Process

Our process: mobile projects at hedgehog lab

Jan 27, 2016
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7 min read

At hedgehog lab, we’re not content with building software that is merely good or useful. We believe our customers deserve the best; products that our customers will love, and their customers will rave about. To this end, we channel our expertise and passion for technology into every solution we deliver.  

 

However, we also understand that our clients want a down-to-earth, jargon-free approach when investing in digital products. We involve our customers at every stage of the development, from the discovery stage to launching the app and post-launch evaluation. That’s why we call our customers mobile partners.

 

Our discovery workshops guide our customers through the process, and determine the role of mobile for their business. This gives focus to the design stage, enabling us to develop working prototypes for the build & test phase. Once we’ve successfully launched our client's app, we then evaluate and advise on how to achieve continued growth and success. 

 

Over the past 8 years, hedgehog lab has launched over 120 applications, managing all aspects of application development and delivery. We have provided app development services to both the public and private sector, including a number of government departments. Solutions have varied from RnD, through to delivery of complete solutions, depending on the needs of our mobile partners. 

 

To help you get an idea of what we do and how we do it, let’s take a look at our project workflow process.  At hedgehog lab, a mobile project is broadly divided into 6 phases, although we do review projects on a case-by-case basis and on occasion apply alternative processes:

 

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Dialogue & Handover:

Once a brand or startup decides to choose us as their mobile partner, our project team begins an open dialogue with our client. Whether we’ve been accepted for a tender, been sent a brief, or hosted a mini discovery session, the initial phase of our process is to listen, to build a picture of their needs, expectations and vision.

 

From these beginnings, the Discovery Plan starts to take shape. Our team will identify tangible areas where we can add value, determine who we need from the lab to work on the project, and review Ballparks to secure sign off from our mobile partner. 

  

The hedgehog lab team involved at this stage consists of our Client Services representative (who is an initial point of contact for new clients), Project Director, Project Manager, Finance Manager, Lead Developer and Lead Designer.

 

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Discovery: 

During the next phase, we assess whether we can design, build and test the concept as it stands. This capacity building exercise (SMART) is a crucial first step before confirming the budget, team requirements and plan for the remainder of the project. 

 

Once we’re confident that the project can go ahead, we undergo a fact-finding process in relation to our mobile partner's “story”, researching the different variables and development options. From this, we will supply a top line or detailed functionality quote, along with an estimated delivery timeline and costs for the project.

 

Finally, we review the Discovery Phase against the initial Plan, to ensure that the relevant documents, such as the Project Brief, User Stories, Plan and SoW (Scope of Work) are in place and ready to be signed off. 

 

It’s imperative that all of our mobile partner’s stakeholders read the SoW to ensure it meets expectations, as this is attached to a final contract for sign off.  A revised project plan and key milestones document are also attached, so that all parties are crystal clear on their responsibilities. 

 

Once our mobile partner accepts the estimation, we can proceed with a more detailed scoping exercise, to ensure that we have the necessary resources available, and can confirm the Start and End dates.

 

The team is usually broadened by this phase and consists of a Client Services representative, Project Director, Project Manager, Lead Developers and Lead Designers. The Project Manager determines team sizes on a case by case basis.

 

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System and Product Design:

Now the detailed planning process can really get underway, defining all aspects of the project and variables to be delivered. Led by the Project Manager, this process involves in-depth analysis of the project plan and all integration requirements surrounding the mobile partner or 3rd party platforms, as well as preparation of key milestone documentation. These are then integrated into the original scope.

 

Our team will begin system design, creating the domain models, class diagrams and sequence diagrams, to document the entities, their visual representations and the application class responsibilities. From these developments, the team can write component specs and technical specs, which enable us to draw an Infrastructure Diagram documenting the hardware required to run the system.

 

The second part of this stage deals with Product Design. This involves creating User Flows that map user stories to provide detail to developers, Agree Information Architecture that shows the information available on screen and its priority, wireframes to define information hierarchy of the design, and finally UX to show user journeys.

 

Having created the UX, the team moves on to create UI, which involves developing a complete set of designs. At this stage of the process, it’s important to show our mobile partners that we are on the right track. To this end, we create a Prototype in Proto.io or Invision, to ensure that we are moving in the right direction. 

 

A Content Dictionary is created, to ensure all the labels are confirmed and wording/copy agreed upon. A Component Style Guide for Production provides all the information required by the development team to move forward.

  

At the end of this stage, we once again confirm a Plan for the remainder of the project, and seek sign off from the client for the Technical Docs, Wireframes, UX, UI & Prototype. We also design a Test Strategy, so that the Project Directors and QA Director can ensure that all the requirements are in place for successful testing. Our team also reviews the Start and End dates, to ensure we have the resources to deliver the project on time. 

 

A team consisting of a QA Director, Project Manager, Lead Developer, Developer, Lead Designer and Designers will oversee the above tasks.

 

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Build & Test: 

The next stage involves coding the story. Guided by the project plan and key milestones, our tightknit team works closely together, using collaborative tools such as Basecamp and ScrumDo, to deliver all of the chapters. All milestones are mapped onto the system, to give stakeholders total transparency, ready information on progress and opportunities for feedback. 

 

Build & Test is a process completed in Sprints, to ensure that the correct infrastructure is in place for the release and deployment of each successive build. Generally, there are one or more sprints per project. The main purpose of the sprint is to develop and test the product in line with the designs and the signed off User Stories.

 

Where relevant, we implement Waterfall or Agile Project Management methodologies to our stories. If taking the Agile approach, we release builds whilst further modules are being undertaken. Our developers set about the task of coding module elements and delivering the feature sets our Technical Architects have designed. 

 

During this phase, our system administrators ensure watertight security is in place, whilst the QA team define the system/unit testing approach, setting up servers to conduct tests of the technology or application. The Project Manager looks after Complete Environment Management, such as setting up machines, putting version control in place, overseeing any remaining Discovery R&D and completing a final review of the set up.

 

When complete, each module is taken through our Quality Assurance (QA) acceptance methods testing cycle, and triple checked to ensure it operates to the highest standard. There are various ways in which we can show physical progression of the application during the development cycle; we favour the device-centric method (showing the application operational on the device/platform of choice).

 

However, the most appropriate method is determined once we have taken stock of the full delivery requirement. Once the application is ready for viewing on selected phones or devices, we will subscribe them onto a list authorised to view the application, without needing to be deployed to the App Store or Google Play.

 

Finally, we review the Build & Test Phase against the Plan, to confirm whether or not the application is ready to Deploy. Here, we also seek sign off from the mobile partner for User Acceptance Testing.

 

This phase is witnessed by much broader participation of the team, usually led by the COO or Project Director, whilst the core team consists of the Project Manager, QA Director, Lead Developer and Developers. User Acceptance Testing is done by the client, and the sign off release overlooked by Lead Developer, Lead Designer, Sponsor (a Sponsor is someone who takes ownership of the project within hedgehog lab, could be the Project Director or the COO or the CEO) and Project Manager.

 

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Deployment:

Now comes the most exciting stage yet – deploying the product to go live. All modules are bonded together as one solution, ready for further QA testing. The application again passes through our stringent QA tests, to eliminate any further bug errors, code bloat issues and more. Every element of the application will be tested and full reports collated on any issues found. 

 

In the event that issues do occur, the module will be submitted for correction. Once the corrections have been completed, the application as a whole will again be tested. Our vigorous QA process will involve allocated members of our QA team along with designated members of the mobile partner team, to ensure that all parties are absolutely happy with the results.  A bug tracking tool centralises all logged feedback.

 

Once the application has passed this final phase of QA, we give our mobile partner the option to consider adding extra chapters to the story.  In the event that additional functionality is requested, we would run through the process again, firstly documenting the iteration and following the workflow through to QA.

 

The application will be made available for User Acceptance Testing (UAT) / System testing, where our mobile partner once again gets the opportunity to put the solution through it’s paces, possibly to a larger user group.  Any bugs, errors or discrepancies can be submitted at this stage, with a report highlighting any facets of the application that are not working according to scope. If they are happy with the results, they can simply sign off the application, thereby accepting it as completed according to specification.

 

Once sign off is complete all source materials and rights relating to intellectual property (IP) vested within the solution are signed over to the mobile partner and the solution is placed onto the applicable hosting environment, such as the App Store or Google Play. The technical team is engaged to set up an Infrastructure Tool and Tag Code, before running the process on either Android, iOS, or another platform. 

 

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Evaluate and Advise:

Once an app has been successfully launched, we carefully evaluate the product, user experience and feedback, to identify possible improvements and changes that could be made. Our team then advise our partners further, to secure the continued growth and success of our mobile partners’ products.

 

Like the way we work? Want to find out more about our process? Get in touch to discover why our mobile partners choose hedgehog lab!

 


Did you know that we have worked with both Microsoft and Financial Times?
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Matthew O'Connor

Author Matthew O'Connor

Over the years, Matt has delivered Client Services to leading international brands including the NHS, ITV, Renault, Nike and Unilever, specialising in web and mobile services.

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