GoDaddy: Changing The World One Person At A Time

godaddy(Ping! Zine Issue 70) – GoDaddy is the largest domain name registrar in the world, managing more than 57 million domain names. But at its core, GoDaddy does not share the same views and visions that other massive companies have. Instead, you will find that the story of GoDaddy is much more down to Earth.

“I get a ton of joy when I get one of those interesting success stories from a customer and they actually made it big. And that is freaking cool. That is about being part of something special. We just changed the world one guy at a time,” reflected Michael Racki, Director of Hosting of Operations.

It has been a little more than one year since Irving, former EVP and Chief Product Officer at Yahoo!, took over GoDaddy and in that time he has managed to assemble a new management team, revitalize employee spirit, and intensify company focus.

The new leadership team realized it needed to make some fundamental changes to its products, processes and relationships with their customers. While it’s easy to notice the change in the design of the site and the new advertising that is less polarizing, many important changes are less visible but will make a big impact.

“The first thing Blake did when he came in was essentially hit the reset button. He took a look at our culture, our vision, our strategy, and then set out a 3 to 5 year product roadmap,” said Jeff King, General Manager of Hosting and Security at GoDaddy.

Blake was able to hire on a wide range of talented individuals such as Elissa Murphy (former VP of Engineering – Hadoop and Cloud Services for Yahoo!), James Carroll (former Senior Vice President for Yahoo!) and Jeff King (former Senior Director X Commerce Partnerships for eBay). Blake then empowered leadership, creating a proactive environment where each member could advance the company’s vision within their department.

Renewed Focus and Company Vision
When Blake signed on as GoDaddy’s CEO he brought with him the vision of being the small business person’s advocate. The official vision includes the monumental task of “shifting the global economy toward small business.”

Historically, SMBs are a heavy consumer of Internet technologies (according to SMB Group, SMBs in the US account for 54% of total business IT spend, and firms worldwide account for 62% of IT spend). However, a large portion of the SMB (small and mid-sized business) market continues to lack an online presence, so tapping those without an online presence can be very lucrative.

But digging even deeper, many of those employed at GoDaddy have their roots in small business. Some started with online technologies through small businesses, while others have friends running small businesses. In both cases, the SMB focus aligns with their own personal passions.

“When Blake came out and said we want to change the global economy toward small business it didn’t shock anyone because it resonated with what we all already believed,” said Cedar Coleman, Director of Hosting Support at GoDaddy.

Company direction is guided by its management, but it is supported by its employees. When company focus has buy-in from both sides, enthusiasm and passion become the driving forces. There is no stronger advocate than an enthusiastic and passionate workforce and GoDaddy has them in spades.

Cleaning House and Becoming Agile
“In the past few years we killed off about 30 something products. There was a time where we were spinning up all sorts of things. If something was going on in the Internet space we had a product for it. We were trying to do everything, but we didn’t do some things well. I think we have really brought that back and coaxed it in. A think a lot of what we have been doing now to this point is brilliant basics, things that we have to do well to be considered a viable option,” said Michael Bovich, Director of Development: Web Hosting at GoDaddy.

The past parade of products diminished developer focus and slowed product development. When the new leadership stepped in, this was one of the main development issues that had to be resolved.

With a new focus on the SMB market, GoDaddy began developing products anew. Instead of developing products and services based on trends, GoDaddy created an ecosystem geared toward the small business owner.

And yet, small business is a rapidly changing landscape. To stay competitive against larger companies, small business needs to have the tools now. If GoDaddy was to create tools to help small businesses survive and thrive against their larger rivals, they had to disrupt their traditional development cycle. “Before we moved to the agile method it would take us 6-9 months to get a new product out the door,” said Bovich.
The agile methodology began to pick up speed across the company and consultants were called in for intense training sessions. As a result of developing using the agile methodology, full integrations of cPanel and Plesk control panels were added to GoDaddy’s services, including all of the underpinning code as well as theme skins and usability changes.

“It’s a night and day difference. I have been a big advocate for that switch. I think the biggest impact from a results point of view is we are able to get new products to customers more quickly. With cPanel and Plesk, we rolled out two new products in a three months’ time span completely from the ground up, new implementation,” said Bovich.

At the same time, GoDaddy worked on a Managed WordPress product. This new product is an enterprise grade deployment of WordPress where GoDaddy handles the security, patching, and support. Built on a redundant platform, the managed product was based on feedback from Web pros and WordPress experts.

Three products that zeroed in on customer needs delivered in full within months.

Fine-tuning and advancing new products and services goes a long way to ensuring customers are taken care of. However, those products need reliability and availability. It’s time to delve into GoDaddy’s network.

Defining and Measuring Performance
In order to increase performance, you need a clear means of measuring it. Measuring of a network is a basic function, but now GoDaddy needed to look beyond what was common and into deeper metrics. When it came to measuring the performance of GoDaddy’s network, the first thing was to put in place a monitoring tool that could provide end-to-end coverage of all servers and network hardware. Once data began rolling in, the next step was to ensure that the data was actionable.

A dashboard was created and used to track everything that was important to network throughput, uptime, latency, and a variety of other approved metrics. NetOps uses this data to ensure a smooth running network.

“Your site has to be up and available if it’s not then nobody can see it and it’s got to be fast. If the site doesn’t load in a couple of seconds people are going somewhere else. So it’s got to be fast, it’s got to be up,” said Bovich.

When it comes to monitoring, the data collecting process itself continues to be refined to ensure engineers are given a clear view of the network and everything that happens internally.
Building the proper network monitoring system is a continuous process.

Reorganizing One of Hosting’s Largest Customer Support Workforces
60% of GoDaddy’s workforce is customer support. With an ever growing product catalog, GoDaddy looked into increasing efficiency and decreasing response times. “We have a large array of products between domains and email, Web hosting, website builders. And the goal is that it is too much to ask one person to be a qualified expert in all of these things; we’ve started to divide into teams within the support organization by product or product family,” said Cedar.
By dividing support into product families, GoDaddy was able to shorten handle times. Specialization also allows for concentrated training and faster dissemination of best practices. Along with specialization, GoDaddy also removed their tier support system.

Originally, tier 1 support acted as a filter, interfacing with the customer and answering easy and common questions. Tier 2 support was fully staffed with senior technicians, acting on a call only after it got past tier 1 support. Unfortunately, this process added a number of minutes to calls as customers had to be cleared by tier 1 before receiving support from tier 2.

For the new professional hosting services teams, the tiers were mixed with subject matter experts and less-technical support techs together. The end result, customers have faster access to knowledgeable techs and support techs of all knowledge levels are able to share and learn from each other’s experiences.

It is a leader’s role to ensure that their employees have all of the resources necessary to do the best job possible. At GoDaddy, CEO Blake Irving has made it his business to ensure that every employee understands where GoDaddy is headed. He has provided vision, goals, and clear leadership. In turn, the employees of GoDaddy have passionately embraced the new vision ready to make it a reality.

GoDaddy envisions a world where the small business owner can move mountains and compete with the “big guys” by using the same technology. .

“Everybody who’s at the company believes in [the fact] that we can actually do something that will have a meaningful impact. And I don’t think a lot of people get that about GoDaddy. And I think a lot of people would be extremely surprised, but that’s what’s motivating us,” said Bovich.