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Documentation as a Differentiator: What SaaS Companies Need To Know

Documentation as a Differentiator: What SaaS Companies Need To Know

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ℹ️ Guest post alert!

Special thanks to our friends over at Qrvey and the SaaS Scaled podcast.

ICYMI—Ken Babcock, co-founder and CEO of Tango, recently appeared as a guest on the SaaS Scaled podcast, hosted by Arman Eshraghi, CEO and Founder of Qrvey, provider of embedded analytics for SaaS applications. 

Ken and Arman cover a lot of ground, from how well-defined processes and documentation can make a company more scalable to ways to avoid common traps during rapid growth. Don’t want to miss a minute? Check out the full podcast below. ⬇️

Looking for the highlight reel? We’ve rounded up some of our favorite takeaways below, but first, a little context. 

To kick off the episode, Arman asked Ken to share a little about himself and his SaaS company, Tango. Ken met his co-founders, Dan, and Brian, at Harvard Business School and quickly discovered they shared entrepreneurial ambition—and weren’t afraid to dream big. 

One early idea explored by the trio was essentially a “Twitch for work” to demystify how top performers do what they do (differently). Despite early skepticism, the team used that initial curiosity to create what Tango is today, a seamless way to create step-by-step documentation and share knowledge directly in the tools where people get work done.

Tango solves a lot of problems, but at its core: Ken, Dan, and Brian noticed organizations struggle to get the expert, nuanced knowledge that often stays trapped in the heads of a few high performers. There's an incredibly high barrier to not only creating but also maintaining documentation. Tango lowers that barrier, and makes it easier to get work done by:

  • Automatically capturing any process and turning it into a step-by-step interactive walkthrough (the first time and every iteration that follows)
  • Enabling teams to instantly document, share, and get the information they need—when and where they need it

How documentation can support organizational growth

Since SaaS companies are no exception to the rule and wrestle with documentation challenges year after year, Arman asked Ken how effective documentation can 1) set SaaS brands apart, and 2) make them more scalable. 

As a first step, Ken emphasized the importance of putting well-defined processes in place.

In order for a process to be followed, it needs to be written down. It also needs to be acknowledged that processes change, and your business is going to evolve. So, Tango goes beyond capturing standardized operating procedures and makes it easy to update outdated documentation on the fly. 

“If you write something down once but it's too hard to maintain and update, you're not actually taking advantage of that evolution. But if it's second nature to create documentation when something changes, you've just got a new step-by-step tutorial.”

⚡ Create stunning how-to guides in minutes, not hours
Just turn on the Tango extension, complete your process as usual, and we’ll do the rest.

Every click or text entry auto-generates a step with text and visuals as you go, creating a beautiful, shareable, interactive walkthrough.

Ken went on to say, “When you can arm your organization with all the information and resources they need, that increases the efficiency and velocity of what you're able to do. It also opens up time for creativity and frees space for that evolution to happen.”

💡 Tango Tip

Good documentation makes it easier for teams to execute, innovate, and iterate—quickly. That's the power documentation unlocks for organizations.

But his most insightful comment might have been this one:

“When people leave companies, their institutional knowledge often goes out the door with them. The companies that are going to emerge successfully are the ones that are going to be able to capture key processes and ensure that collective knowledge is accessible to everyone on the team —today and in the future.”

Accelerating time-to-magic in SaaS

Because businesses of all kinds have undergone digital transformations in the last few years, Arman asked Ken to talk about ways SaaS companies can accelerate product adoption—amidst product proliferation.

This is a big area of interest for Ken, as evidenced by the eye-opening stats he rattled off the top of his head.

“In their annual report, Okta found that the average company is using about 90 applications. Larger, more mature organizations use over 200. So, there's an opportunity for all of us SaaS providers to be that solution. But there's also a challenge, because with this increased adoption of tools, there's still the same attention span within organizations. Attention span is really the challenge that we all need to address.

We're seeing that companies have less tolerance. If they can't figure out a tool or the value that it's going to provide, they'll cast it aside. What we can do as leaders of SaaS companies is accelerate that time-to-magic moment.”

One of Tango’s key metrics is the number of minutes between when a user creates an account to when they create their first Tango (or interactive how-to guide). 

Every SaaS company has their magic moment where a user says, “Wow, this is why I need this tool!” Tango’s entire team is always trying to shorten that time-to-magic moment, because they know that the faster they see that happen, the better chance they have at retaining that user and turning them into a power user.

The differences between B2C and B2B SaaS products

When it comes to intuitiveness and ease of use, the gold standard is B2C, according to Ken. Even if you’re building a B2B product, B2C is the toughest. 

“We've tried to emulate a lot of B2C best practices at Tango. We've added certain things to our product that, from a user experience standpoint, make it feel more familiar, like a consumer application. And that's all very intentional, because that familiarity allows people to use it more quickly and take advantage of a lot of the functionality. Whereas I think in the past B2B, and specifically enterprise software, has always been about function and utility more than design or experience.”

The shadow side of explosive growth—and how to avoid it

Before letting Ken go, Arman brought up Ken’s experience working at Uber during a period of rapid transformation and what he’d say about the pros and cons of growing fast. 

His reply? 

“The first half of the time I was at Uber, from 2014 to 2016, every single week was a record week. But the trap that you can fall into is thinking everything you're doing is great. It’s reinforcement bias.

To avoid that trap, set up the right experimentation measures. Confirm what’s actually driving the graphs up and to the right and that you’re not succeeding in spite of yourselves. 

When I think about going fast now, these are the questions I ask—and empower my team to ask:

  1. How should we experiment? 
  2. How do we actually determine attribution for what we're doing?

It’s also important to be a mission-driven organization. Make sure that you have core values, and they’re not just words on a wall.

Your core values should weave their way in and out of your company, processes, weekly cadence, performance reviews, interviews, All-Hands, etc. Make those values front and center. Recognize people for living them out—routinely, not just when you remember. Values will ground you in what you’re trying to accomplish as a team and how you operate.”

The bottom line

Lowering barriers to process documentation and rethinking knowledge sharing at scale serves SaaS companies in more ways than one. 

If you’re customer-obsessed and interested in growing fast, The Critical Role of Good SaaS Documentation with Ken Babcock is worth a listen.

Want to hear more from Ken? Follow him on LinkedIn and check out Change Enablers, his new podcast about driving company transformation.


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