Software product development and management is fascinating, to say the least. As Gayle McDowell puts it, product managers sit at the intersection of technology, business, and design. There is a thrill as well as a tremendous responsibility in building great products which don’t just get built (on time) but also get used and are loved by the users.
At Clarion, the love of programming is the common thread which binds us. With the passion for technology, we thrive on helping our customers build great products. This is a story of one such client with whom we have been working for more than two years and have built three products.
While building any product, we believe in perfecting every detail, making things simpler to use, solving the right problems, and paying extra attention to the quality. The client in this story is a company which offers payment solutions,exclusively focused on the needs of independent schools. In the 10 years of its existence, the company has a client-base of 1000 independent schools. With a razor-sharp focus on the needs of the schools, the client exactly knows the needs and requirements of the schools and has been building solutions based on that.
Two years ago, Clarion was engaged in building a reconciliation platform that enables the schools to reconcile student payments against bank deposits and accounting heads.Over the past two years, here are some of the key learnings, achievements,and highlights of the project -
Innovation is baked in the DNA of Clarion. Here, we foster creativity and innovation. Each and every programmer innovates on behalf of the client. Ideas are appreciated and presented to the client and once agreed, they become part of the products. Many such ideas and feature suggestions have become part of the three products which we are developing. Clarion is not only the technology partner for the client but also the innovation partner.
Half way through the first product development project, the client decided to hand over to Clarion the responsibility for the development and maintenance of two of its other existing products. One of those is an application for schools to receive faster tuition payments and simplify management.The other is an app which creates online payment forms in minutes. The Clarion team was tasked to take up the responsibility of these products and build some cool features and enhancements to those.
With the simultaneous development and rollout of three products, the client soon started feeling the need more streamlined communication and status updates. That’s when the Clarion team suggested the use of Agile. While the client team had an experience of working with Agile, since it was not successful for them in their earlier engagements, they were skeptical about it. However, believing in the Clarion team’s ability, the client agreed for Agile implementation. Clarion started with Agile implementation with “Shadow Product Owner”, a person who works as the product owner for the offshore team. This facilitated streamlined communication, the most updated status updates to the client, right prioritization of tasks, and maintenance of the right team velocity.
It was important for the client that all the product releases happen as per the scheduled timelines. This is because the releases were aligned with the back-to-school season. Any delay in the release meant the loss of the complete year for the client. The client had planned that the marketing and other campaigns as per the release cycles. Clarion team ensured that the releases happen without delay - it meant working hard, putting in extra hours, and quick resolution of the issues and bugs found by the testing team. Implementation of Agile helped tremendously for achieving this because the client always had the latest update about the status of the product development and the client team could reprioritize the features based on the timelines.
Since the products are from the financial domain, PCI compliance was one of the most crucial features of the products. It requires implementation of rigorous Data Security Standard (DSS) mandates. For Clarion, it involved various technical configurations for hosts and infrastructure devices, implementation of IT security processes, maintenance of a detailed documentation library, and awareness and training for everyone who had access to the credit card data. Working under the strict deadlines, Clarion was able to roll out timely releases with PCI compliance.
Because of certain business reasons, Clarion recommended the client to move from Rackspace to AWS. Making the switch for all the products was a major task because of the inherent risk of the production data migration. It involved mapping of Rackspace resources to AWS resources, migration of the complete application, migration of data, and system configurations. While there is some detailed documentation available for this, it involved a thorough planning and flawless execution to ensure that the migration does not interrupt the business operations and has zero impact on the source environment. As an additional care, Clarion team ensured that the migrated environment went live with a rollback option in case of any need.
For those interested in knowing the technology stack, Clarion used technologies like MySQL, Java, AngularJS, MySQL, PHP-Yii, JQuery, MySQL, PHPUnit, PHP-Symphony, Knockout.JS, Capistrano, Jenkins and jUnit to build the applications and the unit testing and automation testing was done using Selenium.
With a 60% increase in the userbase of the products because of the enhanced products and timely product releases, the client is a raving fan of the Clarion team.
“…We have accomplished some big things together and made a significant impact in the payment solutions market…”, Says the (happy) client.