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Product Strategy

[Episode 05] A feature team for website development


At the end of 2010, we reached a transitional phase on our website environment redesign project. Since the autumn of 2009, we have put online several thematic sites in several languages:- www.madeinoffshore.com: Catalog of our success stories. Presentation of our partnership programme.- www.pentalog.tv: Access to our video content in a YouTube channel.- www.pentalog.com: Corporate site in five languages.- PriceMaker: This function/application is present on almost all our sites. It allows to obtain an immediate quotation for our services.- Different functions: Chat, Skype call, web callback, online meeting scheduling etc.These sites are under the responsibility of the marketing department. The “Software & Applications” team of ISD had always provided technical support for the previous versions. For this new generation, we have used a different approach, for different reasons. We have chosen an OpenSource ECM platform with a view to optimizing multilingual content management and industrializing content management. As soon as the sites stopped being just a series of HTML pages or autonomous functions, we decided to build a team consisting of resources coming from the marketing and ISD departments: the Feature Team. This agile approach drawn from Lean Management / Scrum is opposed to “old” practices (which are still used, however) on “component teams” in which the project was divided according to capacities and responsibilities. In this type of organization, there is a team in which each member contributes his own added value. The objective is one and the same for all members: the success of the overall project, not just of the component project.The objective of this organization was to rapidly develop the expected websites, avoiding to create a separation of responsibilities in which the ball would be passed from one member to another. It was also necessary for the management to get involved to an equal extent in order to ensure that tools, applications and contents were available for the desired period of time and thus better prepare the following stage. This is the moment when the marketing department would be able to autonomously operate the platform for content management.This feature team consisted of between three and six people, depending on the phase of the project. In order to ensure a permanent follow-up, a daily meeting of between 10 and 15 minutes was organized in order to communicate on the tasks being processed, the tasks to come and current issues. The two (ISD and Marketing) managers participated in more than 96% of these meetings. The weekly meeting allowed to have a more precise follow-up, measured in figures, and to prepare the following tasks. Almost every quarter, we would organize a steering committee in order to present the progress as compared to our initial objectives.In the end, after more than a year of using this organization and after making a transition in October:- Despite the strong deadline pressures the team faced, it always remained united, without a single error being reported on any of the parties. The solutions were found together.- The content integration practices/processes have already been implemented and tested; we didn’t start off with the “delivery”. We have yet to test work units for a maintenance mode, but the data we have already gathered allow us to have a solid basis.- They know one another well. They will work again together in the future. They are familiar with the organization.- The change management that would have been necessary for the marketing team would otherwise not have been as transparent as it has been here.- All resources were allocated to the project for a period between 80 and 90% of the working time. This prevented them from losing contact with the daily activity of their departments. This is an important factor in ensuring transmission of information to the other team members.What are the elements of success for this type of organization? They are not very different from other types: Involvement of the Management & Customer in the follow-up/monitoring, Choosing the right people (involved/competent) etc. What I would like to emphasize is, above all, the gain in information transmission which, in the end, translates into a smaller workload. This allows to have fewer unpleasant surprises at the moment of delivery in elements where discrepancies are too often noted and which cause irritation.Can this type of organization be applied to all projects? The answer is obviously NO, although we could try to make it the standard type of organization. We intend to define a few criteria in order to facilitate the choice. The size of the project is one of the elements: when the project is too short, immersion is difficult when mutual knowledge is lacking. When the field of activity is complex, this becomes essential.Personally, I believe in this approach, as it reduces the areas of incomprehension when the hierarchy is too strong (client / provider). This common work on immersion offers efficient and appealing solutions within the project and team members do not focus solely on their own tasks. I find it useful to continue organizing important information exchanges beyond the specifications phase.[Episode 04] Reflection on the VDI

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