OpenWater is an online awards management provider that helps event professionals organize and run seamless award ceremonies. They help customers of all sizes including mega-corporations like Disney and Kellogg's down to local businesses such as your town’s daily publication.
Kunal Johar is the Co-Founder and Director of Technology at OpenWater. A pivotal part of his role is ensuring the OpenWater platform is customized and configured to meet the exact needs of their clients, all while managing an efficient development team of 12 in a high-growth environment. To achieve this, Kunal needs to understand the software problems customers experience so he can improve where needed and offer exceptional support without draining resources. Kunal says, “And that’s why we use Raygun.”
I now get one or two errors a week that need to be reported
The need to sort real errors from user-generated malfunctions
To build better products for clients and offer more efficient support, Kunal wanted to understand the problems clients were experiencing. However, most support requests were for things outside of their control (like faulty browser plugins), creating noise, obscuring real software problems and wasting the development team’s time.
Kunal gives an example of a common scenario in customer-facing technology. “If a client experiences a broken link, from their point of view, it’s broken. But from our point of view, it was the email tool breaking the link, if we could detect the ‘why’, we could compensate for our customer’s technology toolchain.”
Kunal uses Raygun to aggregate error data across multiple platforms into one repository so they can sort and fix the real errors, and still provide an excellent customer experience around user-generated malfunctions.
“With Raygun, we now have the data to back up customer complaints so we can address them. We wanted to isolate those so we can focus on things that are truly within our control, and if we can show a friendlier error to the user, we should.”
Kunal implemented a Raygun Zero Error Initiative to manage the time developers spend on errors while offering a better customer experience.
This initiative has been extremely successful in both reducing the noise inside Raygun and reducing the number of support tickets going to developers. Kunal realized that many of the errors could be solved without development time. He says: “It’s amazing...all of a sudden, you wake up one day and 99% of the complaints are gone because they can be handled by other people.”
The Raygun Zero Error Initiative: How OpenWater offers excellent customer service and makes error management quicker with Custom tags
Before Raygun, OpenWater were receiving thousands of errors that created unfriendly customer error messages, like “Formatexception. Input string not in the correct format.” Clients would understandably think this was an error and call support.
However, if they could change this to a more actionable error message, like “Please enter the correct email address” the client gets the antidote, and there’s no need to log the exception in Raygun.The customer feels empowered and follows the action.
Because Raygun shows the frequency of the occurring errors in a daily digest, Kunal can give priority to the top 10% of errors and give them friendlier error messages.
If it’s a genuine error, OpenWater uses the Custom tagging feature to attach an alphanumeric code to every error they send. This gives them the best of both worlds; offering a personalized service to their customer while pinpointing the cause of the error quickly with the attached stack trace.
The Raygun Zero Initiative has reduced OpenWater’s support time significantly because there are no errors in Raygun that aren’t truly software errors.
Kunal says, ”We are never going to get to zero errors, but the point is, do we have a manageable number we can look through? I now get one or two errors a week that need to be reported. Of the 154 errors that came through in the last 24 hours, most look like transient things.”
We created a detailed guide of exactly how Kunal and his team configured Raygun for the Raygun Error Zero Initiative here.
How Raygun helps OpenWater to grow as a company without slowing down for software errors
As the OpenWater platform grows and traffic increases, you would usually expect the error rate to increase alongside the growth curve.
However, with Raygun in place, Kunal is confident that they can handle more traffic while the incoming error rate has stayed consistent for almost three years. OpenWater’s development team can now spend time proactively unit testing and amending error messages.
Raygun is the integral tool that helped us get a handle on that kind of traffic without many bugs. We still spend 25% of our time on QA and bug fixes. Before Raygun, that 25% was all spent on reactive work. Now, I’d say half of that time is proactive
Kunal’s ideal developer toolkit for software startups
Many companies in the early stages of business are unsure where to invest their development time, which leads to lack of prioritization and a chaotic environment.
As a mentor to many startups, Kunal attributes OpenWater’s growth to tools and processes and advises younger companies to invest in error management early. He recommends Raygun regularly as part of the developer toolkit startups need to be successful from an early stage, alongside Jira Software, Slack, and Scribe.
In particular, he offers advice to development managers and says, “At a minimum, 30% of your time should be spent toward remediation. And once you get below that number, start spending time on the proactive work.” He adds, “Raygun is a quick tool to get the signals you need in terms of what your error volume is like.”
At the end of the day, better tools and processes allow for a better work-life balance
Kunal admits when OpenWater first started, he worked weekends on support duty so much that his “eyes hurt,” and attributes a better work life balance to tools and processes put in place around development and support - including Raygun.
“The bigger measurement is that by having a tool like Raygun we are able to grow at the speed of our company’s growth without expending our development resources. Everyone has proper vacation time, and no-one works crazy schedules. Our tools and processes are a testament to that. I was working nonstop. But by cutting down the number of emergencies, (using Raygun) we have achieved a good work life balance while we grow the company.”
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