Our ultimate goal is to create a product for our customers that improves efficiency, profitability and quality, no matter the project. But even if programming is second nature to us, we realise that it might be far-fetched for others. Here’s a peek behind the scenes at Aize.
The journey started with a simple task: Wanting to revolutionise integrity management. A group of Aizers had a vision of a new application that would connect inspection, integrity and related data directly into a digital twin. We had no time to lose and decided to gather a team of skilled Aizers. But how do you make an application? And how do you do it when you’re all stuck within your own four walls? We had a chat with Alan Ritchie, Tom Clarke and Lynn Glover to find out.
The people behind the app
Tom is the application Subject Matter Expert (SME), working with SMEs and support. He writes user stories, drawing from industry experts .
“Before joining Aize, I was on the other side of the applications. I always had loads of opinions of what worked and what didn’t, which is why it feels right to finally be part of the team”, says Tom.
Lynn Glover works in development and sales, collaborating closely with the SMEs and product owners to establish the requirements of the products, and what they should be set out to do. It is like being part of the inner workings of a machine, coordinating multi-discipline teams of SMEs, UX designers and developers who are all cogs that need to be aligned with each other in order to function.
Alan Ritchie is the software developer (or as his colleagues call him; a software magician). He’s the hard-core coder and tech genius that translates the customer’s needs and requirements into code. When the rest of the group are dreaming big about what can be done, he’s their reality check.
“You’re always realistic Alan, and when we say “YES!”, you usually say “YES, but…”. In the end you’re the one that makes it all happen”, Lynn laughs.
Born in the midst of a pandemic
Working from home is different for all, and the same goes for us. As a relatively new company with industry roots from Aker, a lot of time has been spent on refining and improving Aize’s optimal way of work, a process that continued as the world went into lockdown.
“We’ve relied more heavily on the daily 15-minute meetings, or ‘stand-ups’ as you call it, which have become an anchor point for all of us. We have one stand-up for each application where we get status and are briefed on the next steps forward. And since we’re all sitting at home, the distance to our colleagues in Norway seems smaller, which is nice”, says Tom.
“It has been a good way of effectively sticking to the agile methodology, because we had no other alternative”, Alan adds.
Writing a solid user story
One of the most important aspects of building an application is making sure you have a solid user story. The purpose of a user story is to describe the customer’s need in such a manner that the programmers can do what they do best and write code that does exactly what the customer wishes for.
“Tom and I sit down with the product owners and external specialists, trying to figure out what their problems are and what they want to solve. Our approach is always how can we make something that makes the customer’s life better, and we take on the roles as their problem solvers”, Lynn says.
Writing a good user story can prove to be quite a challenge, considering the fact that the customers might not always be fully decided on how they want their application to be shaped. The Aize team therefore saw a need of adjusting their user story approach.
“We previously required an exact implementation from the coding team, meaning that we described how the application should be built in a very specific way, down to every small detail. Now we’re only specifying the functionalities, letting the coding team work their magic to find the best way to fulfil these, and our products have never been better”, says Tom.
Another measure that has given a positive outcome is hiring graduate developers straight from university, Alan says.
“We learn a lot from the graduates. They see routines and practices that we’ve had for a long time in a whole new light, and question what we consider obvious. They sometimes have new and better ways of using the software than we do, which in the end makes us all perform better”.
The agile way of working
Working from home and having to adjust to a new everyday has tested the team on how to work in a truly agile way.
“We’ve always been following the agile methodology, building bit by bit and continuously improving our minimum viable product instead of crossing the finish line with a big bang. But when working from home, there really has been no other alternative. Which definitely has been good practice for us”, Tom points out.
Working in an agile way means building small chunks that can be delivered to the customers as a minimum viable product with bits and pieces they can use as they go, having frequent checkpoints along the way. This provides flexibility to change the path that was initially laid out if needed, without having huge setbacks.
A customer might tell us they want a bright red convertible Ferrari. If we deliver this to them as a finished product and they test drive it to realise all they need is a motorbike, then most of the work and associated cost has been for nothing. Instead, we build an indistinct vehicle consisting of the most essential parts that can take them from A to B. We then add to that base bit by bit and check in with the customer regularly so they can have exactly what they need”, Lynn explains
Want to know more about how Aize is revolutionising pipeline integrity management?
Post written by Louise Dunn
Louise works in our marketing department in Aberdeen, Scotland. Although her degree and core specialism is graphic design, she has also gained extensive marketing and communication experience over the years. Working in the oil and gas industry has given her fertile ground to work creatively within an environment that is demanding, challenging but rewarding.
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