Implementing The Best Practices for Automation Projects
In this blog we are deep-diving into the best practices we have built through our experience developing and implementing automation projects. In keeping to these practices, we help to minimise the support requirements and costs later in the project lifecycle.
Here at ABP Consultancy, we have over 20 years of experience researching, building, and implementing a range of automation projects. During this time, we have established and administered a system of best practices and quality assurances. These, tailored with our package of 24/7 hour support, ensure a smooth automation journey for our clients.
Each new project or any change request to an existing system, no matter how big or small, must follow our strict quality check, or Stage Gates, which we have established through our experience. This unique methodology has ensured there is a consistently high benchmark that all projects during design, implementation and support must meet and pass through.
Building a New Project
Within each stage of building a new project, we implement various quality stage gates. Until the processes and criteria for each stage have been met, assessed, and signed off it will not exit this stage of the building process.
Before we start to program anything, we must first get a detailed understanding of the client’s needs and expectations. To achieve this, we will create a detailed list of the requirements each client's needs, taking into consideration their environment and tech requirements. Using this information, we can then draw up project plans and timeline estimations. All this information and design documentation is then feedback to the client to be signed off. We will complete this whole stage before a line of code is even written!
Once a client and our internal management team have signed off on the design documentation, we can get to work on coding and building their project. Once built project will not move on from this stage until they have passed stringent code reviews and test cases have been completed. At this stage, the client is also given a show and tell presentation of their project at this stage. This key step gives us a chance to provide our clients, the people who will be using the system, with a walkthrough of the system and its processes. We can also during this demonstration share the best practices for maintaining it after the handover.
When the build is complete and has been signed off by the client and our management team, we will then move into the testing phase. This testing is not only conducted internally but also with the client. Any defects detected at this stage can be worked on and resolved and the project and design plans for the system updated to reflect this. A project will only pass through this stage following a successful User Acceptance Testing and with the agreement of our internal Delivery Manager and Tech Lead.
Now that the project has been signed off by us and accepted by the client, we can work on implementing the project into their existing systems. During this stage, we run another show and tell with the client. During this demonstration we include our internal support team to get them up to speed with the solution to assure that they can act quickly in case we need to fix a problem or process a minor change. Depending on the complexity of the project, we will also establishg a 5 – 10-day guarantee period where the client can get hands-on training on how to use automation.
Supporting Existing Products
At ABP our strict practises and methodical working through gateways extend also to our support team.
"Always code as if the guy who ends up maintaining your code will be a violent psychopath who knows where you live."
The Handover Process
Within many businesses, the support team will only become involved at the end of the production process. With the expertise we have built up over the years however, we understand the need to engage the support team earlier, during the implementation stage.
Engaging the support team at this earlier junction helps them to gain a deeper understanding of the system they will be working to maintain and where potential issues might arise.
As a project is nearing sign off the support team can now start to set up the procedures that will be in place should a need for support arise. The first of these is the client’s dashboard we use to monitor support requests. From this dashboard, we can monitor the key status of any client’s project such as; how many high priority tickets are open or closed, how long it is being predicted a ticket will take to resolve, the service level agreements in place with the client and more.
During this stage, we will also send a User Guide to customers, which will not only inform them of how to use their system but also a reminder of the best practices for maintaining the system. By familiarising the client with their system, we can eliminate some performance issues before they arise. During this time, we will also allocate a dedicated support team to the project, making sure the same core group are working on and familiarising themselves with the system, this will speed up resolutions times in the future.
Reporting and Renewing
Once a support team has been allocated and the project has been signed off by the built team and the client our focus switches to routinely reporting the status of the project as it runs. Our reporting will detail the status of the overall system and the status of any open tickets. We run these reports on both a weekly and monthly basis. At the end of a client’s contract, we can build their renewal contracted based on these reports and an end of contract report. Once the renewal has been agreed the client’s dashboard can be updated and the process of supporting can begin again.
You might at this stage be asking why we have such a strict set of gateways for our projects to pass through. It is because ABP Consultancy has been growing at an impressive pace, but we can only maintain that pace if we maintain our high-quality standards and our OCD with customer satisfaction.
As we expand into new geographies, gain new colleagues and explore new cultures and markets we mustn't lose our identity and our own culture. We need to keep our processes uniform and consistent and that we adopt the same practices and procedures, whether in Madrid, Lisbon, Glasgow or Tel Aviv.
The only way to achieve this was to systematize our main processes and identify a set of assets to be used transversally as well as a set of moments in the production, or stage gates, that could be implemented in a transversal way. This is why the objective of our development and support teams will be to ensure that these processes and procedures are complied with
and to actively assist the teams in the design of solutions and delivery with our quality standards.
Now you know a little more about us, be sure to contact us if you have any questions about how we work.