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Productiv 1:1 – Design for Enterprise Software

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At Productiv, we are building a results-oriented culture which values family, fun, diversity, and mutual respect as much as earning customer love and winning big. That means learning from each other and collaborating closely with an extraordinary team consisting of new graduates to industry veterans. In this Productiv 1:1, we sat down with Jocelyn Lin who leads product design to learn more about her career, her role at Productiv, and the important role design plays in the overall Productiv business strategy. Watch this space for future 1:1 interviews with more members of the Productiv team. And if you like what you’ve read, check out our careers page and apply to join us today!

Tell me about your career history and what led you to Productiv? 

I actually started my career in product management at Oracle in enterprise software, but realized that I really loved design. So I moved to Google as a user experience designer where I got to work on things that the whole world uses, like Search and Google Maps. After that, I wanted to learn about other aspects of building products and went to different sort of experience at Polyvore, a fashion community/ecommerce startup. It was a fun new user base to think about (women who love fashion!) I was the first designer there, and wore many hats. Eventually Polyvore was acquired by Yahoo, where we got to spin up some really interesting projects in lifestyle and media. But after a while I decided to take a break and spent a year and a half off to spend with my family. When I was ready to work again, I found that I really enjoyed being at a startup. Productiv was a unique opportunity of very early stage, brand new space, no product yet, and a very strong starting team, so I jumped at the chance!

What role does design play at Productiv? 

At Productiv, design is about understanding user motivations and pain points so that we can create solutions to meet those needs. Design is particularly important here because we’re delivering insights on a complex landscape of hundreds, or even thousands of SaaS applications. This means that we need to extract the data and present it in an immediately understandable way. We also need to focus on simplifying workflows and making people more efficient. 

How does leading the design function at a startup differ from other design roles you have held? 

Startups, in general, are resource-constrained. There are fewer people (and, consequently, less time), so leading design at a startup requires strong alignment on strategy and a laser focus on priorities. You also need to move fast. Because of the fewer process layers, you are able to make decisions much more easily because you know the people you work with more intimately. Decisions aren’t wrought with politics, they’re conversations with people you know well who are all focused on the same goal of building a great company. Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is the freedom that startup design leadership provides. I am empowered to define what role design has in the company, and I get to shape the process, team, and principles. 

How do you approach design decisions? 

Design decisions are essentially just decisions that help you move the design forward for a product. Clear and early communication with my engineering, product, sales, and marketing partners help me correctly define the design objectives. When there are divergent opinions, I work with my partners to identify the divergences, hash it out in person, and move on. Collaboration and transparency aren’t just two of Productiv’s key values, they are also crucial to making good design decisions.

Why is design important to enterprise software? 

In the past, software was a utility. Businesses knew that people had to use software to accomplish tasks, so it was primarily purchased for features rather than ease of use. Now, however, enterprises are starting to catch up to the revolution that happened in consumer software over the past decade. As more people use software outside of the workplace, there is a higher standard for ease of use. On top of this, the proliferation of SaaS in the workplace has meant there is more choice. So for enterprise software companies like Productiv, design is a smart business decision. Product design is about solving people’s problems. Even if the end user is not the buyer, there is still a person interacting with the software, and good design strategies need to align the product to the user’s needs, not just the buyer’s needs. 

What differences have you noticed in designing enterprise software vs. consumer software? How does this affect your overall design strategy? 

While enterprise and consumer software are both designed for the same end user, the goals are different. In enterprise, you typically design software for smaller numbers of very specialized professionals with deep expertise and a vested interest in accomplishing goals, whereas in consumer software you solve problems for larger swaths of the general public with a very limited window to capture their attention. In enterprise, you can also assume a lot more knowledge and technical expertise. While workflows still need to be as simple and short as possible, you can assume that they’re familiar with using tech tools, and common user interface paradigms. As far as setting an overall design strategy, in enterprise software (and particularly at startups), you need to test assumptions and ideas on these specialized people, which leads to a very different product validation strategy.

What are you most excited about? 

Productiv is an exciting place to be, but what excites me most is figuring out what product-market fit is in a brand new business, and building something new. Given that my experience is primarily in consumer, it’s been fun to learn how marketing, customer success, and sales work in enterprise. They have close ties with the customer/user, and I’ve been really interested in seeing how that overlaps with user experience, so that we can work together towards the same goals and establish a shared understanding of who our customer/user is. And of course, continuing to learn and solve interesting problems, both in product and in company process, is always exciting!