How technology and design thinking empower our internal operations

How technology and design thinking empower our internal operations

How technology and design thinking empower our internal operations

By Adam Stoffel, Head of Operations at Caravel Labs

The use of Design Thinking and rigorous development practices is integral to all of the technology and software work that we do at Caravel Labs, including on our own internal employee-facing tools and processes.

Just like the work we do for our customers, our internal projects follow a product management approach focused on balancing three main factors:

  1. Business need: Just like any other business keeping the lights on, we need to run payroll, track expenses, administer employee benefits, and perform a multitude of other operational tasks. Our organization’s values also require that we consider the impact of these processes and the tools which support them on our sustainability and social impact footprint.

  2. Usability: How do we design our internal tools to make our employees’ interactions easier, faster, and more intuitive? Ensuring a high-degree of user satisfaction in our tools is critical for a startup seeking to attract and retain talent, in part, by providing the best possible employee experience.

  3. Technology: How efficiently and accurately can we build the technology needed support the business needs and usability under the budget constraints of a lean startup? How can we maximize savings in the form of reduced human effort on operational tasks?

To tackle this product management challenge for our internal tools, we have adopted a few core principles which guides our implementation process:

Automate everything

Our team ascribes to the philosophy that if a task can be automated, it should be. Allowing a computer to run through a process means it is likely to be done more consistently and quickly, freeing up our team’s time and energy for more fruitful activities.

As a technology company, we don’t shy away from building custom integrations and automations between each of the tools that comprise our operations technology platform. We use technologies like Azure Functions and Microsoft PowerAutomate to eliminate manual human intervention for each of our regular HR, accounting, and operations tasks which occurs on a regular cadence.

When we can’t fully automate something, we document it thoroughly. Our internal Wiki contains step-by-step instructions for tasks which require human support. Any member of the team should be able to jump in and complete the task without much second-guessing or toil.

Thoughtful vendor selection

There are an astonishing number of options to sift through when choosing a technology partner for HR, Payroll, Accounting, Bookkeeping, Employee Benefits administration, and more. When choosing a vendor for these services, we think carefully about how it meets our business needs, improves our employee experience, and the options they provide us to automate tasks and integrations across the operations stack.

Our company structure and values sometimes necessitate a unique approach to vendor evaluation. As a global organization we forced to reconcile how our processes or employee experience might be different from one geography to another to ensure each employee is having a relevant and equitable experience. We also consider the social impact of our vendor selections; we often prioritize a vendors based on their commitment to sustainability and social justice, and their impact on the local communities in which Caravel Labs operates.

Test carefully

Seeing a mistake on your paystub or having to rework your chart of accounts due to an error isn’t something any small business owner or employee wants to deal with. The custom integrations we build go through a rigorous set of unit and integration tests before we launch them to production. Our documented processes for manual tasks are regularly checked and updated for accuracy and clarity.

The rigorous DevOps practices we have for all of our projects also extend to our custom operations tools including the use of source control, infrastructure-as-code, automated testing and deployment, and static and dynamic code analysis.

As Caravel Labs continues to grow, our commitment to lean, usable, and approachable internal tools and process will become ever more important. The product management and engineering philosophy espoused through our organization will support this commitment.

Whether you’re working at a startup or an established company, Caravel Labs would be happy to discuss more about how our engineering techniques can improve the quality, reliability, or usability of your internal tools. Send us a message at info@caravellabs.com to discuss your project.