Evolving business demands and user expectations call for agility, flexibility and innovation. How can development and project management approaches keep pace with this evolution?
The traditional approach: why it failed
Traditional project development methodologies paved the way to some of the biggest difficulties in Enterprise Content Management (ECM) projects. They usually follow a linear workflow where one stage must be completed before stepping into the next. Depending exclusively on predictable tools and foreseeable experiences, there’s no room for flexibility: with a greater focus on change management, any unplanned changes become a time consuming and costly affair.
The client is left out of the loop throughout most of the project or has limited involvement, while the developers spend time defining functionality based on their own understanding of the reality and designing features which probably no one will use. So when the system is finally presented for review and testing, problems start to surface. Because the client and end-users had no previous involvement in the process, and only know their perspective of the requirements, they don’t recognize themselves in the delivered system functionalities. During testing it becomes clear that the system is not as intuitive for the end-users as expected. By this time, budget is already largely used up, the project is already behind schedule, so only the really serious issues are resolved and the system is deployed “as is”. The client’s expectations are not met and end-users are forced to work with unfamiliar, illogical environments and cumbersome work arounds. Moreover, as no-one in the company really knows the system, there’s need for extra investment in training. Further down the line, when there is finally budget for optimizations or the system needs to be adapted, the teams who were initially involved in the project might no longer be available.
New avenues for innovation
The need to replace the outdated views on what project management should look like was self-evident. Even when using the Agile methodology, there’s still a ‘gap’ between analysis and actual implementation that leaves room for interpretation, and therefore mismatched customer expectations. We wanted to tackle this mismatch and solve the gap, changing the way we plan and build ECM ecosystems, assemble teams and manage all the phases involved in a digital project. At its most basic, we wanted to fully bridge the difference discussing, between analyses and building the system itself.
We took modern methodologies like Agile and Scrum, and fine-tuned them throughout multiple ECM projects across Europe. This led our way towards an optimized approach for project development and implementation - the Acolad fast-track. So how does it work in practice?
First, combining four roles, where everyone brings value to the table. While the Technical expert drives the technical implementation, the Business Expert (client team) takes the role of the Observer and brings in both the documented and the unspoken requirements, the real-life example information and cases and all background information about the future users of the application. There is also a Business Consultant in the team, who takes the role of the navigator, guiding both the Technical Expert and the Business Expert throughout the configuration route. Finally, the Project Manager plays the facilitator role in timekeeping, note taking, etc, allowing the other three roles to fully lose themselves in the discussions. The combined team allows the business experts multiple rounds of trial and error using the standard functionality of the selected platform.
However, the key success factor of our Fast Track methodology lies in an environment based purely on requirements, ensuring that +80% of the functionality is already available on the platform. Instead of going through siloed analysis and wireframes/prototypes on the design phases, teams are able to test functionalities and simulate case scenarios in a series of workshops, where they can make and check changes hands-on and in real-time.
As the client becomes fully familiar during the workshops with the platform’s layout, workflows and features, final testing can focus on bug-finding instead of on functionality checking (and can thus be reduced in effort). At the end of this stage, the solution is ready for deployment, completely in tune with the client’s needs and in line with their business requirements. Good examples of the successful use of the fast-track methodology are D2 for Documentum-based projects or Valo for SharePoint intranets.
- Faster development and implementation
- Shorter, interactive sprints
- More customer involvement, thus satisfaction
Acolad fast-track advantages
Compared to Agile methodology, the Acolad fast-track accelerates the development process, but there’s more. On one hand, this fast, iterative approach gives the project team the ability to choose the design and technologies for individual components. Standard functionalities in rich platforms like D2 or Valo often directly cover between 75% and 125% of the functional requirements. The discussion often results in the use of the standard functionalities, leading to implementations that are better in line with the original architecture of the platform. This dramatically improves maintainability, performance, scalability and user experience. Any changes in requirements and scope can be directly implemented. On the other hand, it also allows all team members to evolve, hone their skills and apply best practices as additional requirements become clear.
Having a hands-on involvement with the client every step of the way ensures the system’s logic is in line with their day-to-day business processes, intuitive interfaces are designed with the users’ preferences in mind and demands less training needs.
The overall development time is shortened up to 50% compared to traditional methodologies, with a similar positive reflection on the total project costs. Because of the project speed, the system can easily stay in line with a fast-changing environment. We also see that customers initiate multiple smaller releases every year to align the functionality with changing business requirements. In the end, our development and project teams are fully equipped to better match the client’s needs and expectations to the final product, thus achieving long-term customer satisfaction.
Curious to explore real-world stories of fast-track ECM project implementation? Find out how we used the fast-track methodology to help our public sector client transform service delivery.