Launching a product is always an honor. Launching one that will directly impact the education of students, the missions of nonprofits, and the attainment of enterprise is exhilarating!
While there are always miles to go with any software product, I'm proud of NXTBoard's launched platform and would love to share why in this behind-the-scenes look.
How We Put Boards First
We've got some governance geeks on our team. As in, folks who are on 5 to 12 boards at the same time and helped write the manuals for how to handle the complexities of being on that many boards at the same time as well as ensuring that every board they’re on deliver “good governance.” We’ve also got certified board coaches and consultants on our team too.
That's a pile of expertise.
But the problem with expertise is this: if you design something for experts, usually only experts can use it. The challenge is to build a platform that has the power of expertise but the straightforwardness of a novice.
To that, we decided to use the ‘Jobs to Be Done’ framework.
Jobs to Be Done
The Jobs to Be Done framework challenges the concept of personas and averages. Yes, a middle-aged woman of 40 with three children who serves on a school board in a struggling district is a relevant persona to design towards. But it's still abstracted to be an "average" of a type of person. What about people who are close to similar but not exactly so?
Jobs to Be Done says forget personas and look at why people would use your product to do a job for them. Here we're looking at real, tangible value. There's no "convincing" someone this is valuable—we have to find the actual value. It's hard work!
Ultimately, for board members, we found there are seven jobs to be done. For example, one is "keep leaders apprised of what they’re to be compliant with by when." Another is "build trust with the community stakeholders (or the public)."
When we say these to folks in the world of boards and governance, we get more than heads nodding: we get emotional reactions. And that's the key for an on-target Job to Be Done—we don't just want intellectual affirmation; we want full brain (emotional) affirmation that solving that problem would be important. Because then we get to real motivation to use the product.
So now we map solutions and features to the jobs to be done. Here are the key features we learned that board members need to rely on out of the gates:
- Plan All Aspects of a Board Meeting. The meeting itself is the centerpiece of board activity. Before the meeting, it needs to have the agendas, plans, evidence and other attachments folks expect. During the meeting, we've got to track time and occurrences. After the meeting, we want to communicate minutes and decisions. The ‘Meeting’ feature should be the one-stop-shop for all info related to the board meeting.
- Set Goals. A key function of a governing body is goal setting. There are all kinds of ways boards can set goals, including the famous S.M.A.R.T. goal format. We learned that our product needs to guide board members with different skill sets through the goal-setting process, so they can collaboratively set great goals that can be tracked and monitored.
- Monitor Progress. Significant amounts of time often transpire between board meetings where the organizations the board is governing are executing thousands of combined hours of human effort. Somehow that effort should translate back into the goals of the board in a way that shows progress. Those are your monitoring report, milestones and even task lists if needed.
- Improve as a Board. An oft-overlooked concept by governance bodies is to have them govern themselves and hold themselves accountable. Because that's a sticky wicket with humans involved, the idea is to put the awkwardness of harassing folks to make good on their commitments onto the software platform: it'll show what people committed to, have done, haven't done, and remind folks that they owe the Finance Committee a report by Thursday.
- Governance Models. As with the rest of business, there are a plethora of frameworks and philosophies of governance. As with business and life, the only really horrible strategy is no strategy. That's why we're baking into the platform various governance models and their lingo, working towards choosing your own framework (Policy Governance, OKRs, you name it), and letting the framework do its job of guiding boards to govern.
- Engaging the Public. So it turns out that nonprofits and educational boards really have a high priority around engaging more than just the squeaky wheels who show up and complain about their daughter's position in the cheerleading squad. But people are busy and "oh, I should check what my board is up to" isn't really top of mind. So we're fixing that with some public and stakeholder engagement tools that keep folks updated on what the board is up to and solicit their input without requiring a board appearance.
- Keeping Things Proper. And then there's process. Quorum, response times, compliance deadlines—it's crucial to miss nothing and to certify that the right things happened at the right time. With versioning, activity streams and built-in compliance features, you can put constraints and guardrails in place that ensure your particular formalities are followed.
- Outcomes. What's a board about if not the outcomes of its organization? The mission and vision as they align with the needs and wants of the community and stakeholders. Tracking time spent in meetings, linking goals to outcomes and providing maturity measurements that ensure focus on the right things are just the start of our foray into keeping governance focused on what matters most.
What's around the corner?
- Mobile! How crazy would it be to keep up with your board activities while on plane flights with no WiFi? Not that crazy, we think. We're looking at tablet applications with offline synchronization.
- Delightful experience! Simply put, we don't know what we don't know. Deploying a new product means maniacal monitoring of how people use that product. Yes, we're watching you, but your privacy is always top of mind. We can't see any content folks are working with, but we will be looking at clicks, steps and the pages that are confusing people, so we can make the experience of using the NXTBoard platform as delightful as possible.
It's Go Time!
So it's go-time for NXTBoard. But go-time for a product team is just the start-time for users. We can't wait to see if people use our product in the way we expect them to. And we can’t wait to partner with more boards looking to transform the way they work and help them accelerate how they achieve their missions and visions and impact the world.
If you’re interested in seeing the NXTBoard platform in action, contact us to set up a demo.