Project Managment’s Story: Chasing Waterfalls with Agility

Project Managment’s Story: Chasing Waterfalls with Agility

At Shockoe we have the unique (and awesome) opportunity to work with a lot of emerging technologies and methodologies, which is why I’ve always preferred to work for start-ups. There’s less of “This is how its always been” and more “This is new…how can we try to use it?” This is exciting and challenging in a fun way. Not only is my team embracing the latest and greatest in how we build mobile apps, but also in how we manage projects.

If you’re on the project management career track, “Agile” is one of those buzzwords you hear a lot. Even though the idea/methodology is not new, it is currently very ‘hot’.  A lot of companies are trying to move from a Waterfall way of running their projects to being Agile. Most of the clients I’m working with at Shockoe have told me “We are used to being a Waterfall organization but we’re trying to embrace the Agile way of running a project”. That, or even if they don’t plan on moving away from Waterfall, they’re interested in our project process and are intrigued to see Agile in practice.

There’s a lot of benefits to being more agile. The big one (for me) is better quality end-results.  This happens because you are not saving testing to the end, but instead incorporating testing and then adjusting based on those tests throughout the life cycle of the project. Secondly, there’s more wiggle room for change. In the waterfall world, if you’re saving the testing until the very end of the project and your business/product owner during testing realizes a bunch of things they didn’t consider and now want changed, you’ll find yourself out of either time and/or money.

Running our projects using Agile lets us reduce risks to the quality and getting last minute change requests. However, getting our clients to move at the same pace as we want to can sometimes be challenging. Right after the project kick-off, we’re basically ready to go. This can be quick for some of our clients, who find themselves waiting on Change Review Board or internal PMO to green-light the project.

What this means is there can sometimes be some initial lag time, which usually gives us time to do “Sprint 0” which is when the initial designs and technical architecture documents are created – so once the client tells us they’re ready for us, we can hit the ground running. This is a good way to mix the Agile principles of continuously analyzing, developing and testing throughout the life cycle of the project, with the Waterfall ones of having a plan set forth before you start creating anything.

This has helped ensure that we’re able to deliver what we set out to, and in a way that makes our waterfall clients comfortable with the process, while still allowing for agility in our project management practice. We have so many examples, this is just one, of how we’ve been able to successfully marry our agile practices with our waterfall clients, and delivered a high quality product that everyone was proud of.

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality… Confused Yet?

There are exciting new worlds being created, recreated and explored as we speak. There are digital worlds being developed from the inspirations of Earth and beyond. For those of us not able to travel to places like the polar ice caps, the Sistine Chapel, Rome, the Pyramids of Egypt, Mars, or other places we may not be able to visit in our lifetime, this is our chance. Now, we have the opportunity to visit them from the comforts of our very own homes.

Our mobile enterprise company, Shockoe.com has recently branched out into the brave new world of Virtual Reality (VR). In this ambitious new venture, there are many things to consider. First, let’s break down the different branches of the digital realities.

VR provides the user with a digitally created 360 degree world using a type of headset, whether it’s utilizing Google cardboard, an Oculus or one of the many other options of headset viewers. Augmented Reality (AR) uses our mobile devices and overlays digital images over physical reality (ever heard of Pokemon Go)? Lastly, and my favorite, there’s Mixed Reality (MR).

MR might be such an advanced technology, that we likely won’t see this catch on until VR and AR are more of a regularity. MR is the ability to use virtual reality inside of our physical world. For instance, a doctor performing surgery on a patient could use a virtual magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or X-ray scanner over their patient, providing them with an accurate view inside their patient’s body. Mind-blowing, right?

Now that you have an idea of the different realities being created, let me tell you that there is nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to design the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) for these exciting realities. When starting the conversation of UX for VR, it’s easy to get a little carried away. The possibilities seem endless (because they are), which is why it’s important to focus on what’s best for the user, what makes the most sense for the user to do in order to see and navigate our experiences. What does the client want to provide their users?

These questions are seemingly simple, yet necessary. A UX/UI designer needs to know what type of VR they are designing for. Is it for a headset alone, headset with camera sensors, or headset with gloves? What are the limitations of this experience? How far can the UX/UI designer push these limitations while still maintaining a fulfilling, yet positive user experience? What can I designer do to keep users returning to their fascinating VR experiences and even share them with others?

shockoe_vr_coneoffocusUsers with solo headsets can only use their Field of View (FOV) or Cone of Focus to make their selection, not their hands. While this might seem limiting, it’s not. Keep in mind that this is VR, where the user can turn in any direction they choose and explore a new world by just putting on a headset. Making a selection through vision is quite simple. A UX designer could use a countdown, various loading animations, or status bars. They can even invent something totally new and intuitive that hasn’t been thought of yet.

Making a selection is one thing, navigating these new worlds is another. There are a lot of different things to consider when navigating in VR. For one thing, it’s somewhat similar to navigating our physical world in terms of our FOV. We all have our own, some of us more or less than others, and the Cone of Focus is how designers segment the FOV.

The UX designer should focus the user’s primary actions within the initial area of vision. When we look directly forward, by just moving our eyes we can see approximately 90 degrees within our central vision. Everything outside of that is our far peripheral vision and should be designed accordingly by placing only secondary and tertiary user actions within these areas of vision, such as motion cues or exit options.

These are extremely important limitations to know when designing the UX for VR experiences. These degrees of vision define how the UX should be envisioned and implemented. Without making the user work too hard to explore their new digital surroundings, the UX designer must take into account the Cone of Focus for all primary actions without taking away from the extraordinary experience of VR. Thus, making one consider the visual placement of UX design by measurements of FOV degrees throughout the app.

While all of this information may seem overwhelming, it is also very, very exciting. Designing UX and UI in 360 degrees is a phenomenal opportunity to learn, adapt and innovate in this amazing new digital age. At Shockoe.com, we are on the edge of our seats with excitement about being able to provide our clients with the intuitive experiences their users want through innovative technology that VR offers.