Recently our project with ViriCiti came to a successful end. We interviewed their Product Manager, Natalia Litvinenko, about the proces: from problem discovery to launch.
ViriCiti is a company which focuses on the clean energy market by helping public transit operators by managing their fleets, vehicles and chargers. Part of this is providing optimal energy usage. And for electric buses, this means planning ahead because charging takes longer and you also cannot pull up to any gas station. How do you optimize this planning? How can this be done cheap? “Our company helps public transport operators improve their operations by meeting all these needs.”
ViriCiti turned to us because they needed a certain feature which was requested by a number of customers. “They wanted a graphical representation of the depot itself and how the vehicles and chargers are interacting. Basically, they wanted a tool where those assets are displayed on the grid or map, not just in a list or table view.” Besides that, the development team of ViriCiti was overloaded with other projects and needed some extra hands. So de Voorhoede jumped in.
Before actually building and launching the tool, we always start off with an Inventory Workshop in which we gather all project information on the table. This is always easier when the project partner can provide a lot of information beforehand. In Natalia’s words: “The feature we had to implement was really ingrained into our own product. So, we could hand over a lot of ready-to-use information.” But at the same time, because the feature had such a degree of interdependence, Viriciti and we decided to move over as a joint team. “Besides the developers from de Voorhoede, we had 1-2 developers from Viriciti as helpers, who would review the code and help with some technical requirements. They helped unblock the Voorhoede developers because of all the interdependencies between the new feature and the product we have.”
In the process of identifying all the unknowns, there always are some major ones which need more attention. Natalia goes on: “We had a couple of hiccups that we had to think about how to work around. But they weren't really problems, more like fun challenges.” In this project these were having to decide between SVG or D3 for the depot templates and the absence of accounts for the CMS, making it harder to share the requirements for example. “But we figured it out. In any project there are things that aren’t ideal, so you sit together as a team and figure out how to move forward.”
“What I liked about Voorhoede developers: we had a discussion point and we were torn between choosing two or three tools. “They investigated the possible options and presented pros and cons of each approach and tool." I really liked that. Because I saw the pros and cons and thought of the end customer, I could make informed decisions. Hereby we could decide on it together and I really appreciated that De Voorhoede did that research and provided us with multiple options.”
After having mapped all the unknowns, having decided on the tools, and having agreed on the contract and pricing, the launch could start. This started off by deciding on the ceremonies, way of working and scope. “It was very standard and compliant with the agile approach. Everybody understood how to do things because the progress was familiar for all the parties, and we agreed on the ground rules from the beginning.”
The launch wasn't possible without thorough testing. And because certain testing wasn't possible remotely with the help of a script or mock data for instance, the team went to the end customer and performed live tests on site at the actual depot. There we could identify some of the bugs or gaps that we analyzed and for which we found the root cause of the problem on the spot.” This fixing and reviewing the feature made it possible to successfully launch the tool. You can check out the depot view here.
“Coming back to the original discovery phase, where we explored the major unknowns and possible solutions: because it was done so well and in detail, we actually finished the project with the scoped timeline and budget. It was very well executed because it was very well planned.”
Although it is possible to make an aftercare arrangement after successfully ending the project, ViriCiti didn’t opt for this possibility. This may not always be necessary. “You actually did a very good handover so that our own developers can maintain the feature moving forward.”
Why did you choose us to perform this project in the first place? “Robert Bartelds, our VP of Products, recommended them, because he had worked with them in a previous role at a previous company and he was very satisfied.” And also after this project, ViriCiti came back to us to talk about new projects for the next few years. Specifically the inventory workshop was mentioned as a factor for having made this project a success. Here the general goals and plans for the project are created in a very structured way. “This is something that I highly recommend for potential new customers. Both we and de Voorhoede sat down and spent half a day figuring out the details of what the problem is, what work needs to be done, what the variables, unknowns and risks are, what the plan and timetable is, and so on. Everyone was on the same page. Both de Voorhoede and we knew what to expect and when. So after that, the planning went very efficiently and quickly.”