Keeping tech projects on trackBy Diana Marsh
No matter your opinion on government healthcare, one thing is certain: the website rollout was less than smooth. After seeing bug after bug, site downtime, and overall frustration with the process, as techies, we have to ask ourselves: what happened?
Planning and preparation, such as taking time to test your major platform, can go a long way in avoiding frustrated users (and media scrutiny, if you’re in the public eye). While we certainly understand the challenges of software development, at The A Group, we take clear steps to account for these challenges and ensure that large tech projects keep moving, launch on time and work correctly.
- Discovery – Before a single line of code is written, we host a discovery meeting that includes the main stakeholders of the platform, the various user groups, and a representative from development team. The goal of the meeting is to define user groups, from front-end site users to site administrators, determine what each group will need the platform to do, and identify any special considerations.
- Specifications – Based on learnings from the discovery meeting, a specifications document is drafted. This document serves as a road map for the project and ensures that everyone agrees on what the platform should do (and should not do). The specifications document becomes the overall guide for the development team to understand the goals of the project and what specific elements need to be included.
- Build – Once all parties approve the specifications document, the build begins. There are key checkpoints throughout the build to ensure that the development is staying within specifications. The first checkpoint is reviewing the site layout, making sure the flow and user experience meets the needs discussed in the discovery meeting. Once this is approved, the programming, or “program-magic,” begins. Programming checkpoints occur as development of the different areas of the site are completed like registration, purchasing, giving, etc, allowing the team to test as they go and catch any bugs or edits before official testing begins.
- Testing – The overall testing of the site/platform is a critical part of the build process, but one that too many ignore or rush. Before launch, multiple team members, from designers and developers to project managers, will click through each page and button the front of the site, test the admin modules to ensure everything is working properly, and complete any site processes such as registrations or purchases. For large platforms, it’s also wise to have clients or end users participate in testing for additional checks. Most issues can be caught and fixed before launch, instead of revealed in the public eye like Healthcare.gov.
- Launch – This is your big moment, but it doesn’t mean the process is over. Immediately after the site goes live, a full testing review should be completed again. Along with ongoing content updates, ongoing testing should happen after the launch to ensure all systems are performing correctly for all site users. The beauty of the web is that, unlike a print document, changes can easily be made even after going live.
Not every project is going to be perfect and sometimes you can’t account for every single variable ahead of time, but working through a strategic, outlined process will help the build go much smoother. And every minute of preparation and diligence will be well worth it when your site launch is successful.