Behind the Scenes @ Wild Apricot: How an idea becomes a solution OR Who wants breakfast?

Lori Halley 28 May 2010 0 comments

Last week I spoke a little bit about the numbers that you sometimes see on Forum posts. Those numbers provide a quick reference for us to the tracking system that we use to manage the issues that we are working on. This week I'm going to pull back the curtain and give you a really good look behind the scenes at Wild Apricot (hey, look, it's the title of the blog).

Once we think we know enough about a suggestion and create the issue, we create a quick summary of the suggestions we have received from you, as well as our internal discussions. Normally at this point we have a pretty good idea of what the need is and  propose a high level solution.

To better understand the process, let's say you want to have a really nice breakfast. You might have that idea in mind and say to your friends "Let's have breakfast!" That's the "need". The suggestions might be "I want something really filling and greasy," "I'd love something a little healthier," and "I'd love to have some fruit as well". We'd define this "need" as "People want to have breakfast. It should be filling and a bit of a treat, but should also have some healthier components to it".

Once we've defined the needs and the suggestions, we might look for the common threads in those suggestions and measure it against how our system works and our large scale goals (and sometimes see if we can fit them into issues that are already in the queue). Think of this as looking in the fridge and saying "Well, we have eggs, some milk, some nice strawberries from the garden, and some whipping cream. We could make omelets, or maybe some waffles might be a good idea." Then our analysis team and some developers put their heads together, chat a little bit and stick their heads up and say "Well, someone brought a waffle iron, so let's do waffles with fruit!". This is a high level overview of the solution.

Once we have the high level overview, we give it to one of our analysts (such as yours truly) who take that high level solution and starts to break it down into the broad strokes that will be needed to implement the solution. Think of this like the "prep" in the kitchen, when someone gets the recipe from a book or online, we figure out what kitchen utensils are going to be needed, and take stock of all the requests and make sure they are being addressed, in this case it would be "We have a recipe for waffles. We have verified that there are enough ingredients for everyone here. We have to get some bowls and mixing tools, and also make sure that we have enough plates for everyone". At this point the high level solution is passed around and we make sure we haven't missed anything that we need to account for in the solution ("What about cutlery so people can eat the waffles?" "I KNEW I forgot something! Thanks!") and also make sure that even though something sounds nice, that it really is practical. ("Are we going to make fresh fruit smoothies?" "That would be nice, but we have a lot of people and not a lot of time. Maybe next time, when we invite everyone for brunch, but not right now."). This is also when we'd put this out in the forum to see what you think. ("Hey guys, how about waffles with a side of whipped cream and some berries?" "Awesome!" "Can we have a smoothie too, if it's not too much trouble?")

At this point our analyst goes back to work and details the actual steps that need to be taken and screens that will need to be created. This is where we go into all the small details. We figure out what buttons to add and where. We determine the screens that you see and what they are going to tell you. We create diagrams of the workflow that you will go through, and what will happen to the data in the actual programming and database. When this is done, we have a fully defined solution with detailed instructions to the developer, and also fully realized in how it's going to fit into Wild Apricot as well as any changes to other functionality. In our kitchen metaphor, this means that we have the recipe out, all the ingredients ready to be put together in the bowls we've set up, the waffle iron is hot and the table is set.

Once this is ready, we then send it to the developers to actually do all the hard work of making the solution! And when they're done we take a look over it, make sure that everything looks good and that we didn't miss anything ("Oops, gotta put the napkins on the table!"), test it ("Yummy!"), and then release it ("Come and get it!")

A little known fact about analysis: It's hungry work!

Now for some desert, here are some of the newer threads that have been added to our forums this week:

To our American friends, enjoy your first long weekend of the summer! We'll be here next week for more looks behind the scenes.

 
Originally posted by gvalentino 

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Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 28 May 2010 at 2:18 PM

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