How Using a Framework Mindset Increased Business Agility

First, what is Feature Enablement?

Why feature enablement was so challenging.

An illustration of Feature Enablement
Feature Enablement was disconnected from product development, 2012–2017
Feature Enablement 1.0 came out around 2013 and was a simple UI that automated a manual process.

But the High Didn’t Last Long

  1. No single source of truth for Product Taxonomy. No one spoke the same language and my team was stuck in the middle. We needed someone to tell us the logic for our scripts, but no one could agree. As new products were released on a quarterly basis, product managers might tell us one thing, but Sales or Marketing would tell us something else and we didn’t have a way to arbitrate the discrepancies, so anytime someone told us to change our code, we did. This resulted with a nonstop whack-a-mole approach of constantly changing requirements, which kept the developers on my team quite busy but easily frustrated.
  2. Requirements would come to us months too late. My team would only be notified of new products after they launched. Then there was a mad scramble to give my team the logic to update our scripts, then we’d have to go through our entire scrum process of user story creation, story review, sprint planning, development and release. By the time our tool was updated, the business was off changing the product taxonomy again.

World Block or Personal Block

The solution

Hierarchical data model mapping permissions to features to products to suites.
  1. Permissions that apply to multiple Features. Some permissions would be turned on for multiple features. Doesn’t present a problem when turning on a product, but if you are disabling a product, we needed to make sure we didn’t shut off all permissions for that product if some were being used for other products.
  2. Not all permissions are treated equally. In some cases, there are permissions for features we don’t consider as standard. Maybe it’s for functionality we built for a narrow use case and only a small percentage of our customer base wants it. Maybe it’s a permission for a feature we are deprecating but a few customers are still using it. In this case we made it so some features are enabled by default, while others can be manually configured for specific customer situations.

Conclusion

  • Single Source of Truth for Product Taxonomy: Our entire eco system including Product, Marketing, Sales, Partners and Customers can now speak the same language now that we have a data framework acting as the arbiter of truth.
  • Shipping Accurate Portals: New customers get access to all new features as soon as they are ready.
  • Developer Time Recouped: The developers who used to write the same type of code month after month to maintain the Feature Enablement process, are now freed to work on higher value work.
  1. If developers are complaining about constantly changing priorities, use it as an opportunity to consider how to turn a personal block into a world block.
  2. Agile practices (thin vertical slices, small increments of work) are known to increase agility but architecture patterns and the use of data can also unlock agility.
  3. Automation should not just be about automating an existing process, but reimaging the entire process. You may be able to eliminate work instead of automating it.

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IT Executive, Engineer, Enterprise B2B SaaS. Interested in innovation, cloud, devops, agility. Passionate about making tech more inclusive.

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Adrienne

Adrienne

IT Executive, Engineer, Enterprise B2B SaaS. Interested in innovation, cloud, devops, agility. Passionate about making tech more inclusive.

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