People tend to overestimate how hard it would be to replace them. Many managers push back their retirement date thinking that the company would die without them. While it’s true that transformation is rarely easy, it’s almost never impossible either.
I wrote this as a case study for our corporate website, but removed all names or sales pitch for this platform. Publishing it on my personal blog for the education value, and to spark conversation.
The local transportation authority of a USA state capital developed a new website and mobile apps for commuters to receive realtime travel information, or get around easier. Then they received a letter from a lawyer.
A visually impaired user wanted to take them to court, because the new apps lacked accessibility controls. It was impossible to navigate, the colours didn’t have enough contrast, the apps needed a top-to-bottom overhaul. To avoid having to go to court, the company had less than 12 months to bring in a new team and roll out completely new apps. So they did. The works started in January.
The new team then left in September, just after 9 months in, and leaving a little more than 3 months to find a solution. The project was abandoned, and so close to the deadline, the only choice seemed to be to remove the transport apps from the app stores altogether. In the end of the day, if there’s no app, there’s no need for it to be accessible either, and no-one gets sued.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
– Larry Elder
We joined the team in October with the promise to roll out the app in the very end of December. We applied two massive changes to the project.
- Changing the programming framework to Facebook’s React Native, we could develop the app only once but still generate full-feature, truly native Android and iOS apps. This helps rapid development without giving up on features like extending the app with e-ticketing.
- Shifting project management from waterfall to agile methodologies. The previous development team was waiting for the transportation authority to first sign off each and every wireframe, layout design and feature request, before the actual development started. We changed it around: we came up with the schedule, and released a new test app every Friday and collected feedback that got incorporated the next week. We also made sure to test the app with a big group of actual commuters, and most importantly, with visually impaired users amongst them.
These two changes allowed us to move really fast, and provide our client with more than just weekly progress updates: they could test the actual app developed, and had a huge impact in changing it with their feedback for the better.
Everything’s well that ends well: the apps were both released on schedule and in budget, on the very last workday of December.