Powering Software Development: Technology and the Virtual Project Team

If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. – Henry Ford

 

Most people believe that successfully completing an Agile project with multiple companies, across different locations is impossible… As technology continues to change where and how we do business, this is no longer a valid assumption.  When implemented thoughtfully, any organization, large or small, can leverage today’s technology to create powerful teams capable of developing great software – faster than ever imagined and at a lower cost.  Using Skype and an HD TV outfitted with a web cam, a company is armed with the all tools it needs to create a dynamic virtual environment for software development projects.  Working closely with a customer in this manner offers significant benefits for both the service provider and the customer -

  • more software is developed accurately the first time because communications are clear and e-mail ambiguity is avoided
  • time is saved as bugs are addressed and resolved immediately because there are no “voice messages left” or “calls to return
  • a unified project team works closely together – this strengthens trust, fosters morale and drives a successful outcome
  • working software is put into production more quickly and at a lower cost

FAST’s Virtual Office

With each customer engagement, a Warp Zone is established – a dedicated project room equipped with a web cam and a large, flat screen television.  Through the Warp Zone, we see our business partners in their normal working environment and they set-up a similar environment so they see us as well.  The cameras remain on all day throughout the life of the project.  Initiating a conversation or asking a question takes a simple wave to the camera.

Working together this way allows us to dig in and understand our customers’ business processes and their needs, so we can provide the best solutions possible.  The reverse holds true as well – customers get a true understanding of the application.  And with regular demonstrations of new software, we receive immediate feedback and can ensure the functionality supports the business needs.

In addition to the benefits related to the project and customer relationship, this structure helps avoid many of the inefficiencies of traveling.  This translates in to soft dollar savings stemming from increased work time and productivity and the improvements in morale associated with less travel along with the obvious hard dollar travel and expense savings.

The FAST model incorporates our offshore development team to accelerate the project timeline.  With Skype and the Warp Zone, a rotating schedule of morning and evening calls with the team keeps everyone on the same page and extends the workday as development continues after the sun sets.  In addition to eliminating many of the quality issues often associated with an offshore team, the Warp Zone’s face to face interaction enhances the daily scrum and software demonstrations while Skype is an integral part of the collaborative development approach fostered by an Agile software development philosophy.

Real Results

Ultimately, leveraging technology to create collaborative work environments enabled us to extend the workday, streamline communication and work in partnership with a customer to convert an entire Policy Admin system in only 5 months.  The efficiencies gained through this approach allowed to us complete the project within budget and in record time.

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