Defining The Challenge
The American Energy Society (AES) is a networking platform for experts in the energy industry. It helps to connect academicians, industry analysts, and thought leaders by providing spaces for collaboration and communication. Elegant Solutions (ES) was contracted from 2013 to 2014 to provide design and development services for the web application, which was built on Ruby on Rails. ES’s primary duty was to coordinate between our development team and the designers and in-house developers supporting AES. This allowed AES to re-factor and add many key features that in turn allowed them to grow their user base. I served as the primary project manager for ES, working with AES’s in-house project manager to coordinate user story and feature development. I also assisted in scrum sessions with the client to develop short-term and long-term feature pipelines. Finally, I provided design and user experience input when solicited directly, but I was not the directly responsible individual for informing these decisions.
The energy field was already familiar to me given my background in engineering and my final year thesis work with vertical axis wind turbines. Most of my research focused on understanding the existing platform AES had built, and auditing their code for areas of improvement and critical bugs. This work was performed in conjunction with my development team and AES’s existing developers.
Laying Out The Plan
Agile and Scrum methodologies were already being used by AES’s project manager, which fit nicely with my project managerial style. We primarily used JIRA to communicate with the development teams, and a Google Sheet to keep the client abreast of payments, progress, and feature pipeline. File management was handled via Google Drive, where all Photoshop designs and content was uploaded.
Since we were not directly contracted to handle design on this project, we relied on AES’s understanding of their intended customers and users. This included academic institutions, research facilities, individual researchers, companies working in the energy industry, and companies looking for data about the energy industry.
Inheriting and building upon an existing system is always a challenge, especially when you are brought on in a specific capacity (in this case, as development support). However, working with talented teams across the board made this a manageable challenge. Generating user stories that were feature specific was relatively straightforward, but bug-reporting was a challenge given the nuanced nature of the site. Creating detailed pathways to replication during QA testing was essential in communicating these bugs to the development teams, and required a meticulous approach. Overall, this project served as a great learning experience in my project management career, and ES was happy to successfully play an integral role in AES’s development!
AES is up and running, and has grown their user base to over 30,000 users (as of Fall 2015). They have undergone some changes here and there, and are a great resource for anyone involved within the energy industry!