Lessons learned from developing our first app – interview with agiles software developer Sebastian Heider
Since mid-April, agilesWorkflow is available as app in Microsoft AppSource. Software development, consulting and marketing have worked closely together to reach this milestone. We spoke with Sebastian Heider, software developer and consultant at agiles, about the experiences he made during the development of the app.
Sebastian Heider has been working as a software
developer and consultant at agiles since 2009.
»The new world is shaped by apps«
First of all: what is agilesWorkflow?
agilesWorkflow is a software solution that enables companies from any industry to simplify complex business processes. For example, you can automate repetitive tasks with agilesWorkflow. Moreover, agilesWorkflow allows you to keep track of all tasks, for instance by sending you e-mails about their current status. Our solution thus supports you in managing, simplifying, prioritizing and automating tasks – from now on also as app.
The development of the agilesWorkflow app is part of a larger project. Could you summarize for us what this project is about?
Since the foundation of the company in 1989, IT has developed at a rapid pace. agiles has always kept pace with the times. Currently, we are at a crucial turning point. The new world is shaped by apps. That’s why we want to offer our software solutions in the web-client. The development of the agilesWorkflow app was an important step on our way into this new world.
What exactly did the project planning look like?
We met in November and developed a master plan. Around the same time, we heard about the Accelerator Program. This program supports Microsoft partners who want to publish in AppSource. We were lucky to be included in the program. On December 23rd, we signed the contracts. In January, we chose agilesWorkflow and started the development of the app.
Was there a deadline?
Yes, there was. Our aim was to have published agilesWorkflow in AppSource by mid-May. To be on the safe side, we added a buffer and set mid-April as an internal deadline. That’s how we stayed well on schedule.
»We had to learn many new things within a very short time«
The schedule was pretty tight, wasn’t it?
That’s true. Our schedule was pretty ambitious. This made it even more important to be very well organized. Therefore, we divided the time schedule into two-week sprints. Then, we defined specific subtasks that needed to be completed within each of the two-week sprints. That’s how, step by step, we approached our goal.
Apart from time pressure, which other challenges did you meet?
The guidelines set by Microsoft for development and marketing were pretty strict. Besides the app, you also need to upload other files to AppSource, for example a user documentation and test automations. When you go through this process for the first time, it is quite exciting. In addition, Microsoft is still in the process of orientation and has changed the requirements several times.
And which technical challenges did you face?
When switching to the cloud, many things have to be taken into account. For example, there is no drive or file system anymore. You can no longer simply attach files. In addition, we had to develop locally instead of coding together on the server. To still be able to develop together, we had to create a completely new infrastructure.
That sounds like a lot.
It was. On top of this, we also had to switch to a new programming language. Thus, there have been many process changes and we had to learn many new things within a very short time.
Role Center of the agilesWorkflow app.
»We do not want to create isolated islands of knowledge«
With so many changes – how do you make sure that everybody stays up to date?
We do not want to create isolated islands of knowledge. We want to share the experience we have gained while developing the app with everybody in the team. We don’t want to leave anyone behind on our way to the new world. Transfer of knowledge plays a crucial role in achieving this.
How do you ensure the transfer of knowledge?
In our experience, learning by doing always works best. Therefore, our aim is for every developer to have participated in the development of at least one app. We will rotate so that there is always one experienced person who can share his knowledge with the others.
How would you describe your experience with the team?
The team spirit was great. Of course, we developers did have one or two constructive discussions. So far, agilesWorkflow has fallen into my area of responsibility. Giving responsibility away and others free rein with the code wasn’t always easy for me. It meant making concessions, e.g. regarding code management and programming methods.
»It just works now, like magic«
What was difficult for you?
We had so many ideas for the app. But given the tight schedule, we had to draw a line at some point. Thus, to be ready in time, we couldn’t realize all of our ideas. However, we will incorporate these new functions into the second version. Since we already have everything online, the development will be faster now.
What did you find rewarding?
The close cross-departmental cooperation, for example. Marketing has always been a black box for me. Now, there suddenly were many more points of contact. Among other things, we worked very closely together on the user documentation. This cooperation allowed me to get to know new perspectives. That was a huge benefit. Of course, the development of the app was a lot of fun, too.
Which part of the development are you particularly proud of?
The reorganization of the Function Call Server. That’s the centerpiece of the agilesWorkflow module. It performs time-controlled tests to check whether, for example, debitors or articles have been created and then sets up a workflow for them. The adaptation to the cloud was technically very demanding. In retrospect, you can no longer see how much work it took to get the whole thing up and running. It just works now, like magic.
»We want to offer more apps«
How long did the publication of the agilesWorkflow app take?
There was an interval of three to four weeks between the first upload of the app to the portal and its successful publication. After its upload, the app is first tested automatically for four hours. The automated testing is followed by manual testing of the app.
Did the publication process run smoothly?
No, not completely. At the beginning, we did not pass the automated testing because the app had not yet been signed with a certificate. But after a couple of tries, everything worked out just fine. Mid-April, we finally received an email saying that the app had passed all tests and would be published in AppSource.
What’s next? Which further steps are planned?
We want to offer more apps. Currently, we are working on several projects in parallel. On the one hand, we are developing the Settlement Systems app which automatically calculates the fees you need to pay when you place goods on the European market. On the other hand, we are also working on micro apps which cover certain functions of the agilesWorkflow app, like for example master data creation.
»We had a steep learning curve«
What’s your personal conclusion after the successful publication of the agilesWorkflow app?
We had a steep learning curve. Not only in terms of technical innovations, but also with regard to the structuring of work processes. Now, it is important to stay focused and to take everyone with us into the new world. The development of the app was a lot of fun, but it also meant a lot of work. In future, however, this should be easier because we can draw on our wealth of experience. All in all, I am happy that we have made it.
We thank Sebastian Heider for this interesting interview and wish him a lot of fun and success in the development of further apps.
We want you to see for yourself how easily you can improve your business processes with the agilesWorkflow-app. For this reason, we offer a 30-day free trial for three users. This link takes you to our site in AppSource.
Bella Diekmann works for the editorial office of agiles. She studied Spanish and French and has a PhD in linguistics. Besides her passion for languages, she is very interested in current IT topics. Blogging for agiles allows her to combine her love of writing with her interest in computer science and informatics.