Transient TechnologyTim Mason
The importance of thinking like a technology company and implementing an agile method with a SCRUM/Kanban hybrid framework.
Parkonect provides software and hardware for parking garages. They fabricate and lease gate equipment with a SAAS platform that connects data in real-time to provide key insights and control for garage management companies.
In 2011, Parkonect hired Nelix as a development partner tasked to build software unique to the parking industry. Utilizing live data, Parkonect uncovered an opportunity to virtually see capacity. If a customer purchased 10 hours of parking and then exited after 5 hours, that space was technically vacant for the next 5 hours. Under normal operations, the spot had been paid for and considered full. Parkonect’s system enabled that same space to be flipped back on and resold across all channels. Simply brilliant but only a small piece of the puzzle.
At the time, Nelix dedicated one developer to work on the project. I was the creative lead and provided front-end web development. As features were added, demand quickly grew. As demand grew, infrastructure concerns arose with scalability. Even though Nelix was a technology partner, we had to convince them they were, in fact, in the technology space. Parkonect was becoming a technology company in the parking service industry.
We soon added another engineer to the team. And then another shortly after. With a larger team working on pieces of the system we had to adjust how we approached each project.
- Innovation – Fixed bid projects limit innovation by squeezing the work into a small box.
- Estimates – Time estimates are never correct and we often needed twice as much time to complete a task.
- Planning – Larger initiatives were impossible to orchestrate as output was more important than outcome.
In simple terms, we could not deliver what they needed because we were focused on what they thought they wanted. As projects became larger and features more complex, moving from a waterfall process to agile became a priority.
Together, this is what we implemented:
- Source Control via Github
- Communication via Microsoft Teams
- Utilized JIRA for project management
- Created task/bug comprehensive Backlog
- Customized Kanban board to notify parties of milestones
- Began Sprint Planning
- Instituted Daily Standups
- Engaged in Weekly Retrospect with project owner and participants
- Added Tempo plugin for Time Tracking
By using Jira, we had a centralized location for all communication. Jira became our shared knowledge base. Data for each sprint became easily viewed and exported. We now had a clear picture of what work was being done, by whom, and what progress was being made.
I took it a step further by creating an excel macro that formatted the CSV file Jira generates. The macro eliminated unnecessary columns, formatted cells, adjusted type for readability, and created a summary page with vital information. This alone, provided clarity for accounting and was tremendously appreciated by Parkonect.
We solved two ongoing problems.
- Created an environment where development was measurable and flexible.
- Fixed financial discrepancies to provide a clear picture work completed to improve invoicing.
Everything was in order. 2020 was the year we take it to the next level.
Enter Covid-19. People stopped going to work. Parking garages were empty.
What may seem catastrophic can also be viewed as an opportunity. Covid-19 paved the way for touch-less entry/exit. Luckily, the developmental foundation to pivot is in place and touch-less products are being rolled out today. I’m rooting for them more than they know.