Why we built the Calculations feature, with Head of Product Avina Al

Legal professionals are natural wordsmiths, working with words all day, every day.

But numbers are a big part of legal work too, in everything from commercial agreements to family law disputes to tax filings.

So when we put our heads together at Josef to deliver the newest Calculations feature – soon Josef will do the math for you! – we knew it had to be a super easy experience for legal professionals, and to feel as natural as words do for them. 

Avina Al, Josef’s Head of Product, reflects on what her job involves and what it was like building out the calculations feature.

You’re Head of Product at Josef. What does the role entail?

My job is to understand our customers! I represent our customers in many ways, translating their needs into the growth of the product. 

As a product person, I don’t really have a niche or a specific responsibility – I’m a spider in the web trying to coordinate everyone across the business to make sure that we’re all working towards the high level strategy that we’ve set up for the year.

I’ve got an MBA and organisational change is my thing – behaviourism and change management is where I come from. It’s all about really ensuring that we are solving a real problem and that our customers  are comfortable with the changes we are delivering. 

I’m the middle person between the engineers, sales and the customer experience (CX) team too, and sometimes have to push back on things to ensure we stay true to our goals and deliver features that benefit the majority of our builders. 

So I have to constantly make sure that we’re aligned, and also push ourselves internally – for example, pushing technical boundaries with the engineering team, priorities with the CX, sales and product teams, and challenging ourselves in the design team when it comes to UI/UX.

We have so many ideas and so many solutions for how we can solve customer problems, but it’s important for us to take our time and consult our customers to get it right. 

Why did Josef build the calculations feature?

It was a natural progression to take the bots to the next level, and an advanced way of using responses. 

Our bots already collect all the information from their users. Those responses could be used and inserted into notifications or documents that go out to a client’s team or their customer. 

Now they can also use those responses to build out calculations on a more sophisticated level – they can refine what they’re communicating to customers, and how they build rules and automate documents.

Calculations is something our customers really wanted, and they were already hacking ways to do calculations on Josef – like using APIs and code in the web editor. so we’re expanding our boundaries and allowing them to do calculations within the platform instead. We’re always listening to our customers.

Is there a specific kind of customer that will benefit the most from the calculations feature? 

Everyone will. For example, using dates or durations is a pretty common occurrence across all types of legal documents, both in big enterprises and small companies. It’s applicable to everything from calculating total remuneration packages, to service and production dates for subpoenas. 

Also, with each big project and feature, it’s not only about delivering a standalone feature, but actually improving the overall experience in Josef. So in this project, we’ve made sure to include a lot of user guidance, and to make our builders self-sufficient. We have also updated the look and feel, so the sidebar has been expanded, and the colour scheme is a bit different. 

The changes are not only for builders that will use the calculation feature – it’s a whole new experience for everyone. We want to deliver benefits across the platform. 

What was the day-to-day like building out calculations?

We spent time discussing and trying to understand the concepts and determining the impact. It was really hard to conceptualise at first. 

We’ve actually rebuilt much of the architecture of the product. Part of the dashboard is completely new – it’s much smarter.

We wanted it to be a really smooth experience. And it’s so important for us to make the product attractive, and the feature attractive and usable, so we pushed ourselves – including the dev team engineers – to build something custom and fit for purpose. 

We started undressing things and the scope was humongous. And then it became more distilled with every round of internal and external feedback that we received. 

For example, at first we built out a modular way of building a calculation and feedback that came back was that the builders felt that the building flow was restricted and too rigid. It involved adding blocks defining what type it was, and then populating that type, and then adding another block, and then adding an operator. 

They felt that adding blocks felt like third grade maths, like using marbles. While still keeping it simple, we learned how smart our builders are! 

What was your favourite moment while building this feature? 

The last round of user testing. We had nine builders try a prototype and they all loved it. There were some additional requirements needed, but everyone was saying how excited they were to try it. It’s a great testament to the team’s hard work and I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished so far!  

I mean, it’s exciting when people say ‘No, this is not going to work’, because I’m like, ‘Oh, another challenge that we have to solve!’ But it’s also a good feeling when you finally get to a point where people are stoked and it can be released.

Excited for Josef to do the maths for you?

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