2021 Year in Review at Wednesday
#2021

Year In Review: 2021

Ali Hafizji
December 27, 2021

Looking back, it feels as though we just started Wednesday but another year has come to an end, time flies! In the consulting business, one can't hide anything. Sooner or later your customers, team, and other stakeholders find out. We decided early on to build in public. Everything we do, how we do it, and our work is publicly available. Staying true to this spirit, I write this article. Running a business is tough, that too a bootstrapped one. Writing about our decisions and what we bet on makes us vulnerable to a vector of attack/criticism. The thoughts you will read here are mine alone. Please keep that in mind as you read along. These are things we tried, some worked, some, unfortunately, didn't.  Don't think of it as advice, I'm just sharing.

Execution

Building digital products involve different approaches for different people, teams, and companies. Despite all this disparity of thought, one singular requirement to making good products is to have the right mentality and approach.

  • Authority: Titles and authority don't work. To grow a digital business you need to capture the human side and have a good team culture.
  • Aristocracy: Decision-making should be aristocratic. One mind or a small number of minds taking product decisions rather than voting like a democracy. The best products and experiences are built with conceptual integrity where the experience and interface are seamless.
  • Specialization of function: Specialization is needed. However, one needs to be aware of the degree of specialization. It brings predictability to delivery but removes creativity in the bargain.
  • Small teams win: If you ask anyone who has worked with teams of different sizes they will always prefer working with a small team. Having the right mix and giving them the freedom to make decisions without requiring approvals is a recipe for ownership.
  • Delegation: This is a tough one. Especially for founders who were earlier building digital products. There is a difference between building a digital product and running a digital business, for the latter delegation is key.

Delegation is something I struggled with. My solution to almost everything in life has been persistence and hard work. I've always been a night owl. In the early days, I would spend the day working with different teams and stay up late to complete my work. I realized the hard way that control and quality are separate metrics. They aren't interrelated.

As a consulting company, we have the opportunity to work with companies in different business verticals with a variety of management styles. We've learned that no matter what business you run if you're using technology to grow marketshare you need to have the above approach.

We have always said what makes us different is not what we do, but how we do it. 2021 marks a major milestone for us, as a team we've not just been able to deliver great software but also a great experience. This is only possible if you have the right product development mindset and approach.

Playbook

Our playbook has been influenced by what the guys at Obvious have done. We write about how we do things at Wednesday. It has been a good guide for engineers, designers, and customers. My goal is to eventually make all the processes, practices, tips & tricks public. Being a custom software development shop we take a different approach on almost all projects while abiding by a set of processes/principles.

Early in the year, I wrote down an engineering playbook. I listed each framework and wrote down how to build applications using it. It was detailed and meant to help engineers build using the same conventions on all projects. While this practice is great to maintain uniformity across all projects, we needed to strike a better balance to encourage creativity and innovation. In the software industry, frameworks, practices, and conventions change almost every month. It became difficult to keep re-writing the playbook. We needed a transformation. So, we focussed on building template projects. We also shifted our focus on measuring quality primarily by metrics such as:

  • Lead time: The time between when code is checked in and when it is deployed.
  • Deployment frequency: The number of times we deploy to production
  • Time to restore: The time it takes to restore/roll back errors.
  • Change failure percentage: what percentage of changes fail in production.

We built templates for each of the frameworks we have expertise in. These templates are available on our Github. When asked we point our customers to the code in these templates. It serves as a quality bar for our customers to understand how we write code and what we will deliver.

Focusing on quality metrics allowed engineering teams to be loosely coupled while still maintaining quality measurement through quantifiable variables. Each team was allowed to choose a set of conventions and processes they liked. The team had to agree to it unanimously. We set quality metrics across all projects and automated measurements.

In the coming year, I'd love to open source how we're measuring these metrics. A big pending ticket has also been to publish our design process. We will formalize this in our playbook in the coming year.

Open Source

At Wednesday, We're big believers in open source. Mac (Co-Founder and CTO ) creates interesting open-source libraries out of his learnings, these save him and his team valuable time. We've got a big collection of these repositories on our Github.

In 2022, I'd love to focus our effort in a more directed manner. Contributing to projects and frameworks that we use on a day-to-day basis. We will continue to invest in this area. These continue to be a marketing effort and a way for our developers to quench their intellectual thirst.

Design

We were able to get on board the best design leader I could have asked for. We've started conducting discovery calls and workshops with customers. This team is built on strong tenets of mentorship. It's taken a while for us to reach here but it's the best design team I've worked with. A group that listens to each other, works well together and uses their expertise to design gorgeous visuals and experiences.

As part of our branding, marketing, and product design work, we have started taking on more projects than before.  Our design team has begun to serve as an opener with several clients. We will continue to invest in this by hiring the best designers out there. We will also focus our efforts on releasing Figma community plugins, speaking at conferences, and building our presence on Dribbble & Behance.

Podcast

Jumping the bandwagon on adding a human element to our efforts for bringing Wednesday into the limelight, we launched The Wednesday Show.  In the episodes Mac and I have released so far we focus on everything from Design to Development and the Ins and Outs of building great digital products. Highlighting stories behind products, the most used tools, innovations, and our own learnings is something we wanted to share thus creating an environment of learning from the best in the industry.

Technology

It is imperative that we always learn. We cannot offer our expertise as a service unless we're experts in the technology/framework. Our team isn't afraid of learning and this has helped us immensely. As we looked to the future, we learned and developed expertise about what our ideal customer base would use.

Early in the year, we bet big on Go, Serverless, AWS Appsync, GraphQL, DynamoDB, Flutter, Webflow, and Backendless (we even launched a NoCode agency called Tuesday). We were early with these technologies. They did not even have enough documentation when we deployed them into production.

I'm excited about 2022. We're well-positioned in terms of strategy, capability, leadership, and experience. I'm confident we can build for any use-case, learn anything, and run large engineering teams at high velocity.

Sales/Business Development

As most startup folk would agree, founders, especially those with engineering backgrounds struggle with Sales, and in the beginning, I certainly did. While a majority of Wednesday's sales comes from word of mouth or referrals we've come a long way and I'm happy with the results yielded by our outbound sales efforts.

We have a strong outbound strategy based on serving and not selling. We're interested in exploring relationship-building with other founders, listening to them to identify the problems they're facing, and problem-solving.

While this is where we will continue to invest more time in 2022., we want to build a larger team, participate in conferences, meet & greet sessions, and expand our network. Our primary focus will be to bring more growth-stage businesses onboard as customers..

Remote

Wednesday had an in-person office set up only for a brief period. Owing to the  COVID-19 restrictions we had to adapt by taking the office fully remote and implementing the work from home model. While social media is gung-ho about work from home (WFH), it just didn't work for me. It's also easy to confuse remote work and work from home. They're two different things. We've been working remotely from a different sub-continent, in a different timezone for our customers for years now. This works. Working from home doesn't work for everyone. It certainly didn't for me.

We all have problems. It could be anything. I've always thought of my work as an outlet. The time I spent building software I was plugged in and my problems seem to disappear. You learn a lot about life while facing these downs. It builds empathy and resilience. But without an outlet you would just spiral.

Growth -a mindset

Growth is an absolute must at Wednesday. We won't compromise on it, and neither should anyone at Wednesday. I believe the best way for engineers and designers to learn, especially early on in their careers is with people. It's not just about learning skills, problem-solving, brainstorming, rather it's about the habits you pick up and the social ties.

At my first job, my manager always showed up before me. He worked late hours to ensure we had everything ready the next day. I saw him do this day after day for years. These habits you build teach you how to think long-term. Those who understand this and take action will have successful careers. This has to be evangelized not forced.

2022

I can't wait for 2022 to start. The world is opening up. Our goal of designing and building great software remains the same. We're better equipped and skilled to deliver than ever before. The journey is long and we're just getting started.

Here is wishing everyone a happy holiday and a prosperous new year.

Signing Off.

~A

P.S. Check out what the team has put together as a year end project here

More Articles

The Wednesday Show - A show about the design, development, and business of digital products. Every week the founders of Wednesday talk about their learnings of building digital products.
Psst! Listen to our podcast The Wednesday Show here
Close Icon
Schedule a meeting with Wednesday. Tell us about your product development journey and let's figure out a way to work together.
Talk to us