We have already discussed in the previous posts about dashboard development being an iterative process.
With constant inputs in each cycle, a dashboard can achieve an applause-worthy design and features for its users. Moreover, iterations bring the course correction and measure the progress that comes as a boon for a project as complex as a dashboard development.
So, we recommend following an agile methodology to build your BI dashboards.
What is Agile Methodology?
Agile has its root in the game of rugby where the team is quick and works towards one goal. Like a rugby team, an agile team huddles towards a common goal in short sprints.
With an agile model, the project is divided into smaller cycles called sprints. Each sprint is of a fixed length; say 2 weeks, 3 weeks or 4 weeks. The team works at smaller achievable goals and meets them daily during the scrum calls. Within the daily scrum—often not longer than 15 minutes—the team discusses the progress and hurdles. Each sprint commences with a planning meeting and concludes with a retrospective meeting.
During the planning meeting, the team discusses and allots the tasks for the cycle. Each member plays a unique role in the agile projects just like a Rugby team. In the retrospective meeting, the developed product is reviewed and achievements and failures are discussed.
In the initial iterations, the agile team develops a prototype. Customer’s constant feedback is sought to improve the product in every cycle. In the subsequent sprints, all the desired features find their way into the dashboards.
Because Agile is a fast-paced model to work with, there is less stress on documentation.
Why Agile for a Dashboard Development?
In a linear model, popularly known as the waterfall model of the project development, the phases include planning, requirement gathering, execution, testing, and delivery. Hence, the final product is handed over to the clients only towards the end when the core development ends, and users start the acceptance testing.
What if your audience demands a change now?
Linear development leaves a small scope for such changes within the timeline. If the project addresses the bugs and deviations at this stage, either the quality or time has to suffer.
This is the best part of an agile model. After you finish the requirement gathering and planning phase for the dashboard, you have a product backlog in hand which includes every small requirement.
Afterward, when you start the sprints, within a few sprints, you have a thoroughly tested and working prototype. This prototype acts as a base having all the crucial features and is viable to be presented to the clients to gain confidence and feedback. Also, this base model now sets a stage to implement other features.
With each sprint, the prototype improves and moves gradually towards the final product. Although similar gradual progress happens in the waterfall model, the prototype is missing that your client can ponder at and pours inputs.
What if they want to omit the features that serve no purpose? If you remove a feature at this stage, it might influence the working of the dashboards. Thus, a prototype works with ‘one step at a time’ style and helps you include features, perpetually improving the results.
Agile demands a crisp portfolio distribution to every member. For instance, a tester is answerable for all kinds of testing related processes, including the documentation. Although agile doesn’t concentrate on a huge pile of documentation, each person would do the minimal yet necessary documentation according to their portfolio.
Members from the client side or business team participate in defining KPIs, standardization, design approach, requirements, feedback, and testing. They know whom to approach for these aspects of the development. Every team member knows the responsibilities and acts accordingly for they need to partake in the standup calls.
Standup Calls to Measure the Progress
Every agile sprint has daily short meetings. During this short 10-15 minutes discussion, team members talk about the impediments and progress. However, the analysis and resolutions of the issues are the background work. Therefore, the meetings remain short and fruitful.
This standup call called “daily scrum” measures the progress and makes everyone accountable for their jobs. There is no room for lethargy as every member is answerable about their respective project progress. While in a waterfall model, the team is often not aware of an individual’s progress and roadblocks. Dashboards work well in an iterative model, and with daily checkpoints applied, the hurdles can be identified as such. Identification of the issues at an early stage helps to mitigate them on time too.
With a regular tap on the issues, it becomes easy to check how the dashboards are shaping up.
Suppose the audience demands a particular chart that is slowing down the performance; you can find an alternative within the timeline. With timely feedback from them at the end of the sprint also confirms acceptance or rejection of the alternative. This way, you can always correct the course with which the project is moving forward.
In a waterfall model, often the results are revealed to the users at the later stages during user acceptance testing. Having feedback this late means stretching the work or the delivery to include the changes.
If you are going wrong in the project, you get sufficient sprints to correct the missing or twisted requirements. A linear model doesn’t offer this opportunity. Another benefit of the sprints is you can always introduce a new short sprint in between to address an urgent change.
Each sprint tests the new features thoroughly. That doesn’t sidetrack the already tested features. Every aspect of the dashboard would be tested before the sprint release leaving no stone unturned to avoid mishaps. With every testing, the result is robust and improved.
Every sprint ends with a retrospection meeting, which includes all the team members, and sometimes the business group and the other stakeholders too.
The agile team contemplates about what went right and what needs improvement. This is an easy platform to discuss the newly learned best practices and a better approach towards the common and new issues, both.
Although retrospection is also a part of a linear model, it lacks actionable items. Once the project ends, these brainstormed ideas have no place to implement in the project. While in the agile approach, you can implement these learnings immediately in the next cycle and reap the benefits.
Having mentioned the benefits of an agile methodology in dashboard development, we want to stress that dashboards need an iterative development model. Agile has been an industry standard, which has proven its mettle in simple and complex projects. If you have dashboards development assignments for your company, we suggest studying the agile process and implementing the analytic dashboards with it.
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