The Origins of eCDM: Team Houston

Dell EMC recently announced Enterprise Copy Data Management (eCDM), a product that enables global management and monitoring of data copies across primary and protection storage. Perhaps just as interesting as eCDM is the way that the product was conceived, designed, developed, and taken to market. Like the trailblazers of the west, the product team behind eCDM was faced with the daunting challenge of exploring uncharted territory. They created a product from scratch using agile methodologies, open source technology, a brand new UI, and an entirely custom go-to-market strategy.

This is the final post in a series that details the challenges and successes of the product team from conception to release. The first and second posts can be found here and here, respectively.

Designing and developing a product such as eCDM is a major feat, but it’s really only half of the story when discussing emerging products. The other half of the challenge is taking the product to market. In a company that is so accustomed to acquiring new technology, the eCDM product team needed to address the rarely encountered challenge of creating a go-to-market strategy from scratch. However, starting from nothing has its advantages. The eCDM team’s strategy began with using customer feedback differently. The development team continuously and directly addressed customer feedback during design and implementation to build a more valuable and usable product.

In order to anticipate the needs of the customer, a specialized team of quality engineering experts called Team Houston was created to provide the customer voice to the engineering team. The group quickly became a core component of the eCDM go-to-market strategy by performing end to end testing and developing a deep understanding of the product from a customer viewpoint. David Sandock, a senior member of Team Houston, explained that his team provides a unique perspective of the product by testing features as if he and his team were actual customers. “We concentrate on areas that we anticipate to be most frequented by the end user and then we try to break them,” David said while discussing the role of his team. Unlike traditional engineering or quality teams, most members of Team Houston are not on scrum teams; as a result, they are free to explore and test any part of the product.

Team Houston also plays a major role in gathering and executing on customer feedback. David and the team helped facilitate the hosted beta. They took their experiences directly back to the engineering team, removing the pesky barrier between the engineer and the customer. Through this model and the diligence of Team Houston, the engineering team addressed nearly all of the customer feedback from the hosted beta through bug fixes, new features, or user experience improvements. “We’re listening,” David told me, and the engineering team is certainly taking action to address what Team Houston hears.

The product management team is also listening closely to customer feedback. Robert Hammond, the go-to-market product manager for eCDM, spends nearly 40% of his time in front of customers to learn and help solve the challenges that they face with data protection. As Rob puts it, “I don’t learn anything in my office. The only way to learn what we should be building is to interact with the customer.” With emerging products, it becomes increasingly important to understand deeply the problems that customers are facing in order to address them.

eCDM was designed from customer feedback, and future product iterations will continue to reflect countless customer conversations to properly address customer needs. Rob and the product management team have spent countless hours understanding customer needs and developing requirements that address many of the challenges that customers face with self-service data protection. “What we’ve built has come directly from listening to our customers,” Rob said, “and we’ll continue to listen in order to address the needs of our customers.”

As eCDM evolves, it is fueled by customer input. Team Houston and the Product Management team have done an exceptional job of taking a new product to market in a way that leverages customer interaction to improve eCDM. Team Houston plays an instrumental role in engaging the development team with customer feedback, and the product management team has included many features based directly on customer input. Together, these teams enable eCDM to enter the market as a well-defined and user-focused product.

David Sandock has spent the last 9 years working in the Israeli tech scene, having spent the last 3 years with EMC as a Senior Software Quality Engineer working for RecoverPoint. He recently relocated to the US to take a role with Dell EMC’s eCDM product.  He has been primarily responsible for customer focused end-to-end testing, while being a focal point for the different storage technologies used in testing the eCDM product and as a direct link between testing teams and the product management team.

Robert Hammond is a product manager on the eCDM Team. He is focused on helping customers successfully adopt eCDM while sharing what he has learned from customers with the rest of the product & engineering teams.  Prior to this role, Robert held various product, marketing and pre-sales roles at Dell, Amazon and a few startups.


~Tyler Stone @tyler_stone_

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