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How Highland Does Agile for CRM Implementations

Every company using Agile methodology approaches it slightly differently. This blog post is intended to shed light on Highland’s unique approach to Agile for CRM implementations, and how we utilize the practices and ceremonies to create a collaborative, transparent atmosphere for our team and deliver great work for our clients.

Something to keep in mind before we dive in: If you’re new to Agile but you’ve built software products before, much of the Agile development process will be very familiar. Agile doesn’t change what you’re doing; it just provides a different framework for approaching your work.

For example, people who’ve built products in Waterfall are used to doing documentation for every step or having all the requirements at the beginning. You don’t lose those documentation or requirements in Agile development, those steps are just repeated throughout the development process.

Highland applies the following process to all of our CRM projects. We call this The Highland Way:

I’ll break down each step in the Highland Way and explain what happens in each one.

Phase 1: Meet

During this phase, we have a Discovery Session where the Highland team meets with your team. During this full-day session, we dive into the nitty-gritty details of your processes and how those might translate into your CRM. Our goal is to leave Discovery with a full understanding of your wants and needs for your new CRM.

Upon leaving Discovery we introduce our clients to our Agile tools, including:

  • Confluence: A shared workspace where we store all the details of each feature or iteration.

  • Jira: A dashboard where we create user stories, which summarize each feature that will be a part of your CRM. There can be many stories to one iteration. Each story in Jira has a supporting Confluence page. We use this documentation as a reference when we design and develop.

  • Slack: A messaging tool we use to communicate with the client in real-time. In between meetings, clients can contact us via Slack immediately if they have any questions or issues.

Phase 2: Plan

After the Discovery Session, the Highland team takes all the information we learned and creates user stories. User stories describe each feature your CRM will have. We frame features in terms of user stories because it helps us stay focused on delivering value and responding to the needs of the real people who will be using the CRM (like you and your team!).

Once all of the user stories have been created, we prioritize the stories based on what features have the highest business value. Once the project team agrees to the stories and the priorities, these become a part of a focused, time-bound stream of work called a sprint. Then the true fun begins and we can start building.

Phases 3–4: Design & Develop

Sprint planning provides you with an overall picture of a project. As we begin developing and working, we focus on smaller features and details. This process is highly iterative, with Highland building and the client reviewing our work on a regular basis. It’s tightly interwoven with testing and evaluation.

Phase 5–6: Test & Evaluate

To ensure that everyone is satisfied with the solutions we’ve built, we make sure to test twice.

The first time we test internally. The CRM Specialist who has built the feature will ask someone else on Highland’s CRM team who has not previously worked on the feature to test it to ensure that the functionality is correct. These tests occur in a Development environment (DEV for short) so they don’t interfere with any other working functionalities in your CRM.

If the first test is successful, that particular feature is then shared with the client via a demo. This gives the client full transparency into what we are working on at all times so there are no surprises and issues can be tackled as soon as they arise. The client tests in the User Acceptance Testing environment (UAT), to ensure that they do not hinder any work the CRM Specialists are doing in the DEV environment. When all features are complete, all the customizations are moved to the final version of your CRM, often referred to as Production (or PROD).

To summarize:

DEV: Where the Highland team will go in and make changes; the place where internal team tests are conducted.

UAT: Where the client or another user can test and approve.

PROD: All changes approved; live site.

If the client wants changes to be made to the feature, we track those using Jira. We create a new user story and detail the changes that need to be made, and then schedule another demo. Once we get the thumbs up on the feature, we can move on to the next one.

After all the features are completed, we begin the last steps of the project.

Go-Live & Training

Once the client approves all testing, their CRM system is now ready for Go-Live. At this point, all of the features are done and functioning correctly, and that means we can release their software to the PROD environment.

After the system goes live, we’re here to help you train your team on your new CRM. Your Highland CRM Specialist will lead virtual and in-person training sessions to teach you and your team how to get the most out of your new technology. We typically cover techniques like filtering, searching, and how to use the mobile app. We are extremely attentive during training because we want everyone who’s using the new system to feel comfortable with it. We know how critical the first few weeks of use is to user adoption.

Through our Agile process, Highland ensures that we are constantly testing and getting client feedback in order to build the best technology possible.

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