When it comes to building great web or mobile products for enterprise customers, there are a number of variables that go beyond the product itself. Perhaps almost equally important is the relationship. (Actually, we’d say that is the most important thing. Without it, there’s no work to be done!) Focusing on that relationship, we get into the variables. Things like trust and personality. This list can go on and on and frankly, it’s one of the reasons we put so much value in our Project Managers and Architects. But from the consultancy-customer relationship perspective, we’ve found that process transparency is one of the most important ingredients of success. Here’s a quick look at how we define it and the tools we use to make it happen.
At its core, process transparency is an alignment of expectations effectively communicated. It’s making sure what the customer says, and what we hear, are the same thing.* It’s an inclusive revealing of what’s being built as it’s being built—not simply disappearing for 12 weeks after the kick-off meeting and coming back with a thing that may or may not be right. It’s keeping everyone on the project—consultancy and customer—in-the-know when it comes to the interdependency of budget, time, and scope.
So how do we do that? We use great products. Specifically, we create and foster process transparency with Pivotal Tracker and Axure. Pivotal Tracker is an agile, collaborative project management software application that is the lifeblood of our projects. It keeps everyone on our team on the same page and allows us to track the progress of every piece of a project. We (the Arcweb team and the customer) can all simultaneously view what’s been accomplished, what’s in the works, and what’s coming up. Axure is a super-useful prototyping app. With it, we create wireframes and mockups that let us show our customers user interfaces and user experiences after each sprint. Axure gives us the ability to show customers what’s being built as it’s being built, including screen animations and transitions. (For more “tools we love,” check out this post.)
At the end of the day, process transparency is the glue that makes the whole thing work. It prevents surprises. It keeps everyone (customer and consultancy) involved in a project in-the-know and in real-time. It aligns expectations from the start and keeps them top of mind throughout the life of a project. And the right tools to facilitate process transparency makes all the difference.
*Attributed to my friend and mentor, Coley Brown.