Reflections on the ALISS beta launch

We’ve survived!

No techpocalypse so far… what a month for learning, responding to change and the challenges of communicating to our stakeholders in an agile environment.

On the 06 January 2017, we introduced our new beta website with some features moved over from the old website. This went really well and all the technical activities went as planned, however, it became apparent that our website users were needing a “forgot password” feature.

No judging now, we’ve all been there!

The beauty of working in an agile environment is our ability to respond to change. So, within a few days of our users giving us this feedback we had developed, tested and shipped a new feature. I would mention the ship-it squirrel but that’s another blog!

Plain sailing, I hear you say?

Not quite, it was during the first sprint that we started to realise that our system for converting a location in text format to a place of interest on a map wasn’t as accurate as we needed. This meant when people were adding resources some addresses were not being found; e.g. we were trying to add Johnstone Swimming Pool, Ludovic Square, Johnstone PA5 8EE as a location but our geolocation software couldn’t find it. This meant the resource couldn’t be added. We’ve now moved to ArcGIS software and we’re monitoring the results, but it looks much more accurate already.

Our agile way of working is helping us to constantly release small changes to the system. This way of working means that we focus on working software over long-term technical plans and we appreciate that our stakeholders may think and work in a different way. No two ways are wrong, they’re just different. To make sure you know what we’re doing, here’s the ALISS top 5 completed activities for the month:

1. The first five days after the beta launch generated more external customer feedback than we had received in the three months running up to the launch.

2. We delivered an “account” feature that allows the user to change email and password as and when they choose.

3. For the first time in ALISS history, we have defined what a great resource should be. At this stage, it’s focused on front door resources; i.e. resources that you can physically visit.

4. We have developed an easy way to “approve” and “edit” within the same webpage.

5. We have begun to test our API with a number of developers. This will help us to build features that will help our search and other areas of our work.

We’ve made a massive first step in understanding the requirements for migrating the resources from the old website over to the new beta website. Only the resources that have been physically added to the beta website are searchable on the beta website. Data migration work is a complex and costly activity that needs detailed analysis and specialist support, we want to do it justice and respect the time and investment that people have shown in the old website. Our data migration work will be carried out in two phases; phase one will focus on all the resources that fit within our new data structure. From 25,000 resources currently findable on the old website we have 6,100 resources that fit into phase one. We need to review 6,100 resources in terms of:

· fit with our strategic change from a resource being an organisation to a resource being a service;

· how it will align with our new categorisation feature?

· the quality of the content within the resource; i.e. does the “description” define what it is, who it’s for and how it improves health and wellbeing?

· what is the geographic spread of the resources and what areas are under-prescribed and over-prescribed?

As you can see, working in an agile way brings real benefits in terms of working software and the flexibility to deal with unknown issues but it also requires us to be transparent in the challenges we face and our approach in solving them. Our blogs will keep you updated on the work we are doing and how we’re working hard to help people live well.

By Douglas Maxwell

The ALISS Programme helps people find and share resources that support health and wellbeing. Delivered by the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) and funded by the Scottish Government.

ALISS is an information service which aims to make health and wellbeing support and activities easier to find. www.aliss.org

ALISS is an information service which aims to make health and wellbeing support and activities easier to find. www.aliss.org