Think about the products or services you use most. You tend to go to the same hairstylists, restaurants, clothing stores, construction contractors, cleaning services, and automobile dealerships over and over again.
Why do you return to them? Sometimes it’s simply a matter of habit. Sometimes it’s good customer service.
Those businesses know you and understand your needs. They provide what you want when you want it at an affordable price. The companies really on their game also improve over time, further solidifying an already good relationship.
Our clients will tell you that this describes AndPlus. Our clients—especially those representatives in the product owner role—simply like working with us.
AndPlus: A Strategic Partner
Within the Agile software development framework, the product owner role as “stakeholder” provides the authority to make decisions on behalf of the client. That means the product owner is a member of the project team, representing the client’s interests and working closely with the scrum master, developers, and testers.
Custom software development wasn’t always this way. In the bad old days, an engagement with a contract software development team went something like this:
- The development shop salesperson meets with client decision-makers to get a high-level assessment of the business problem.
- Contracts are drawn up, negotiated, and signed.
- Development shop sends a project manager and technical resources to the client to gather requirements and get a project plan together.
- The requirements, scope of work, and project plan are written up and shared with the client.
- Developers disappear.
- The project manager occasionally provides status reports to the client. The “percent complete” plateaus at 90% for several weeks, until the client gets tired of the time and cost overruns.
- The client demands delivery.
- The development shop delivers a product that meets some, but not all of the original requirements. (Some requirements have evolved and are now no longer relevant.) The product exhibits low performance, is hard to use, and is full of bugs.
- The client now needs to:
- Incur more billable hours to get the original shop to fix their product
- Find someone else to fix it for them
- Scrap the entire project and start over
The AndPlus way of doing business keeps the client/product owner in the loop for the duration of the project. Full project transparency and realistic, accurate metrics mean that the true status of the project is available to all stakeholders at all times.
In this way, AndPlus is more than a contract provider of software development services. We are a strategic partner for every client.
Agile the AndPlus Way
Over the last decade, AndPlus has continued to build and refine Agile, now Agile+. It offers more. Agile+ is what sets us apart from other custom software shops. Here’s how it works, and how we involve the client every step of the way:
- Product mapping – We dedicate an entire sprint to designing the product experience. This helps us understand the problem from the client’s perspective and design an appropriate solution. This is the most important part of the whole project. It includes:
- Researching the business problem, including the client’s industry, business model, and processes, as well as the different types of endusers and their software needs. We explore the environment and constraints under which the solution will operate, the security requirements, and interactions with other systems. Armed with this understanding, we can define the scope of the solution.
- Brainstorming solution ideas for possible approaches to the problem.
- Selecting the best ideas to arrive at the ideal approach.
- Mapping user journeys to define each path through the software. This enables us to document how all user types will complete their tasks; it sketches the user interface (UI) design.
- Prototyping to test UI design ideas and see how they work together.
- Evaluating the design with the product owner (and, if possible, actual endusers) to simulate task execution with the prototype and provide feedback. This feedback is used to establish the scope of the minimum viable product (MVP); the “version 1.0” solution that includes the minimum feature set considered useful to the client.
- Design and development – The detailed solution design is completed and actual coding is performed. This involves several sprints, during which we tackle the highest-priority items first, reserving the “nice-to-have” items as time allows.
Throughout these sprints, the product owner is involved; making decisions and answering questions. At the end of each sprint, we demonstrate the product and gather feedback, which helps us refine the design as business problems are better understood. The client can “see” the project direction.
- Launch – This is a single sprint. We perform regression testing, address any remaining bugs, and get the production environment ready to deploy the solution. For mobile apps, we also begin making the app available on app stores.
- Lifecycle – The MVP represents an achievement, but clients understandably want more than the bare minimum. We insist on including only MVP functionality in the first version because it minimizes business and technical risk for AndPlus and the client.
The MVP provides a starting point to evaluate future enhancements. The client can then tell us what is needed, not what they imagine they will need. Lifecycle sprint(s) evaluate, design, build, and deploy enhancements.
The product owner is involved in each phase; start to finish. This keeps the developers from misdirection. It also involves the client: Changes in business conditions may add new requirements and eliminate existing ones.
A Commitment to Quality
Involving the product owner throughout the project has another major benefit. The continuous feedback we get from the client helps us identify improvements in the design and usability of the software early. This makes refinements easier and less expensive.
The result? We deliver a high-quality product. AndPlus also ensures high quality by building it into our process:
- Our technic architecture team examines the proposed design. We ensure the best technology frameworks for the job are being used correctly. All of this is done before any coding takes place.
- The development team peer-reviews the code for every feature of the software. We want to ensure the system architecture is being followed, security best practices are observed, efficiency is maximized, and the code is bug-free.
- Automated and manual testing by our QA team is a part of every development sprint. A final “sanity check” test is part of the launch sprint.
Ultimately, that’s what brings clients back to us, time after time; project after project: We deliver high-quality software on a predictable schedule at the agreed-on price. There are no surprises. Our clients get exactly what they need, even if that need changes during the project.
We invite you to visit and work with us in our offices in Boston. We don’t outsource work to developers across the country or across the ocean. This helps us get to know you on a personal level, understand your business needs and feel your pains.
With AndPlus, you’ll get compelling software solutions every time.