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Tight deadline without compromising quality – a case study of the virtual graduation software app

Adrian Senecki

Adrian Senecki

Content Creator

The COVID 19 pandemic has had an enormous impact on businesses and individuals all over the world, including university students. Because of the restrictions, they could not have proper graduation ceremonies. Luckily, technology and outsourcing came through to help save both the students and the business that made graduation ceremonies a big part of its activity. Find out about the race to build a quality virtual graduation software application.

In this story, we’re going to show the steps and ingredients necessary to drive a difficult software project at a record pace and meet all business goals. Can you guess them already? You’re going to find out if you were right by the end of the article.

Inauguration of the virtual ceremony service

We got to work with a major company in the business of education, namely video graduation.

The idea is to turn graduation ceremony events that are so important not only for the graduates, but also their friends and family into beautiful and memorable video clips as a keepsake, for use in social media and for many other fun purposes . It’s mostly active on the U.K. and U.S. markets, where its idea of turning graduation experience into videos became very popular with both graduating class students and universities. Around April 2020, when COVID 19 hit, we had already been working together for about half a year . The job of the TSH team was to implement a client panel to facilitate rapid onboarding of new customers.

The project went well, but COVID changed everything – with the lockdown in place, education had no choice but comply as well. As a result, no onsite graduation event could take place in the foreseeable future. The company management team decided to accelerate the implementation of virtual graduation software and online ceremony, which it had been planning long before the pandemic. How does virtual graduation work?

The virtual graduation app would allow students to upload their own content and turn into fun short graduation clips in advance of the May graduation season in the U.S.

Using the new virtual graduation software, each student can easily upload content to be turned into their graduation video for use in social media or just to immortalize this important event

Challenges – virtual graduation software in 2 weeks?

Our cooperation with the company has been great from the start. That’s why they decided to entrust the virtual graduation software project to our team as well. But the project was meant to be quite an unusual one right from the get-go. You could say that we had doubts wether it could make it for its own graduation ceremony. To make this platform possible and meet the deadlines, we had to face a couple big challenges.

  • We had very tight and firm deadlines

To hit the market in time, we needed to create a working app in just 2 weeks!

  • Non-standard approach to project management

We tend to work on a sprint basis with careful planning of each sprint. It couldn’t be done in a timeframe like this. We had to find a way to deliver the application at a record pace without compromising quality.

  • Technological challenges

Despite all these problems, the application still had to adhere to high-performance standards in order to remain operational under high and rapidly changing traffic. Forced to lower the intensity of testing, some future technological debt had to be expected and addressed post-launch.

Planning – let’s get to the gist of it!

We had great confidence in the quality of our developers. But this project required special considerations to meet all the requirements and deadlines. There were a couple of particular aspects of our approach.

  • Organization

Because we had gained the client’s trust during a previous project, it was possible for the Project Manager on TSH’s end to be Product Owner at the same time. It was up to that person to obtain requirements from all stakeholders, prioritize them with everybody else and forward them to the team.

  • Practical Definition of Done (DoD)

The main goal of the project was to deliver an application that makes it possible to carry out virtual graduation videos. We had many ideas for extra features, but the scope was set to ensure the main business goal was achieved.

  • Refinement

Since we couldn’t work on a sprint basis, the centrepiece of our project management was a Kanban board. We still held Daily meetings but planning was largely replaced by intense Refinement sessions, during which we discussed all the tasks in detail. Rather than thinking about the sprint scope, we were focused on which features need to be ready in a given release. What made this seemingly ad-hoc-heavy routine work is how much all team members truly cared about making it work. Having dedicated so much time to this project, they were able to maintain mutual understanding and high subject knowledge right till the release.

Development – proven process and flexible attitude

With all that in mind, we could finally go into actual development of the virtual graduation online application.

Since the former version of the platform couldn’t handle that much traffic, we developed a brand new application with React and Node.js – two technologies that TSH developers are extremely familiar with. 

This also made it possible to get this project up from the ground going much faster than normal. Using the Kanban- and release-based process, we completed task after task and were still able to manage virtual graduation app development process.

We used the full potential of the software development outsourcing-based model of our cooperation, which gave us many options, such as the ability to manipulate the size of our team in response to the amount of work necessary. That is something that a company with only an in-house team on board can’t possibly do – the deadline would expire long before the recruitment process could ever yield results. These options are a great asset for clients who experience unsual business circumstances such as COVID 19.

We ended up scaling the team up from 2 devs and 1 QA Engineer to 6 devs and 2 QAs over the period of a couple of days.

TSH’s Technology Radar makes it easier to find what technologies we recommend and like to use best

Read more about working with event management software projects

The two main ingredients

Ultimately, thanks to that approach, we were able to deliver a working version of the virtual graduation software on time. It fully met the requirements of the core DoD and the expectations of the client. Why did we succeed?

We think that there are two main reasons – one of which is rather obvious, but the other quite elusive.

  • Development prowess and process

From the software development perspective, everything – beginning with the quality of our devs right into the process – worked really well. We were able to choose the kind of technologies we know best and find ways to turn our proficiency with them into time saved (e.g., using our own frameworks and boilerplates to set up a project quickly). We used our experience in Agile in order to quickly adjust our process to the specific circumstances of the client’s project. And our developers understood what was required of them immediately.

  • Trust

But more than anything, it was trust that made the project work so well. In normal circumstances, a company probably would not have entrusted as much of its business to a third-party vendor with a very tight timeline to deliver. 

But since we had a history of working together, the client team knew we were worth the trust. This project was only possible to deliver through outsourcing to a software house that has already established itself as a trustworthy technological partner – exactly the kind of business relationship we created with the company. This ingredient trust is a bit like umami – the fifth flavor we all feel, but don’t talk about nearly as much as about the four traditional flavors: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. That’s because it’s far more difficult to visualize than any other ingredient of the software development process.

Thanks to project management and the flexibility that software development outsourcing provides, we were able to scale up the team quickly. Owing to our internal best practices, the team was able to speed up the onboarding process and develop the scope on the go. It all made delivering new functionalities much more efficient.

Marcin Kuśmierz

Marcin Kuśmierz

Project Manager

Virtual graduation software – summary

Despite the short time we had to complete the project, we delivered a market-ready application which made it possible for hundreds of universities in the US and UK to hold their graduation ceremonies online, satysfying all the end users – the graduates, their friends and family. And it allowed the client’s business to generate some really impressive numbers:

Project numbers

The client gave us the trust and liberty we needed to make changes to the development team and process. They did so because we already had a mutual trust and understanding achieved through months of working together.

The application hit the market within the expected timeframe and was more advanced than similar applications developed over many months. It gathered positive reception in social media as well as from graduates, their family and friends.

With a great idea and some quality softwware development outsourcing, we managed to turn a difficult situation into a big success. This virtual graduation ceremony software helped the company pivot its business model and even influence the graduation experience itself! Will a graduation ceremony of the future be possible thanks to online graduation software like this? It’s hard to predict, but we do believe that there is a bright future for this class of software.

We’re going to continue our successful cooperation with the client and search for new organizations to establish such fruitful long-term relationships with as well. In times of the COVID pandemic and beyond, there are many companies that are realizing the benefits of continuously innovating their market presence and business model itselt. This often calls for custom web devevelopment and we are here to turn your brilliant ideas into top-notch software products.

And if you need a development team that is ready and able to meet your deadlines without compromising quality, contact The Software House. 👇

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