Agile: A Mantra for Extreme Change Fuels Successful User Driven Applications

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maintaining a help desk is difficult, keeping a standard user manual in sync with a continuously changing application is tougher. Here the best solution has been to embed contextual "Help" into the application itself. This way, changes in the application and in the Help or instructional content are always incremental, keeping everything in sync. We have found that a content management framework embedded within the application simplifies this process of delivering user documentation in sync with each new code base.

In traditional development projects the user documentation task can, and often is, performed fairly independently of the development work. Since in agile projects the scope evolves at each sprint, documentation and development teams must work side by side and contribute to each new release. Expect a substantial impact in your delivery, maintenance and documentation teams as you shift into an agile way of working.

React Fast to Increase User Adoption
Assuming change as part of the software delivery process is crucial to Agile delivery. In addition, we have found that this approach also dramatically increases the adoption of our applications.

Let me give you an example. In a recent project, we had to implement a Web-based invoice approval system that would replace a complex set of manual processes. A particular sub-process involved the final invoice approval by cost center directors. In the manual process, the director's personal assistants (PAs) brought them an explanation of the invoice with an approval form ready for signature.

The new Web invoice approval system involved a "small" reengineering of the process that assumed a pure self-service model without PA intervention. (Note: all of the cost center directors were part of the steering committee that helped define and approved this innocuous process change.) However, during rollout we realized that half the directors had shared their passwords with their PAs, so they could do the pre-validation. Suddenly we had administrative assistants with $100,000 approval power.

As you might guess, the capacity to change fast was crucial here. A new PA profile was added to the application, the workflow was changed to include the pre-validation process, and most importantly the PAs provided input on requirements. During the original analysis, the PAs were not even considered as stakeholders.

This change was implemented over a couple of days driving end user adoption and making IT a hero!

During the project post mortem, we met with the consultants responsible for the initial requirements analysis to figure out why they did not foresee this problem. In addition, we wanted to understand why the cost center directors signed off on the process design. We discovered that the directors were embarrassed to state they relied so heavily on their assistants so they approved the process change hoping it would work.

When it comes to pre-defined business requirements, adopting an extreme change mantra can help you overcome poor requirements, "wishful thinking" and reengineering challenges. We have dozens of these stories that reinforce the need for continuous change, even after the application has gone into production.

Conclusion

By far, the greatest benefit of pursuing our mantra of extreme change is delivering what the business needs, on time and on budget, both predictably and well. When a company is able to react quickly to unforeseen situations, and overcome them successfully in a rapid manner, there is a direct correlation with user satisfaction-adoption simply increases and IT regains its rightful place, aligned with the business.


About the Author

Paulo Rosado is a founder of OutSystems and has been its CEO since 2001. During his tenure at OutSystems he has played a key role in helping pioneer cutting edge

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