The Evolution of Icon: A Q&A with Icon Product Development Leaders
Nearly three months ago, we announced the launch of Icon. Since then, the VoiceFriend and Caremerge teams have been collaborating and finding new ways to improve the aging experience for people across the country.
To highlight the evolution of Icon – and how we make enhancements to our all-in-one communication and engagement platform – we spoke with the leaders of our Product Development team: Andrew Maillet (CTO), Jason Rusk (VP of Product, Healthcare), and Adam Tiner (VP of Product, Engagement). Check out their insights below.
Before digging in, can you share what product development looks like in senior living?
Effective product development isn’t about creating the most cutting-edge piece of technology – it’s about developing a piece of senior living technology that older adults can understand and use in their daily lives.
In senior living, product development is about finding ways to empower older adults to use technology.
After all, many of the communities we work with historically relied on pen and paper systems. So the senior living technology those communities needed wasn’t “hot off the presses” or anything like that. The right products addressed practical needs, like making it easier for community residents to call their families.
What’s it been like to merge the technology teams of VoiceFriend and Caremerge?
We’re just getting started but it’s going very well. The VoiceFriend and Caremerge teams ran with similar philosophies. Under Icon, you can see there’s a clear dedication to getting the job done and improving the lives of older adults.
Something else that’s noteworthy here is how quickly we’re moving without sacrificing our high quality. Yes, it’s early days but we’re making an immense amount of progress. And that’s because we spent so much time planning this merger and road mapping the next three months, six months, and year.
The larger team will also enable us to deliver more results. Previously, there was a “this or that” component to the way we weighed product innovation choices. Now, we have the firepower to do both – and make it easier for everyone involved.
What would you say is Icon’s product development methodology?
There’s a fair bit of redefining going on, actually. As we’ve said before, it’s still early days. But we plan to carry forward plenty of old goals – from each organization. More philosophically, though, we look for opportunities to solve problems for individual communities and iterate from there.
But we also want to anchor our decisions with data. It was Jim Barksdale – the former CEO of Netscape – who said “if we have data, let’s look at data.” That’s how we feel.
Beyond that, everyone here agrees that each move we make should ultimately help improve the aging experience. Whether through scaling engagement or communication, our primary methodology is to use that “improving” as a guiding principle.
How does this commitment to improving the aging experience impact your product development choices?
Every development choice we make starts with an opportunity discovery process. That primarily consists of interviews with end users and stakeholders, whether that be program participants, community residents, families, or staff members. The goal with these interviews is to identify what’s not yet being addressed from a product standpoint.
The next step – once we’ve found the product need – is solution discovery, which is a process of usability testing. That’s where we ask: did we start to build something that satisfies the need? If not, we assess changes before building further.
So do senior living industry trends ever inform your product development strategy?
They might – but not in a direct sense. We focus on finding specific use cases by interviewing stakeholders in senior living communities.
Product development isn’t just about keeping up with the competition; it’s about uncovering individual experiences.
Steve Jobs talked about how you can’t always solve problems with focus groups. You just need to ask users about their experiences and then see what technology you can create to improve those experiences.
One of Icon’s key differentiators is that we serve older adults, their families, and senior living staff. That’s a massive advantage. We don’t have disparate audiences. Everything is connected. We’re able to see how each improvement we make impacts other groups.
A senior living community is more than its residents, and a program includes more than just participants. The larger community includes staff and loved ones.
And because we work with an entire senior living community, we can create a truly centralized communication and engagement hub.
Is there a specific strength of the Icon Product Development team?
We’d say there are three that come to mind!
- We have this diverse team of superheroes, essentially. Everybody understands the various processes associated with product development. There’s an incredible amount of flexibility here.
- We’re fully aligned and committed. People don’t realize how crucial it is to have everyone on board. We’ve seen plenty of mergers and acquisitions where there’s attrition and friction. There’s none of that here. Everyone has bought in.
- We’ve constructed complementary products and teams. Sure, there’s some overlap here and there, but the Icon team is on the same page.
What we want to emphasize is that we’re growing and incredibly optimistic about our future. After all, there’s no one doing what we do.
Any product development sneak peeks you can share?
Our primary focus right now is to build a unified experience between the VoiceFriend and Caremerge engagement platforms.
Unified Teams Develop Unified Senior Living Technology Experiences
The decision to acquire and merge Caremerge’s engagement platform with the VoiceFriend platform took many months. But the result of that deliberate planning is an entire company – Icon – that runs in sync.
Our Product Development team’s exceptional leadership and decades of experience help make this unity possible. And their industry knowledge is just one reason we’re so confident that our platform can help boost staff retention rates, cut operational costs, and improve the aging experience across the board.
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