For an open, honest, multi-directional exchange of ideas, nothing beats a group of people with a vital shared interest. Digital Measures was founded by entrepreneur and then-student Matt Bartel, who saw a need—capturing information digitally from the start, rather than gathering information on paper—and set about creating a solution to streamline that process. Matt’s initial inspiration and his approach of engaging higher education professionals in conversation continue to define DM’s approach to creating solutions. We engage faculty, department chairs, deans and provosts in conversation several ways, including our Client Insight Boards (CIBs). Here’s a Q&A with Kate Kaczmarczik, Product Marketing Manager and Insight Board coordinator, about how our Insight Boards inspire products and inform new features and functionality.
Q. Could you talk about the purpose of DM’s Client Insight Boards?
A. Since most of us have backgrounds in fields other than higher ed, we need to find other ways to better understand and stay current on the challenges that faculty and university administrators face so that we can deliver software and services that truly meet their needs. Client Insight Boards are a fantastic opportunity to get an in-depth understanding of what it’s like to have their responsibilities and walk in their shoes. It’s getting us out of our own mindsets and into theirs.
So we bring together groups of people with similar positions to talk about the dynamics they face in their role within the university, what events and trends they’re tuning into in higher education, and how they view our offerings. We have separate boards for faculty, university administrators who are capturing and reporting on faculty activities with our software, another for university administrators who are digitizing review processes with the system, and finally a board for deans.
At the highest level, these boards are about making sure we have regular opportunities to connect with people in a variety of roles so we’re truly internalizing the market we serve to drive the best possible fit between our products and services and our clients’ needs.
Q. How does DM benefit from the input of Insight Boards?
A. Our Insight Boards are one of many ways we seek out the voices of our customers. One of the best things about the board meetings is that the agenda includes time for board members to learn from each other. We facilitate the conversation, but board members ask each other questions and offer perspective from their own experience with similar issues. What they discuss between themselves is as illuminating as their answers to the questions we bring to the table. These candid discussions provide us with a much deeper understanding of the day-to-day challenges and frustrations on campus, and how our products can solve—or at least ease—those difficulties.
Q. Can you share the benefits for board members?
A. Board members commit to giving us their time, insights and feedback. In return, we consider them trusted advisors. They get an early look at our product roadmap and have the opportunity to influence our product priorities and designs to better meet their needs. They are also connected with a group of peers for networking and sharing best practices
Q. Who serves on DM’s Insight Boards?
A. The missions and characteristics of the clients we serve are widely varied, so it’s crucial that the we have that range reflected in our boards as well. We tune into some representative traits like Carnegie Classification, institutional control, geographic region, and more when looking for institutional representation. And for our faculty board we’ve sought to bring together individuals of varied academic disciplines as well as career paths and stages. Our boards are role-specific so members can talk with their peers at other institutions. This surfaces common experiences as well as contrasts that inform not only DM, but give new perspective for board members as well.
Q. What impact do Insight Boards have on DM’s products?
A. Insight Boards are a great way to be accountable to our clients. We talk with them about issues they face and share ideas that are on the drawing board that we hope will make their jobs easier. They provide their input and we start designing based on our newfound understanding of requirements. Then we come back to them with something in progress, demonstrate it and ask for honest feedback. When they like what they see, it’s really gratifying to know we’re on the right track. When they push back, it gives us an even deeper understanding of the issues they face, and a good sense of how to refine what we’ve developed to meet their needs.
Q. What kinds of needs do you hear most?
A. That really depends on who we’re talking with. We have conversations, especially with deans and other university leaders, about big-picture strategic topics and new needs that we could potentially help our clients meet. We also talk in applied terms a lot, focusing on how we can best craft a value-rich experience for the users of our products.
Our Client Success team is also skilled at spotting trends through their day-to-day client interactions. The team collaborates often to distinguish anomalies from common needs, and relays trending requests back to our Product Management team.
Q. What’s the single biggest benefit of DM’s Insight Boards?
A. The Insight Boards offer a rich, ongoing opportunity to understand what it’s like to be in the role of faculty or a dean or a university administrator. That insight guides our work, strategically and day to day.
Q. For those who aren’t involved in Insight Boards, could you share some of the other ways to be involved in DM’s client community?
A. Insight Boards are just one of the many ways we seek input from clients. DMers visit campuses to immerse themselves in clients’ day-to-day work (our mug wall is a testament to the many universities we’ve visited!). We also regularly hold hands-on product review sessions with end-users. And of course we bring clients together to share information and network at our annual User Group.
Q. What’s one final thing you want to share about DM’s Insight Boards?
A. Hands down the people. We’re fortunate to have such amazing clients. We have great conversations—and we have fun.