I realise this is a made-up word, but it’s what I do, and it’s my dream job! I define ‘productisation’ as polishing software and turning it into a product.

It’s about going all the way through your product or service in the shoes of your customers, to get a feel for their experience. I have learned over the years that this applies to just about everything. I’m not talking about counting all the nuts in a “90% nuts” chocolate bar to make sure they’re all there, but other similar situations that customers find themselves in, where the product they have just doesn’t behave as they’d expect. Think of all those times you’ve ordered a muffin or toast and the butter provided is rock hard and even the finest scraping does not cover the three bits of toast you’ve been given. Or when trying on clothes the tags are rigid and immovable and placed where every time – try-on after try-on – they stab and scratch you on your shoulder. Or when you go to the movies and are instructed at the door to sit in your assigned seat, yet once in the theatre it’s so dark that you can’t read your ticket or see the numbers on the seats.

I’ve also experienced good and bad training – whether it’s software or not. I’ve found that training from someone who’s used what they’re demonstrating is far more useful compared to someone going through the motions and reading off a training sheet. I could go on forever! You have to wonder if the people selling these things ever eat their own food, try on, or actually use what they’re selling. It’s about experiencing what your customer does.

So I do that with software, for Xero. We have traditional robust system and product testing but we also have me, the ‘average user’ with my fantasy companies, running my accounts. I’m not an accountant and I didn’t know anything about accounting before coming to work at Xero, other than understanding that I had to do my taxes when asked and I kept and recorded all my receipts for tracking and budgeting. But I do know about sitting down in front of a new application and wondering a) what to do with it, b) why should I do something with it and c) how do I do that something with it. And I ask all those questions that developers roll their eyes at: “Can I save on this screen? What if the phone rings?” “Can I edit this name? What if I typed it wrong?” “It asks for a password. Are there rules? How do I know what they are? I don’t want to pick a password only to be told it’s wrong.” “What’s that report for? What’s the difference between a liability and an expense?” You get the idea!

On my journey with Xero I have written out some online help text and a user guide, and I look forward to finding out if they’ve been useful to others using Xero for the first time, or as a reference.

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