We talked to Arpad Tamas about how StoriesOnBoard is delivering the right product right on time and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Arpad Tamas: Thank you for your question. All things considered, we are well. Both my wife and I work remotely while our two kids are now back at school.
Tell us about your career and how you founded StoriesOnBoard.
Arpad Tamas: I started working as a software developer in 2000 before moving into managerial roles as a Project Manager and a System Analyst. During these 15 years, I’ve got to take part, oversee, and manage a wide range of projects from governmental developments to software used in manufacturing. In all of these projects, my co-founder and I worked closely together with clients, which made me recognize how crucial shared understanding is.
I wanted to encourage complete transparency in our projects in a way that is easy-to-understand for all stakeholders. We needed a visual tool that makes it clear for both the client and the developer team what requirements the software should meet. This was when I started applying user story mapping to facilitate shared understanding.
What is user story mapping?
Arpad Tamas: User story mapping is a product design method used by agile teams. User story mapping is one of the most powerful ways to create a user-centered product. By organizing user stories under activities and user goals, you can create an intuitive, visual backlog that everyone understands. This is what we call a user story map.
User story mapping proved to be an incredibly powerful method to communicate software requirements clearly. However, we often didn’t get to see our clients personally during the development process, and we needed an online tool that makes user story mapping possible remotely. Out of that, the idea of StoriesOnBoard was born.
What does StoriesOnBoard do?
Arpad Tamas: StoriesOnBoard is basically user story mapping moved to the online space. Using our tool, you can do everything you could on a physical story map on a whiteboard and much more. Besides creating story maps out of virtual sticky notes, with StoriesOnBoard, you can slice out releases, create user personas, and add rich card details so that team members can find key information in one place. What’s more, we’ve added Jira, Azure DevOps, Trello, Slack, Figma, and several other integrations to our software so that your user story maps can be accessed from the tools you use every day.
I founded StoriesOnBoard along with my business partner in 2014 with a vision that we wanted to create a workplace that we would want to work at. We wanted to empower our team to work independently and focus on creating real value. Our standards towards softwares got a lot higher over the years. By seeing how usability is lost many times in complex projects, we wanted to build software that users will love and use gladly. In 2015, the beta version became available, and we made the service subscription-based in 2016. We’ve been growing steadily ever since.
How does StoriesOnBoard innovate?
Arpad Tamas: Innovation at storiesOnBoard is based on two pillars. First, our team consists of professionals that excel in their field. By creating a culture that encourages independence, they feel free to experiment with new ideas and continuously learn from them. Second, we communicate constantly with our clients to have a deeper understanding of the issues they face in their development processes and always try to come up with solutions that will help them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Arpad Tamas: As for the business side, we have been experiencing a shift towards larger companies in our clientele. Due to COVID-19, small and medium enterprises tend to leave our software earlier, while more and more large enterprises demonstrate an interest in our services. Moving to the online space has been a major challenge for enterprises since most of their workflows have been designed with a physical presence in mind. When cross-functional teams lose that essential physical touch, they may lose shared understanding with it. This is where StoriesOnBoard can help clarify requirements and specs in agile software development.
As for our own operations, our colleagues used to share the same office space, as well. Since we’ve only ever used online tools, our transition was quick and very smooth. What was – and still has been – in focus due to this transition is building a sense of community remotely. We pay special attention to encouraging and facilitating communication and adaptation to the new model. Since the first wave, we have adopted a hybrid model where our team partly works from home and the office. We try to provide as much freedom and flexibility with that as we can.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arpad Tamas: As I mentioned before, we experienced a shift towards enterprises in our clientele, which made us question whether this is a direction we actively want to pursue. Until now, our primary target group was small and medium enterprises in both product development and additional services. To be able to serve this new segment well, we must tailor the product, sales channels, and additional services to enterprise needs, which requires a large investment. After careful consideration, we decided to take that strategic shift, and hopefully, I can tell you about how successful it was next time.
Who are your competitors?
Arpad Tamas: I still wouldn’t call the market saturated, but there are a couple of other user story mapping tools out there, such as Feature Map, CardBoard, and Avion. We all have slightly distinctive benefits.
How do you plan to stay in the game?
Arpad Tamas: Relying on our clients’ feedback, we are eager to deliver unique solutions to their problems. We place a great emphasis on visuality – a language that makes complex information easy-to-understand for everyone. And of course, we focus on market segments where there is a demand for that.