Feature Development at Final

By: Victoria Krauchunas on 01 March 2017

Every company, no matter the size, has a unique process for feature design and development - they could follow a traditional waterfall or scrum methodology, or they could create their own process to suit their needs. Social apps and other consumer startups are often able to push new code to production at the end of a 2-week sprint cycle or even daily, but as a company in a heavily-regulated financial space, we’ve had to add some steps to our process that make sure we’re compliant and scalable.

As a team with a heavy start-up background, this took a little bit of patience. We’re used to developing things quickly and being able to share things with users as soon as they’re done. It took some time to get used to the extra hurdles we had to jump to bring great new features to our users, but now that we’ve been live since last year, we’ve begun to solidify and master our process, and thought it might be interesting to share.

Here are the steps of designing and developing a new feature at Final:

  1. The Idea
    Our feature ideas come from a ton of places - what other credit cards are doing, a frustrating experience a team member has, user suggestions, etc. However, not every idea is a good idea. The first step is getting through our vetting process - basically, some internal conversations about the benefits of implementing something new and if there are any compliance or credit concerns with implementing it.
  2. The Design
    Next, we need to figure out the details - what is this feature going to look like? How is a user going to interact with it? Is there anything else impacted by adding this feature? The product team works with the design team to come up with the most detailed specifications possible, including mockups.
  3. User Feedback
    Depending on the feature, we may take some extra time and talk to some users about if we're headed in the right direction, especially if it's something they requested. This involves sharing some combination of better-baked implementation ideas and/or mockups for critique.
  4. Compliance Feedback
    Our compliance team takes a look at the design and mock-ups and makes sure we haven't done anything we're not allowed to! The language around certain aspects of a credit product is fairly well-regulated, and it's important to not make any mistakes.
  5. Engineering Feedback
    Though the engineering team does participate in earlier conversations, this is where they start to really get involved. At this stage, they review the plans, make sure they understand all of the components and scope the work.
  6. Building It
    Fairly straightforward - the engineering team begins to build the feature, checking with product and compliance along the way.
  7. QA & Internal Testing
    We will often turn the feature on for employees after building it. This allows us to try the feature with real data and make sure nothing needs to be added or changed. It also ensures that everyone is aware of product changes as they happen, so they can communicate with customers effectively once they go live.
  8. Bank Approval
    At Final, we work with a bank partner who is the underlying issuer of our cards. This means that they have some say in what our product looks like. All user-facing features need to go through an approval process, which includes sending screenshots and them doing a brief round of their own QA. They also have their own compliance team, who needs to sign off on any regulated language.
  9. (Sometimes) Changing It
    Depending on what happens in steps 7 & 8, we may need to go back to the drawing board or make some small changes.
  10. Releasing It
    Finally, the feature is done and we're ready to release!
  11. Improving It
    Once the feature is live, we start immediately looking for ways to make it better. Often, our cardholders will let us know what they think, and we're very grateful for that! :)