Agile, Lean Thinking, DevOps, Design Thinking, User Centered Design, Continuous Integration. This is only a brief list of the terms and concepts that in the last few years are swiftly climbing the trending topics rank of the internal debate about how product development process can be improved.
These frameworks are mainly focused in connecting different activities within a project such as planning, analysis, design and programming. Thus, several new approaches based on the philosophy ‘release early, release often’ are even more adopted in order to increase the quality and the user acceptance of the deployed product. Nevertheless, the common goal of the new rising approaches to product release is the optimization of the resources with a strong focus on the user that takes effectively part to the design of the solution providing both input and feedback since the early stages of the development process.
Nowadays the majority of the most important IT and technology based companies are trying to change the Application Lifecycle Management with the aim of improving their productivity and impact on the market. This need arises from a radical change in the awareness of the final users due to the continuously growing expectations of the digital natives and the increasing complexity of the technology required. Thus in the last years companies are changing the way they manage requirements and validate their products in order to reach the best balance between user acceptance, time to deployment and production costs. In this sense metrics are playing an important role in helping both managers and developers during the different project phases giving them continuous feedbacks before the deployment to production.
However, while in the industrial and business area changes in the design and development paradigm is a well-founded need extensively investigated, the innovation process around this topics in the research area is still a step back for several intrinsic reasons.
Research is often a systematic investigation designed to harvest knowledge from facts and observations dealing with fluctuating requirements resulting from new knowledge learned via scientific inquiry. As new findings emerge, new interpretations of the original goals evolve and the process may have to begin anew. The research process is naturally an iterative one and can consist of many false starts and incomplete finishes.
The most common mantra that people involved in the development of research project often say is: “We’re doing research. We don’t have a customer telling us what to build.” Starting from this statements it is possible to identify a few key areas where research project differs from product development projects such as:
- The requirements are often loosely defined
- Use Cases (or stories) are harder to estimate
- The work plan may require more flexibility and on-the-fly planning
- The project goals may be moving targets
- The lack of comparable solutions makes the definition of metrics harder
Despite these challenges, the scientific community is trying to define a common and shared framework for the research project dealing with the quality and user centered topics of the product development. Furthermore a more structured approach may provide output that can be more easily translated into real product through a technology transfer that can improve the everyday life in a faster and more robust way.
Ab.Acus is directly involved in the definition of novel tools and frameworks for improving the development process and the product quality within research projects being part of MoveCare consortium (http://www.movecare-project.eu/). MoveCare is an EU funded project in the H2020 program aimed to the definition of an innovative platform for the remote monitoring of the elders connecting different and heterogenous actors. Due to the complexity of the stakeholders involved, the multi-actor approach and the innovative technological solutions adopted, this project is very challenging for Ab.Acus that is mainly involved in the tasks aimed to the definition of requirements, testing activities and quality metrics. Given the interface between the elder, robot, human and object actors and the multi-dimensional intervention type, the evaluation task shall consider a set of indexes that fully take into account such complexity. Indeed, in this domain, the main issues are addressed to the identification of meaningful outcomes to be assessed being the phenomenon characterized by multiple features and, mainly, multiple expectations. Moreover taking in account different perspectives including the elder him/herself, as well as his/her carers, the health and social systems and the society at the large could be a very interesting perspective from which defining the most suitable and reusable metrics and verification methods.
The strict collaboration with the technically and culturally heterogeneous partners of the MoveCare consortium and the possibility to directly access to feedbacks through the on-field pilots represent an important benchmark for the definition and tuning of novel processes, metrics and tools that may contribute to shaping the design process of the future.
Product Development Manager at Ab.Acus