Every software development project requires some degree of transparency. How you stay up-to-date on development cycles and problems will have a major impact on the quality of the product and on the completion time.
While most developers update clients and decision makers periodically, this can cause issues down the road that will require timely and costly backtracks.
At 923 Digital, we have taken the goal of transparency one step further by practicing what we call full transparency development. Instead of sprint updates, we give our client full access to our project management software and keep them updated continuously. This way, they can see how their product is coming along at any given time.
We believe a full transparency development approach paves the way for more informed decisions, fewer bottlenecks during the development process, and, ultimately, a product of higher quality.
Before we jump into the steps you can take towards full transparency development, let’s see why it’s a superior way for software development projects.
It’s no secret that agile development projects are twice as likely to succeed compared to the traditional waterfall project management style.
Because shorter feedback loops help identify problems early on in the project and better align its scope with actual results. What you end up with is a better quality result.
With full transparency development, you leverage the feedback loops of the agile development, but take them to the next level.
Given that decision makers have constant access to the development of the product, they have the ability to comment on the development in real-time and adjust the course of the development if they see it deviate.
Sounds interesting? Let’s go over four steps you can take towards a full transparency development process in your company and with the development agencies you work with.
Most development agencies have internal and external boards for keeping clients updated. The client is presented with a customer-facing project board such as Basecamp that is much more polished and problem-free. While internally, the team manages the project through a separate project management tool, spreadsheets, Slack chats, and a mix of other tools that contain information important for the project.
The result is that the project is managed differently than what is presented to the client.
Achieving full transparency development requires a single project management solution that allows the agency, internal developers, project managers, and other decision makers to see the true status of the project. This allows an instant feedback loop and makes sure that it is clear:
In our work, we use Monday.com, which provides us with the flexibility to give everybody access to any given project. This means no internal project boards and no fancy external presentation for the clients. What we see is what our clients see.
Full transparency development doesn’t just mean frequent updates on the project. It also entails creating room for conversations and collaboration that might not have happened otherwise.
By having constant access to the project tool, every stakeholder has the ability to participate in any conversation they see fit. For example, you might join a discussion two developers are having about a bug they are trying to solve or a project manager will present a better answer to a question a client asked a customer success manager.
Full access also allows the stakeholders to pick the information they deem important, instead of somebody else deciding that for them. This gives them the ability to participate in a low level development decision or design modification just through osmosis, providing insights that would otherwise be missed.
As we said earlier, feedback is important. Ensuring all stakeholders have the ability to provide feedback is key.
The truth is, the initial scope of the product might change over time. As the project moves forward, it might become apparent that certain features need to be modified or adjusted to fit the user stories.
Therefore, it is crucial to give all stakeholders early and frequent opportunities to look at the product and make changes as they see fit. If you aren’t up-to-date on your development agency’s progress continuously, the initial scope can easily creep up in the month or more between updates.
It’s also a good idea to include all developers in these meetings. Since they are the ones who work on the product, it’s better for them to get information and feedback directly from the client instead of from the project manager. In our full transparency development practice, we ensure all of our developers are either on customer meetings or listen to the meeting recording on their own time, within 24 hours.
If frequent meetings are not feasible for you, ask your development agency for a video update. These videos should include a demo of the current version of the product, updates on features that are in the works, and any known bugs or problems. Our project managers use Loom to create screencasts that walk through the QA version of the product. We find this can be more informative and help identify more potential issues than a simple progress email.
As we said before, feedback loops are one of the main principles of full transparency development. But they don’t only come from you. The feedback can come from the product itself.
It’s important to test the product as it’s taking shape, evaluate the test results, and incorporate what you learn in future tasks. If you do that, the end-product will not only end up being of higher quality. It’s also more cost-effective to fix bugs as the project moves along rather than when the project comes to completion.
In fact, the cost of fixing bugs rises exponentially the longer they are left in the code, thus increasing overall development costs. The cost of fixing bugs once the customer beta tests something for the first time is 15 times bigger than during the design phase of the project.
This means that frequent testing is vital to ensure that the quality of the product is maintained, and the total cost of the project is kept under budget. As mentioned earlier, it’s important for all stakeholders to have access to the project so that testing yields useful results. This might, at times, result in duplicate bug reports from both customers and QA, but in turn, the amount of post-release bug reports will be significantly lower.
Full transparency decreases the risk and increases the quality of the product in any project. To get started with a full transparency development project, you need to commit to one project management tool, include every stakeholder in the process, be in frequent communication, and fix bugs as you test the product often.
A Five Step process developed by Ray Dalio, which any organization or individual can adopt to help achieve their goals - but should only be digested by companies over 5 years old.
We believe the ability to stay agile these days is one of the key success skills, proven by many companies who managed to adjust to constantly changing economic situation and identify people’s needs.