September 8, 2020
How to Identify and Fix Development Issues for New CET Extensions
You and your team have done it! You are on your journey to develop CET extensions for your configurable products. It’s an exciting time.
So how do you build the best CET extension? The key is to make it as user-friendly as possible. Having a user-friendly extension means that designers, engineers and other professionals will be more likely to specify your products and increase your return on investment (ROI).
Before releasing your first CET extension, then, your development team should work with potential users to identify and eliminate any roadblocks that could negatively affect your extension’s performance when it does launch. Conversely, leaving users out of the development process can cause a variety of development issues that will affect the success of your CET extension.
In this article, we are looking at how to keep users at the forefront of the CET extension development process. And we’ll discuss some of the telltale signs that your development team may be missing the mark — and how to get back on track.
Work With a User Testing Group During CET Extension Development
User feedback is the most important indicator for how well your extension is doing — both after release and during development. Before you start writing any lines of code, you should do some market and product research to plan and validate your path forward with Configura’s CET Designer. A crucial part of this process involves assembling a user testing group. Their feedback will be invaluable as you develop and prototype your CET extension.
Before development, you can work with potential users to determine what features and functionality they use the most, the major challenges that deter them from using an extension, how their typical workflows operate and much more.
Can Your Product Address (and Overcome) Human Behavior?
And once you get an initial usable version of your extension developed, you will want to invite your user testing group to work with your extension and provide feedback. We have found that simply asking for “feedback” or asking questions that are too general can often lead to gathering information that doesn’t necessarily help improve your extension.
To avoid this problem, prompt your user testing group with questions that will help you improve the features and functionality your extension is meant to deliver. Examples include:
- Can you quickly and easily navigate through our products and find what you are looking for?
- How do the models look and function? Do their materials apply correctly? Does everything render correctly?
- How easy are our complex products to work with? Are there ways we could help you specify these products faster and more accurately?
- How is the ordering process? Can you accurately price and order exactly what is placed in the scene in CET Designer?
- Can you quickly and accurately create installation drawings for the products in the scene?
- Do the installation drawings give installers enough information to accurately assemble the products?
By asking these types of specific, user experience (UX) questions before release, your development team can find and fix problems that would arise when users encountered them in the extension itself after launch. Addressing UX during development will bring your best product to market, streamline ongoing CET extension management and increase ROI.
What If We Outsourced CET Extension Development?
Of course, UX-focused product research may not be completely under your control if you have outsourced development of your extension. And you may be struggling to understand exactly what’s included or involved when a vendor is building your extension for your brand. In these cases, it may help to perform a bit of a gut check as you move through the development process with another entity or agency. Ask questions like these:
- Do you know what the CET development team is working on each week (or even each day)? Or do you feel like their process is more of a black box?
- Do you feel like there is a clear plan and path to build all the features and functionality you want for your extension? And is progress toward the finished product on track as expected?
- Do you feel confident about the team’s overall progress and the features currently being worked on?
If you don’t have transparency and open lines of communication with your CET extension development partner, that can be a major risk factor for project failure. Ultimately, you are the extension owner, and your extension will be a reflection of your brand in the marketplace. That means you need insight into the development process and how your extension is being tested and optimized for users.
Certainly, developers can come across roadblocks that may extend timelines. Incomplete product catalogs and specifications, cross-departmental dependencies and other issues are not uncommon during the CET extension development process. But you should be aware of any slowdowns (and what is required to address them) every step of the way.
How Can We Address CET Extension Development Issues?
Whether your developers are in-house or outside of your organization, delays and other red flags need to be identified and addressed promptly. Your approach to resolving issues will depend on where you are in the development process for a new CET extension, and your approach should always keep the user experience in focus.
Early Development: Focus on the User Experience
The driving force during extension development should be optimizing the user experience. Your team’s work should clearly contribute to the goal of ensuring that a user can easily and accurately specify, order and create installation drawings of your products.
To that end, the team should take an iterative approach to developing the extension. For example, early development should be focused on building a minimum viable product (MVP) so users can test the product and you can gather feedback that will inform the next iteration. And if your MVP is in very good shape, you may even be able to release it as a catalog extension and begin getting revenue as you continue development toward a parametric graphical configuration (PGC) extension.
Mid- and Late Development: Focus on Building Systems to Continuously Improve Your CET Extension
As you gather user feedback from your testing group(s), you will want to coordinate work among project management, developers and other stakeholders to build systems for turning user feedback into actionable items for your development team. For example, you will want to ensure that feedback is collected and documented effectively. Then, you will need to find a quick, efficient way to translate that feedback into features and functions that can be prioritized into upcoming development cycles.
And don’t forget to stay in communication with those who provide feedback. Let them know that you appreciate their help, empathize with their frustrations and are working on improving your CET extension.
If you are struggling to effectively address user experience issues or feedback as you approach your target release date, you may want to consider bringing in a UX specialist. At OST, for example, we have an entire practice dedicated to UX and digital experiences. We leverage this cross-functional expertise to help our clients bring the best possible CET extension to market.
What to Expect From Your CET Extension Developers
At OST, we have a proven process for working alongside our clients, gaining alignment across teams, increasing transparency and delivering a successful CET extension. Below are some of the key parts of our strategy. These should be baseline expectations you have for your development team, whether internal or outsourced.
Biweekly Sprint Planning for Extension Development
During planning sessions every other week, developers, project managers and other stakeholders convene to map out what features and functionality will be worked on and completed in the next two-week period, aka a “sprint.” This ensures that development moves forward with momentum and that all relevant voices are involved in planning for and supporting the work ahead.
Daily CET Development Stand-Up Meetings
Each day, the development team holds a brief 15-minute stand-up meeting that is open for stakeholders to observe. Each person on the team covers what work they completed the previous day, their priorities for the current day, and what roadblocks may be preventing them from moving forward effectively. This ensures open communication across the team. It helps everyone identify potential issues that need to be addressed to keep work moving forward. And it increases transparency and alignment across the team.
Biweekly Development Retrospective Sessions
At the end of each sprint, the team gets together to discuss what is going well and what could be improved. This allows the team to improve procedures, processes, communication channels and other aspects of day-to-day work that will make the upcoming sprint more efficient and productive.
In a recent retrospective, for example, our development team collaborated with our client’s subject matter experts. Together, the group determined that sharing more thorough product specification requirements at the outset of future sprints would save time and increase quality. How? It would provide developers with more comprehensive information that they could build into the extension’s products. It would save subject matter experts time during the review process because there would be less specification issues. And the development team would save time by not having to revisit code they had already completed in a previous sprint.
With an iterative development process that includes time for reflection, we are able to work together with our clients to quickly identify issues that slow progress on the project and introduce risks for failure. Rather than compounding over time, adding to costs and extending deadlines, we are able to course correct early on (and throughout development) to deliver more value faster — and at a lower cost.
Many of these practices closely follow the Agile methodology and the Scaled Agile Framework for enterprises (SAFe). And you don’t need to be a fully transformed Lean enterprise to benefit from the transparency and efficiency this approach brings to CET extension development. OST’s cross-functional experts can plug into your business and leverage these practices to accelerate progress and help your team build systems that will support your extension over the long term.
OST: Your CET Extension Development Partner
Our entire approach is built around helping organizations successfully launch and support their CET extensions. That means increasing transparency and closely collaborating across teams. It also means building alignment and momentum with a focus on delivering an exceptional user experience.
Want help with your CET extension? Let’s talk. We can meet you where you are and provide support whether you are planning to outsource your entire CET extension development, you need additional experts to supplement your own internal team or you simply need some outside help estimating and planning the work involved in going to market with your first extension.