by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 27 April 2011
All of us like good deals. Isn't it great when you get more for less? Or, when you can do several things with the same product. So far, I have been reviewing products that enable you to perform a specific task related to your business. The menu for this week is different. This week I will review FeatureSet: a product that integrates three aspects of your business: product management, project management, and requirements analysis. We will look at its features, functionalities and see how it can be of use to you.
IS FEATURESET ANY DIFFERENT?
Yes, it is. To better illustrate my point, let's list the number of tasks you would need to design a product: you would need to engage your customer in conversations, design products based on those conversations, iterate your product based on feedback and also provide support for your product once it is out in the market. Completing these tasks involves investments in resources and different tools. FeatureSet's unique selling point is that you can do all of the tasks mentioned above using a single product. "You can say that FeatureSet is all about combining voice of the customer with product management," says Derek Gold VP of Product Marketing at FeatureSet. "We believe the best product is derived from the best customer feedback which you can integrate into the system."Since it combines multiple functionalities, I asked him about the concept behind the product. "Our initial concept was that of a product management application," he says. "Based on feedback from customers, we kept extending the requirements and finally ended up with FeatureSet."
SO, WHERE DOES ONE BEGIN?
As I mentioned earlier, FeatureSet is really about combining several aspects of your business into one. This means that you can think of FeatureSet as a combined product management and help desk tool. It has a common application set that enables you to monitor social media, classify ideas to integrate them into your application set, and provide customer service. You can do this by using multiple features within the application such as releasing product prototypes to select groups of customers who can, then, provide feedback. Customers can provide feedback and, also, vote on features. Based on community votes and rankings assigned to each feature, you can, then, narrow down your list and begin development on the most popular features. All this is part of the Decision Support System. The help desk feature enables you to monitor social media conversations and also advertise customer feedback on your website. Not all of these features are available yet but Gold mentioned that it will be present in the new release coming very shortly.
Then, there is the automation engine which triggers jobs when certain criteria are met. The job could be anything from sending out a confirmation email to changing the status of a product when certain parameters are satisfied. Of course, automation is inversely proportional to resources. I asked Gold whether FeatureSet reduces manual labor. "The application reduces many issues that involve manual labor," he says. The application also features several project management tasks. While they are not exhaustive, the project management features are on par with those found in standard project management applications such as Microsoft Project. Transferring your data between online and offline applications is also easy. According to Gold, data transfer is simply a matter of exporting your offline data and importing it into FeatureSet.
THE BASICS: WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
With such a plethora of capabilities, the application should have been a cluttered mess. The operative words here are clutter and mess. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a well-thought out and intuitive interface. Each user has a workspace that lists blog entries. In addition, the requirements and tasks tabs list parameters and tasks related to his or her function. In addition, the tabbed interface makes navigation cleaner and simpler. However, my favorite interface is the Dashboard. This interface lists metrics related to your requirements in a snapshot. What this means is that you can easily see metrics about your project in a visual interface. For example, consider that your project is about introducing a feedback system on your "About Us" page. The dashboard feature will display requirements progress, feedback (for whatever you have completed) progress, financials (or whatever you have spent so far on the project) progress, tasks status, and blog entries related to the same. I guess you could think of it as a visual online project management software.
Broadly, the application can be categorized into the following features:
1. Dashboard: View progress and analytics related to your project.
2. Requirements: Analyze, priorities, and manage requirements.
3. Feedback: Manage feedback and polls related to your product.
4. Tasks: Schedule, allocate, and track project tasks related to your product.
5. Workspace blog: Manage posts related to your product blog.
BUT, IT CANNOT BE ALL THAT PERFECT, RIGHT?
Right. It would be a perfect world if there was a perfect application. As with most cloud applications, customization is not easy. In addition, their API is not public. However, Gold told me they are already working on making their extensive set of APIs public. On the anvil also is adding to their collection of reports. he says.
Since the application's features are pretty extensive, Gold said customers can pretty much choose the kind of features they like. For example, there are customers who like to use feature set's project management tools. Similarly, there are others who prefer the product management features because it integrates well with customer support functions.
SUPPORT FOR FEATURESET
For a first-time user of the product, I thought support was excellent. This is because they have a tour, blog, and community forums to explain the product. As I mentioned earlier, I was initially trying to wrap my head around the idea of a product management-cum-project management-cum-feedback tool. However, the product tour and community forum did a pretty decent job of explaining the product to me.
IS IT FOR YOU?
To go back to the beginning of this review, if you like deals, then you will like this product. It helps you translate customer requirements into actionable and intelligent criteria for products. What's more you can integrate feedback into your requirements and iterate successively. One of the most interesting case scenarios that I could think of was that of this product as a historical repository of customer conversations and requirements for a typical product evolution. The possibilities, then, are endless.