Changing the culture of code
It began as the classic tale of helping a CEO with an ambitious agenda, but a busy team. Then it evolved into a mission to inspire a new approach to product development.
Qvalia had come up with a concept for a new product they needed to build. But they didn’t have the resources internally to build it and still continue with “business as usual”. So over the course of 6 months, our small team of code experts set up shop there to develop the new product while coaching the Qvalia team to implement their own version of the “Prototyp coding culture”.
PostgreSQL • AWS Lambda • Node.js • Angular
We’d worked with Qvalia years earlier, when we built part of their first digital platform which their team had since been building on. Now they needed some extra firepower. An injection of MVP thinking to create a new service that would enable a pipeline of new products and grow the business.
“The nature of the build wasn’t the difficult part. It was working it out and delivering it thoroughly AND fast.” - Henri Taipale, CEO, Qvalia
These projects have become our speciality. We work together with an existing team to soak up all their domain expertise. Then unpack our backpack of skills and build a new product or MVP. It’s more than just ‘bodies on the ground’ - you need the right minds too to guarantee the quality of the delivery.
“It was clear from the first meeting that they knew exactly what outcome they envisioned, just not exactly how to find their way there” - Christopher Laursen, Interim CPO, Prototyp
Björn from Prototyp took on the role of Tech Lead and Christopher came in as Interim Product Owner. Their mission was clear: to conceptualise, build and launch the new product module in just 6 months. And to leave behind a new mindset and new processes for more efficient product development.
Tech Lead, Prototyp
Interim CPO, Prototyp
Summer intern, Prototyp
Summer intern, Prototyp
The new product was a categorisation tool that enables automatic bookkeeping. But without a massive dataset, it was difficult to use AI alone to achieve a high level of precision. So the tool uses an element of manual tagging and can integrate machine learning in the future.
And, while there are some interesting things going on in the code, that’s not what this story is about.
There weren’t any technical parts of the MVP that caused tension in the project. But the ambitious schedule pressured down on the project scope.
That’s where our external perspective really helped. We brought with us a delivery mindset that helped us develop faster by clearing the way to focus on what’s really important. Creating calm ultimately came down to a close collaboration between our tech lead and the Qvalia leadership team.
The MVP tackled a complex part of international tax regulation, where details directly impact profit or loss. It’s easy to get bogged down and forget about the user. But Christopher set about charting user and system flows to make sure what was built was both technically spot on and easy to use.
Qvalia is a growth company led by an entrepreneur CEO who freely admits that collaborating with him can be chaotic sometimes. Encouraged by this admission, Christoper took to asking the tough questions to go from a big strategic vision to a specific development roadmap with actionable stories to work on in each sprint.
Christopher developed ways-of-working to organise the team around the product roadmap. From filtering requests and managing priorities to leading the day-to-day team. He adapted and modelled the team around the “Prototyp method” to adopt a scrum approach that creates order rather than code chaos.
Christopher was admired by the development team at Qvalia, despite being seen sometimes as a stickler for structure. He was steadfast in his ideals of how to create structure and calm in what could have become chaotic build. And this was necessary. He had to push the team to an extreme to shift their perspective and impact the culture.
The Qvalia team have since found their own twists on planning meetings, standups and more, making the processes their own. Less rigid, but all-together more organised than before. This is part of the promise of working agile; that teams have the power to control their process.
“We needed extreme discipline to deliver the MVP on schedule and shake up our attitude. But our day to day now is a little more flexible.” - Henri Taipale, CEO, Qvalia
Christopher’s product leadership demonstrated the value of a CPO, and the completion of the MVP signalled a new level of maturity in the Qvalia tech team. There was now a readiness to bring on a product owner to take the reigns of the MVP and existing products. To continue to champion the user, be an interface between teams and create calm and structure for the tech team.
We felt the last word should be had by Henri, the CEO who bravely embraced and led a cultural change in his organisation:
"You can outsource development to someone who ‘just’ delivers on brief. Or you can work with Prototyp, and they’ll deliver more than code. They inject process, user focus and business value into the product. That’s the difference between development and developers.” - Henri Taipale, CEO, Qvalia
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