Expect the unexpected
Flights were cancelled! The country was in lockdown! For Mitra Innovation and their Australian client Leap in! this couldn’t have come at a worse time. The planned project kick-off meeting was hastily cancelled as the Leap in! team could not travel to Mitra’s offices in Sri Lanka. This was not the current pandemic, this was April 2019. The cause was a horrific attack in Sri Lanka that had killed hundreds. And now it was forcing Mitra and Leap in! to find a new and, as it turns out, better way of working together.
Leap in! was setup to help those with disabilities benefit from the governments new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). They support people through the claims process and help them manage their awarded budget to live independently and achieve their life goals. In 2019 they were growing quickly and needed help. The 3rd party claims processing and settlement engine used by their platform was proving to be too expensive as clients and claims grew.
As their new technology partner Mitra had been asked to work with Leap in! to create a cost effective and scalable solution. They needed to find a way for their respective development teams to work together effectively across two continents.
The way forward
To meet the challenge Mitra adopted a new co-development approach to working remotely with Leap in! The two time-zone separated organisations were blended together using agile processes and technology tools creating a single effective virtual project team. The key features of this new approach were:
Co-discovery – both organisations worked together to define requirements and co-create the design ensuring a common shared understanding.
Techno-economics – Shared exploration of the commercial implications of potential technology solutions.
Increased Validation – more time given to ensuring everyone was clear on what was being developed and why. Re-validated with the product owner on a daily basis.
Structured interactions – Mandatory daily stand-ups, sprint retrospectives, virtual workshops.
Sprint board – A real time visual display showing everyone across both time zones the progress of activities.
The best tools – video conferencing, virtual whiteboards, project collaboration software, visualisation tools - tested and the most effective adopted for all.
As the project progressed additional key learning was captured and incorporated into the co-development framework that was beginning to develop:
Visual concept representations – mock-up interface designs and user journeys and validate those with Leap in! - these were powerful in preventing misunderstandings.
Quality thinking time – eliminate non-project related distractions such as admin tasks from the virtual development team where possible.
Roles & responsibilities – defined jointly, comprehensive, communicate and enforce vigorously.
Robust monitoring and control – no time for “light touch” project management. Disciplined application of the tools and methods is vital.
None of these features or learnings are radical or earth shattering on their own. However, when they are combined and applied consistently outstanding results can be achieved perhaps, even surpassing those of collocated development teams.
The new normal
When the pandemic arrived in Sri Lanka, Australia and the UK, Mitra and Leap in! were already developing seamlessly and effectively together. The new claims engine is working well and scaling effectively ensuring costs are controlled and a greater percentage of the government funding goes towards transforming lives. We’ve also co-developed and launched their new app. Leap in! said:
“Even from 8600 km away you can feel their passion. Our customers can be secure that their budget is under control, their bills are being paid, and they can focus on the business of living their best lives despite the challenges their disabilities bring. We are doing amazing things together.”
Mitra’s Co-development framework is now a proposition offered to all of their clients.