An exclusive look inside Karbon’s first ‘shipathon’

Karbon has just finalized a sprint that’s very different from our usual product development process: this time, the entire company’s joined in.

Senior Software Engineer from Karbon, Yohan, at the Karbon Sydney office.

We call the event a ‘shipathon’—a collaborative event where the entire Karbon team works together to build products and features for our customers. It’s like a hackathon, but instead of spending two days building prototypes, we committed to a full, three-week sprint and delivered functional features. 

Redirecting part of everyone’s focus away from their day-to-day jobs for three weeks is a big investment and it’s one that isn’t taken lightly. We’ve put a lot of thought into designing the shipathon, ensuring the experience builds camaraderie, gives non-product teams insight into the product development process, and delights our customers at the end of it all. 

Arming product teams with new skill sets

One reason for the shipathon is to allow Karbonites to collaborate with new team members. With so many of us working remotely or from home, it’s a chance for people to build networks outside of existing teams. 

We already employ cross-functional product teams at Karbon that bring together different skill sets within the broader product development department. But for the shipathon, we added skills from other parts of the business into the mix.

This means that our existing product teams had some extra team members for the length of the shipathon—everyone from Marketing to HR to Customer Support (and everything in between). These non-product folks add breadth to our usual mix of product managers, engineers, and designers. At the same time, they get to understand more about how we build software at Karbon.

Amelia, Product Manager, mid-discussion at her desck at the Karbon offices in Sydney.
Amelia, Product Manager at Karbon, was the captain of the team that delivered the 'Later' feature for Triage items

Each team had a captain who acted as the guiding light for the team. The captain was responsible for making sure all team members were involved and driving toward the same common goal. Our team captains are not necessarily engineers—in fact, most of them aren’t!

Preparing to set sail

We created a two-step process to ensure our teams were prepared to deliver fully functional features by the end of the sprint. 

1. Getting high-level buy-in

First, teams proposed their ideas to our judging panel: a group of Karbon staff representing various parts of the business. Many of these feature ideas are highly requested by customers. 

2. Digging into the details

Once the panel approved their ideas, each team submitted a high-level technical design for the judges’ approval. They also put together rough project plans to show how they’ll deliver their features in a single sprint. 

What we built

Each team worked on a feature that is focused toward our goal of helping Karbon customers run their firms more efficiently.

Some of these include exciting updates to Triage, Karbon Practice Intelligence, Time & Budgets, roles, permissions, and contacts.

Some are more complex than others. As the sprint progressed, some teams identified that releasing their features as a beta to small groups of customers is required. But some of the more straight-forward features went straight for release.

How we are measuring shipathon success 

Now that the official sprint is complete, teams will present their features to our judging panel. The judges will assess each team’s presentation based on criteria related to the various benefits of the shipathon: 

40%: Impact on goals

Our judges will assess how each team’s feature furthers Karbon’s company goals. They are especially looking at how features delight existing customers and support the growth of their accounting practices. 

30%: End-to-end user experience

Our judges want to see that features do what they need to do. 

They will ask: Does the user experience work as intended? Does the feature address our customers’ needs? Can our customer teams manage and support this feature? Is it easy to set up and use? 

20%: Presentation

One of the main reasons we are running the shipathon is to build camaraderie across our teams and give non-product team members insight into how product development works. 

Our judges are looking to see that teams have bonded and shared a positive experience. They will also assess the lessons each team gleaned from the process. 

10%: Additional value

The final 10% of each team’s score will reflect the value of the feature beyond functionality. Our judges are looking for future-proof features that reduce tech debt in the Karbon platform. They’re also eager to see creative thinking and innovation.

Ready, set, sprint 

Our entire company has been hard at work on a product sprint that has resulted in some great updates and enhancements to Karbon. You can view our shipathon release notes to find out more.

I look forward to sharing what we learned during the shipathon soon.