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By Erica Sweeney
July 31, 2017
“One of the most rewarding parts of being a product manager at Procore is when a client expresses what a positive impact a new feature has made on their workflow.” says Angela Izumo. Prior to joining Procore, Izumo worked in project management and design in the construction industry.
“Thinking about the impact of our work in the building industry is what drives me. Working in construction was an amazing experience because I got to build products (buildings) that affect the lives of thousands of people who now live and work in those structures. Transitioning to software has been extremely rewarding because it allows me to magnify my impact and help build tools that will be influential in thousands of projects around the globe.”
Izumo joined Procore in April 2016 and works on the company’s financial tools, specifically budget and forecasting. She says she enjoys being a part of a cross-functional team of engineers, quality assurance analysts, and user-experience designers.
In her construction career, Izumo was a Procore user. This gives her unique insight into what the construction industry needs in financial software. She understands companies’ pain points and can translate those needs to software developers.
Recently, Izumo shared how her construction background helps in her day-to-day job, how Procore relies on feedback from users, and the general state of technology in the construction industry.
How has your construction background been helpful in working as a product manager for Procore?
Izumo: Construction is a very nuanced domain, particularly in financials. There are aspects that are not intuitive even for folks that come from finance or accounting elsewhere. My background as a former construction professional enables me to speak the language of our users, and in turn inform our engineering team and UX designers on user needs. It’s not essential—there are a lot of folks at Procore that don't have a background in [construction]. But, I think it helps me tremendously having lived and breathed it for over a decade.
What was the transition from construction to software development like?
Izumo: Procore is relatively young as construction software goes, and I could see that continual improvements were being made on the product line. I wanted to be a part of the team that is building the technology that is shaping the way construction projects are built .
There was a lot to learn. I didn't have a software background so there was a lot of getting up to speed. But there are a lot of parallels between my former job as an architect and what I'm doing now: working with a cross-functional team, including designers, engineers, and clients who help inform the functionality and flow of the space or application.
What type of input do you get from construction companies as you work to build software, and how do you collect this information?
Izumo: We do a lot of client calls. Being that we're in Santa Barbara, we don't necessarily see clients face-to-face as frequently, but make ourselves available by phone. We’re constantly soliciting feedback, so every time we are designing or working on a new feature, we conduct a series of discovery calls and include clients that represent all market segments. It's important to us that we have user input ranging from our emerging client group, to our enterprise group. In addition, we receive client feedback via UserVoice and email. I review this commentary with the team and we evaluate the requests against our current development cycle to determine how best to incorporate them into our workflow. Some of the best ideas come from our users.
What do you want Procore clients to know about how you and your team work?
Izumo: Something that I try to share with clients as often as possible is that the team works in an agile fashion, which allows us the flexibility to regularly reevaluate project specifications based on client input. I always encourage our clients to give us feedback and make sure that we're hearing what their needs are to ensure that we're working in the right direction.
What do you love most about working on financial products at Procore?
Izumo: I love the aha moments when the product team, UX team and engineering team all converge around an idea and come up with a solution that we think will really work for a user. Beyond that, it’s showing what we’ve built to a user and hearing them say, “You know, I would absolutely use this.”
A couple of months ago, we met with a client on-site. This project manager said, “Not only would I use this tool (the new forecasting tool), I would live in this tool.” Receiving that type of feedback after all of the hard work,due diligence, research, and iteration after iteration of design is really gratifying. When you put something out to market, you can’t be certain how it's going to be received. We received a testimonial from another client this week where they emphasized that our recent release of the budget tool was a huge game changer for them and their internal workflow.
It's those moments where not only do things click internally, but they also click with the client externally that are the most rewarding. You get validation and feedback that everything the team has worked for over the course of many months or maybe even years was pivotal in improving the lives of our users.
What do you think are some challenges that the construction industry faces when it comes to adopting and embracing technology?
Izumo: When I was out in the field as a project manager, one of the biggest hurdles was finding the best way to convey to everybody in the field how powerful the new tools were in Procore. It was hard, for example, to convince a superintendent on one of my jobs to download the Procore app on his cellphone. But I showed him how much more quickly he could do a punch list, in Procore versus doing it by hand and then having to manually enter it into a spreadsheet, then manually update and then manually email to subcontractors.
The legacy processes are often cumbersome but people are used to that. People are used to having a clipboard and a notepad in the field, and are not as used to pulling out an iPad or cellphone. I think the challenge is bringing the user base up to speed and showing them how much more efficient they can be if they start using these new technologies.
I think it's getting buy in. It’s getting people using the software and getting people to see for themselves. It can be a cultural shift.
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