Tidelift, a remote-first company with headquarters in Boston, provides a SaaS solution for managing open source. When Tidelift was founded in 2017, co-founders Jeremy (Head of Engineering) and Havoc (Head of Product) were in the trenches of building the company’s first product, the Tidelift Subscription.
They knew they needed a project management tool to track their product development and help them understand their building process, but they didn’t want something too heavy-weight.
In his past life, Jeremy was an engineer at Red Hat, HubSpot, and Google and used several different PM software solutions. This time around, he wanted a tool that prescribed a way for software developers to do their work so that he could avoid any grueling setup and just jump right in.
From his past experiences using Jira, Trello, and Asana, he felt those tools were dictated by having a process in place first. Since Tidelift was still in its infancy stage, the co-founders hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.
That’s when Tidelift’s Head of Product, Havoc, went to check out what was new in the world of project management and discovered Shortcut.
After stumbling upon an old blog post (that we'll soon by updating with its own series) about how Shortcut uses Shortcut, Havoc and Jeremy were intrigued and thought the tool might be a good fit. It matched the way they were thinking of building Tidelift, and they could see how Shortcut would enforce their work and inevitably make their lives easier.
The best thing about Shortcut is the speed. It’s a quick interface and reflects changes fast. That’s super important because if I’m going through a hundred things (which I just did last week) and I have to spend a minute per thing, then I’ll never be able to get through them.Jeremy Katz, Head of Engineering, Tidelift
Today, Shortcut is a part of how Tidelift ships every major milestone. The data that is collected in Shortcut helps Tidelift make decisions around staffing, shipping, and planning.
Shortcut has helped Tidelift:
How did Shortcut stack up to the project management alternatives? Jeremy breaks down the options he considered:
At the very core, Shortcut is a place that all of Tidelift’s engineering and product team can collaborate. It provides visibility into everyone’s work and helps managers understand where the bottlenecks are and ensure their team members are working on the most impactful things.
On a daily level, Shortcut reduces the need for meetings, but still provides quick status visibility. This helps engineering and product managers nudge team members who might be stuck but aren’t vocal about it—which is very typical.
For the individual team members, Shortcut provides a structured way to see what everyone’s working on, what people need help with, and what’s ready to be tested. This makes each person more accountable, independent, and less reliant on management,
At the two-week iteration level, Shortcut allows Tidelift team members to track the progress of the work planned, which helps them gain a better understanding on an iteration basis. This guides planning for future iterations.
To put this impact into context, one of the big pushes that Tidelift had in 2021 was to make managed catalogs of open-source software more visible before a potential customer uses the product. That required a fair bit of work because they couldn’t create the catalogs as static content. Tidelift set an aggressive schedule, as most startups do.
Tidelift tracked all of the engineering and product work on Shortcut and utilized a single dashboard for a holistic status view of everyone’s work. It was crucial for management to have visibility into everything to pinpoint problems and make quick decisions and adjustments as needed. Shortcut’s stellar ability to provide visibility helped Tidelift meet its tight schedule.
Since using Shortcut, Tidelift has grown from 4 to 40 employees. Tidelift has been able to evolve their use of Shortcut in a way that’s felt natural for them while not adding a ton of processes along the way.
One of the things that has become increasingly important to Tidelift is being able to estimate the time it takes to complete their work. For the rest of the organization to have trust in the engineering and product teams, this needs to happen consistently.
In the beginning, everything was unknown, and no guardrails could be put in place. Today, Tidelift can estimate their work, which continues to improve and become more accurate with the help of data from Shortcut.
As for the future of Tidelift, with more and more people using open-source, there is an increasing need for tools and services. Tidelift is uniquely positioned to help organizations manage their use of open-source, and Shortcut will be an important part of this journey.
We’re scaling quickly and have no plans of switching at this point. If anything, we’re leaning in and using it more heavily.Jeremy Katz, Head of Engineering, Tidelift