Coffee with Clarence: Chatting About our Product and the Engineering Team Behind It

Arlene Galton

We sat down with Clarence Pong, the Director of Engineering and Product here at FormHero, to get a breakdown of our product and the team behind it. We explore the development life cycle of our product and explore how the product is enhanced, why it is favoured by our customers, and how our teams collaborate to deliver a solution that can be used across various industries.

Taking a closer look at our product...

Q: When people ask you “What is FormHero?”, how do you describe it? 

When describing the FormHero product, I sometimes use the shorthand “forms on steroids”, because we do so much more than the run-of-the-mill online forms. Not only do we transform manual or paper-based processes into digital workflows, we create entire smart digital experiences that drive customer engagement and organizational processes for our enterprise clients. We have the ability to:

  • Integrate Smart Forms with dynamic API data;
  • Deliver user-submitted data to any number of user-defined destinations such as emails, SMS and webhooks and
  • Fine-tune Smart Forms experiences using custom HTML, CSS and JavaScript

All of these elements combined gives us a powerful, low-code toolbox for creating dynamic workflows and simple, elegant user experiences.

Q: What does the product life cycle look like?

We employ a combination of Product Roadmap and Agile Software Development methodologies to help us continuously develop and improve our product, based on new features and enhancements identified by our clients, product managers and other internal teams at FormHero. 

At a high-level, our Product Roadmap process helps us prioritize our work and focus our teams on the most important tasks at hand. On a quarterly basis, based on cross-functional feedback, we review and select a subset of the features to work on, and for each feature our team gets to work in building product specifications and UI mockups, and defining the various use cases. Next, we conduct technical planning discussions to determine how the feature will be implemented, and how it will coexist with other functionality within the product. 

On a daily basis we employ an Agile Scrum methodology to help us organize our work and break down features into tasks for each Sprint, which for us is currently a two-week cycle. During a Sprint, our Product and Engineering teams work on all phases of feature development, which includes coding, code reviews, QA and automation testing. This is an iterative process, and the teams work closely together to make sure we’re building the best possible product within the constraints that we have. 

Q: What sets FormHero apart from competitors?

In my opinion, the key differentiators of FormHero is the breadth and depth of our feature set, as well as our customer-centric approach to product development. Having a large feature set helps us meet the needs of our very diverse client base. From banks and retail chains, to insurance companies and government agencies, our clients all have distinct performance, functionality and security requirements, so nothing is “one size fits all” here. In addition, as an organization we operate in an extremely customer-centric way, which includes listening intently to client needs and using that as key input in planning our Product Roadmap. Beyond the platform, we also have an in-house Client Services team that works directly with enterprise clients to build out custom form solutions, ensuring a top-notch customer experience. In my mind, these are the factors that set us apart from our competitors.

Q: How is our product used by customers?

As mentioned, we count among our clients the biggest household names within the Canadian financial services, banking, government, insurance and retail sectors. Our product is used both by their internal teams to address corporate and employee workflows (e.g. call centre workflows), as well as consumer-facing digital experiences (e.g. flu shot vaccination consent forms). The versatility of our platform makes data collection a breeze, while our enterprise-grade security features protect our data and give our clients peace of mind.

Q: What is your team's approach to changing market conditions? How do you adapt the product to stay competitive? 

In order to stay competitive, our team is always staying on top of both emerging client needs as well as cutting edge software engineering tools and technologies. This allows us to build the best possible user experiences with the best tools available.

Q: What’s a project you are proud of? 

Within the past few months we partnered with a pharmacy retail chain in building their digital contactless flu shot vaccination consent form. Our goal was to help create a streamlined, easy-to-use digital experience for collecting vaccination consent and performing COVID-19 screening, saving patients the hassle of paperwork and supporting physical distancing efforts by minimizing time spent within the pharmacy store itself. As part of this project, we designed and developed several brand new security and data collection features, and we’re so excited to see this through and help make a difference during this global pandemic.

Q: What are some of the tools your team uses?

We use a variety of tools for software engineering, deployment and QA testing. Some of our most important tools include:

  • Programming language: JavaScript
  • Front end framework/library: AngularJS and React
  • Back end runtime and framework: Node.js and Express
  • Database: MongoDB
  • Containerization: Docker
  • Cloud computing: Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • End-to-end automation testing: Cypress
  • Product roadmapping: Roadmunk
  • Project management: Jira

Meeting the team behind it all...

Q: What is your role on the Engineering & Product team and what are your responsibilities?

As Director, my focuses are what I like to call the 3Ps: People, Processes and Program Management. I spend a lot of time working with my team to ensure team members are happy, productive, and have all the tools they need to deliver a great product in a timely manner. I’m continuously looking for ways to improve the team’s working environment, as well as staying abreast of new tools, processes and frameworks that could make us more effective and efficient. 

Q: What does the day in the life of a product team member look like?

There is great variety in everyone's “day in the life” because our team is composed of people fulfilling a number of different functions: Front End Engineers, Back End Engineers, QA Automation Engineers and Product Managers.

Product Managers are responsible for defining and prioritizing new features for our platform, based on cross-functional input and client needs. They see new features through from concept to execution and assess it along the way to make sure it is developed to meet customer needs. Our Product team also works closely with internal stakeholders, including our Client Services and Solutions Engineering teams, and assists them with Smart Form development.

Front End Engineers are responsible for developing and owning the user interface, including its functionality, user experience, performance, accessibility, etc. Their day-to-day consists of building powerful functionality, collaborating with the Product team to define and implement features and making sure our product looks great!

Back End Engineers are primarily responsible for creating microservices that provide functionality to the front end: Generating PDFs, authenticating and authorizing users, loading and persisting Smart Forms, delivering Smart Form submitted data via email, SMS and API, etc.  They spend the bulk of their days building new services, optimizing services for speed and scalability, implementing new security functionality, generating data storage solutions, etc.

Finally, QA Automation Engineers act as our guardian of product quality, and are responsible for designing and implementing automation testing solutions, conducting regression testing, troubleshooting and identifying issues, and overall ensuring our product does what is intended and works robustly.  

Final thoughts...

The startup space is a very exciting and fast-moving environment— we’re always evolving to make sure we’re providing the best outcomes for our clients. There are a lot of moving parts to delivering a product that is relevant and user-friendly, and we’d love to hear from you! How do you adapt to evolving technology? 

Stay updated on our journey by following us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Make sure to check out our opportunities here— we’re always looking to hire top talent!

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