COVID-19: Help Navigator and Learn From Mistakes

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It’s been over a year and a half since the world pandemic of COVID-19 has started. It has, undoubtedly, changed our lives as we knew it. It also mobilized a great, shared effort out of people from various specializations and scientific backgrounds. The greatest heroes of these difficult times are, of course, doctors, nurses, paramedics and experts in life sciences. They all joined forces to deal with the pandemic and save as many lives as possible. 

And they were not alone in this fight. Technologists and programmers have also become a part of this shared effort. Using different kinds of knowledge and different types of skills, they contributed with all their might.

We are happy and proud to announce that we also had our significant part in this process

In this article, we’ll introduce you to our collaboration with Audere on Navigator – a system dedicated to healthcare workers who help COVID-19 patients – as well as to our insight on everything that went wrong during this project and how we can fix it in the future.

Our partner

Audere is a digital health non-profit organization that uses technology to deliver healthcare solutions worldwide. The organization is based in Seattle. It uses machine learning, AI, and cloud-based services to fight against diseases and poverty in the world’s poorest regions. Most of Audere’s projects are funded by grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The main idea behind this project

Our mission was clear – we wanted to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among healthcare workers, who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus. Our aim was to create a cloud-based solution for symptom tracking and reporting, as well as communicating about health status and preventing workplace transmission.

The new system had its foundations in some of the previous projects:

First, there was a Health Tracker, a system developed by Audere. It allows health workers to manage diagnostic tests in a very simple way.

Then, we’ve created a Health Tracker Mobile App to make the Health Tracker experience better and more accessible. As our collaboration turned out to be successful, Audere naturally asked us to join the Health Tracker team. The product was in the meantime renamed to Navigator

And that’s how the concept of Navigator was born. The new name seemed more suitable, as it emphasizes an overall idea of the system which is a guidance tool.

Phases of the Navigator project

Phase 1 – Navigator 1.1

Audere reached out to us to get help with their project – Navigator – which was about to be released soon. In order to satisfy Audere’s needs, we started looking for a senior JS developer to join the team. In the meantime, we created a dedicated team of a few people to fix small bugs and test the 1.1 version of Navigator. Audere Team used Kanban methodology by preference, without strict iterations. 

This phase of the project was a great exchange of knowledge and experience for both teams. During Phase 1, our PM regularly asked Audere for feedback regarding the SolDevelo team. Even if there might have been some slight doubts about technical aspects, the Audere team appreciated our proactiveness and process-orientation.

The Audere team had extremely high expectations, so both sides worked really hard to release the product of outstanding quality. However, the process wasn’t as smooth as we wished. The chaos caused by the pandemic reached even us. Circumstances forced us to work in a hurry, which resulted in neglects in documentation. 

Despite this fact and other issues that occurred, we managed to successfully finish the project. Navigator 1.1 was released and Audere decided to work on Navigator 1.2 in cooperation with SolDevelo.

Phase 2 – Navigator 1.2

The next phase of cooperation required us to hire additional employees – Senior Devs and QAs – so that we could put more emphasis on the quality and pace. 

The main goal of this phase was to bring new features and integrations to the system named Health Pulse at Home – it was supposed to deliver the COVID test kit directly and safely to a patient’s house so that they can test themselves and their family; then send the tests back and receive the results quickly. 

After the integration, Navigator 1.2 was supposed to be released. Our new team members introduced many improvements – we managed to use the Scrum methodology to partially fix some of the issues and start planning our iterations with more details. Our team proposed new standards. The customer really appreciated our detailed planning.

Our team also proposed newer solutions to manage the QA test suite – we’ve introduced Zephyr. At that time it seemed to be a useful tool for our current job, but in the end it missed the mark and turned out to be a faulty idea (if you need a good solution for this, check out QAlity). 

Our PM was connecting with Audere a couple of times every week, to gather necessary requirements – to make sure that both sides understand and accept our roadmap and future sprint goals, so we are all on the same page.

Unfortunately, at the end of the Phase 2, it turned out that Health Pulse at Home hadn’t been finished, so it was impossible to implement the integration that was the main goal of this phase. Audere decided not to continue the project and they implemented Navigator 1.2.

A few lessons to remember…

The Navigator project was a very valuable experience for the SolDevelo team. It showed us some of our weaknesses, but also taught us many new things. We exchanged some technical and organizational knowledge with Audere and recognized many processes that we could improve easily. We drew a lot of valuable conclusions that we want to bring to life in our next projects. 

What have we learned from this particular case?

  • Most importantly, it’s crucial to understand not only customer project goals, but customer organization or cooperation goals. Taking effort to properly understand each other is inevitable for the project to be successful.
  • Paper documentation is not the most important in your project. Data tracking and proper task assigning are the key to success in such projects. To handle tasks and documentation well, you should use professional project management tools – Slack is not enough. The most recommended ones are Jira or Confluence.
  • Communication is the core of every project – despite the time difference, regular meetings are necessary to solve the problems on an ongoing basis.
  • A strong QA service is a must. This is something we should work on constantly. Hiring QAs with developing skills might be an option to consider.
  • Development should always put quality first. When it comes to apps and integrations, speed takes second place. This is something we should always remember.

We are in a constant journey of gaining knowledge and experience, both as a company and as human beings. We hope that our mistakes and conclusions will help us develop in what we do. That is also the reason why we share such stories with others, so that they could learn from our failures. 

If you found this article useful, please, leave a comment and share your experiences that can help others grow. To read more case studies you can look here.

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