The following Q&A offers executive insights from Revel Systems' Chief Information Officer & SVP on how to stay on target in the constantly evolving point of sale (POS) industry.
Art Beckman, Revel’s chief information officer & SVP, has been building software development, product management, and IT teams, along with corporate applications, for most of his career. Since joining the team 18 months ago, Art has led Revel’s engineering vertical to experience exciting growth, due largely in part to his leadership and strategic initiatives.
Art attributes his team’s recent wins to great talent, and “staying on target,” a phrase that has become a guiding force for much of the company.
In continuation of our blog series featuring Revel’s leadership team (our most recent post interviewed chief strategy and marketing officer Chris Lybeer), I had the chance to speak with Art about the current state of Revel’s product engineering team, and what features we can look forward to in 2020.
Q: How would you define your position as chief information officer & SVP at Revel, in your own words?
A: I oversee a number of different functions at Revel. If I were to break them down into three buckets, it would be corporate IT and security; supply chain/fulfillment and operations; and product management and engineering, which we’ve combined to call product engineering. When I first started at Revel, I only managed the first two, but this year I took over the engineering organization and we recently merged product planning and management into it. I’m based out of our San Francisco office, but I travel to Atlanta frequently to sync up with the engineering leadership that’s there.
Q: When you joined Revel 18 months ago, what projects did you inherit, how did you prioritize them, and what did you tackle first?
A: When I first started, there was a lot of emphasis put on how we could build and improve on our corporate application infrastructure. In the past, we had multiple systems live, but we ended up still relying on a lot of manual processes. Now, there’s a lot of amazing work going in to building on our existing integrations and processes. Work is underway to rethink our Salesforce infrastructure, incorporate our support functions into Salesforce, and even implement a new billing system that will positively impact our customers.
I’ve brought a bunch of smart people in the door to join others already here to help get these initiatives live, and they are the reason we expect these optimizations to successfully go live next year.
When I took over the engineering organization, I was really focused on the quality of the product and how we executed deliveries as a team. We set our sights on continually improving the product overall, and increasing the amount of new features we were delivering. While quality was, and is, a huge focus, we also wanted to rev up our development engine and provide new functions and new products, faster. We’ve seen significant growth there, and you’ll see a lot of new products next year.
Q: You created a mantra for our engineering and developer teams which focuses on “staying on target.” Can you provide some background on that idea?
A: At Revelry this year, I stood up in front of our customers and partners and asked if they thought we were on target when it came to a variety of features and processes. The overwhelming response was that we were, which is great news. I was also very honest with that group and told them that when I got to Revel, some of our previous releases hadn’t reflected our best work. I’m proud to say that we drastically reduced bugs to almost zero in the first release I was involved with.
When you’re working with a large group of people and there are a lot of moving parts, it’s really important to me to set clear expectations. A year ago, we made a very conscious effort to approach teams across the company, talk through mutual expectations, and develop metrics accordingly. Today, we’ve put together a number of these metrics to help us really identify how we’re doing, and as a result, the “staying on target” mentality has stuck with us. From early requirements gathering, to how we create stories and measure their quality, to how we assess the success of our code, we’ve created metrics that help us stay on track.
And of course, we wanted to have some fun with it. The “staying on target” phrase is actually inspired by Star Wars.
Q: Revel has put significant resources towards refining our engineering and developer processes to better meet, and exceed, the goals and deadlines we set out to achieve for our customers. How have you adjusted those processes, and have you seen results?
A: Every two weeks, my teams take a look at what they’ll accomplish in the next two weeks and they make a commitment. From there, we measure commitment rates, velocity (how much work the developers are producing), and quality of the work. I’m happy to report that commitment rates have really improved, and we’ve found that it’s allowed us to be more proactive than ever before.
Now, leadership from all 12 teams also get together every two weeks to discuss target goals and learn from each other. We put those metrics up on a board and spend time discussing how are we doing, and how we can keep improving.
Q: In the wake of Revelry, where you publicly shared the idea of “staying on target,” have you seen any ripple effects on your team or across the organization?
A: Teams and employees are definitely with us, and I think the concept has spearheaded a lot of difficult, but instrumental, conversations—even amongst executives. If I don’t bring up target metrics in our meetings, they bring them up. The biggest recognition is simply that the company recognizes how important they are.
Q: What can we expect from Revel’s engineering and developer teams as we look ahead to 2020?
A: This year, we developed, and continue to develop, our first product roadmap and continue to refine processes. We’re excited to deliver some really exciting new features to our customers in 2020, and continue adding to our roadmap.
Q: What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned throughout your career and leadership?
A: I’m a big proponent of hiring good people, and there are a lot of great people here at Revel. Leadership isn’t just about the decisions I make; it’s about the collective group of people leading. It’s only as a team that we get to the point where we’re working in a united way and have each others’ backs.
Q: What are some interesting facts about you?