Mind the Product

Around 1,500 product people came together on June 13th at the San Francisco Symphony Hall to hear 10 amazing talks about the latest insights into product management. Jennifer Kenney, Julie Yontrarak and I attended the one-day conference and enjoyed listening to them all.  

Jennifer Escamilla, Escape Product Manager; Jennifer (JR) Kenney, Software Developer; and Julie Yontrarak, HRA/Custom Product Area Team Manager

Jennifer Escamilla, Escape Product Manager; Jennifer (JR) Kenney, Software Developer; and Julie Yontrarak, HRA/Custom Product Area Team Manager

Jennifer's Favorites

One of my favorites was from Dave Wascha on 20 years of product management in 25 minutes, “What to tell little baby, Dave.” His key points were:

  • Listen to customers
  • Don’t listen to customers
  • Watch competition
  • Don’t watch competition
  • Get paid
  • Stop worrying about getting paid
  • Say no
  • Don’t say no

That’s a little confusing, right? Well not really. For example, listening to customers, this is not a new concept but always a good reminder. We should be listening to customers on how they use our product and what are their pain points. We should not be listening to customers on how to solve the problems. We should come up with the ideas and pitch them back to the customers and go through iterations. 

One of the most entertaining points was on the topic of stop worrying about getting paid. A fun example was from a company called PagerDuty. When servers go down in the middle of the night, instead of getting a generic message, PagerDuty delivers the bad news with pizzazz: they sampled a message with singers in the crowd singing a cappella, “The server’s on fire…”  They are not paid for this extra touch, but it does take a bit off the edge.    

Julie’s Favorites

I had a couple of favorite speakers: Aparna Chennapragada, Product Director at Google, and Nate Walkingshaw, CXO at Pluralsight. What I really loved about "Mind the Product" was that it triggered some ideas on how to showcase HRAs, helping users become more familiar with the product and demonstrating what HRAs can be used for. 

Aparna was the first speaker of the day and she focused on:

  • What users are not being reached
  • What can your product do and not do
  • What is the goal of your product

Being in HRA (Human Resource Authorization) land, it sometimes feels like I’m in the trenches, not looking at the big picture. Her presentation brought me back out, allowing me to envision the big picture while listening to all the incredible speakers.

Nate was a high-energy speaker who described what he called the “Voice of the Customer.” He encouraged us to watch users use our product and ask the following questions: What works? What could be better? What doesn’t work? What is missing? I’d love to undertake a project like this with HRAs. It would help to make our product better for end users and stand out from the competition.

JR’s Favorites

I enjoyed the talk by Caitlin Kalinowski, Head of Product Design Engineering at Oculus. As a developer, I connected with the following points:

  • Choose your top priorities and only focus on those
  • Solve the most difficult issues first
  • Build ugly prototypes with many iterations – the fluff and polish can be added last

This was a great event and we appreciated the opportunity to “Escape” our bubble to learn some of the latest trends in product management and development.  

See Us Again at Beyond Escape 2017

Have you attended the Beyond Escape User Conference before and wondered if you should attend again? Many of you have answered a resounding YES. 

I thought both years were tremendously well done from a content perspective and logistics.
You guys did a great job!

This was our second year, and not only did we learn so much, but it was great to see a team enjoy and believe in their product.

Have enjoyed and learned a lot from both User Conferences.

Difficult to tell you what to improve on. Both years have been enjoyable, informative with some fun things in it too.

This year will bring new sessions and, of course, Meet the Experts. We love working with our customers to create fresh and relevant content for the conference. If you have ideas, let us know!

Beyond Escape 2017

Sacramento, CA
Finance - Monday, October 16th
HR/Payroll - Tuesday, October 17th
Meet the Experts - Both Days
Beyond Appetizers - Monday Evening

Imperial COE Joins the Escape Family

We are happy to announce that Imperial County Office of Education will be joining the Escape family! In the southeast corner of our beautiful state, Imperial COE is home to dozens of school districts, charters, and school services.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with a great team at the County Office of Education for the past few months through demonstrations and requirements gathering. The Imperial team is led by Dr. Todd Finnell, Superintendent of Schools at Imperial County Office of Education, and Alex Wells, Chief Business Official. Dr. Finnell’s leadership and positive energy throughout the process has been impressive. 

“We’re excited to be joining the Escape family. Our focus this year is on modernizing our systems and practices, and Escape leaps us forward in so many ways. Our staff, as well as our districts, are anxious to get started and take advantage of all that Escape has to offer.”
~ Dr. Todd Finnell, Superintendent of Schools at Imperial County Office of Education

Their first payroll in Escape Online 5 will be in July 2018 but they are excited to begin using as many features of Escape as possible prior to that. 

Register Now for the Year End Webinar

The 17.02 release contained some really great year end updates. If you haven't registered for the upcoming Year End Closing webinar on June 22, you will want to do that NOW.

This webinar focuses on the preparation and procedures required for closing the books for the fiscal year, including step-by-step instructions. Check out this action-packed agenda:

  • Year End Overview
  • What's New
  • Verifying Setup
  • Year End Processing Activity
  • Resolving Unposted Journals
  • Closing 2017
  • Creating 2018 Beginning Balances

Don't delay. REGISTER NOW!

Friday Feature - Employee Note Categories Setup

Last week, we saw how Employee Note Categories can help you organize your notes about employees. This week, we will take a look at how those categories are set up.

It is done in the HR/Payroll - Setup - Employment - Employee Categories activity, which is a "simple" activity, meaning it is a simple list and form for you to create some codes. Check it out.

Except for Admin users, every HR/Payroll user has read access to the list of employee categories. However, you may have noticed that I highlighted a little lock icon (i.e., the field is locked). That is because I wanted to point out that, even though most users can see the categories, they are not open to edit for most users. That is because employee categories are used throughout the system (in every organization). So, the codes can only be created/edited by OrgMgr users and above.

Most customers set up these categories once, during implementation. It is not very common for categories to be added or changed once established, which is important because you want to be thoughtful when the categories are created because they could be used in thousands of Employee records.

Now that we know how employee categories are set up and how they are used, we need to know how to control access. Stay tuned! We will go over that next week.