Rebuild Foodware 365 | Solely lines of code won’t get you there

Over the past nine months, I have been very fortunate to witness our team develop a brand-new product: Foodware 365 for Business Central. As we started from scratch (yep, really, we did not re-use a single line of code), we had the perfect opportunity to also redefine our processes and team setup. With this blog, I want to share some insights in what we did and, more importantly, why we did the things we did. The discussion to completely rebuild Foodware 365 for Business Central was not taken lightly. It would have a significant impact on our company. Once we made the decision however, raising the quality bar as much as possible was a no-brainer.  

Written by William van Zweeden, Schouw Informatisering

So, what did we do?  

Sorry Mister Sinek, but I’m going to start with “what” today. We’ll get to the why in a bit though. Here are some things that we did in addition to “developing software”:  

  • Probably the most important element in addition to the code that we write is our Definition of Done (DoD). The DoD is our readiness checklist for the apps that we build. On it are numerous requirements that should be met. Drawing up the list though isn’t enough. If an app does not meet all the requirements as listed on the DoD, it won’t be published. Think documentation, demo data sets, use cases, entity relationship diagrams, work instructions, API toolkits, test scripts and more. By doing so, we ensure our apps meet the quality standards we desire and expect, thereby supporting partners and customers around the world to deploy them.  
  • In addition to the DoD, we made a big switch when it comes towards technology. Some years ago, I did some research within our company and there was one sentence from a colleague that I still remember vividly. He felt limited in what he could do for customers since the preferred technology for a customer solution would always be in NAV. So, as we hit refresh, we promised ourselves to look at the customer challenge first, and look at the available technology afterwards, considering the whole Microsoft platform including Office 365, the Power Platform and Azure Intelligent Cloud services 
  • A third big change was made around user experience or UX. As we shifted focus from technology first to customer first, we challenged ourselves to take both the user viewpoint and the physical process into account and imagine the best UX possible. And believe me: UX is a profession on its own. You can try to mimic it, but you will only come so far when you are hosting UX brainstorming or wireframing sessions without having proper expertise on board. Addressing UX as a vital part of our product development strategy brought us apps and user interfaces that people understand and makes them wag.  
  • When we launched Foodware 365, we embarked on a mission to create the world’s Foremost Food Solution, based on Microsoft technology. In order to really create a worldwide solution, we set out to validate our thoughts and plans with a small group of partners and customers around the world. The setup was simple: we are not creating a wish list panel. We are asking you to validate our ideas, plans and results, to see whether they would work for you and for your customers. Weekly meetings were planned in order to capture and process feedback quickly.  
  • There’s much more to tell but I want to close off with this last point. In rebuilding Foodware 365 for Business Central, we tried to be as agile as possible. And yes, I know that today, everybody is talking agile, and some people are even wondering what agile means today. For us, it meant to fail fast and recover fast. We defined very short sprints (multiple sprints per week) allowing us to immediately correct the direction should we need to. Furthermore, we designed multiple small teams within the team enabling close collaboration. Show and tell sessions were organized frequently, pushing for working software. And we changed the roadmap. We knew straight from the start that that would happen, whether we liked (or controlled) it or not. But changing it did not lead to major delays or reduced productivity. We changed the plans and kept the pace up.  

Did it work?  

I guess only time will tell whether we made the right decision to start from scratch. What I do know at this point though is that we have delivered an exciting number of apps. Looking back one year, we only had a vision, a plan and a bunch of PowerPoint slides. By now, we have 30+ apps ready to be published into the market, and we largely delivered or exceeded on what we put in those PowerPoint slides.  

So why did we do it in the first place?  

I already referred to it in my introduction. The decision to rebuilt Foodware 365 for Business Central was not taken lightly, since we all agreed it would have a huge impact on our company’s strategy. By doing so, we would have the opportunity to transform our company from a typical service provider into a true technology creator. But more important though, it would allow us to leverage the momentum and offer the world’s foremost food solution to food companies around the world, delivered through partners. But that would only be possible if done right.  

How can you benefit from this?  

I strongly believe there is a huge momentum in the Microsoft space. The Redmond-based software vehicle has been able to reinvent itself, focusing on added value and innovation. They shifted gears and are offering each partner in their ecosystem the opportunity to ride with them. I am with Microsoft when they ask partners to productize their solutions and bring them to the marketplaces since it provides better software for everybody. It should not be taken lightly though. We made significant sacrifices in the past year in order to build our vision. So, to conclude, I would advise you to start considering what you want to be. Are you a Service Provider? Or a Technology Creator? Or are you still both and struggling to make the call? Get serious about it, because you won’t have many chances to do it right. 

William van Zweeden Foodware 365 Partner Manager.jpg

Eager to learn more about what we did?

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