Some people here were surprised to find more than one person showed up for their recent air conditioning and plumbing service calls. They were even more surprised when told the passenger was not an apprentice but a software developer.
The unusual visits were part of a Sera Systems, Inc., initiative called Project Nucleus. Sera provides field service management software for HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other home service contractors that helps run their businesses more efficiently and profitably.
The name Project Nucleus was chosen because the nucleus is the central and most important part of an organization. It establishes the basis for the organization’s activity and growth.
Sera Systems founder and CEO Billy Stevens said the central part of Sera’s business is to help Sera’s customers serve their customers better and become more profitable at the same time.
“The people who write the code seldom see it at work in the field,” Stevens said. “Having the opportunity to get face-to-face with a contractor’s technicians and customers makes it human, not theoretical.”
Sera’s Software Development Laboratory
About half of Sera’s developers are geographically dispersed remote workers, so they were flown in for the exercise. Sera staff did not need to look far for a contractor to participate.
A flight of stairs separates Sera’s offices from billyGO, the first HVAC and plumbing contractor to use Sera software. Stevens is the founder and majority owner of billyGO, which was created to be a working laboratory for the company’s FSM software development. The two are separate business entities run by separate management teams.
Chris Meseke, Head of Product for Sera, developed an ambitious schedule. Developers were placed in small groups with billyGO techs and office staff to get a better understanding of the problems contractors encounter daily.
The discussions set the stage for role-playing exercises in which developers assumed the roles of the contractor’s customers, dispatchers, CSRs, and marketing managers to play out unscripted scenarios.
To add realism, Meseke added real-world distractions, such as ringing phones, people talking, and upset customers complaining. Going on actual service calls with billyGO techs provided especially valuable insights regarding how the developers’ work affects a contractor’s staff and customers.
New Products and Integrations Coming
Project Nucleus closed out with developer breakout sessions, during which developers reviewed their experiences. They considered input from service technicians and office staff and worked through a mapping exercise to prioritize themes and work priorities for the development team.
Meseke said Project Nucleus is already paying dividends. The project mapping, combined with the sharpened focus on contractor needs has resulted in a faster product development tempo. The impact is being felt quickly, as a number of new product and integration offerings are set to go live throughout the remainder of 2023 and into 2024.
Stevens said the developers were excited to gain the experience through personal involvement, recalling the words attributed to numerous philosophers: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I will learn.”