Success with Incremental Delivery

Success With Incremental Delivery

by Steve Kuo

One of our internal customers had been having a lot of problems scaling how they work.

We work very closely with this team and heard about their pain in our regular meetings, so the development team took the initiative and reached out to see how we could help them improve their workflow to deliver not only more services to existing customers but have the ability to scale to new customers without having to hire more people.

  • The second process involves checking out an existing spreadsheet, adding new data matrix rows, de-highlighting previous “new/updated” rows, highlighting in yellow the new rows, and then submitting them for the same manual upload data entry process. We were called in for two reasons. First, because of inconsistent data being uploaded and the need to double and triple-check data in/out of our system for being correct. Secondly, the process is very labor-intensive and requires high attention to detail resulting in making scaling up problematic.
Spreadsheet
Spreadsheet

Deliverable #1

We delivered to them a web page that allowed them to add in their 6 data fields and many topics. They would hit “Generate” and out would come (to download) a spreadsheet with the 12 columns of generated complex data fields using the 6 data fields for each topic. Each topic resulting in one row of 12 columns of complex data. The customer was engaged, but not super impressed. Their first suggestion was to allow them to name the file (essentially give the project a name), which we added. This pleased them, but they came back with, “We really don’t create new ones that frequently, we generally use existing and just append rows to it with the new tactics”.

Deliverable #2

We dove into that fairly quickly, and we saw that the “new” rows were denoted by yellow cell highlighting in each spreadsheet. When new topics were to be added, they’d open up the existing spreadsheet, de-highlight the previous rows, create the new complex data fields (by hand), highlight them in yellow, and submit them for upload. It was pretty straight-forward, the user would still enter the 6 data fields and the topics they wanted to add. The user would pick from the already uploaded projects and hit “Generate” and again we’d generate and download a spreadsheet with the selected project name, sort all the previous rows by date, add the new rows and highlight the new rows.

Deliverable #3

We could already update one spreadsheet at a time, now all we had to do was implement a multiple project select, adjust multiple topic selection slightly, generate multiple spreadsheets, and finally figure out how to decompose the 6 data fields from the complex data fields (we didn’t store the raw data fields anywhere). The first three were easy, the last one took a bit of domain research, but we figured it out.

Connect, communicate, deliver with Agile teams
Connect, communicate, deliver with Agile teams

Final Thoughts

Our incremental delivery approach of evolving simple solutions worked very well for us. At the basic level we delivered features that users leverage every day that improve their ability to do their job. However, we also gave them a different way to work. We showed them that change can be a good thing. We demonstrated that we can deliver on small ideas that can then be iterated on, resulting in big improvements. We helped them learn that change can be easy and intuitive, not awkward and feared. Less fear, more understanding. As a result, users are now much more engaged with us. They trust us and we trust them. It’s a great beginning for a newly reformed relationship. We were able to heal a small part of the business/development divide by listening to users and delivering small incremental work.

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