy, right? Oh, and we were committed to delivering the MVP version in just three months.

That’s where the 80/20 rule came along.

Break It and Make It 

The basic idea behind this rule is that 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. So, by focusing on 20 percent of the effort, you can have 80 percent of the outcome. In other words, it’s about prioritizing. As our VP of People Operations once said,

"We break problems into small parts, we stack, rank them, establish a timeline, and execute the solution."

That’s the 80/20 principle in a nutshell. But let me go back to what brought me here today: OutSystems Insights.

Like I said before, this was a huge project, and the best method we found to deliver an MVP quickly was by breaking it into little pieces and working step-by-step. Let me put into a different perspective: if you look at the project as a sum of standalone blocks, and not as a really big project, you can focus your efforts on one block at a time and complete them more efficiently.

That’s what we did with OutSystems Insights. Just like our VP said, we broke the project into pieces, stacked it, ranked it, established a timeline, and executed. In three months, we had a prototype and three customers testing it in their production environment.

That was in January 2018. Today, we have over 60 customers using this new tool. We’re changing the way IT measures its efficiency from the number of apps and lines of code they deliver to the quality of their apps based on user adoption and level of satisfaction.

In an Alternative Universe

I don’t know where OutSystems Insights would be today if we didn’t base part of our methodology on the 80/20 rule. Maybe it would have taken longer to reach our customers; maybe it would be more complex to use. I don’t know. What I do know is that you can have a really big solution but if you can’t differentiate what’s really important from what’s not, you’re probably just overcomplicating a problem that’s already complex enough to begin with.

In our case, it was this pragmatism that allowed us to understand the benefits and outcomes of each little project, prioritize them, and reach an MVP in just three months. I may be in Engineering, but deep down, a part of me will always be in Customer Success. And seeing how this pragmatism and capacity for decision-making is impacting our customers is a pretty amazing feeling.