Iterative Technical Planning: A Smoother Development Cycle

Gradual technical scoping leads to a more informed — and smoother running — project. Here’s how we did it.

Client

  • American Physical Therapy Association

Preparation, partnership, and flexibility. Three words that don’t often come to mind when we talk about the structure and development of a content management system. But within our project with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), an industry organization focused on providing insight and education to physical therapists, we were able to provide all three — preparation, partnership, and flexibility.

Preparation through Iterative Scoping

There’s a line of demarcation on nearly every project — the point in which we move from figuring out the work to actually doing the work. We take both parts very seriously, which is why we dedicate the beginning of our projects to a detailed discovery process that helps us iteratively scope a technical plan — both so we have a great idea of what we might be building, and our clients have a good understanding of how much each part might cost.

With APTA, our role began as a translator. APTA would be building its new website, implementing new user functionality, and learning Episerver all at the same time — and Blend’s role was to ensure all of those happened successfully.

Taking existing design mocks, requirements, and technical specifications, Blend was tasked with creating a full technical plan — essentially, a blueprint for the Episerver installation itself. We handled this through an iterative scoping project, where requirements are spelled out a bit at a time, and prioritized for both budget and minimum viable product. Our goal is to keep surprises to a minimum — in a way that provides ongoing updates to the overall budget and decisions that might affect that budget.

Each week, another section of the site would be scoped, providing an updated technical overview, a better understanding of how parts of the content model might interact with each other, and a healthy ongoing dialogue between all three main parties.

Partnership Through a Dream Team

Blend is often brought in to work with existing partners and internal developers, and our project with APTA was no different.

Blend was provided early-stage strategic direction by APTA’s agency-of-record, but this wasn’t a case of simply following directions — as Episerver experts, the three parties were united and engaged toward interpreting that strategic direction in a way that worked best with APTA’s new Episerver install. Throughout the project, Blend provided expertise in concert with the marketing goals and editorial expectations of APTA’s team. Wireframes were reviewed with Episerver’s capabilities in mind, and adjusted as necessary.

Then, as we moved forward through the project, neither partner slowed down. While a majority of the wireframes and technical scoping had been handled during the discovery and strategy phase, Blend’s partnership continued as design adapted to new technical needs, editorial guidance was provided, and connections to marketing and analytics suites were set up.

Consistent messaging, weekly meetings, and a solid flow of communication helped APTA ensure their project was as seamless and successful as possible.

Flexibility Through Product Ownership and Iterative Training

Iterative scoping and development is more than just following a document — it also requires an organic look at each phase. Blend’s work with APTA was broken into sprints, which were then grouped as epics. This two-layered model allowed for the testing process to also focus on product ownership — essentially, we had one point of contact collecting, moving, and assigning changes at the sprint level, while still maintaining the overall epic.

This went one step further, as Blend’s iterative scoping process includes ongoing training. Rather than train in one big chunk at the end, we space out training — tying it not to individual blocks and templates, but to logical groupings. Instead of working on all of the blocks at once, we instead provided all of the pieces to create specific sections of the site.

What this gives you is freedom and time. Freedom in that you and your editorial team understands not just what each block or template does, but that you can see it firsthand working as expected. Time in that, rather than the mad rush to create content once the site is ready to go, you are able to begin the migration process earlier in the process, allowing for less stress — and a better-trained editorial team — when it comes time to launch.

Project Results:

  • A progressively scoped technical plan that outlined connections between content types
  • A sprint-by-sprint look at current budget vs. future phases
  • Product ownership to ensure that QA ran as a part of the process, rather than tacked on at the end
Our website redesign project was far more than a simple facelift.

All at once, we were aligning with a new brand, learning a new content manager, improving our information architecture, and building a site with greater automation. Blend helped us avoid project paralysis by bringing development elements to us in distinct, digestible chunks. Our partnership was successful because they clearly communicated the what and why of each phase so we could focus on the opportunity in front of us.

Jason Bellamy,
Executive Vice President, Strategic Communications
American Physical Therapy Association

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