In early December 2009, all of us at ServerBeach embarked on an ambitious project to upgrade our entire back-end systems. This was a massive project with a lot of moving pieces. We did this for several reasons, but most importantly, to better serve you. We’ve created a consolidated platform for all of our PEER 1 Hosting and ServerBeach customers to allow for the ease-of-use and access to the multiple web hosting products we offer across all of our brands. This robust foundation enables us to offer you more and improved automation tools well into the future.
As you know, the transition to the new platform did not go as we planned. We made several mistakes during the process, and we would like to take this opportunity to share our postmortem findings with you. I’ve highlighted them here:
- We created a large burden on our team with hard and fast deadlines that allowed little room for movement or errors.
- We missed some milestones along the way and instead of moving deadlines, we cut some corners with training, testing and QA.
- We were too focused on replacing the system we had as the initial step, instead of focusing on what new features and requirements our customers needed the most. We were too concerned with scope creep.
- We did not spend enough time gathering customer requirements and feedback. We gathered some, but needed more.
- We underestimated the impact of some of the gaps between the old DNS system and the new one.
- We had several failures in our DNS data migration for a subset of our customers.
- Our tested rollback processes and procedures were invalidated by the failure to identify some of the DNS issues identified gradually after going live.
- We underestimated the branding piece on the new customer portal, and as a result, created confusion around the relationship between PEER 1 Hosting and ServerBeach – a relationship that has existed for over five years, since the acquisition of ServerBeach in 2004.
- We based the portal and tool decisions on customers who use both PEER 1 Hosting Managed Hosting services, along with ServerBeach Dedicated Servers. In retrospect, we should have focused more on the services an individual ServerBeach customer would seek, and the portal experience related to them. We are committed to correcting this.
- Our usability and interface functionality tests were insufficient and we should have gathered requirements and feedback from a much broader spectrum of customers.
- We conducted limited beta testing – in hindsight, this was not sufficient.
We did a thorough investigation of every one of these and walked away with several lessons learned. Below are the highlights:
- Build a more flexible system for developing. This includes provisions for setback, which will allow for deadline evaluation and movement of tasks to avoid cutting corners.
- Gather better and broader customer feedback on system requirements before upgrading in the future.
- Improve our testing process to include beta and customer participants.
As you can see, we made mistakes. Based on what we’ve learned, we have aggressive initiatives to close the gap, to improve our process and services, and to make ServerBeach the best place to host your sites. Here are some of our initiatives:
- Create a Customer Council – a round table of our customers to gather feedback on the ServerBeach experience.
- Utilize forums and customer communication for feedback on what’s working and what’s not, screen change evaluation, and to bounce new ideas off the community.
- Implement a better beta testing program for future upgrades.
- Implement a series of strategy sessions to create new ideas on how to better connect with you and how to involve you in our strategy decisions.
We are humbled by this experience and sincerely apologize for the challenges we’ve put you through. It’s been tough on all of us, but more importantly, even tougher on you and we know that. We have a lot of work to do but we’re up for it. That’s a promise. We’re ready to put the “Geek” back in the Beach and we expect you to hold us to it. We will be sending out notifications on how you can participate in our processes to help improve them to meet your needs.
Thank you for your patience, understanding and support. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SVP, Business Development
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