HomeSphere Leadership Series: Q&A With Alayne Wilinsky, Product Manager
June 15, 2021
Welcome to our HomeSphere Leadership Series where we showcase the different expertise of our HomeSphere team members.
Construction technology has long been an innovative field, but the importance of tech was exacerbated in 2020. From property tech, and the influx of home shoppers with new expectations, to jobsite tech, for much-needed automated processes during busy times, tech has the wonderful potential to make everyone’s life in the industry a little easier.
By providing a platform to bring together home builders and manufacturers, HomeSphere exists in a unique space in residential construction. Our platform for manufacturers, HomeSphere-IQ®, provides actionable insights and analytics on leads and customers, while our platform for builders, My HomeSphere®, is an easy way for builders to claim and track rebates from the brands they use.
Today we’re sitting down with Alayne Wilinsky, HomeSphere’s product manager, to discuss her role in designing our platforms and the processes that are in place to continually improve them. We also discuss what she looks for in good product design and more.
First, tell us about your role with HomeSphere as the product manager.
As a product manager at HomeSphere, each day is different which is one of the things I like most about my role — one day I could be interviewing customers for an upcoming feature, another day I could be troubleshooting a complex problem, so no two days are alike, and I learn something new pretty much every day. I’ve been a software product manager for over 10 years in various industries, including HR, advertising and network security before getting into the residential new construction industry.
As a company that works with home builders and manufacturers, we have to ask: What’s the most exciting home purchase you recently made for your home?
I recently bought LED smart lights that are voice activated via Amazon Alexa. Working from home is definitely more exciting when you can turn your office lights magenta.
We’ve heard you’re into chess and have a very creative side. What other hobbies do you have?
Chess is definitely a big hobby of mine, but I also enjoy Muay Thai kickboxing, playing guitar or drums, video games and just getting outside and hiking.
Turning the focus to product, it’s no secret that the construction industry is always described as being notoriously slow to tech usage. Have you found this to be true? And, how have you navigated that?
I have heard that ever since I joined the industry, however, I often find the opposite to be true; a lot of companies I’ve come across have embraced varying degrees of technological innovation or have the appetite to do so but don’t know where to begin. So, with My HomeSphere and HomeSphere-IQ we try to give our customers the tools to integrate software and data into their workflows but understand that each customer has unique needs and there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
On tech usage in the building industry:
"A lot of companies I’ve come across have embraced varying degrees of technological innovation or have the appetite to do so but don’t know where to begin."
What are the marks of a good software program to you?
Definitely usability (I.e. “it just works”), as well as programs that show an understanding of the user and market and are upgraded in response to user feedback.
On that note, how do HomeSphere customers inform the improvements you make to HomeSphere’s products? What’s the process for engaging their input?
HomeSphere customers are encouraged to share any feedback that they may have with their account reps and that gets relayed directly to me. I also speak with our customers on cadenced calls (quarterly business reviews, etc.) as well as ad-hoc meetings or calls. When we are developing a new feature based on customer feedback, we always engage customers at the early stages of development to ensure we are on the right path and that their feedback is taken into account.
How have you increased usability of the platform?
In HomeSphere-IQ Enterprise for instance, we have ensured that the data most relevant to our customers’ rebate programs is not only easily accessible but actionable as well. Before these updates, we realized that some of our reports had a learning curve to use which isn’t an optimal user experience. Now, upon logging in, users get key questions about how their rebate programs are performing answered and they can really understand the value of the HomeSphere program in an intuitive interface.
On improving HomeSphere's products:
"When we are developing a new feature based on customer feedback, we always engage customers at the early stages of development to ensure we are on the right path and that their feedback is taken into account."
Are there improvements to our platform you’re particularly excited about? Can you give a preview of them?
We are currently revamping our internal rebate processing systems which will set us up to develop new customer-facing features with much more ease.
What do you think the most useful features of HomeSphere-IQ and My HomeSphere are, respectively?
As mentioned, understanding that our customers’ needs will be unique, we tried to design My HomeSphere and HomeSphere-IQ to suit a wide range of use cases. Specifically, however, our manufacturer customers could definitely see the benefit from our Builder Discovery and Invoice Review features in HomeSphere-IQ. In My HomeSphere, the ability to upload closings and see key reporting information on how their rebate programs are performing is a useful set of tools from the builder perspective.
With remote work, how have you still been able to work effectively together as a team?
Prior to going fully remote, the Product and Development teams at HomeSphere had a good set of processes and meeting cadences through our Agile development framework that we’ve been adhering to, so that definitely made the transition much easier. HomeSphere has also always had WFH Fridays so our teams were already used to remote communication and teamwork.
Outside of HomeSphere’s platform, what’s a cool product you’ve used lately that you think has a great design?
I’ve really enjoyed using Trello.com recently. I use it to manage my backlog of feature requests at HomeSphere, but I also use it as an application to help organize my personal life as well. Trello is impressive because it has managed to make a super simple, intuitive design that can work for just about any use case; it’s a prioritization and organization app but it’s so much more, too. They offer a ton of resources and guides for users who require tutorials or for those who just need direction on how to most effectively use it. This shows me that Trello really empathizes with their users and cares about making their user experience as seamless as possible.
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HomeSphere connects residential construction builders with building product manufacturers to facilitate long-lasting relationships through our award-winning software platforms, My HomeSphere® and HomeSphere-IQ®.