Meeting Customer Needs During COVID

At the height of the COVID pandemic, while companies scrambled to move from working in the office to remote, my team enabled Idera customers that had distributed development teams to continually test software located in testing labs on-premise. We also built a free stand-alone Jira Testing plugin for customers who were struggling to keep their doors open and implement various usability improvements to accelerate our customers testing workflows. Resulted in increasing our NPS score from 50 to 75+ while maintaining a 4.4 star rating on software review sites. Retained 100% of my design team in 2020.

COVID Strikes

In March 2020, COVID became a global pandemic and severely impacted the software industry. I was the UX design leader of all Idera, Inc. B2B database administration, application development, QA testing and DevOps tools, which included TestRail, the #3 B2B software in the world that currently controls 35% of the testing tool market.

At the same time, I constantly monitored my team's personal health, safety, and well-being. Some of my team had problems accessing basic needs: food, medicine, and a safe environment. I ensured they took care of themselves and their loved ones first.

A Responsibility to Testing Customers

Meanwhile, the rest of the team addressed the COVID-related needs of Idera's customers while getting used to our new normal of being locked down at home. We needed to find a way to implement our most important company priority to accelerate product design and development so we could quickly provide the tools our customers desperately needed.

  • Company

    Idera, Inc.

  • My Role

    Director of UX and Design

  • Team

    Senior UX Designer and 2 UX Designers
    Lead PM and 2 PMs
    Lead Architect and 2 Architects

  • Date

    2020 - 2021

View Product

Accelerating Product Design and Development

Idera’s product development SDLC is a combination of Waterfall and Agile. The purpose of the mix SDLC is to allow time for the product team to create well-tested written requirements that are used as a contract to outsource development.

The typical time it takes TestRail to release an improvement or maintenance update is about three to six months. The reason for the long SDLC, TestRail product team consists of one full-time product manager, a part-time architect and a part-time UX designer. The architect and the UX designer are responsible for three products, which includes TestRail. They can only devote a third of their time on TestRail.

My peers and I knew the normal 3-to-6-month release would not enable Idera to meet our customer needs. We needed to accelerate releases to weekly sprints, and daily maintenance updates. To meet our goals, we needed 1) hire dedicated product design and development resources, 2) build a design and DevOps team to optimize workflow and support the dedicated teams by creating tools, providing research and act as cross-functional liaison. 3) Most of all, it would require a new agile model.

Building a Dedicated UX Team

The UX design team was structured as a service so the team can remain lean while provide support for over 28+ products. Not all products required UX support. Primarily the SaaS and web products needed support. I was able to assign three to four products to each UX Designer. This eliminated the extra time for UX Designers to learn a product and their users for each project they worked on. They would gain product and user knowledge over time.

However, UX Designers still needed more time to complete their work, because they were juggling three or four product releases at the same time. For us to accelerate TestRail product releases, we needed UX Designers exclusively focused on the product and the releases.

I was able to initially reallocate two internal resources to focus on designing a plugin for Idera customers to test software at on-premise testing labs from their home. While I focused on hiring additional dedicated UX Designers.

At the same time, I also focused on leading the entire Idera UX team, roadmap execution, developing new accelerated processes with cross-functional leadership, drive alignment and execution of multi-purpose design deliverables, and performed user testing for TestRail.

Creating DesignOps Design System

The DesignOps team consisted of two members. Team Lead and UX Researcher. The Team lead. The goal of DesignOps is to help the team optimize team workflows, ensure design standardization, create tools, provide research, act as cross-functional liaison, and ensure their work is creating impact. Most of all they help remove obstacles UX Designers face so they can focus on a product release with minimal blockers.

For instance After several discussions with small development shops struggling to keep their door open during COVID, my colleagues and I had a strategic planning sessions to determine the best way to help small development shops in a short time. We determined they needed to a standalone Jira Plugin. We needed to have an MVP in a quarter. Once I identified our primary goal for the quarter, I would relay it to the DesignOps team. They would create a roadmap that outlines a plan on achieving the goal in the next quarter. They would establish major themes, and the features that fall under each of them. Then break it down into epics and user stories for UX Designers to work on.

Furthermore, the DesignOps team created and maintained the TestRail design system. They selected the tool to use—Figma. They walked through the product and documented all the components and existing design patterns. They built the Figma library for designers to use. They created processes on how to update and modify the library.

View Design System in Figma

Executing the New Model

Once we had all the resources hired and onboarded, the Design Ops created the design system and tools to support the team, we had a Kickoff meeting to start the first sprint. After each sprint we held a postmortem to determine if we needed to adapt the current process. The first three sprints completed on time, but with issues. By the fourth sprint, the team collaboratively worked through the issues and were able to complete the sprint with hardly any issues.

Day 1 & 2

Define the Problem and Ideation

On day 1 we held a Zoom meeting The team was pumped and ready to go. We already had fleshed out the problem, but we needed to determine if the solution could be handled exclusively using a VPN or did we need to provide additional tools to simplify the process. Once we dediced that we did need extra tools to simplify the process, the team focused on narrowing down the sprint scope to something easily attainable.

The second day everyone whiteboarded ideas using miro.

Day 3 & 4

Select a Solution and Prototype

By day 3 we were ready to narrow down our solutions to one and storyboard a workflow based on users goals. The team was starting to get into the groove of the week sprint. They used a dot system to narrow down the solutions.

The next day the senior designer prototype the solutions as the others prepared for testing.

Day 5 & 6

Testing and Refining

Friday morning we had four users lined up and ready for us to test. After each test, we would refine the prototype based on KPIs we set. By the end of the day, we had finalized the prototype and handed it off to the development partner.

After the sprint we held a postmortem to determine if we needed to adapt the current process. The first three sprints completed on time, but with issues. By the fourth sprint, the team collaboratively worked through the issues and were able to complete the sprint with hardly any issues.

The team was able to implement all the original requirements within four weeks. Eight weeks sooner than if we followed the current process. The UX team also managed to create a design system, established a list of customers for weekly testing and built-in time for user testing. The test results allowed us to quickly determine how many new resources we required and adjust the product roadmap.

Project Success

Faster, More Efficient, and Increase Sales

After one year the dedicated team continues to work seamlessly with minor issues. Sales almost doubled after moving to the new agile model. Customer satisfaction increased and customer support calls dropped. Idera remained profitable throughout 2020 and 2021.


More Improvements


Increased Trial Conversions


Less Customer Complaints


Less Customer Support Calls

Convinced yet?

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