Our client is an international window covering manufacturer with a large employee base distributed across a wide geographic area. We've performed agile web development for this client for many years, maintaining a multitude of Wordpress, Drupal, and custom applications. For this specific project, we rebuilt the client's primary web portal, using agile web methodology to adhere to their strict deadlines.
Over the years, the client’s primary portal became dated and bloated with technical debt. Every employee in the company uses this portal to find critical resources for their daily operations. Therefore, the company’s long term efficiency and profitability hinged upon developing a more effective solution.
The client recognized the need to update this portal. They also faced a strict deadline from the company's management team as part of a broader push to update all systems with a new single sign on technology. This deadline required that they replace the portal within one month. However, the company's primary decision makers didn't know the best approach for implementation.
Our primary point of contact with whom we've worked closely during our partnership knew we would be able to determine the best solution. Together, we took a vague concept and architected a simple but clear solution that would accommodate the client's needs in the face of their unexpected and short website rebuild timeline.
Not only did we exceed the client's initial requirements, we also completed the project a week before their deadline thanks to our strategic processes as an agile web development company.
"Working with the Denverdata Web team to create from scratch an online tool portal for our employees was an inspiring experience. The project created an interactive experience for our valued employees that replaced the outdated static site." - Senior UX Designer/Primary Point of Contact
The Customer's Challenge
The primary portal for our client's employees was a stable website. However, over the years and across multiple development partners with varying levels of expertise, the site built up technical debt. Their current solution was limited, and it was becoming more of a pain point and financial burden to maintain than a valuable asset.
Our client knew they needed to do something with the site to keep costs predictable and easier to build upon. However, they didn't know whether to clean up the old Drupal 6 infrastructure and customizations or just scrap the entire portal and build a new custom website from scratch.
Ten minutes prior to a company meeting to discuss options for the employee portal, our primary point of contact asked us to provide an estimate for building a new version of the site. During the previous month, we had completed a buildout of another site for this client. We were able to use information from that experience to quickly put together a rough estimate based on similar architecture while padding for potential scope changes.
Because of their previous positive experiences as well as being their long term partner in agile web development, our point of contact trusted that we would be able to meet their needs.
Our client's request included the following objectives:
- Replicate the core functionalities of the existing employee portal into a new site
- Provide site administrators with the ability to manage all content within the site - something they were unable to do with their existing portal
- Reduce technical debt and implement the site on a platform with a long shelf life
- Complete the buildout of the new site within a restrained budget and timeline (one month)
When the client handed us the request to “rebuild our employee portal in a month for around $X,” we were able to generally confirm feasibility of the project coupled with some initial risks. However, this request was not enough direction for us to begin development.
We conducted a thorough discovery session with the client, outlining every known requirement in detail, including site features, audience, and messaging. From this discovery session, we created an architectural approach document listing the specific methods by which we would accomplish our client's goals, including refined estimates based on the expanded information provided.
With their architectural approach in-hand, we created a strategy that would deliver a replacement employee portal within a month by (1) planning for this client's unexpected rush work amidst our existing work for other clients, (2) prioritizing features required for the employee portal on day one versus features that could be incorporated shortly after the deadline, and (3) constructing the site incrementally and adjusting for new requirements that came up throughout the build.
Our collaborative approach enabled us to develop the most strategic solution for the client's employee portal.
Establish Project Expectations
Plan and Structure Sprints for Rush Work With Minimal Impact to Existing Client Work
When you have a light backlog of development tasks, building an entire website in a month is no small task. When you have a heavy backlog of development tasks with fixed, competing deadlines, building an entire website in a month becomes a bit more daunting. However, our development team was committed to the challenge.
Before prioritizing features with our client, we reviewed our existing development backlog so that we could establish clear and realistic expectations for completion. We compared progress against deadlines for each of our major existing projects. Then, we determined a level of capacity we felt comfortable providing to our new rush project.
This process was a delicate balancing act of lowering priority on tasks for projects where we were ahead of schedule, raising priority on smaller projects near completion to clear up space, and setting clear expectations internally as to which other project tasks were critical to complete alongside this rush site.
Once we determined our available capacity over the next month, we felt comfortable meeting with the client to determine a feasible day one scope.
Determine MVP Features
Prioritize Features for Day One Versus Post-Deployment Enhancements
With such a short timeline for the website rebuild, it was critical that we met with our client to prioritize website features. Agile web development offers the flexibility to adjust to unexpected challenges and new additions, but this method is only successful with clear communication of requirements and expectations with the client.
Together, we determined which features were critical to employees' day-to-day operations and set these as the highest priority tasks. We determined which features were not critical to day-to-day operations but needed to be available shortly after launch. We set these features as medium priority.
Lastly, we determined which features were not present in the existing employee portal and intended as additional enhancements for the new platform. These were identified as lower priority.
We set the goal of completing all high-priority tasks within the given timeline while targeting any additional medium priority tasks we could complete within budget. By the end of this process, our client had clear expectations as to what they could expect on day one and transparency into our approach for the remaining features. By setting these clear expectations up front in the agile development process, we were able to set our client up for success and prevent any communication issues near the end of the project.
Build New Website
Construct the Site Incrementally and Adjust to Newly Discovered Requirements
Our discovery session with our client spelled out the requirements as best as they were known at the time. As is the case with many software development projects, though, we encountered more requirements during the site construction.
Fortunately, agile development allows for the flexibility to properly handle changes during the build process. Some additional requirements stemmed from features we had discussed at discovery, but they were missing an additional component. Some were entirely new requirements that were necessary in order to accommodate previously unknown business rules.
We stayed in close communication with our point of contact. For each new requirement, we determined priority against our previously defined set. Where needed, we shifted other features to be built after day one. True to its name, the agile process granted us the ability to adapt to new changes without sacrificing the quality of the end product.
Our agile process provided us with the ability to incorporate new changes to deliver the best final product for the client.
By the time we completed construction of all day one requirements, we found we had an extra week before the deadline to include additional features. Having already prioritized tasks to follow day one priorities and planned for capacity through the month, we confirmed with the client to proceed. We were able to go above and beyond to incorporate a healthy set of additional functionalities before launch.
At launch, our client was thrilled - they had trusted us to complete a difficult task, and we delivered. The transition from the old portal to the new one was seamless for employees, and our client was ecstatic about the new options they had to manage site content themselves with ease. As a result of this project, we staged our client for greater long-term success with a manageable, easy-to-maintain, and stable portal for their global workforce.
Screenshots of the final custom web application we built for our client's employee portal.
"Working with the Denverdata Web team to create from scratch an online tool portal for our employees was an inspiring experience. The project created an interactive experience for our valued employees that replaced the outdated static site. The process began with a thorough discovery process, even though we were working on a condensed timeline to meet the requirements. We moved quickly on to a prototype and the Denverdata Web team offered a steady but austere hand keeping dreams realistic and the budget on track. Ultimately, as a team, we were able to deliver a valuable, straightforward user experience to allows employees to search and filter various online tools and timely information. Denverdata Web's recommendations on everything from tech stack to UI were invaluable, as was their project management and post-launch support."
Need A Custom Web Application?
Has your website become so outdated that it's costing more to maintain than the value it's providing? If this situation sounds familiar, we can help! Contact us today to begin building your custom web application.