A Real Project in Real Time – Focus Group 2

Written April 18th, 2009 by
Categories: CEO's Blog
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Yesterday, we staged our second Focus Group on Blount’s SAP Integrated B2B Sellside eCommerce project. It was a textbook follow up to our first Focus Group which we staged last week.

In an hour and a half we elicited 10 new issues.

There were a few cosmetic changes requested that were resolved by the end of the day.  We also uncovered a few unexpected errors that seemed to have been triggered by data related issues (better to find out now than when we’re in production).  A few of the change requests were centered around how our application informs customers that ordered items were actually substituted.  All in all, very manageable findings and we should be ready to migrate into the Validation Phase of the project on Monday.

While the results of Focus Group 2 are unremarkable (as they should be), there were a couple of remarkable things about the preparation for the event that I’d like to comment on.

First of all, as a process innovation for us, we invited Blount users in to use the system before Focus Group 2.  That hasn’t been our standard operating procedure because things never seemed to have been stable enough to let clients loose on the system before Focus Group 2.  I guess we’re getting better. 🙂

Early User Access

First of all, as a process innovation for us, we invited Blount users in to use the system before Focus Group 2.  That hasn’t been our standard operating procedure because things never seemed to have been stable enough to let clients loose on the system before Focus Group 2.  I guess we’re getting better :-).  This turned out to be great for us because customer training, testing, and ownership could actually start much earlier in the project lifecycle.  Which leads me to the next observation…

Test Driven Development

While preparing for Focus Group 2, it really dawned on me how much our implementation methodology revolves around test cases.  This implementation is proceeding about as smooth as any that I’ve ever experienced because Blount is able to provide us with representative test data in a timely fashion.  Providing us with samples of Standard Orders at various phases of delivery, focuses our development and testing and validates that our translations of terms are acceptable.  Making sure that we have test orders that use different carriers helps us ensure that our links to their websites are working, etc.

Beyond that though, to make sure that Warranty Orders, Sample Orders and Rush Orders are also available, ensured that we would validate that they work by Focus Group 2.  We also wrestled with displaying detailed pricing on orders this week but knew early on that we were going to defer the completion of that feature to the next iteration.

Real test data used in real scenarios.  That’s what allows us to make real progress in real time.

What’s Next?

Next week is Validation Testing week.  All systems should be working and verifiable by Blount.  Next week is all about testing…and the inevitable rapid response on our part to whatever issues arise.  We’re going to culminate our week’s testing with a third Focus Group.  This one is going to be with Blount’s US Distributors.  While our service has been under extreme scrutiny for the last two weeks, truth be known no REAL CUSTOMERS have had access to the system.  That’s what next week’s third Focus Group is all about!  I’m really looking forward to hearing what they have to say!

Sam