TL; DR: By delivering tools for application performance monitoring, API management, and software development and testing, SmartBear empowers dev teams to move quickly without sacrificing quality. The company’s portfolio is used by more than 6.5 million software professionals at 22,000-plus companies around the world. Director of Product Marketing Greg Lord gave us a peek into SmartBear’s product strategy, view of the industry, and the savings the company’s products bring to users.
A software development and testing company with an interesting name, SmartBear accelerates collaboration, development, and testing processes so customers can quickly deliver and deploy websites and applications with unimpeachable quality and performance.
A smart bear plays an important role in John Irving’s offbeat novel The Hotel New Hampshire, being described as “unquestionably… the kind of bear who could change your life.”
When starting the company in 2003, Jason Cohen chose the name on a whim. Once pressured to rename the company to a more professional, bland, business-oriented brand, Jason stuck to the original idea and eventually sold the company.
In addition to SmartBear, Insight Venture Partners had acquired two other brands and sought to rebrand and unify the related programs under a single name. According to a blog post by Jason, the parent company polled “everyone they could find in the software industry” and rebranded the entire company as SmartBear based on the feedback.
“It’s neat to see something start out so ugly and terrible and end up as the banner of what is already a massively successful, many-million-dollar business,” Jason wrote.
Today, more than 22,000 companies around the world use the SmartBear portfolio of programs for collaboration, optimization, testing, and monitoring all aspects of creating applications and managing APIs.
“The need for quality throughout the entire software development process is paramount,” said Director of Product Marketing Greg Lord. “At the end of the day, our whole portfolio really stands for software quality for developers, QA teams, and operational teams. That’s what we do.”
5 Core Tenets of SmartBear’s Product Strategy
Toward the end of The Hotel New Hampshire, readers are repeatedly told that “a smart bear makes all the difference.” Aiming to make all the difference in creating performant applications, the company creates and maintains tools that affect all aspects of the development lifecycle.
Greg outlined the five drivers behind the company’s vision and how SmartBear enables customers to accelerate application delivery while improving quality.
1. Offering a Comprehensive, End-to-End Portfolio of Tools
Chief among the reasons customers turn to SmartBear, according to Greg, is that the company offers a one-stop shop for every step of development, testing, deployment, and monitoring processes. Organizations can use all the products in the portfolio or pick which particular products best fit their needs. Either way, SmartBear’s products are completely plug-and-play and integrate with hundreds of ecosystem partners out of the box.
“It’s the value of having this end-to-end portfolio where customers can come to us and find the tools they need, depending on the various stages of the software or API development lifecycle,” Greg said.
2. Collaborating on Requirements Document and Code Reviews
As teams start a new project or application, Collaborator guides global collaboration by supercharging communication. The sophisticated, workflow-driven tool assists distributed teams with code reviews, test plans, and deployment scripts, in addition to integrating with GitHub and Bitbucket pull requests.
Teams from companies, including Oracle, Adobe, and Cisco, use Collaborator to work together on requirements documents, code optimization, and bug tracking. The program even includes reports, audits, and metrics for project managers to analyze peer review processes and ensure compliance.
3. Standardizing Design Specifications and Documentation
Built by the creators of the open-source API development platform Swagger, the commercial version offers customers advanced capabilities to design, mock up, build, document, deploy, and maintain the routines and protocols powering their application.
By providing a centralized, integrated platform for teams, SwaggerHub lets organizations create standards that developers can easily code against and implement across tools such as Amazon API Gateway, Lambda, Microsoft Azure, and VirtServer, among others.
“That’s really the whole point, to foster innovation across many different systems,” Greg said.
4. Testing APIs, User Interfaces, and Device Compatibility
With quality of utmost importance to SmartBear, it’s no surprise the company places a major focus on testing, which Greg described as “the meat of our product line.”
Along with GUI and API testing tools, SmartBear offers test management software, a cloud-based device lab, and performance testing. The API testing suite also measures security and introduces virtualization tools so teams can QA without relying on third-party programs or databases.
The device lab, which Greg described as “literally cabinets full of smartphones, tablets, and all sorts of PC images,” lets QA teams specify various screen resolutions, operating systems, and browser configurations to guarantee the same experience for all users.
According to Greg, SmartBear’s comprehensive approach to testing both APIs and user interfaces helps organizations deliver the most value to their own customers.
“One without the other leaves the user experience in a sub-optimal fashion,” he said. “Having both being thoroughly tested is a key piece to delivering these apps.”
5. Monitoring Performance Without Coding or False Alarms
Once the code is ready to go, SmartBear offers synthetic performance monitoring through AlertSite. The unified platform leverages test assets to monitor workflows and processes.
“You’re able to go in and test against those workflow scenarios to be able to step through the application or UI in a series of business-defined steps as a real user would actually do,” Greg said. “You can ensure on an ongoing basis that an API, website, or application is performing in the way it was designed to.”
4 Values SmartBear Tools Deliver to Customers
Because the SmartBear suite of tools is so broad, Greg said it can be difficult to pinpoint the most important benefits and advantages the company delivers to customers. He said SmartBear spreads focus and importance on four related factors defined below.
- Better code, which is measured in fewer bug fixes and support tickets: “There is a real business cost of needing to go back and remediate bad code,” Greg said.
- Less time spent revisiting problems in the codebase: “There’s a labor issue of spending more time fixing code when you could actually have written and delivered it better up front,” Greg said. “We’re always hearing from customers about their ability to shrink development cycles.”
- Improved end-user experiences and consumer relationships result in more traffic, conversions, revenue, and engagement for SmartBear customers. “There’s a measurable improvement in how our customers engage with their customers,” he said. “That’s really powerful because, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.”
- Lower costs are predominantly noticed in reduced labor expenses following fewer errors and less developer time. According to Greg, SmartBear also saves customers money by keeping the company’s products “crazy affordable” as compared to competitors.
In fact, Greg said one of SmartBear’s biggest barriers or challenges is enterprise-level organizations’ disbelief when seeing the price tag.
“They’ve been looking at the bigger vendors and think this can’t be a real tool because they’re used to these massive sticker prices,” he said. “When they actually see the tools and how powerful they are, they understand how this is the model that makes sense for them.”
3 Trends in Collaborative Software Development Systems
In addition to providing tools for every software development need, Greg said SmartBear capitalizes on a couple of features that distinguish the company from competitors and appeal to potential customers.
First, hundreds of integrations enable customers to seamlessly add SmartBear programs to existing workflows and quickly see the improved value.
“Our whole focus is on providing great tools backed by superior documentation and online support so customers can get up and running very quickly and leverage their tools without a lot of heavy lifting or customizations,” Greg said.
Instead of dropping a huge monolithic system on customers, Greg said that SmartBear comes with the added value of programs that can be used individually or together to support end-to-end automation.
“You can use one tool, or you can use all 20 tools,” he said. “As customers strive toward automation, the ability to make sure the tools they use integrate with other parts of the pipeline or workflow is critical.”
The SmartBear differentiators contribute to the shift in purchasing behaviors the company has noticed, according to Greg. Large-scale enterprise competitors, such as HP and IBM, traditionally place heavy emphasis on sales teams that seek to sign customers to multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts to use massive platforms that take months to implement.
“We’re seeing that paradigm flipped on its head a little bit, where the folks on the ground level doing the work have much more power to go and choose the tools they believe are going to help them do the best job in the least amount of time and cost,” Greg said, adding SmartBear employs a much smaller sales team that focuses on exposing developers and QA engineers to the free trials available. “We try to get our technologies in the hands of users, so we’re embracing more of a bottoms-up adoption model that breaks organizations from the shackles of big contracts.”
2 Open-Source Programs You Didn’t Know Came From SmartBear
According to Greg, SmartBear operates in relative anonymity. Despite having millions of users across the product line and offices around the world, many developers interact with SmartBear through the company’s two open-source platforms.
SoapUI Founder Ole Lensmar joined SmartBear after the company acquired his company, Eviware. The widely used web service testing application for SOAP and REST APIs offers automation frameworks for functional, load, and compliance testing.
SmartBear acquired Swagger, the world’s largest framework of API developer tools, in 2015. A few months later, the company announced a collaboration with the Linux Foundation to create the OpenAPI Initiative, based on Swagger’s specifications for promoting vendor-neutral API formats.
“This is one of the biggest, hottest, most strategic open-source projects that’s ever been, and we’re the company behind it,” Greg said. “That’s a big part of who we are, in terms of fostering innovation through open-source projects and providing commercial tooling on top of those products for when customers are ready to do more and take their investment to the next level.”
Photo sources: The Muse