What technical leaders can learn from my experience with a $500,000 bug

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When I launched the social media app Scout in 2007, I was blown away by our traction. We had over 50 million installations globally, we raised over $ 22 million from Andreessen Horowitz, and there were hundreds of incredibly talented employees who were able to do all this.

Despite our success, and despite our unfamiliarity, there were many 1-star reviews on the Google Play App Store in Polish, dinging our Android app into a language we don’t understand. This small scout community as a whole was disappointed and was telling us exactly what we needed to know, that the application was useless in Poland, but we were not listening.

The big cost of a small mistake

As it turned out, a small mistake cost us આવ 500,000 in lost revenue and it lasted more than six months. No one in Poland can use the Scout Android app for half a year because our data parser does not recognize the location of our Polish customers – forcing the app to crash every time it is opened.

We eventually stumbled upon our parser problem by accident, and it took us 10 minutes to fix it. It took us another six months to recover our loss of income.

We don’t have any tools or processes that can help us understand the potential impact of this bug, and the reality is that most companies are in a similar situation. Being a good product leader means knowing what information you need to make your decision and how to use that information to determine priorities and team direction.

Throughout this process, I learned three main lessons about creating technology products that give users priority.

1. Create a strong and consistent feedback loop.

The people who make your product need to be in constant touch with the people they interact with, such as sales and customer success. Each company should ensure that there are systems that allow the two teams to collaborate and share information continuously. This feedback loop should also be formal and documented to make it easier for everyone in the company to understand and implement key insights.

2. Promote a culture of data based decision making.

While “trusting your gut” has its place in the business, data is important when prioritizing product decisions, new features or fixing bugs. Humans inherently have biases that can lead to decisions that can affect product use, customer satisfaction, and even income (as seen in my case). For example, a US-based team might prefer Apple over Android, as it is a platform that is more popular in the US – even if the company is building a global product with international customer support. Data-driven decision-making eliminates any opinions and ensures that what is best for the business comes first.

3. Make sure you track and measure the right indicators.

It can be easy to feel uncomfortable with data or be unsure about which data sources are really most important for a product and business. The good news is that one entity tests your product every day for every update in every language and configuration and on every platform and device. That entity is your user base, and they tell you what is and isn’t working. So take the time to understand what your users are saying to you to ensure consistent measurements. From reviews on the App Store or Google Play, customer support tickets in Zendesk and social media interactions in Twitter or Reddit – looking at these features together can give a clear picture of what features consumers need and what mistakes they should prioritize. .

Ensuring that you understand what your users are saying to you in real-time and in any language, and then working on that information, is important in today’s fast-paced development environment where there are so many solutions to choose from.

Christian Wickland is the founder and CEO of UnitQ,

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