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Alpha Programs: Customer-centric product development

Mar 2023

Learn how Alpha programs are an instrument for Nearmap to work closely with customers to test out the early solutions from product development.

Mar 2023

Whenever you use any Nearmap product or our web-based app, MapBrowser, you’re experiencing the end result of the in-depth customer-centric product development that applies to Nearmap solutions.
The engine room of this process is the Nearmap Product and Engineering Team (PET), which follows a customer-centric product development workflow.
Every solution starts as a business idea sparked through customer discovery, and it follows five stages of the design thinking framework (Figure 1) before landing as a solution in the customers’ hands computers or devices.
Figure 1: Product development workflow
Product development at Nearmap is a substantial cross-functional effort where members from many teams collaborate to create solutions for customers and potential customers.
This blog will provide a deep dive into how the PET group balances agile practices and customer-centric approaches to product development by testing their work early on with the customers through Alpha programs during the Build stage. The Build stage is when our engineering teams are at their busiest, coding and implementing user stories into solution features.

Why an Alpha program?

When creating new solutions and features that are high risk and high value such as new product offerings with high business potential, the product team needs to make critical decisions that might influence their approach, priorities and feature experience.
Alpha programs are an instrument for the product team to work closely with customers to test out the early solutions.
These solutions, also called 'Alpha candidates', are not a finished product but closer to one, almost like a precursor or preview of the actual product.
This allows the PET team to validate their product implementation related judgments before building and delivering to the more extensive customer base. This approach to product development demonstrates the Nearmap passion for developing the right solutions and products for our customers.
Figure 2: Alpha testing at the build stage
Nuts and bolts of the Alpha program
The sections below explain how Nearmap runs the Alpha programs to proactively build, measure and learn from our customers.
Figure 3: Build, measure and learn cycle
The core team
We bring together a cross-functional core team that collaborates and operationalises the whole program. Members of the core team might vary depending upon the solution and objective of the program. Typically, the core team consists of representatives from the Product, Engineering and Design groups. This team defines the program's objective and the success criteria. They share the responsibilities of the entire program, such as customer session facilitation, getting the test solution and infrastructure setup correctly, analysis and synthesis of the feedback from the customers, and more.

Program design and structure

Program design: Easy for customers and valuable for the team
Nearmap Alpha programs focus on making it easy for customers to understand their role in the program, sign up and participate. It is equally vital that the program caters for the core team to learn, reflect, and reiterate the solution.
A typical Alpha program has a couple of stages – an initial meet-and-greet session, solution sharing via email or a meeting, the testing session, and feedback session.
The team may iterate over customer feedback and generate more than one version of the solution for the customer to test.
Figure 4: Alpha program design
Meet and greet – The purpose of the session is to meet our customer (over a video call) and walk through the details of the program.
Solution sharing, testing – The product team provides the customer with a solution and a set time-frame for testing the solution.
Feedback – A feedback session is conducted to gather the outcome of the testing from the customer.

Everyone is a winner

Nearmap Alpha programs are a win-win for everyone: the product team and our customers.
Working with customers during the build phase provides the entire Nearmap product team with a remarkable opportunity to craft and construct the solutions that are useful, valuable and delightful for customers.
At Nearmap, we are always keen to hear more about our customers' needs, challenges, and feedback – and we'd love to hear from you.
If you want to help too, join the Nearmap User Group and be part of the engine .
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