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Happy (belated) Valentine's Day!!  I got my Valentine's gift early this year.  Tilden Douglas Ellis was born on Saturday, February 7 at 12:42pm.  He was 7lb 15oz and 22" long.  He is beautiful and perfect.  My husband Mike and I are thrilled to be first time grandparents!!
It is hard to believe how much the baby has grown and changed in just one week.  He changes from day to day.  This is so much easier to see in my grandson than it was with my own daughters.  Since I am not with him 24/7, the changes just pop out at me every time I visit.
Thinking about the baby made me think of the "baby steps" development method I used when I worked in corporate IT.  The formal name for this is "iterative development" but I always talked about baby steps to the software users to help them understand the process.  February's Roadmap is a discussion of iterative development. Although this discussion focuses on software changes, iterative development principals can be applied to change of any kind. Perhaps this discussion will help you figure out how to take some of the pain out of changes within your organization.
RoadMap: Using Iterative Development
When I worked in corporate IT I had the good fortune of always being assigned to a software maintenance group.  While I thought I was fortunate, most of my colleagues did not agree.  Software maintenance is not the sexy, cool side of IT.  My group was not making big sweeping changes, but I knew that the small incremental changes that we made were helping the groups we supported get their jobs done faster and easier.  The series of small incremental changes we made over the years totally changed the software system, and the result was a system customized to optimize the work processes of that particular workgroup.  The groups we supported were thrilled with what we did for them and my entire group had a great deal of satisfaction from a job well done.
We used iterative development methods to transition from systems that were OK, but did not truly meet all of the needs of the users, to systems that made their work easier and more efficient.  After the changes we had happier employees who felt good about the job they were able to do for the corporation.
One very important thing to remember is that every group involved in a work process needs to be represented on the iterative development team. Each person involved in the process plays a different role in your organization and has a different perspective on the impact of any change that you suggest. Get input from all perspectives before you make any changes.
Iterative Development is a very simple process. Even though there are a lot of steps, iterative development does not have to be a lengthy process. Changes can be completed very quickly. There are ten steps to each iteration of development:
  1. Select the problem.  Focus on one small problem, that if it is solved will make a big difference in your work process.  Do not try to solve more than one small problem at a time.
  2. Analyze the problem.  What is going wrong in the workflow that is causing you pain.  Get a cross-functional group together to discuss the various aspects of the problem and what could be done to make the job easier.  You may not find a perfect answer, since you are working within the system that you have, but there are always ways to make things at least incrementally better.  Your solution may involve a small change to your software system as well as some changes to your process.  Brainstorm novel ideas.  Think outside the box.
  3. Develop a solution.  Using a smaller cross functional team, develop a solution to the problem.  Flowchart the new process and document all of the changes that you will make.
  4. Present the solution to the workgroup involved and to management to get buy-in. Get everyone on board before you make the first change.
  5. Develop a prototype to test the solution. Do not make major changes to processes or systems without trying them out.  You want to find out if there was some flaw in your logic or something you have overlooked before you do a lot of work.
  6. Make the changes to the processes and the systems. Do everything that needs to be done to solve this one small problem. Don't roll out any of the changes until all of the changes are ready.
  7. Test, Test, Test!!  Make sure that you test the changes that you have made to ensure that you get the results that you expected.  Parallel testing with the current system works especially well, because it confirms that the new process results in the same outcome as the old process does.
  8. Train, Train, Train!!  Train everyone in the new process to ensure that they understand how it works overall and how their particular job will change. Also, make sure that you have created adequate documentation of the new process for the users.
  9. Roll-out the changes. Do not go live with the changes during a critical time.  For example, do not introduce a change to your accounting system at month-end, when the books must be balanced and closed by a certain date.  Even very small, well tested changes can cause unexpected glitches. Make sure that you allow for this in your roll-out timeline.
  10. Support the changes.  This is the time for vigilance and hand-holding to make sure that the change positively impacts your workflow.  Plan on closely watching the system for at least one monthly cycle to discover any unexpected impacts that the changes have on the overall workflow.

Then go back to Step 1 and repeat the a new problem and begin the process all over again.  Don't skip steps.  Following this process helps to prevent errors and helps to get everyone on board, and results in more efficient workflow and happier employees. 

If you have questions about how to implement iterative development, please contact us.  We will be happy to help you make this process work for you.
SmartSite Technology serves as a virtual IT Department for small and medium sized businesses and non-profit organizations.  We provide all of the information technology services that a business needs to compete in today's marketplace.
Our goal at SmartSite Technology is to help each of our clients to be a success!! We know that technology is not a core competency for many small business owners and non-profit professionals. We believe that every organization benefits when they automate their business processes. We work closely with all of our clients, even those who are uncomfortable with computers and technology, to help them introduce automated processes into their operations. 
Contact us today to discuss your technology needs.
Dixie Groutt
SmartSite Technology
Copyright 2009 SmartSite Technology. All rights reserved.
February 2009
In This Issue
RoadMap: Using Iterative Development
Your Tech Tutor Says...
Link to Effective
Video Tutorials
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