Friday, 2 November 2012

Post 4. "KEY FACTORS CUSTOMERS WILL USE TO JUDGE THE VALUE OF OUR PRODUCT", i.e. how do you independently measure success?

The Soils to Satellites Project has a number of engaged stakeholders (customers), in particular through the TREND SA project and the Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, who are actively conducting research into ecological questions around the topics of;

  • Predicting the impact of climate change on species distribution (Conservation)
  • Identifying Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation / Agriculture)
  • Understanding Soil and Vegetation Communities (Agriculture)
  • Understanding the Conditions of Ecosystems (Conservation)

It is understood that for these researchers to embrace the S2S tool as a significant addition to their research activities, it will need to become an integral part of their workflows and processes.

It is expected that S2S will improve researcher’s access to the extremely broad range of ecological data that is available from the ALA, TREND SA and TERN AEKOS, by allowing users to quickly and easily visualise relationships between disparate data in S2S.

To do this, S2S provides functionality that allows for the exploration and display of previously undiscovered relationships between disconnected and previously unrelated data sets, through sophisticated spatial and data presentation tools developed in the ALA spatial portal and via the AEKOS Indexing and Search services, which are being re-used in S2S. The system then allows the user downloading this data for further offline analysis and examination in tools such as MATLAB and ‘R’. 

It is anticipated that re-use of these data discovered through S2S will contribute to continental scale ecological research and facilitate collaboration between various groups, which in turn can support science based policy and NRM decision making across State and Commonwealth governments. 

The project itself has adopted an Agile development approach, whereby development and delivery of the S2S product is undertaken in a number of cycles, known as ‘sprints’. At the end of each sprint, new functionality developed in S2S are demonstrated to stakeholders and feedback sought to be considered for inclusion in the S2S ‘Product Backlog’ and subsequent future iterations of work. This approach enables issues and additional requirements to be incorporated right throughout the development phase of the project rather than at the end, which typically has severe negative impacts on the three core measures of project success - time, quality and costs. 

In order to independently measure the success of the project and the S2S product, we will design and conduct a customer survey at the end of the project.  This survey will be constructed around the following questions which will enable the project team - ALA, TERN AEKOS and ANDS to judge the value of the product:

  • Can I easily find the data I need for my research?
  • Do the data visualization tools developed make the data discoverable?
  • Can I reuse these data in offline tools once they have been found in S2S?
  • Are the environmental layers useful for my research?
  • When reviewed against other data discovery portals, is the product generally of high quality in terms of usability and performance?
  • How does Soils to Satellites compare to other similar tools you have used in the past?
  • On a scale of 1-5 can you estimate the overall value that the system provides in supporting your research activities?
  • Please identify the areas of the system functionality that provides you the most value.
  • Has the system been of value in addressing the following research topics: 
    • Climate change prediction of species distribution (Conservation)
    • Identifying Biodiversity Hotspots (Conservation / Agriculture)
    • Understanding Soil and Vegetation Communities (Agriculture)
    • Understanding the Conditions of Ecosystems (Conservation)

Ideally, this survey will merely be a formality, as the project is structured in such a way that stakeholders are continuously ask questions about what improvements are required with the actual S2S product in front of them.

1 comment:

David F. Flanders said...

Links to acronyms, or perhaps a single post listing all your frequent acronyms that you can disclaim in jargon heavy posts?

At the end of sprints how are end users engaged, in other researcher based projects we've seen considerable pains in trying to get the researcher to sit down and really consider the s/w? A risk for you?

Links to the particular types of agile you support (e.g. crystal, scrum, etc?) - or perhaps just some general tactics you use to keep sprints on time (so you can save money, time, etc), e.g. daily-stand-ups, bug tracker tool, etc.?

I really like the questions, but wonder if these will be accurately answered through a survey or if some other UX method might be needed to get the truth out of the end users who are pressed form time and might not consider a survey for providing comprehensive info for feedback into scrums... also how often is this survey to be deployed, each sprint? If not, what are the mechanism per sprint to assure things are on track?

All very interesting work, and very worthy of future blog posts to see how you yourselves are reflecting on your insights as you progress :)