Since its inception, Unleashed Technologies has recognized the value of ongoing maintenance and improvements to web properties through Support and Growth Packages. Technology is ever-evolving and in order to preserve or increase market share, a competitive edge must be maintained. One example is that in the past half a decade, the market has seen a steady increase in mobile device usage, finally surpassing desktop usage in 2016. That market shift introduced many modern technologies, including HTML5, responsive site design, and lean content along with new challenges in maintaining accessibility standards, and a litany of other features and expectations that drive the evolution of web.
So, the question becomes: How can a business maintain a competitive edge when technology, business strategy, and competitive landscape are continually changing?
The Waterfall Project Methodology
For many clients and web partners, the road begins with a Request For Proposal (RFP), a Waterfall-style delivery of internal requirements and request for bids from web firms. Waterfall project methodology is an early (antiquated?) SDLC process dating back to 1970 that would go a little something like this:
- Internal inventory of what we have today that must be maintained (or removed, supposedly, but let’s be honest and agree that letting go is hard to do and therefore is rarely done)
- List of requested (required) features, behaviors, and integrations
- Establish available budget
- Determine deadline
- Send out an RFP, a call to the market to discuss the above internally chartered initiative for implementing a new feature set, web instance, or technology
- Discovery and Estimation phase, documenting technical requirements, discussing edge cases, and perhaps, wireframing layout plans
- Let’s also account for supporting features
- And now we should put a proposed Schedule and Budget for review and feedback, possibly requiring multiple feedback rounds
- Review proposal
- Negotiate features, budget, timeline
- Schedule work
Building & Monitoring
- NEW IDEA! Let’s get a change order together
- Reporting, meetings, burndowns, risk management
- Internal QA
- User Acceptance
- NEW IDEA! Let’s postpone, avoiding delay in bringing original scope to market
- Security patches
- Bug Fixes
- Minor feature requests (budget permitting)
The Defects in a Waterfall Project Methodology
So many steps! So much red tape! Not to mention, how long does it take to finally get a project of this scope to market? A month? Several Months? A YEAR? There are many drawbacks to this process flow, but here’s a look at the top offenders.
- Slow to market. It could take several weeks or months to move through approval, implementation, and testing rounds to get these features production-ready.
- No longer relevant. It is not uncommon that by the time a project is live, the business need has changed or new technologies are now available, which we are then ready to go back to the drawing board and re-think the requirements.
- Red Tape. This is a real-world issue where each charter for a new initiative could require approval rounds that include legal, budgetary, and scope-specific discussions that delay and otherwise encumber the creative process.
- Overhead. When accounting for a fixed scope and budget, much overhead must be invested in monitoring and reporting associated with maintaining project boundaries.
- Resistance to change. By nature, this methodology mandates adherence to scope and budget, and any deviation thereof necessitates additional documentation and funding. This can often stifle the flow of new ideas and strategies, resulting lost opportunities for improvement.
Is There an Alternative? Yes, The Growth Model
The good news? Many years ago, Unleashed Technologies adopted the Growth Model, our own take on Agile methodology. Let’s have a look at this cycle for comparison:
Planning & Approving
- Establish a consistent monthly budget, representing a continuous investment in improving the web experience for users and tracking the result of such improvements.
- Identify mission-critical tasks, items with the highest internal or market value.
- Document every goal that should be achieved for the month. Maybe there is a new marketing campaign that we can align the website to? Maybe we’re noticing a shift in traffic flow through the home page and want to funnel users to a particular action?
- Define requirement for selected tasks. Investigate and discuss solutions, mock up ideas, and finalize plan.
- Identify critical support tasks (security updates, bugs, communications needs a landing page for an email campaign, etc.)
Build, Test, Deploy
- Daily stand-up to discuss roadblocks, work completed, next tasks
- Development, review, user acceptance testing for each task as it moves through the technical workflow.
- Gather feedback, modify, deploy.
- Weekly report of budget/work burndown
- Did we complete the top critical tasks and goals?
- How were these features received by users?
The Benefits of Leveraging a Growth Model
When a standard monthly investment and feedback round is established and the red tape is cleared, features are brought to market incrementally and work prioritization is driven by business need and market demand. Unleashed Technology has been much more successful in meeting consumer demands and business goals by delivering many mission-critical improvements on an ongoing basis, rather than deploying these modifications all at once in a major release at the end of our timeline.
You may be asking, does the Growth methodology benefit your team? We think so. Here’s how.
- Constant reassessment = high value features completed faster (i.e. What new technology has been released, and does it bring value to our website? What are our competitors doing? What is our marketing team promoting? Etc.)
- Regular check-ins = more responsive to ad-hoc requests and changing market or business requirements (i.e. Monthly planning and strategy calls, Immediate response to testing and feedback, Ability to re-prioritize and incorporate ad hoc requests, etc.)
- Retrospectives introduce an opportunity to test market and respond (heat mapping, event/conversion tracking)
- Reduce waste on low-value features (they stay at bottom of list)
- Burndown and delivery reporting provide clarity into the state of the project, always
- Benefits team morale because they can knock out wins and immediately see the value of their work, instead of waiting months or years for feedback
- Get to focus on the most important tasks
- Focused meetings address only the work that fits within the monthly sprint, reducing planning/estimation overhead
- Monitoring tasks are less cumbersome when burndown tracking and delivery feedback is reduced to covering only the current items
- Daily standups make it possible to identify and address issues quickly
- Predictable budgets independent of SOW/Change Orders
- Smalls sprints reduce risks of deviation
- Reprioritizing monthly and checking market response optimizes value of investments
The Growth Model at Unleashed Technologies
It’s also important to understand that this methodology works for a broad range of initiative types and budgets. It may be the case that several web properties are managed within a single set of Growth hours. Or, that security updates and minimal break/fix tasks are accomplished within a smaller set of hours. And it is certainly not uncommon for Unleashed Technologies to undertake major builds or integrations within the boundaries of a Growth budget. We deliver the Minimally Viable Product (MVP) that meets the most basic requirements, tests the market, and adds features and enhancements in subsequent releases.
The Growth Model is just one of the tools that Unleashed Technologies uses to keep our clients aligned with market trends and business goals. Should you have any questions about the Growth Model, feel free to contact us anytime to speak with one of our experts.