Agile in Action: Middle East Voices

middle east voices logo

Agile is a ‘life-cycle management software solution’ that allows tech teams to manage everything from innovation to customer needs.  It allows large—and often international teams—to accelerate product development and communicate with the customer throughout the entire process.  In the case of Middle East Voices, the team wanted a mobile-friendly website in order to keep up with the changing landscape of their audience.  Adam Martin, Manager of Technology Services for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation (ODDI) worked on Middle East Voices’ (MEV) new site and offered some insight into the process.

mobile technology wireframe

An early stage mobile wireframe design.

Perhaps one of the most valuable reasons that the ODDI team chose to work with Agile is because it allowed their customer, Middle East Voices (MEV), to be one of the team members.  By allowing MEV to be involved in the process the whole way through, they were able to immediately ask questions or ask for changes without waiting for particular milestones.  “Management style (is) based on getting working software done a little at a time,” states Agile-Process.org, “Instead of … waiting till the project ends for software, we (can) manage our requirements and demonstrate each new version to the customer.”

In order to help future organizations achieve these goals, a group of developers (in the 1990′s) came up with a list of methodology principles for “The Agile Manifesto” that are necessary for more streamlined programming, including:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

Martin described how essential it was to have such a streamlined process for programming projects, such as for MEV, when it comes to the rapidly changing face of digital journalism.  “They came to the (ODDI) team with a good sense of what they wanted to accomplish,” explains Martin, “They knew that mobile was incredibly important to their audience, so it was important to not just do a mobile optimized desktop version of the site—instead we all decided that we wanted to take a ‘mobile first’ approach.”  After all, making sure that your audience can access your content—regardless of their mobile platform or telecommunications connection—is almost a pre-requisite for engaging and interacting with a growing audience.

“Thanks to Agile, our work wasn’t dictated by the requirements,” adds Martin, “Instead we could work collaboratively with the customer toward the goals of the project.”  Martin also was happy with how receptive MEV was to working collaboratively, on a daily basis.  “(MEV) saw that their involvement had a lot to do with the success of the project; you get better results the more involved that you are,” said Martin.

In fact, one of the most satisfactory outcomes from the process was the incredible time and resource savings.  According to Martin, since ODDI is a small team of specialists, Agile allowed their teams to have the flexibility to get some working prototypes in front of (MEV) so they could evaluate it based upon the audience that they already had. These prototypes included such things as wireframes, to card exercises, to information architecture, to live mock websites.  “We wanted to take advantage of a collaborative effort up front so we could receive constant feedback,” Martin advocates, “where we could build out a section of the website so MEV could see progress and communicate daily about any quick changes.”  With that, they could immediately respond to requests for changes.

mobile page

A mockup of the mobile design after the design team added working code and incorporated feedback from the MEV product team.

From start to finish, Martin said the MEV project took approximately 10 weeks.  The 10 weeks included hardware upgrades, information architecture upgrades, and the design and development work.  This is compared to lasting approximately “twice as long if not for taking the Agile approach with daily stand-ups and weekly demos of our work in progress,” states Marin, utilizing other processes; demonstrating an obvious savings in the form of time and resources as mentioned above.

Martin also offered a few pointers for future developers who would like to use Agile:

  1. Get a lot done early in the process; “do this often and do it over and over again.”
  2. “Get actual working software and working designs in front of the customer early on.”  This will allow them to give you direction and ask for adjustments before they become problematic.
  3. Listen to feedback.

Using agile project development can rapidly speed up processes, open up the lines of communication between the development team and the customer, and can help organizations create beautiful ‘mobile first’ sites that are designed with the audience in mind.

For more information about how other media powerhouses use agile project development, visit “How NPR Benefits from Agile Project Development & You Can Too.”

To visit  the new and improved Middle East Voices website: http://www.middleeastvoices.com/

 

(Thank you to Adam Martin for his contributions to this post.)

(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)

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April Deibert

April Deibert

April Deibert is the Multimedia Blogger/Producer for the Office of Digital & Design Innovation. Follow her on Twitter: @BBGinnovate and @AprilDeibert.

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