Agile Project Enhancements

Agile approach helps deliver critical project enhancements for maximum revenue opportunities.

The Business Need

A large, midwest-based insurance company was experiencing issues with managing scope, timelines and budgets on large scale projects. Most of the issues resulted from managing expectations of the Product Management group, long development phases, and ineffective communication between developers and the customer. The client completed a major conversion of their legacy rate, quote, and issue application, which ran over on time and budget, yet still did not meet final expectations of the main stakeholders. Due to these issues and a general lack of visibility on progress and status, IT leadership was searching for a new approach to managing product enhancements and developing new applications for their business partners. The Watercraft product had numerous enhancements and defect fixes still to be implemented for the upcoming product season.This phase of the project was estimated to cost over $1M, and if the changes were not in production by the spring, the start of boating season, the majority of the project benefits (revenue and profit) would be lost.

Centric’s High-Impact Approach

Centric partnered with the client to introduce an agile approach based on the Scrum methodology. Early in the project, we provided high-level estimates for each of the user stories (requirements) and worked with the business to prioritize this list. We then assessed how many of the requirements could be addressed in one iteration and how many total iterations would be needed to deliver all requirements. We discovered early on that capacity would be tight and clearly communicated that any additional requirements would call for the business to re-evaluate priorities. It was clear to the business that if all requirements could not be met within the timeline, those user stories with the highest priority and value would need to be delivered first. Upfront, we fortified their confidence in our ability to deliver on all requirements with the stipulation that the product owner help to manage user stories by assessing the priority and value of each one. This stipulation required the product management team to remain engaged throughout the project but more importantly, gave them control over the final deliverables. To address visibility concerns, we clearly communicated progress of each iteration, as well as overall project status via burn-down charts. The customer could clearly understand when they needed to be more involved and help refine, revise or re-prioritize user stories. Additionally, the project burn down charts helped set expectations as the project progressed. These charts clearly showed what the final deliverables would include so that recovery and contingency plans could be developed or additional requirements addressed, capacity permitting. At the end of each iteration a demo was conducted which allowed the stakeholders to see exactly what the finished product would look like. Not only did these demos provide feedback for the developers and allowed us to adjust and correct as we progressed, but they also gave the customer a sense of confidence and ownership in the final product.

Results

Once we established a predictable pace and began to confirm the accuracy of our early estimates (essentially establishing the velocity for our development team) we realized that we would be able to meet all of the high priority requirements. Additionally, we discovered that we had capacity to add in several new requirements by deferring some lower value/lower priority user stories. We successfully delivered all the product enhancements by the start of the boating season and we were nearly 10% below the original project budget due to effective time and scope management techniques. The customer expectations were exceeded with respect to functionality and they were impressed with the quality of the final product. There were so few defects reported during the testing and warranty periods of the project, that some questioned whether appropriate testing had occurred, which it had. The number of defects reported in production have also been well below the average of other custom developed applications.