5 ways we use Karbon, at Karbon

Stuart McLeodCEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

At Karbon, we build a collaborative work management platform for accounting firms and other professional service businesses. Being a SaaS company, we obviously don’t fall into that category.

Despite this, the entire team still uses Karbon extensively every single day. Here’s why:

1. Product improvement and innovation. To keep building and thinking of new ways to improve Karbon, we need to get in the minds of those who use it every day. We must know how they use it, why they use it, where it’s great, where it’s less than great. The only way we can do this is if we use the product day in, day out — just like our customers.

2. Quality control. If there are any bugs, issues, or little frustrations with our product, we want to be the first to know about them. That way we can address them before they impact our customers.

3. It works. All biases aside, Karbon truly is a great product. And it’s flexible enough to suit a team like ours. These days, we rely on Karbon for almost all of our internal work management, team collaboration, email and most common processes.

That last point is what I want to focus on in this piece. Amongst our extensive software stack, we’ve come to rely on Karbon, above perhaps any other app, and it has genuinely made our company more efficient in countless ways.

Here are just a few of the ways we are using Karbon internally each day:

1. Our sales cycle

The first thing we use Karbon for is with our sales cycle. We document all of the crucial steps for certain processes as templates, which helps us frame the product for demo, gets everyone following the same procedures, and means every potential customer is given the same top-quality experience.

For example, when showing Karbon to a potential new customer we first need to understand their business and how they currently work. This is critical in order for us to show them how Karbon suits their specific workflows. To assist in this process, we have an in-depth questionnaire saved as a template. It covers everything from their company structure and the number of employees, to what software they use and services they specialize in.

We simply create a work item from that template for each new prospect we’re talking to, which ensures that we ask every question we need to gain a thorough understanding of their business.

As we grow, we’re continually scaling our sales process. And in order to do that effectively, everybody should be following the same methodology. Ultimately, the goal is to have consistent results for an overall positive outcome.

Karbon’s email integration makes this even more powerful for us. We can see every interaction we’ve had with existing and potential customers. During the sales process, I can see who is doing what, where people are up to, and how each of them is performing.

From there, I can identify opportunities to improve and progress. For example, I can step in to assist with a sale that isn’t moving forward, or give support to sales people that are struggling to close deals.

Using Karbon, it’s easy to manage the entire sales process no matter the situation and keep it moving forward.

2. Onboarding and services

Karbon has become our single source of truth when it comes to managing the progress of our newest trialists and customers. Everything related to onboarding — getting new clients using our product and training them to implement it correctly — is tracked.

While large clients get personalized training, our smaller customers typically don’t go through that highly customized onboarding process. Instead, they benefit from peer or group training to assist with their conversion.

In addition, we use functionality such as Client Tasks to automate our most common and time-consuming processes like customer data collection, auto-reminders, and process documentation to trigger activities as work progresses.

Regardless of the type of training, onboarding or document and data load that we’re undertaking for our customers, everything is templated, tracked and delivered using Karbon. At any one point in time we can see where our delivery team is up to, we can anticipate bottlenecks and determine with reasonable accuracy the likelihood of meeting customer expectations regarding their data loads or other tasks we’re carrying out for them.

3. Monitoring objectives

To define and track objectives and their outcomes — whether they are at a company, team or individual level — we use the OKR method. We monitor our progress constantly, and at the end of a quarter, our OKRs provide a reference to evaluate how well we did in executing our objectives.

For the last couple of years, we have used a Karbon work item to record and manage all OKRs across the team. Each quarter a new piece of is created, which everyone has access to. Here, I’ll add our shared company-wide core objectives as tasks. And from there, every team and individual is responsible for setting and adding their own objectives that relate to them.

This process keeps everyone aligned, connected to the big picture and vision, and working towards the same objectives.

Recently, we’ve been focusing on sales — our current data is erratic, and our goal was to obtain more predictability. To do so, we need a measurable way to track the data regarding our customer onboarding, maintenance, and renewal cycles.

Using Karbon, it’s easy for me to see that Richard is responsible for closing one of our larger new clients in Australia. I can also see all of his interactions with their consultant, and set a sub-task to help move the process along.

Every few weeks, this same idea translates to our global all-hands meetings. We go down the list, share progress on how everyone is going, monitor anything that is a blocker, and discuss ways to help each other reach our shared goals. That’s what Karbon does for us: It keeps everybody focused on the company objectives.

4. Managing developer sprints

Since day one, a key goal for our product team has been to ship often. We don’t wait to push all our product updates a couple of times a year. When something is built, tested and ready, our customers get to use them.

This process has been hugely successful in keeping the team highly focussed and ensures our product has grown and improved at a cracking pace.

But in each three-week developer sprint there’s a lot going on! Different members of the product team working on various projects, with lots of tasks, that are all at different stages, and need to be reviewed several times.

To stay on top of it all, each sprint is managed in Karbon. Everything is tracked within a shared work item, sorted into the appropriate feature, enhancement, or project. Right down to the specific task, we can stay on top of the status, progress, who is working on it, and the collaboration between team members that happens along the way.

Karbon’s custom work statuses, and the fact that they can be set to apply to certain work types, means that our product team can use statuses such as “Ready for hotfix” or “Moved to next sprint” without it skewing the workflows for other departments. It’s all about the flexibility!

Every sprint is now more organized than ever, and anyone in the team can check progress. And just as importantly, this ensures our entire engineering team are in Karbon all day. They are often the very first to experience any bugs or frustrations and can diagnose them before they’re felt by our customers.

5. Marketing initiatives

Our marketing team juggles a massive amount of requests and campaigns with very little time to execute. It can be difficult to keep everyone — and communication between departments — on the same page.

As we grow, we’re doing a considerable number of interviews, roadshows, conferences, and seminars. Right now, I can see there are about 80 upcoming events we need to prepare for in the next 6 months.

Recently, Karbon has been a great resource for managing these. To make sure we’re on top of everything, I simply go to my customized dashboard to see what events are coming up, who’s in charge of organizing it, and what needs to be done to prepare. Karbon keeps the marketing team’s workload organized and accessible.

We built Karbon to address the unique challenges of modern accounting and professional service businesses. But along the journey we found that these issues are felt more broadly, by knowledge workers of all types. As a result, Karbon is a real solution for their problems too. That truly has the ability and flexibility to help them plan, deliver and optimize work more effectively.

We’re proof of that.

These are just some of the processes and workflows that we are using Karbon for. If you’re using Karbon in other unique ways, we’d love to hear from you!

Stuart McLeod
CEO & Co-Founder, Karbon

Stuart started his first business 11 years ago and has had many successful ventures, including Paycycle, founded in 2009, which he sold to Xero in 2011. He then built the global Xero Payroll team that delivers payroll software across the US, AU, UK and NZ markets. Stuart is now paving the way for smarter tools to improve how knowledge workers collaborate with their colleagues and look after their clients.

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