The Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) has recently gone live with a new IT system to help them better manage their interactions with their members. At the centre is UpBeat, a membership application from Professional Advantage (PA) built using Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
Agile turned out to be an excellent approach for the successful deployment of this large scale membership project.
Starting with the base product, the project team was able to incrementally expand the feature set through a series of rapid ‘sprints’. Each sprint, lasting 3-5 weeks, delivered working code that extended the product in a particular area that was relevant to the business.
In this project, both parties (client and the vendor) had mutually aligned objectives. The client (AICD) wanted a product that was tailored to their business needs. The vendor (PA) wanted to extend the base functionality of the UpBeat product that would appeal to other member-based organisations. Using Agile produced a collaborative effort, whereby users directly interacted with developers. This approach led to meaningful and rapid development of functionality that satisfied both parties.
Using a series of sprints also had the benefit of taking the project team along a journey in which they could witness progress as it unfolded. The continuous assessment delivered a stronger outcome than the waterfall’s grand unveiling of the final masterpiece. Enabling users to provide continuous feedback did result in some rework, however the ability to refine screens and rules along the way ultimately delivered a better outcome. Arguably, it was less rework to fix a problem at the time whilst the developer had the window open and their mind already wrapped around the code.
Notwithstanding the success of Agile in this project, it would be wrong to suggest that Agile was a panacea. As with any project, problems arose and challenges needed to be overcome. In some cases, the Agile approach worked against the team, leading to frustrations and at times appeared to be counter-productive. Yet, the litmus test is to stand back and looking across the whole project, the combined team, the timeline and the money spent and recognise the project was an overwhelming success. To that end Agile underpinned the philosophy of this project.
One of the keys to the project’s success, was having a combined team (from the client and vendor) that shared a joint vision and had the courage to trust each other. This trust was paramount to allow transparent communication. By removing any hint of an ‘us vs them’ boundary enabled the combined project team to focus on the end goal, and permitted each individual to contribute, without fear or favour, in areas in which they had the skill and expertise.
Hence, I would suggest that whilst Agile can be a wonderful approach, each party must give serious thought to their role and commitment in the project, before launching in.
To read more about UpBeat and see a video demonstration, click here.
Blog written by Chris Pennington, Consultant to PA. The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the writer. Content published here does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Professional Advantage Pty Ltd.