Product Profiles: Carlos Armas, Product Director at TravelPerk

In our latest edition of Product Profiles, we interviewed Carlos Armas, a Product Director at TravelPerk— which provides a corporate travel management platform to companies of all sizes and industries. 

Carlos walked us through a wide range of topics. This includes how his teams are structured, run sprints, use retrospectives to improve, and build product integrations.

You can read on to learn what Carlos shared!

Can you walk us through your teams?

I, along with an engineering and design lead, manage a multidisciplinary tribe of squads that include engineers, designers, product managers, data analysts, and content specialists.

The teams own a broad scope of the platform. A few of my teams handle the top-of-funnel acquisition and activation of users who manage their organization’s business travel (i.e. travel coordinations or travel program managers). The rest of the teams oversee what we refer to as travel program management features, which enable admins to control all aspects of their travel program and ensure they maintain compliance with their goals (like cost control or sustainability). This involves helping admins manage users’ data and provide access to the platform, ideally in an automated way. 

Generally speaking, how do your teams manage sprints?

We give our teams the autonomy to define how they run execution (typically using an Agile methodology), but we look for some common key activities, like retrospectives or triad meetings. 

Retrospectives allow teams to reflect on what worked, what didn’t, and discuss how they could incorporate these learnings in the next sprint. It also serves as a time for team members to share how they’re feeling about their work and how things are going—which hopefully sparks open and honest conversations around improving the work environment. 

The triad meetings allow squad leads across PM, UX, and engineering to align on priorities and progress and to help their teams work together on meeting collective aims.

As a tribe, we also have common ceremonies, like a bi-weekly with the leads or a tribe all-hands. 

The bi-weekly with the leads helps us align with all the teams on their execution, upcoming plans, and any blockers for achieving their objectives; while the tribe all-hands helps everyone celebrate accomplishments and keep up with key releases that are geared towards meeting our strategic goals.

Related: How the product team at CUES manages sprints, integrations, and more

Can you share more about how your teams run retrospectives? 

Similar to sprints, we allow our teams to manage retrospectives in the ways they think are best. 

That said, we engage in a variety of activities to support our teams. For example, if a team member struggles to run a retrospective, we might send someone with experience in leading them (including myself) to shadow the session. The person who’s shadowing can help the team during the retrospective—the level of support they provide naturally depends on how the retrospective is going—as well as provide actionable feedback afterwards.

We also provide internal examples of well-run retrospectives in the form of videos and written best practices. These examples include more analytically-driven formats, like “Start, Stop, Continue” retrospectives that aim to increase team velocity and more emotionally-focused ones geared towards assessing how a team feels with one another and in general. In the case of the latter, the goal is more to open up lines of communication and try to establish a bit of rapport and goodwill.

The goal of providing all of this support is to help teams know what their options are. From there, they can run the specific retrospective format that best fits their needs following a sprint.

I also task my PMs with running quarterly retrospectives where they reflect on their top learnings from the quarter, share how they performed relative to their OKRs, and walk through their plans for the upcoming quarter. I’ve found that most of their learnings end up coming from their bi-weekly retrospectives and the bigger retrospective they hold at the end of the quarter with their teams. 

Can you walk me through why integrations are important to TravelPerk?

When I joined several years ago, it was obvious that we needed to have integrations with HRIS solutions. 

Without them, our team would have to help clients manually provision and deprovision users. And when you consider that several of our clients’ employees would leave or join in a given week, this task becomes quite burdensome for our clients and our team—especially for clients that operate in industries with naturally high turnover.

HRIS integrations could streamline the work of provisioning and deprovisioning users at scale and, therefore, improve the customer experience. 

But we also saw additional benefits from integrations. They help us better address prospects’ needs, which allows us to win more opportunities. And they allow us to form new partnerships (with the vendors we integrate with). Through the partnerships, we can engage in co-marketing and co-selling activities with overlapping prospects.

How did you implement integrations initially?

There are so many integration opportunities for our product, so we had to carefully assess the HRIS applications our clients use to prioritize our efforts and ensure that we’d receive a high enough return to justify the investment.

We identified BambooHR as the most commonly-used HRIS solution, so we started by building a dedicated integration with the HRIS tool.

We then built a set of APIs following the SCIM (System for Cross-domain Identity Management) standard. And while this helped customers that were using an IDP, it was a complicated path for many clients—and that’s why we ended up switching over to Merge!

How do you build and manage integrations today?

We currently use Merge to build HRIS integrations, and, using the unified API platform, we’ve launched 6 to date (we’re set to release several more in the near future).

The experience with Merge has been amazing. Instead of having to build and maintain each HRIS integration in-house, we can simply connect to Merge’s Unified API and access all of the integrations we need. 

In addition, I’ve been really impressed with Merge’s Integration Management features; having a single place where we can review logs, permission issues, and just monitor each integration has been massively helpful. It’s also something that I think most integration tools don’t prioritize—they’re typically solely focused on simplifying the development side of integrations.

While our integrations with Merge are relatively new, we’ve already seen them deliver significant benefits to clients and our business. For instance, when clients use our HRIS integrations, they’re able to implement and roll out TravelPerk to their workforce 50% faster; these clients are also more engaged with the platform and have a higher lifetime value.

Want to learn more about Merge? You can schedule a demo with one of our integration experts to discover how our platform can help you integrate at scale.