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Product Studio – the Next Generation of the Software Development Companies

Railsware is a product studio. We build software solutions that users love, deliver them to market, and ensure their steady growth. How do we make this mechanism work? What is required to reach the main goal of a product studio: achieving product-market fit and growing products to multi-million dollar ventures?

What is product studio and its values

Product studio explained

A product studio is a platform for repeatable creation and growth of successful products. At the same time, it is a company model, which has two wings: clients’ and its own software products. They are integrally connected and complement each other. Working with the clients on the implementation of their product ideas, we act as a tech partner. We start our involvement from product discovery. To find the right product-market fit, we define potential users, discuss their pains and collaborate on solutions. This gives us the chance to meet experts from different industries and business areas, explore various use cases and gain new experiences. With each new case, we deepen our product management and engineering expertise.

We build each product as though it were our own startup. We strive to walk in our clients’ shoes, feel their pains and as a result, make our approaches and solutions more advanced and efficient. And we use each experience to improve internal processes and advance our knowledge of the product creation craft. Then, we apply this craft when building our clients’ next project. In other words, a product studio has a continuous improvement cycle.

As a platform, a product studio can seem rather like a black box with ideas from clients, friends, Railswarians, whoever. Due to well-functioning product management, product engineering, and product design processes and polished approaches we use, we turn validated ideas into successful products.

validated deas are turn into products in the product studio

Last but not least, a product studio is distinguished by its values and approaches. We apply them equally to clients’ and our own products.

But Railsware wasn’t always a product studio. Rather, we evolved into one after many obstacles overcome, lessons learned, and plain old hard work. We have walked a long and thorny path to get to today’s point.

The Railsware story

We started as a classic outsourcing company. We were a team of software engineers writing great code to deliver features our customers requested. From this perspective, we were successful. We delivered high-quality service, and our customers were satisfied with the work of our developers. However, our team felt inefficient. Sleepless nights before releases with code commits at 6 a.m. repeated again and again. We were lacking internal project management as well as an understanding of the whole picture. We were completing the tasks requested by the customer but could evaluate neither our efforts nor the success of the product we were working on. That’s how the transformation began. We learned a lot: from product and project management approaches to building software for our customers. In particular, we explored strategies of the most successful companies in our industry. We consulted with market leaders in Silicon Valley like Pivotal Labs, ThoughtBot, and Zurb. We analyzed the successful cases and approaches in order to apply them to our business.

We realized the difference. The approach of the teams we were learning from helped clients to understand the product goals and then implement them. They worked as a technical partner and a consultant from the very beginning of the project, whereas we had just been implementing the clients’ plans without any strategic input of our own. The transition wasn’t an easy one. It took us several years to fully rebuild the company model and to switch our role from that of an executor to a full-on strategic partner. We worked hard to gain our own expertise in business processes, product management, and design, all while continuing to polish our software development approaches.

Today, we have become a tech partner to our clients. We dive deep into the process at each creation stage – from product discovery to delivery. We integrate into the client’s business as a well-balanced team of product managers, developers, and designers who create products that solve users’ pains.

With solid product management domain knowledge, we create not what customers want, but what they need. This has helped us to build a number of successful products for Calendly, SendGrid, Philips, Google, and other interesting companies.

The comprehensive experience we gained with each case brought us to our long-term goal (and a dream): launching our own products. We started by experimenting with tools for internal use. That laid in the foundation for our paid products – Mailtrap and Smart Checklist for Jira. Now, they are used by over a half-million of people around the globe, including world-class teams like Atlassian, Adobe, Github, Yelp, and Pivotal.

Now, we are particularly focused on building own products. We encourage our team to generate, validate, and implement ideas for successful new products. This culture of innovation has paid off, and we are now preparing the launch of our third paid product. And that’s to say nothing of the dozen or so concepts that are still in their early stages.

Values and culture

We believe that the company’s culture and priorities are determined by its values. Building successful products that solve clients’ pains is the main value at Railsware (except for making the world a better place, of course! 😉)

To ensure the creation of successful products as well as constant movement from good to great, we need to cultivate a distinct culture shared by all team members. Our culture has developed over the long course of our company’s evolution. Now our company stands for a strong belief in the end value of what we do along with continuous learning and improvement.

Сraft evolution

Deep expertise is essential for building successful and efficient products or solutions. To gain it, you need to constantly acquire thorough knowledge and then implement it in practice. We improve and polish our skills and experience in every field of our activities, from engineering and development to marketing and product support. This way, we build our mastery in all we do, implement it as tailored and highly effective solutions, and then share our insights with the community.

To rephrase Ralph Marston, we believe that craftsmanship is not a skill, it’s an attitude.

Team Spirit

It’s impossible to achieve ambitious product studio goals without expertise, professionalism, and strong hard skills. However, if you invite several talented experts, you have no guarantee that they will deliver a great result (build a successful product, in particular). They have to play as a team. Just as in football, while only a few players can score goals during a match, overall success depends on teamwork.

Our product squads are well-balanced teams of product managers, developers, designers, and marketers. We are not just doing our jobs but are truly dedicated to building successful products.

That is why we foster soft skills, communication, and feedback. Each Railswarian is contributing to the company vision and its execution on multiple levels. We cultivate open feedback culture and promote collective leadership.

T-shapedness

For the product studio model, not only the cross-functional but also the T-shaped team concept has proven its efficiency. It means strong expertise in a single field along with the ability to interact within the adjacent disciplines. This improves team communication and increases its productivity. Also, T-shaped professionals can efficiently solve some tasks lying at the intersection of several areas. For example, our designers can experiment with implementing a UI they’ve created, using their basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

This approach informs our hiring and onboarding process. Ability to work in a fast data-driven environment, and openness to new knowledge in different product-related fields matter a lot. Open-minded people with a wide skillset tend to think out of the box and generate exceptional ideas.

Data-driven approach

To build successful products and run an efficient business, you need to think long-term and be willing to adjust your efforts and allocate resources accordingly. Many companies chase sales goals which are not supported by facts. We use a data-driven approach, making decisions based on the data we collect rather than intuition or previous experience alone. We measure and analyze our results to build predictions and evaluate how our decisions can be used and improved in the future.

Product studio hallmarks

Driven by the team, Railsware developed its own company model. It allows us to transform our knowledge and experience into solutions for problems faced by our products’ users.

Whether we’re working on a client’s product or our own, we use the same approaches. This way, we invest in our craft and then apply it to building better solutions. It forms a continuous improvement cycle and shapes the product studio as a platform for the repeatable creation and growth of successful products.

Let’s build great products together and… make the world a better place! 🙂